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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Curiosity Killed the Cat - Keep Your Distance

Band: Curiosity Killed the Cat
Album: Keep Your Distance
Year: 1987
Style: Britpop, Smooth Jazz
Similar Bands: Duran Duran, ABC, Tears For Fears, Wham, The Fixx, Kenny G
"One-Word" Review: Doctor's-Office-Pop
Based Out Of: London, England
Label: Phonogram LTD, Mercury
Keep Your Distance - Cover, Sleeve, Record
Keep Your Distance - Back, Liner Notes, Record

Keep Your Distance (1987)
  1. Misfit 4:05
  2. Down to Earth 4:20
  3. Free 4:02
  4. Know What You Know 3:52
  5. Curiosity Killed the Cat 3:12/
  6. Ordinary Day 3:53
  7. Mile High 4:09
  8. Red Lights 5:33
  9. Shallow Memory 4:30
Album Rating (1-10): 6.0

Members & Other Bands:Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot - Vox
Julian Godfrey Brookhouse - Guitar
Nicholas Bernard Thorp - Bass (Twilight Children)
Miguel Drummond - Drums
Toby Anderson - Keys
Stewart Levine - Producer
Sly Dunbar - Producer
Paul Staveley O'Duffy - Producer, Overdub
Robbie Shakespeare - Producer
Peter Smith - Producer
Dennis Weinreich - Overdub
The Unknown - Sleeve
Peter Anderson - Photography

Unknown-ness: I’ve never really heard of this band, but it does sound vaguely familiar. I got this record in the 2-for-1 pound bin in England, so I’m guessing they are a British band. It looks very mid 80’s, which is exactly when it is from. The angular titles seem random, not cool or fun like a New Wave band, and the dress of the band also puts them as some clean cut boy band. The back, with the logo and titles big does not help guess what their sound it, but it looks like it will be some dated foe-heavy rock band that might have seemed cutting edge for its time, but is laughably light now.

Album Review: “Misfit” right off has a Caribbean rhythm to it. It is very light and jazzy and synthesized. The vocals remind me of Tears for Fears, but the music reminds me of ABC or other smooth jazz pop bands. It is upbeat and is backed by a cast of female vocals too. Apparently this is the song that earned them the praises of Andy Warhol, who shot and was in the video for this song. This is the music destined to be in elevators and supermarkets. But for its time, I could see this really packing a punch on the charts.
“Down to Earth” continues with the dated sound of layers upon layers of synthesized instruments in a light airy island jazz genre. You can almost see the silk button-up shirts and baggy pleated pants by the members as they play this song. The sax does sound real, though. This reminds me what Duran Duran would sound like if they swapped their pop dance style for smooth jazz pop. Now this is not to say that songs are not good. They are very catchy, and the vocals are good, especially supported by the backing female chorus, which gives it a bit of a Talking Heads vibe.
“Free” is a little dark in its composition, thanks to the bass line and string accompaniment. A Sax comes in, and the image is changed to a dark, dingy night club where the women wear big shoulder padded dresses and the guys have skinny ties and tweed sport jackets. This song sounds simpler, and less complicated. It has a bit of a late 80’s Elvis Costello feel to it too. The chorus is just sha-ba-da-ba-dap syllables sung rapidly.
“Know What You Know” starts out like a Whitney Houston song with a Wham, “Careless Whisper” sax. The vocals oddly sound like the band Gil Mantera’s Party Dream, if you’ve heard of them. I like the chorus; it has a fun downbeat melody that gives it a slow sexy quality.
“Curiosity Killed the Cat” is a bit jazzier and upbeat, perhaps a bit like bored Madness. And the song reminds me of the little I know about ABC. The song uses the title in an unpredictable way in the chorus, followed by a list of adverbs sung by the female backing chorus. Apparently they played this song, and it landed them their record deal, which also stuck as their band name.

“Ordinary Day” is an island lounge song that has a bit of an old-person’s choice dance beat. The use of the horns is exciting, and reminds me of something Oingo Boingo would use, but the overall production wipes any organic connection the song might have hoped to have. Toward the end the song reminds me of late 80’s Phil Collins Genesis. Not very good.“Mile High” starts off with a slow slinky beat with a jangely guitar that reminds me of the Fixx. The song never progresses out from that slow, dark tempo. This does verge on World Music. This is what Wham would have sounded like with Roland from Tears for Fears fronting them.
“Red Lights” starts with a smooth drum beat and melt-a-way keys. Then enters that smooth jazz sax sound and a crystalline synth effect to further strip any tangible real instrument feel. The sax detracts from the song more than gives, it further dates the song, and diminishes the band’s musical taste for thinking it was needed.
“Shallow Memory” ends the record with what seems to start out as another mystical earthy smooth jazz number. The bass then picks up and the tempo is much more movement inducing. There are some harsh synth accents in the song, but at least it features the female backing vocals that add a nice depth to the song. The song is not tightly knit, rather it is a flowing song that feels like there is much room for improvisation, and the repetition allows for experimentation in different melodies for the same lyrics over the constant backing composition. And this song rides that wave of consistency through to a fade out.

Stand Out Track: Curiosity Killed the Cat

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