The Roches

Keep on Doing

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The Roches' third album retained the services of producer Robert Fripp (instrumental in their stunning debut release), who brought along fellow King Crimson mates Tony Levin and Bill Bruford for the session. Unfortunately, what results is a much watered-down version of this band compared to their stellar heights. Beginning with an a cappella rendition of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" that seems to have been included for no better reason than to show off the group's vocal chops, many of the ensuing songs lack the heartfelt lyrical immediacy of their earlier work. For example, "Losing You" with its hymnlike feeling and words about potential loss would seem to parallel "Hammond Song" from the first album, but it not only sounds somewhat slicker in terms of song structure but, crucially, contains lyrics that are gauzily general rather than unsparingly particular. Once in a while, they approach the same deeply personal territory as in "I Fell in Love" with lines like, "Don't be such a tough guy/Hear my love cry." More often, however, they opt for archaic laments, as in David Massengill's "On the Road to Fairfax County," with its painful-to-hear and faux romantic lyrical contortions. "Want Not Want Not" is wacky enough to be endearing, but the trio only reaches their full power on the title track, "Keep On Doing What You Do/Jerks on the Loose." Here, they finally seem unfettered musically and willing to delve into their real lyrical strength: the clear, piercing gaze into a uniquely contemporary conundrum. Had this been a first album, one could wax rhapsodic about what the group could do in the future. As a third effort, although it has its moments, one cannot help but feel they've taken a step or two backward.

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