The album 4 out of 5 doctors -- (Nemperor NJZ 36575); THE SHOW Wednesday at 8 at the Bayou.
If you like wallowing in neo-conservative dread (I know I do), don't miss 4 Out of 5 Doctors' debut album. Only one thing could plant such a gleam in the eyes of the weak-chinned wimp on the cover (a spler did mongrelization of Elvis Costello and Roy Orbison): the vision of a Better World, a place where women and appliances perform their God-given functions, where a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. . .
Am I getting carried away? Actually, I stole that last bit from 4 Out of 5 Doctors, who were at least polite enough to credit it to John Wayne (1952). But while the medication's kicking in, let me say that this is a very listenable album by an exceptional rock band.
Cal Everett, bassist, is one of the strongest, most controlled lead vocalists around. He's backed by three equally talented musicians, all well aware that "music theory" is more than tuneful postulation. Everett, Jeff Severson and George Pittaway share writing duties, and their musical versatility is what gives this LP its punch.
The 11 songs are performed with finesse and humor, and the Docs show such an arduous penchant for rock noir tht you'd think they'd just heard "Chain Lightning" for the second time yesterday. "Jeff, Jeff" is the most interesting example, a murder story acting out a new twist on "Patches" against a musical backdrop the silky fabric of Steely Dan's "Pretzel Logic." The difference is (and this is probably just a fine point), Steely Dan don't generally off their women, leastways not by pushing them over a cliff; at a minimum, they'd have someone else do it.
But these guys are fairly committed to mixing their moo majors with a little misogyny. The females on this record are a mess of hormonal disasters: They're "built" ("Elizabeth"), but they break down ("Jeff, Jeff"); they cause resentment when their sexual proclivities are aberrant (there's more to Elizabeth than what makes her sweater bulge!) and physical discomfort when they're normal ("I Want Her"). And if that's not enough, there's one that comes to breakfast in a rubber suit ("Opus 10")!
I know all this is meant to be taken with a sense of humor and a keg of salt, but after extended listening, Alan Parsons' "Eve" starts to seem like a real yuk-fest by comparison. Repeatedly, the Doctors set up sexy chord changes and sweaty-chested rhythms only to dump a cold lyrical shower on the whole scene.
The band's lyrical problems could be attributed to a perception that they're writing for The Guys, further evidence of which can be found on songs like "Modern Man," "Waiting for a Change" and "Not From Her World." These tunes espouse a sort of shopping-mall politics, whereby restless teenagers feel the need to rebel against ennui, if nothing better presents itself. Sample lyrics: "I'm using force in effecting political change / She needs a new dress, she thinks she'll go shopping today." But behold the beaming faces on the back cover. Sure, they might change the world -- right after they change out of their Isods.
The music more than saves this group. Perhaps their lyrics will eventually improve; if not, there are plenty of people sick enough to listen to them anyway, including me. And there's even an antidote: Follow this album with all six sides of The Clash's "Sandinista!" and call me in the morning.