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A THOUSAND years ago I announced that music would become so self-swallowing, so auto-cannibalistic, that pop would eat itself. Since then a duff Brum rap combo have nicked the phrase and Holly Johnson has released ‘Blast.

The album is produced by Dan Hartman, involves the guitars of Brian ‘Bohemian Rhapsody May and Vini ‘The Man Who Really Wrote “Suedehead”‘ Reilly, and features immense hi-energy tunes by the ex-vocalist from Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Reader, this is total pop and it is hungry.

Anyone with a mind will have loved ‘Love Train, a disco anthem of love with its ace lyric Youre a work of art/Youre the Trevi Fountain/Youre a golden heart/Youre the highest mountain and will have sussed the acid irony of ‘Americanos (a severe sibling to West Side Storys ‘America — Life is all right in America/If youre all white in America). If not, why bother with pop?

Blast is mostly immense and flaming dance pop: it runs solid with Holly Johnsons sense of irony, for nearly every song compares love with commerce: ‘Deep In Love announces both Your love consumes me and Weve all wound up like consumer toys; theres the surfacely smug ‘Got It Made; and theres ‘Americanos … ‘Blast is pop being nasty.

Atomic City is a, er, blasting dance furore about having no ozone layer and seeing the air pollution from the power station, and so on. ‘Blast mixes such nasties with disco exuberance and so it should be; Holly well knows that people get up and dance and get up and protest.

This would of course be mere complaining rantage if ‘Blast was chocka with dullsville melody, but this is not the case. ‘Blast is a pretty cool collection of tunes and energy and arrangements. Both Vini Reilly and Brian May forsake their various corners for hilarious rifferama, fake brass sections rampage like Saturday Night Fever was the coolest film in town, and Holly gives it plenty of “Hey yay yay” as if Frankie were back and bothering your brother in public.

You can sense that simple record company desires (a nice rhythm track, tasty synths, a few hip names) have been assimilated and twisted towards Hollys Big Plan just by the way ‘Atomic City sounds like ‘Sun City; it nicks the chorus so youre aware of the reference, and so you know its going to be a bit more than a nifty dance number.

But it isnt crassly referential; its bouncy and happy like the best SAW, so youll want to like it.

Holly Johnson is by no means a former lead singer floating about on a major labels money; hes a smart pop tactician who can read (theres a song called ‘Perfume for Patrick Suskind buffs) and talk and, above all, write good tunes.

Holly Johnsons debut album comes out of nowhere, but its quite possibly one of the best records of 1989. Pop may indeed have had itself for lunch, but Holly Johnson is wearing the chefs hat. Enough of metaphor: this is a topnotch groovy LP. (8)

David Quantick