Doctors of Madness

Figments of Emancipation

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Starved for affection, yet marching deliriously on, the most critically cudgeled British band of 1976 released their second album just six months after their debut Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms, almost as if they'd never read a word that had been written about them. And certainly as if they never cared about any of them. Figments of Emancipation is so much the son of its predecessor that the two could have been recorded in tandem. They were certainly written so -- most of the album was present in the Doctors of Madness' live set even before they recorded Brainstorms. Whereas that album haunted the city of the damned, however, Figments is a less modest and, in consequence, considerably less inhumane set. The self-aggrandizing "Doctors of Madness" is an arrogantly swaggering sucker punch, while the sharp segue between the opening "Brothers" and "Suicide City" effortlessly echoed the medley effect which conjoined Late Night Movies' opening suite -- only without the sweeter passages to lighten the lurch. There's also room for a couple of love songs, however, and even beneath its affirmative surface, "Perfect Past" is nothing short of gorgeous tenderness. "Marie and Joe," on the other hand, packs a heartbreak so real it has to be autobiographical, and a pain so bitter that you're not sure you didn't live it yourself. Where Figments falls down, then, is not in the songs, but in a less easily definable manner -- the sense that it really was simply offcuts from the debut, neither conceived nor initially intended to be placed together on a single platter. By that token, its U.S. release as one half of a double album (accompanied by Brainstorms, under the title Doctors of Madness) probably makes more sense, although one cannot help but wonder -- the Brits didn't care for the Doctors of Madness, and the band was one of their own. What were the chances of America proving any more accommodating?

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