R. Stevie Moore

Delicate Tension

  • AllMusic Rating
    9
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

R. Stevie Moore's first album upon moving to New Jersey and immersing himself in the burgeoning New York new wave scene, 1978's Delicate Tension is quite a leap from 1976's Phonography, both in style and execution. Where Phonography has a definite progressive rock feel, Delicate Tension is dominated by short, punchy power pop rockers like the breathless, witty opener "Cool Daddio," the sly McCartney-like bounce of "Schoolgirl," and the sarcastic Ramones blur of "Apropos Joe." Elsewhere, Moore's instrumental arsenal (as before, he plays every instrument himself with the exception of about half a dozen drum parts and the flutes on the anguished "You Are Too Far from Me") expands to include an adorably rinky-dink electric piano on "Funny Child" (which sounds as if the Residents had suddenly decided to write a late-era Monkees song) and more synthesizers, which underpin forward-looking early synth pop experiments as varied as the ghostly "I Go into Your Mind" and the frantic voice-modified robo-bop "Horizontal Hideaway." However, even with all these modern accoutrements, Moore still isn't interested in making it easy for himself. In 1978, when the "disco sucks" backlash was making casual racism fashionable, Moore wrote an explicitly anti-racist faux-disco song, muddying the waters (and possibly obfuscating his honorable intent) for listeners by deliberately giving the song the shock title "Don't Blame the Niggers." That piece of social commentary aside, Delicate Tension is an album of surprising emotional depth. Most of the songs were written in the aftermath of a particularly bad breakup, and along with Moore's usual surrealism and snarky one-liners, songs like the acoustic ballad "Norway" and the simply lovely, Todd Rundgren-like "Zebra Standards 29" have the startling immediacy and plainspoken beauty of a late-night conversation over several empty wine bottles. Best of all, the album's sound is an enormous improvement over the extremely lo-fi Phonography; it stands next to Roy Wood's Boulders, Something/Anything?, and McCartney as one of the best one-man-band albums of the '70s. [A remastered version which adds three songs from the 1977 EP Stance -- the eight-minute ambient guitar instrumental "Ist or Mas" and the quirky synth rock "Manufacturers" and "Dance Man" -- is available at Moore's website.]

blue highlight denotes track pick