Picks and Pans Review: Big Night Music

updated 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/02/1987 AT 01:00 AM EST

Shriekback

For people who like their music nice and easy, the third album by the British trio Shriekback contains all the wrong elements: strange lyrics, distorted, unnerving voice effects, sweet melodies abruptly interrupted by hellish percussive effects. But for those who like to work for their musical pleasures, Big Night Music returns every bit of the energy put into it. Mixing Eastern philosophy, medieval mysticism, '80s gloom and a mélange of other attitudes, the album's 10 cuts form a song cycle about innocence and perversity. Musically only a few of the tunes—such as the catchy Gunning for the Buddha—reach out to the listener with a conventional pop sound. The others have a jazzlike aloofness; they require great concentration in order to detect the subtle rhythms of guest musicians or the meticulous enunciation of lead singer Barry Andrews. The lyrics are consistently enigmatic and often beautiful. Exquisite describes a mysterious landscape: "Languid sun coming up across the bay/ Leopard yawns with breath like flowers/ Amour—the love that kisses and recoils/ Nothing—could steal this dream of bliss." In contrast The Shining Path on the flip side describes "abominations/ As soft and discrete as Uranium." In a way Big Night Music is to pop music what Blue Velvet is to movies. Despite its darkness and difficulty, it still provides great entertainment. (Island)

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