Picks and Pans Review: Bourgeois Voodoo

updated 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/14/1988 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Locomotives

Sometimes they sound like surf rock or bubble gum music, other times as tough as the Sex Pistols or as campy as a vaudeville act. But one thing's clear: The Locomotives aren't dumb. Bourgeois Voodoo may be the most intellectually loaded pop record of the past decade. No one before them thought of writing a pop song that would link the poetic portrait of the Thames in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land with the chorus of the Standells' Dirty Water. Perhaps because they know how to write a catchy tune and don't take themselves too seriously, this British quartet mixes high and low culture successfully. The band's funniest and catchiest song, I'm Just a Boy Who Can't Say Nnnn..., deals with the constraints of language by invoking the complex theories of French philosopher Roland Barthes: "Signifier, signified, we're talking pop art/ We're talking rock and roll and Roland Barthes/ But it doesn't matter what I say/ Because everyone hears in a different way." Another bouncy number, The Trash Aesthetic, treats the dying punk movement: "People talk about the trash aesthetic: Intellectually relevant or totally pathetic?/ People talk about the blank generation/ Using long words like defenestration." More political than most of their American counterparts, the Locomotives lambaste their country for allowing the ascendancy of consumerism. Rm to Lt, a cynical dialogue about real estate, ends with the sarcastic warning: "Be nice to your landlord." So far no American label has signed the Locomotives. But anyone who wants to get on the track of Britain's young lefty eggheads can import a copy. It might not be worth college credit but chugging along with the Locomotives should give a listener's brain a rock and roll workout. (Big Beat Records, 48-50 Steele Road, London NW 107AS, $8.75)

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