Hi Fi

Hugh Cornwell

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Hi Fi Review

by Mark Deming

Hugh Cornwell's third proper solo album since leaving the Stranglers, Hi Fi, ranks with the most confident and accessible work of his career. Any fans of Cornwell's old band should keep in mind that this most clearly recalls the latter-day pop-influenced Stanglers material, rather than the thuggish misogyny of their earlier work, and while Cornwell certainly sounds a bit cranky on several of these tunes, "One Day at a Time" and "Lay Back on Me Pal" reflect a welcome compassion that he's gained with the years. (Don't worry, though -- "Leave Me Alone" and "Putting You In The Shade" prove he's still got plenty of problems with people. Nice to know some things never change.) For the most part, Hi Fi is pleasingly tuneful, with strong pop melodies and a winning psychedelic undertow on tunes like "All the Colours of the Rainbow," "The Prison's Going Down," and "Gingerbread Girl" (the last of which appears in two versions on the album's American release -- the string-fortified original take, and a dubwise electronic remix from Black Dog Productions). Cornwell's vocals and songwriting are in fine shape, Laurie Latham's production is clean and serves the material well, and if Hi Fi isn't exactly a startling step forward for Cornwell, it shows he still has a few tricks left up his sleeve, and it's a far stronger and more enjoyable album than anything the Stranglers have coughed up since the artist's departure. (The American edition of Hi Fi also features two bonus live cuts, with Cornwell performing solo acoustic versions of a pair of Stranglers oldies, "Golden Brown" and "Always The Sun"; the performances are fine but unexceptional, and the recording quality isn't especially good.)

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