Bill Nelson / Bill Nelson's Red Noise

Sound-On-Sound

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Fans of Be-Bop Deluxe's romantic side could hardly have been prepared for founder Bill Nelson's first post-breakup solo effort. Sound-on-Sound slams into life with harsh guitars, mechanical synths, and manic rhythms. Nelson and crew race through a brilliant collection of anti-romantic anthems that catalog every dystopian fantasy of the 20th century, from Soviet-style social realism to state-sponsored lobotomy. The album sounds like Devo given the Phil Spector wall-of-sound treatment, and even the romantically soaring synths of songs like "For Young Moderns" drip with irony. As Nelson sings in "Revolt into Style," "Though I know the time is almost 1984/It feels like 1965." Tracks like "Stop/Go/Stop" and "Radar in My Heart" demonstrate that Nelson hasn't lost his ear for catchy tunes, and "The Atom Age's" superb guitar solo shows he's not content to let synthesizers do all the talking. The album maintains its breathless pace from start to finish (the laid-back future reggae of "Wondertoys that Last Forever" and "Acquitted by Mirrors" were wisely consigned to the "Furniture Music" single). If Nelson did abandon Red Noise as a musical dead end, it was a fascinating cul-de-sac nonetheless.

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