Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Robinson's finest hour
Lypo Suck | Hades, United States | 10/08/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm scratching my head at the ambivalence the original Sector 27 album endured among both critics and fans. Reviews tended to be lukewarm, while the band's limited success led to its fairly quick demise. I find this all quite puzzling, as Sector 27 is clearly Robinson's strongest and most intriguing work.
Having run the more trad-rock-sounding Tom Robinson Band into a stylistic cul-de-sac, Robinson found himself a new band of adventurous, energetic, pop-savvy post-punkers, and melded his catchy pop to an artsy, muscular, colorful sound, sitting somewhere between Magazine and the Cars, stylistically. Both the guitar and bass are smothered in chorus and flanger effects, coloring Robinson's material in an atmospheric and adventurous way. Yet the hard-hitting, propulsive drums combine with the chunky, full sound to provide a strong, confident anchor to the swirling, textural shades. The music pumps, swaggers, and stomps, while the melodies - alternately pretty and anthemic - stick to you like cacti.
If any thing's off-putting, it's Robinson's gruff, throaty, shouted vocals. In this setting he sounds like an old pub-rocker paired up with a young art-school band. And on "Not Ready," Robinson shouts with such rough-edged intensity that he almost sounds like he could stand in for Lemme at a Motorhead show. Luckily, his sincerity and the spiritedness of the whole thing wins out, but it's sometimes easier to imagine a smoother, more sophisticated voice on these tunes, like Howard Devoto or Ken Lockie.
The b-sides/demos tacked onto the end here are every bit as crucial as the proper album. If anything, they benefit from more understated and contemplative singing and a broader palette of textures and atmospheric sounds. Highlights include the hazy, shimmering melodicism of the artsy "Stornaway," the edgy rhythm and chiming guitars of "Dungannon," and the middle-eastern tinged "Day After Day." What's sad is that the high quality of these songs suggests a second album would've been a scorcher had the band stuck it out long enough to make one. Even sadder is that at the time of writing, this CD is woefully out of print, while his inferior, prior albums are pretty easy to come by.