Hard Hat Zone

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The third and last album by Rupert Hine under the disguise of the ghost group Thinkman, Hard Hat Zone walks away from the subjects of media manipulation and information games. Most of the pieces, still written by Hine with lyrics by Jeannette Obstoj, deal with environmental themes, with titles like "Mother Nature's Angry" and "November Whale" being quite explicit. The tone becomes vehement but also preachy in the solemn "Take Them to the Traitors' Gate," dedicated to Prince Charles (his involvement with environmental causes was avant-gardist at a time when it was not yet fashionable). The songs don't have the impact and hook-laden melodies of those on The Formula, but the singer/producer still did a good job. One can discard the failed hit single "Hard Hat Zone" to concentrate on "Who's Winning the Human Race?," "Act of Love," and "Exploring This World (Without Moving Too Much)." Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan) and Phil Palmer (Penguin Café Orchestra) add viola and guitar to Hine's keyboard tracks, but overall this album remains in the synth pop realm. Production is impeccable and even when not particularly inspired the man was able to churn out good songs, but Hard Hat Zone is more for the completist than the casual listener.

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