Picks and Pans Review: Waltz Darling

updated 10/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/16/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Malcolm McLaren and The Bootzilla Orchestra

Malcolm McLaren is the musical equivalent of Andy Warhol. He's a marketing genius and schemer who uncovers material the avant garde will disdain and the average person will dislike—but it's material that will also capture a moment and earn him a bundle. He's in the novelty business.

McLaren, after all, is the man who created the Sex Pistols out of a bunch of London street punks who could barely play their instruments, proving anyone, even a walking disaster like Sid Vicious, could be a rock star. The fact that the Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks is now roundly considered one of the best albums in rock history just adds new spin to an old swindle.

Now McLaren is back to prove you don't have to actually play on an album to put your name on it. In fact, it's unclear precisely what McLaren does musically on Waltz Darling, though he did, of course, conceive it (ah, art). McLaren does talk on some of the songs. The impresario also had a hand in writing all the tracks and coordinated the performing talent, both the known (Jeff Beck, Bootsy Collins) and unknown (Lisa Marie, Pretty Fatt, Miss Ndea).

McLaren's previous album, Fans, combined dance music with opera, with such appealing results as the club hit "Madame Butterfly." Waltz Darling mixes Viennese waltzes with house (heavy-rhythm) music, hence the track "House of the Blue Danube." McLaren also exploits the "vogueing" trend that's hot on the club circuit and has a lot of young demimonders not dancing but posing in freeze-frame moves like runway models. "Deep in Vogue" chronicles the rise and high times of a young voguer, as narrated by a woman singer named Lourdes: "I remember the first time I saw it/ Told my brother to put me up on it/ It wasn't easy no 1, 2, 3/ Took a long time to learn to feel free/ But here I am vogueing pretty/ In some club deep in this city."

If this isn't an inspiring Horatio Alger story for the '80s, with an intrepid heroine pulling herself up to chicdom by her own bra straps, what is? Other songs, such as "Algernon's Simply Awfully Good at Algebra," have clever charm, but this is mostly music that appeals to the chronically hip and sneers at them (this is, after all, a masochistic age we live in). The songs on Waltz Darling are best heard at dance venues, not around the house. This is not an album anyone will bond with. It may serve primarily, in fact, to illustrate how McLaren has declined. The Sex Pistols made you feel—you loved them or hated them—but Waltz Darling just kind of makes you wonder. (Epic)

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