Pearl Harbor & the Explosions

Pearl Harbor & the Explosions

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Soon after their final show at Winterland, the Sex Pistols' implosive ghost polarized local San Francisco bands as much as or more than the labels who shunned them. Outfits like the Avengers, the Dils, or the Nuns risked being isolated and marginalized for sticking to their hard-and-fast guns, while anyone with a skinny tie and an ear for bouncy pop tunes had at least one or two shots at mainstream success. Judging by the record they made, Harbor and bandmates had no qualms about cruising the new wave highway to heavy rotation. (To be fair, so did numerous other bands.) The slick, gauzy sound is seemingly tailor-made for courting Top 40 listeners, but a dearth of memorable tunes doesn't support the premise. The best tracks play up the band's rootsier side: "Drivin'" scored as an indie single and prompted Warner to sign the band, while "You Got It (Release It)" should have been the second hit: its coy sexual innuendoes would naturally have fit next to the Knack's like-minded fare. "Shut up and Dance"'s rockabilly bluster is also good rakish fun (and has served as a metaphor of sorts for Harbor's solo career). Elsewhere, the pickings get slimmer. Peter Bilt's jazzy, dissonant guitar flourishes are the most left-field touch, but there's not much else happening musically -- once you get past his bandmates' outlandish pseudonyms. Had the band taken more chances, this album would have risen above standard-issue new wave fodder. The masses didn't care, either; by spring 1980, the band imploded, leaving Harbor to start over in London with a different cast of characters. Still, the highlights would make a dynamite EP.

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