Picks and Pans Review: So Much Water So Close to Home

updated 10/09/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/09/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Paul Kelly and the Messengers

A great architect doesn't always make a great builder. Kelly, an Australian pop rocker, shows that a similar principle can apply to music. As a songwriter, he's first-rate. Not only does he write gentle tunes that sound like standards from the start, he also strings together fresh, honest lyrics punctuated with down-to-earth philosophy. What Kelly doesn't deliver is variety and charisma. His voice and arrangements are bland, more polished but not a lot more riveting than what goes on in the back room of local bars. His wide-ranging lyrics deserve better craftsmanship.

Although most of the songs on this kanga-popster's third U.S. release deal with love, the narrator's viewpoint shifts from male to female, winner to loser; sometimes the lyrics spin an eerie tale, as in "Everything's Turning to White," based on a Raymond Carver short story ("So Much Water So Close to Home") about a murdered woman. If an imaginative producer subcontracted these songs to Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson or some other top stylist, the construction might finally match the high quality of Kelly's original designs. (A&M)

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