The golden age of paisley! Discreet touches of that most loopy of prints crop up in the attire of Steve Nieve (new spelling; please adjust preconceptions accordingly) on the back of The Attractions "solo" LP, while The Rumour take things to the usual Stiff extreme by presenting themselves in paisley shirts in front of a paisley backdrop, drinking from paisley glasses, reading paisley-bound books, smoking paisley cigarettes, peering over paisley shades - when Jake Riviera gets a cold, an entire section of the British rock community sneezes.
It is of course, unfortunate that both of theses albums by men behind the men behind the glasses should have been released simultaneously, since the temptation thereby arises to make comparisons more directly than might be justified. Nevertheless, both albums have flaws in common: flaws that are not simply the result of the projected knowledge that both groups are customarily heard in a supporting role.
The central flaw that runs through both albums is the lack of a distinct vocal personality or unifying vision. Neither album - interestaingly enough - gives specific track-by-track lead vocal credits, so one is tempted to assume that the various composers are singing their own songs (except on The Rumour's albums, where songs have been composed by such luminaries as Bacharach/David, Randy Newman, Nick Lowe and Graham Parker). However, the general impression received throughout is that the primary consideration of all the vocalists was that of staying in tune. At-no-time does a vocalist actually do anything to seize the listener's attention.
Mad About The Wrong Boy is a slick, glossy album wiht a smirk on its chops. It gives the impression of wanting to be a 10cc album (or at least Pretzel Logic at 45) and of considering that facile cynicism is in itself sufficient. The Attractions stay below the surface of their sound, all bright and flat and tricky, and prod the surfaces of their subjects with a long stick. The album is a surface-to-surface missile the reaches its target but never connects.
Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas (bass and drums respectively, but all three Attractions are credited with vocals and guitars) do their instrumental paces as well as one might expect, which is extremely. They team up to write five of the album's 10 songs, the rest being the work of Steve Nieve either on his own or as half of the enigmatic "Brain & Hart". The songs are all slick misogyny and smug pokes at conformity ('High Rise Housewife' manages to be both) with nary a break. 'Motorworld' ineptly parodies Gary Numan, and 'On The Third Stroke' with its speaking-clock overdub actually achieves a rare moment of compassion.