Phil Manzanera/801: Listen Now (Polydor)

PHIL MANZANERA is one of those talented guitarists who speak much more eloquently with their hands than with their mouths. His “message” lyrics bemoaning the pathetic state of humanity are a bit of a snore. The British are enjoying a big protest fad these days, but unless you’re as clever as Bob Dylan it can be instantly tedious from an artistic angle. There are some gem instrumentals here, though, which match the high points of fancy Phil’s interesting Diamond Head solo debut.

‘Listen Now’ is a pleasantly bland track that reminds me of Fleetwood Mac circa Penguin, but eight minutes of social concern about the need to assert one’s human rights is too much (and much after the tone of Pink Floyd’s Animals). ‘Flight 19’ is an odd number that vaguely tells the story of a guy turning to crime so he can pay the hospital costs of a girl who jilted him and then cracked up in her car (I think). The third cut, ‘Island’, is a relief then, a consistently tranquil, graceful instrumental with no words at all. Next is ‘Law and Order’ with a paranoid anti-fascist slant in lines like: “There’s gotta be somewhere we can stay where they don’t need law and order”.

‘QUE?’ opens side two with some more pretty guitar, only to be smashed by a throbbing urban despair cut called ‘City of Light’. (Isn’t this beginning to sound like Diamond Dogs?) There are some nice moments here. Kevin Godley and Lol Creme of 10cc add to the arrangements of some tracks, most notably the flutey sounding instrumental, ‘Initial Speed’, which features their patented “heavenly voices” technique. (Mel Collins kicks in a fine sax solo.) And Brian Eno adds a dash of synthesizer coloring to ‘Post Card Love’ (“when she sings ‘love’ it means ‘just friends'”) and ‘That Falling Feeling’, another slow beauty in the old Fleetwood Mac vein.

So what we’ve got is a see-sawing album, a batch of wonderful musical passages from a guy who’s awfully trite in the verbal area. Not bad, but listen before you buy. And I hope Manzanera quits trying to be so “relevant”.

© Stephen DemorestRock Scene, October 1978

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