Pat Benetar, who will appear at the Kennedy Center on Oct. 7, is a singer who is making it big by sounding tough. The single "Heartbreak," from her first album, was an attempt at being provocative but aloof. "You Better Run," the follow-up single from her new album, "Crimes of Passion," (Chrysalis 1275) is cast in the same mold.
Her version of the old Young Rascals tune is a good a way as any to prove that Benatar is not a new wave star, but a solid rock and pop singer. Her phrasing and arrangement of the song are similar to the original, with a slightly heavier beat and meaner, more racous vocals. As in her first single, she creates aa look-but-don't-touch dichotomy as she sings, "I love you so, can't you see," then growls, "Go away and leave me alone, I can't stand you no more."
With the exception of a track called "I Never Wanna Leave You," which takes a new wave bow in its semi-stylized, B-52's-type beat and monotone vocals, the album is solidly arranged and produced pop-rock. Benatar and her band keep up the tough image in driving songs like "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," which rephrases her first single: "Knock me down, it's all in vain/I get right back on my feet again," and "Before I put another notch in my lipstick case, you better make sure you put me in my place."
Benatar's first producer was Mike Chapman, who also produced Blondie. For her new album, she has switched to Keith Olsen; but with a voice that ranges from raunchy to warbling sweetness, comparisons between Benatar's voice and Deborah Harry's are still hard to avoid. On "I'm Gonna Follow You," there are thematic and stylistic echoes of "One Way or Another." But Benatar is more polished, even in her scheming toughness. Where Harry would growl, Benatar prefers a '60s "oo-oo" croon. Although it's just as calculated an effect, it is more subtle than Blondie.
"Out-a-touch," the album's last track and one of its best, contrasts a fast 4/4 beat with the ambiguity of the lyrics. It's uncertain whether the love affair Benatar describes is real or imagined, but the song offers a glimpse behind the tough facade: "You're not so invincible and I'm not what I seem," she sings. The album ends with a high, echoing "I need you."
Most of the songs are written by Benatar and/or members of her band, which except for drummer Myron Grombacher, retains the same lineup as her debut album.
Where Benatar's voice is tough and subtle, Anne Golden of the Shirts comes across sounding airy and fragile. On the Shirts' latest album, "Inner Sleeve" (Capitol St-12085), Golden, like Benatar, turns more toward boppy, middle-ground rock, although the Brooklyn bank has been classified as new wave because of its affiliations with CBGB's the "punk" club.
Golden's voice is more nasal and reedy-sounding than Benatar's. But her airy vocals take the opening track, a pleasant tune called, "I'm Not One of Those," and at one point turns it into a high-pitched cry of disillusion.
On "I Don't Wanna Know," Golden is innocent, almost sweet, where Benatar would be tough, blunt. The song takes on a more introspective quality: "I don't wanna change your world, it takes too much time/Analyze or judge your worth, I'm just not that kind." Throaty sustained notes keep the song from sounding too frail or ethereal.
The Shirts display anger and defiance on "Pleasure and Pain." In contrast to Benetar's line of longing, "How long does it have to last, a Kodachrome kiss?" Golden sing, "In my sleep I dream solutions, Trechnicolor revolutions." The song is the strongest on the album, matching beat and vocals with meaning.
The Shirts, who will appear at Desperado's on Sept. 16, have switched producers since their last album. Under the guidance of George Wadenius and John Palladino, "Inner Sleeve" isn't as esoteric or cerebral as "Straight John Palladino, "Inner Sleeve" isn't as estoteric or cerebral as "Street Light Shine." Although most of the songs are well composed and well expressed, there's something missing. Maybe the songs don't put across as much emotion as they were written with, or maybe the group needs new blood. Annie Golden's voice does not have the range and staying power that Pat Benatar's does, but it could certainly be put to better use. The Shirts are capable of more pizazz than they display on this album.