Picks and Pans Review: Aliens Ate My Buick

updated 06/13/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/13/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Thomas Dolby

With the long shelf life that accrues to some kinds of pop music success, Dolby (People, May 16) could have stopped recording after his quirky 1983 hit, She Blinded Me with Science, and he would have died, years later, a rock star. But had he retired (and there have been times in the last few years when it seemed he had), we would have been denied Aliens Ate My Buick, a frequently lively and diverting album. There's the funky march beat of Airhead and The Key to Her Ferrari, a '60s jump-jive theme that sounds like Gene Pitney's Town Without Pity taken to the nth degree of outrageousness. Dolby is less convincing when he apes American black music, as on the Prince knockoff Pulp Culture or the George Clinton composition Hot Sauce, on which, despite some nice keyboard flourishes, he loses it. But even when Dolby misguidedly spins his wheels on those songs, he usually finds at least a few moments of traction. That's because his arrangements seem to mutate right before your ears, like the pop-to-reggae-to-pop metamorphoses of My Brain Is Like a Sieve. For the most part, Dolby is amusing and clever in the manner of Devo, which means the songs are never as striking on subsequent hearings as the first time you hear them. Still, on his third album, he can make quite a first impression. (EMI-Manhattan)

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