Picks and Pans Review: Young Lions

updated 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/02/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Adrian Belew

"Hot tribal night underneath fluorescent skies/ Bonfires rage strange/ Wild waving shouting Picasso faces..."So begins another strikingly imaginative album from Belew. That title track, with its vivid ersatz African lyrics and arrangement, is one of the best pop safaris since "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Young Lions overall presents the same attractively twisted songcraft we've come to expect from this singer-songwriter, but there are some new wrinkles in the warp.

For starters, Belew—usually a one-man band—gets some help from an old friend. David Bowie sings on his own "Pretty Pink Rose," a throbbing rocker Belew autographs with one of his squiggly guitar signatures. Bowie also chimes in on the heart-pounding "Gunman," which he co-wrote with Belew. (Belew has returned the favor by going out as featured instrumentalist on Bowie's greatest hits tour, Sound + Vision.)

Another anomaly is that there are two covers on the record: "Heartbeat," from Belew's former band, King Crimson, and the Traveling Wilburys' "Not Alone Anymore," which improves on the original. It's on this song that the laminated quality of the album's vocals is most fetching. That filtered touch recalls two groups of pop-rock past masters: Cheap Trick and 10cc.

Among the other attractions on Young Lions are the jaunty goof of "Looking for a UFO" and the surreal dreamscape of "Phone Call from the Moon." The latter, with lyrics describing a message from outer space, suggests it is Belew's belated answer song to Bowie's classic "Space Oddity."

If you're waiting for someone to turn the tables and formulate a musical response to Belew, don't hold your breath. He's one of a kind. (Atlantic)

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