BACK IN 1977, when Tom Robinson urged his listeners to "sing, if you are glad to be gay," it was an act both of courage and rebellion -- not merely by the standards of mainstream pop, but even within Britain's punk underclass, where sex of any sort was looked upon with distaste. Yet Robinson pulled it off, because "Glad to Be Gay" wasn't just a statement on sexual politics, it was also a catchy pop song.
These days, it's okay to sing about being gay; in fact, on the British pop scene, it's downright fashionable. Between coy Boy George, flamboyant Frankie Goes to Hollywood and plainspoken Bronski Beat, homosexuality seems about as adventurous now as male makeup. Which, perhaps, explains why so much of "Hope and Glory," Tom Robinson's latest release, treats gay life to the sort of love songs heterosexual romance has enjoyed for centuries.
In a sense, the most exceptional thing about these songs is how mundane they seem. "War Baby" stands out thanks to the inventiveness of Robinson's metaphors and the passion he invests in his delivery, not because of its subject matter. "Blond and Blue" describes a love story so commonplace that it isn't even sex specific. True, "Cabin Boy" celebrates desires few heterosexuals have entertained, but even there, Robinson maintains enough of a sense of humor to put the song across enjoyably. In all, "Hope and Glory" is a record that makes you glad to be listening to Tom Robinson. TOM ROBINSON -- "Hope and Glory" (Geffen GHS 24053-1); appearing Sunday at 8 at the 9:30 Club.