Picks and Pans Review: Alphabet City

updated 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

ABC

The question of whether ABC is all presumptuous affectation or whether, in fact, they possess a legitimate style would spark a fierce debate. Whatever it is they've got, there are gobs of it on Alphabet City, and it makes for a serviceable if not inspired album. The group has been pared down to the twosome of Martin Fry and Mark White. Fry has one of those veddy annoying British pop voices: vacuous in its normal register and utterly unconvincing in the strained earnestness he is always trying to achieve. On this album his stuffy delivery is counterpoised by compelling rhythms that clearly show the production influence of Bernard Edwards. Edwards, formerly of Chic, fortifies ABC's bottom, mostly by laying down the brawniest bass lines on a record this year. If it weren't for the synthesizers, Alphabet City could pass for disco, but this is 1987, so we have to call it dance music. And because this is ABC, it is extravagantly lush dance music. The concoction works well, especially on The Night You Murdered Love and When Smokey Sings, a tribute to Smokey Robinson that borrows the romping baritone sax riff of Tears Of A Clown. The second side gets a little spacey, and those arguing that ABC ain't nothing but affected could find some ammunition. On the whole Alphabet City is pallid but often interesting, and it surpasses any album by ABC since their 1982 debut, Lexicon Of Love. (Polygram)

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