Every fall CBS Records takes on a rather massive project. They begin another Developing Artist Series and choose five of their most promising artists to spotlight.
The Class of '83 is a diverse lot when it comes to experience, but each is an innovator in their own right. Elvis Costello is a veteran with years of recording experience and he heads up this year's class. The other band with experience is an alumni of the Class of '82, Translator. The three newcomers are Paul Young, WHAM! U.K. and Midnight Oil.
What can be said about Elvis Costello which hasn't already been said? The man is a true craftsman who sculptures songs and comes up with some of the most amazing rhymes ("...You and I as lovers / Were nothing but a farce / Trying to make a silk purse / Out of a sow's arse..." from "Charm School"). This year's model goes by the name of Punch The Clock and if it's intended to make a statement on the drabness of a large part of today's music, it's right on target. If it's intended to make a statement about the content of this record, it sadly misses the mark.
Spurred on by the single, "Every Day I Write The Book," Punch The Clock is Costello at his finest, yet with an integrity which keeps the album's commercial accessibility from becoming mundane.
Other key cuts include: "Pills and Soap," "The Element Within Her," "Let Them All Talk," and "The Invisible Man."
Translator is the San Francisco-based band who scored a college radio hit last year with "Everywhere That I'm Not." Though last year's Heartbeats and Triggers established the group as a force to be reckoned with on college radio stations with it's terse unsettling quality, No Time Like Now stands to vastly widen their audience.
Again the single was widely chosen and "Un-Alone" bridges the gap between what is played on college radio and what is played on commercial progressive stations. Also the fact that MTV is on the video should further Translator's quest for success. A strong sophomore offering from a group who is making evolutionary steps with every song.
Don't miss: "Everything Is Falling, Breakdown" (which contains some well-placed punctuations), "The End of Their Love" and "Beyond Today."
Leading off the newcomers is Paul Young with a well-balanced album entitled No Parlez. In addition to writing and/or arranging three of the songs. Young's debut effort contains several well-chosen covers.
His rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)" was a major European hit this summer and Young's vocals lend a strange sort of soulfulness to it to make the song seem his own.
Another absolutely standout track is his version of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart." As previously stated, there is a strange sort of soulfulness in Young's voice which lends itself to the blues-inspired songs that serve as the foundation for these progressive pop efforts.
Check out: "Iron Out the Rough Spots," "Oh Women," and "Sex."
Next up on the role call is a British-based duo going by the name WHAM! U.K. This group is easily the embodiment of all that's good about Europop music. Fantastic is chock-full of clean synthesizer parts and various and sundry dance beats.
"Bad Boys" should be the song to break them in this country with its incessant dance beat and infectious "whoo-whoos." Though they may not change the face of pop music forever, they're destined to provide a lot of enjoyment to dance floors across America.
Required listening: "Young Guns," the poignant "Nothing Looks The Same in the Light," "Wham Rap" and a remake of "Love Machine."
Finally, there's Midnight Oil's 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Midnight is another of those progressive groups who place a lot of emphasis on acoustic guitars and trying different approaches to old ideas and methods. Worth notice: "Power and the Passion," "Somebody's Trying To Tell Me Something," "Only The Strong," and "Read About It."