Debora Iyall

Strange Language

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Former Romeo Void singer Debora Iyall's first and only solo album is fairly disappointing, but not entirely useless. Produced by Pat Irwin -- a former member of the Raybeats, associate of the Golden Palominos, and all around New York scene dude -- the record sounds a little too crisp and clean, but it's not deadeningly slick the way so many mid-'80s albums by former fringe artists were. (The Golden Palominos' Blast of Silence is actually an excellent sonic comparison.) Two of Iyall's ex-bandmates, drummer Aaron Smith and saxophonist Benjamin Bossi, are along for the ride, although Bossi in particular is frustratingly underused. The songs on which he's featured, like "Chilly This Evening," are the best of the lot and unsurprisingly sound the most like Romeo Void. The primary problem is that the tunes, mostly written by Irwin with occasional help from bassist Paul Keister and others, lack the Joy Division-inspired urgency of Romeo Void's best songs, and their comparative mellowness blunts the impact of Iyall's lyrics. There's less passion and force to these songs than there had been on even 1983's relatively restrained Instincts, and it does Iyall no favors. That said, at least half of these songs, including the atmospheric, spooky closer, "After a Party," are quite good, and the others are more blah than actively bad. Debora Iyall returned to her first career as a poet and spoken-word artist after this album.

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