When Jon Astley sings, "I don't want be Bowie/I don't want to be Byrne/But I will borrow from them/Because I've still got plenty to learn" on "But Is It Commercial?," he isn't kidding. Just listen to the following track, "Put This Love to the Test," wherein Astley adopts David Bowie's midnight-caller croon and the arty new wave rhythms of David Byrne's Talking Heads. Thievery aside, Compleat Angler is a sometimes scathingly funny and always entertaining LP; even the tracks which initially seem like filler blossom after continuous spins. Best known for "Jane's Getting Serious," an off-the-wall hit that reappeared on a TV commercial, Astley aims for artistic credibility on The Compleat Angler, and he hits the target between the eyes. The lyrics on this LP are as pointed and witty as anything by Morrissey. On "I'll Show You Bastards," Astley raises a defiant fist against his critics. "I'll show you bastards with reason and rhyme/I'll make my mark now that you've drawn the line," Astley sings with contempt. He attacks the fickle music industry on "But Is It Commercial?," complaining that "If the man in the chair doesn't care/You are a thing of the past." On "Fire the Editor," Astley bashes the press for their callous treatment of a Hollywood actress. Like Morrissey, Astley tells stories of lost souls, and "Fire the Editor" is a vivid portrayal of human anguish: "No could blame her when she took the razor/And dragged a line across both of her wrists." Nevertheless, the music is usually upbeat on the surface; keyboards abound but none of this could be called synth-pop. "Put This Love to the Test" is as catchy as Bowie's version of Iggy Pop's "China Girl"," and "I Dream About You (But I Cannot Sleep)" is a warm love song. Astley is a truly underrated artist; and The Compleat Angler deserves much more than the indifference which greeted it in 1988.
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AllMusic Review by Michael Sutton