On her 1981 debut album, Holly Beth Vincent led her band, Holly & the Italians, through "The Right to Be Italian." Go-Gos' producer Richard Gotteherer tried to fit Vincent into his "girl group revival," but her voice and songs were too dark and moody for the genre.
Vincent broke up her band and recorded a second album under her own name but entitled "Holly & the Italians." Her new producer, Mike Thorne, reinforces her subversive challenges to romantic myths, while her best new songs have the same bracing impact as the early efforts of Blondie's Debbie Harry and the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde.
The ominous tone is sustained by the tension between the droning synthesizers played by Vincent and Thorne and the thrashing rock rhythm from Vincent's guitars and Kevin Wilkinson's drums. Odd colors underscore the lyrics' dialectic approach to romance as Vincent expresses both desire and skepticism.
"Dangerously" contrasts muted trumpet phrases with techno-pop eruptions to set up Vincent's monologue on the risks and temptations of love. On "Just Like Me," Bobby Valentino's violin parts sound like sweet juice going sour, as does Vincent's description of her girlfriend.
"Unoriginal Sin" opens with Vincent's nervous, clipped guitar chords as her understated, hypnotic voice strips her boyfriend of his self-delusions: "You're not the only one/ Parading like a boy/ All the leather in Texas/ I don't care." Nevertheless she still wants him, and as the song builds to a Spectorish climax with violins and synthesizers wailing, she dryly delivers the punchline: "Touch me, but don't talk" even if it is an "unoriginal sin." ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM HOLLY BETH VINCENT -- Holly & the Italians (Virgin/Epic ARE38287). THE SHOW HOLLY BETH VINCENT opens for the Psychedelic Furs at the Warner Theater Friday night.