Like the Police's "Every Breath You Take," which it so closely resembles, John Waite's "Missing You" is one of those singles you can't get out of your head even when you turn the radio off and try to get back to work.
It boasts a cyclical, clipped-guitar riff that rotates endlessly in the inner ear. It always seems on the brink of busting loose but never quite does, leaving the listener hanging. But it does capture that familiar sensation of denying any regrets when every word drips with hurt.
Though "Missing You" is easily the best thing on Waite's third solo album, "No Brakes" (EMI ST-17124), the album is full of smart, pleasurable power-pop, not unlike the early efforts of Cheap Trick, the Cars and the Police. It represents a remarkable escape act by Waite, once typecast as the founder and lead singer of the Babys, who played hard rock by the numbers.
Since he left the Babys in 1980, Waite has learned the art of melodic hooks and understated arrangements. It works on "Restless Heart," the best Eaglesque country-rock song in years; the lyrical lead guitar over the restrained acoustic guitar perfectly carries the sense of yearning for an ex-lover.
"Dark Side of the Sun" builds the clipped guitars of "Missing You" into a crescendo of harmony vocals and dirty guitars that would do Tom Petty proud. The subdued reverie of the verses on "Dreamtime/Shake It Up" lead into the hard-rock choruses most effectively.
When Waite performs at Constitution Hall Tuesday, he will share the bill with Scandal. Scandal was once a band, but now it's merely a vehicle for Patty Smyth (rhymes with "lithe" to distinguish her from Patti Smith). Smyth has all the requirements for MTV stardom: high cheekbones, a pouting lower lip and a big soprano voice.
Scandal's first full-length album is "Warrior" (Columbia FC 39173). Former Blondie producer Mike Chapman picked Nick Gilder's catchy one-idea tune of the same name as the first single. Smyth's big voice fills out the space in this jingly anthem.
Unfortunately, the six songs Smyth wrote with Scandal's former co-leader Zack Smith don't even offer a hook to go with their simplicities. The album even includes a cliche'-ridden song that Journey wrote but couldn't bring itself to record.
Smyth has a remarkable voice. On her own ballad, "Less Than Half," she whispers low notes and belts high notes with her lush tone undiminished. But no discernible personality comes through.
When Waite and Scandal play Constitution Hall, the Psychedelic Furs will be at the Warner Theatre. As Waite has struggled to move to something more respectable, the Furs' lead singer and chief songwriter, Richard Butler, has struggled to move out of art punk.
The two have ended up much closer than anyone would have thought. The difference is that Butler is a fine lyricist but a terrible singer, while Waite is the reverse.
After two albums of swirling waves of sound and vituperative anger with producer Steve Lillywhite, the Furs worked with Todd Rundgren on last year's transitional album, "Forever Now."
That transition led to this year's "Mirror Moves" (Columbia BFC 39278) with producer Keith Forsey. Forsey, the popmeister behind Billy Idol and Irene Cara, has clarified the Furs' sound by cutting back on the clutter, isolating the vocals and organizing everything else around a synth-dance beat.
The change has produced mixed results. On the minus side, it has removed the thick, throbbing textures that were one of the Furs' main appeals. On the plus side, it has highlighted Butler's songwriting more than ever, and his songs are more personal, more optimistic and better built than his earlier efforts.
But the new arrangements have ruthlessly exposed the limits of Butler's voice, a dull, narrow instrument. The purpose of Forsey's bright percussion tracks and synth coloring is defeated by Butler's hoarse, nasal croak. The music would work better if the voice were woven into a thick sea of sounds.