Picks and Pans Review: Step by Step

updated 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/16/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

New Kids on the Block

The New Kids are the latest banner holders in a pop tradition of pre-Clearasil catnip that extends back through Menudo, the Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy and Bobby Goldsboro to Fabian. Except that this Boston quintet has probably sold more albums than all their predecessors combined. But before this review begins to sound any more like one of those late-night TV ads for Slim Whitman, let's tackle a superfluous subject: musical content.

For bubble-gum pop, it's not unprecedentedly shabby. The music, all written or co-written by the group's conceiver Maurice Starr, is in fact better in spots than on their previous effort. At least it's funkier on the title track, "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" and "Games"—the latter two featuring raps by band member Donnie Wahlberg, the Pillsbury Doughboy of homeboys. But the material also puts more demands on the boys' callow voices.

Enough gushing. Most of this record is perfectly horrid fluff, like the dismal homage to the Beatles "Tonight," the abysmal doo-wop flop of a novelty song "Happy Birthday" sung by Jonathan Knight, the treacly ballads "Baby, I Believe in You" sung by Jordan Knight and "Time Is on Our Side" sung by Donnie, and the wretched reggae rip-off of "Stay with Me Baby" (on which Donnie tries to pass for Jamaican by doing a bad imitation of a pirate's growl).

So the New Kids aren't hitting for average: Two out of 12 songs are tolerably listenable. If you don't like this stuff, buy earplugs because for the next few months, Top 40 radio stations will be playing these ditty-wah-ditties every three minutes or so. We're about to go ad nauseam and beyond with the New Kids. (Columbia)

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