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Title: Rocket man
Author: Steve Sutherland
Source: Melody Maker
Publish date: April 22, 1989

ROCKET MAN

HOLLY JOHNSON

BLAST

MCA

CONSIDERING Holly’s career has been established around a clutch of perfect slogans and considering his debut solo LP is peppered with pregnant gems like “Beat the system before it beats you”, it seems reasonable to assume that there was a fair amount of scratching the impeccably coiffeured bonce before he arrived at the title. Anyway, however you look at it, “Blast” is a revelation.

The same vengeful confidence which gives a “Blast” to “All the Unbelievers and Deceivers” on the inner sleeve (he also gives the thumbs up to Percy Wyndam Lewis and God) throbs through the hard-on, haughty syncopation of “Atomic City” and the skirt- twirling Latinate sarcasm of “Americanos”. This is an album of erect justification, a poke in the eardrum for those who considered Holly merely a cuddly marionette acting out his camp fantasies to the beat of someone else’s genius. It may lack Trevor Horn’s exotic depth and sweep but “Atomic City” has learned enough from Frankie to locate a hiatus of pastoral serenity in the midst of the swelter, a breather before hurtling back into the synthetic brass sweat bath.

“Blast” also incorporates the frustration of exclamation. Holly, it seems, is the squirming embodiment of righteousness and he never lets up wagging a warning finger. He’s got a real thing about TV, has Holly. During the Jackson 5ish “Deep In Love”, which unashamedly appears to glue verses of his predeliction for small ‘p’ political truisms to choruses melting like butter with romanticism (ie: “Relax” meets “The Power Of Love”), he tells us we watch too much box while “Atomic City” informs us “There’s more to life than a TV gameshow”.

“Americanos” is a right miff constructed around the fact that Holly reckons we get conned a lot into buying stuff we don’t need which, coming from a man who made a pile selling us umpteen “Two Tribes” remixes and “Frankie Say…” tee shirts, is pretty rich frankly.

Still, Holly’s indignation is hearteningly targeted. “S.U.C.C.E.S.S.” (I bet he could murder those Sputniks!) isolates the symptom of our spiritual malaise quite neatly, bombardment from the media undermining our better instincts so that wanting a new dress and wanting world peace become equally as important and, hence, equally as trivial. On the other hand, Holly’s a great one for the notion that social improvement begins with the self. We are all prospective gods and the sweet “Heaven’s Here” tells us, “This is your lifetime”, “Deep In Love” admonishes us to, “Make your dreams come true, animate your imagination” and, when “Got It Made” gives over telling us to be grateful for small mercies, it says: “From a very young age you must realise there’s nothing in your way you can’t overcome”.

Of course, this susceptibility to optimism inevitably leads to some pothead philosophising and “Blast” often slips from hip to hippy. A phrase coined by dopers inhaling hot smoke to induce nirvana, the “blast” that gets you high, the blast that finds ‘peace, harmony and love divine” is the same blast that prompts Holly to his customary “Ow’s at the height of excitement, the same blast that propels him, again and again, to surrender to the rhythm.

For “Blast” is essentially a dance LP. There are exceptions - the showy “Love Will Come” is a warm ballad straight from an imaginary musical, “Perfume” is a misbegotten stab at Prince, trying too hard to relax into the risque, and “Feel Good” is smooth, loin-girding encouragement - but mostly it’s smart, ankle-shuffling stuff like the cute mini-masterpiece of pneumatic innuendo, “Love Train”.

By nature, “Blast” is a cocky bop with the odd intriguing couplet. I like, “If time stood still on my window sill I’d squash it like a fly”. It’s good that.

STEVE SUTHERLAND