“Wimps,” Robert Christgau sneered, comparing them to Talking Heads — who were wimps, he proclaimed, without “vagueness or cheap romanticism.” But that was ’77; the Heads (whom I love) left us; and four Englishmen, fronted now by one renegade Seattleite, now answer the call. They stand in the context of modern Western society, which just took a few blacker-water churns. They have to make sense relative to this undertow.
Vagueness? Yes lyrics have always been riddles, but never riddles you couldn’t figure out. Cheap romanticism? I submit that romanticism runs in short supply right here, right now (’77 was maybe different times), and a commodity in short supply becomes more precious.
So when our quintet pours on peace and love, more specifically “lift your heart above the fight,” and “take me from where I am,” they acknowledge how much heavy lifting that takes at the best of times. They wrote and recorded pre-Ferguson, pre-Staten Island, but that’s how little the news that stays news changes. And you can’t call this the best of times — one important change.
Many guitar and/or synth lines sound off like calls to attention, although Geoff Downes swirls in piano and organ, respecting tradition. “Subway Walls,” which just might hold the “meaning,” that’s about as gritty as they’ll get. They want us to get to the stars, but we have to stop looking at subways, machines as the enemy. We have to stop looking at the enemy as the enemy. Hard work. Hence: “Transcend.”
Album: Heaven & Earth
Label: Frontiers Records
Songs: (1) Believe Again (2) The Game (3) Step Beyond (4) To Ascend (5) In a World of Our Own (6) Light of the Ages (7) It Was All We Knew (8) Subway Walls