Many of the songs on Simon Stinger’s second album, Devil On My Mind, wouldn’t sound out of place on one of EMI Records’ Living In Oblivion: 80’s Greatest Hits volumes. I rate that era higher than almost anybody, but if I want to revisit it I’ll slip on one of those discs, thank you very much. It is not enough to be pastiche snapshots of other songs and bands; that way lies Katrina and the Waves.
The opening cover version of “Girl U Want” adds little of note to Devo’s original except some overdubbed backing vocals by singer Alicia Perrone. The publicity material for Stinger compares Perrone to Dale Bozzio, Gwen Stefani, Annabella Twin of Bow Wow Wow, Debbie Harry of Blondie, Siouxsie of & The Banshees and Mae West. Some of these comparisons are apt, especially Bozzio and Siouxsie. The trouble is, we already have a Dale Bozzio, Gwen Stefani, Bow Wow Wow…you get the idea. Plus, Perrone’s voice does not have the seductive quality of Siouxsie’s and her material is not as hooky and sugar-filled as was Bozzio’s. “When a Boy Meets A Girl” and “Hollywood Ending” are the best of a bad bunch of originals written by Perrone, bass player Victor James, drummer Eric Oushani and executive producer Rick DeRushia in varied combinations.
There just ain’t that much here that pushes Simon Stinger above the crowd for me. Real predictable rhythm parts, chopping and slashing guitars, a keyboard buried in the mix of a song or two and lyrics that stop short of clever. Guitarist Marcus Henderson does some interesting work in spots, but elsewhere he has to play some of the worst-written guitar parts since A Flock of Seagulls. Less monochromatic production would probably have helped as well. It is just possible that in a live setting these songs come off much better, but under the hands of John Ryan and Rick DeRushia they lack a certain…sparkle.
Blah music can be offset by clever lyrics, banal lyrics can be invigorated by a warm, emotive performance and a performance that leaves something to be desired can be dressed up by a gimmicky production. But if you want to have a chance in hell of lasting effectiveness, you’d better have one of the three going for you. Because if not… Look, lets be fair here. Simon’s Stinger is not without promise, but at this juncture they lack, if not the raw talent, then certainly a knack for using it to maximum effect. This may come in time, but at the moment they’re about as relevant as communism. Listening to this album is like watching people learn to swim by thrashing about in the shallow end.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.