ADRIAN BELEW: YOUNG LIONS (1990)
1) Young Lions; 2) Pretty Pink Rose; 3) Heartbeat; 4) Looking For A UFO; 5) I Am What I Am; 6) Not Alone Anymore; 7) Men In Helicopters; 8) Small World; 9) Phone Call From The Moon; 10) Gunman.
The sound is so much fuller on this record, you could swear Adrian finally hired a backing band of his own, but he didn't; he just seems to have figured out better ways of getting all his different parts together. Also, perhaps the impression is a bit illusionary, caused by grander diversity and the use of David Bowie as a guest star (Belew used to play for
Young Lions is my favourite "pop" record from Belew's backlog: better fleshed out than Mr. Music Head, yet somewhat less Beatle-worshipping than the subsequent two and, therefore, more true to Belew's own nature. The only song here where "core melody" is neglected in favour of weirdness is 'I Am What I Am', a tribal psycho-rocker featuring muffled spoken radio DJ-style vocals over a bundle of guitar pyrotechnics — fun stuff, hearkening back to the good old days when Belew would play the old game of go insane onstage with the Talking Heads. Everything else is Belew-style pop, highest category.
Naturalistic romanticism pulsates from every pore of the title track — real wild: 'In the guise of a lioness, the wind kisses her burning dress, you can feel her animal eyes, you can hear them cry, be the jewel around my neck, never a tear on my burning dress...' (I shiver at the thought of what
An even hotter kicker is the Belew/Bowie duet 'Pretty Pink Rose', a song David wrote for his former guitarist but liked enough to include it in his own setlists from time to time. It's a perfect match of wit, kick-ass attitude, and guitar fire — with one of the most exciting transitions from the first twenty seconds of relaxed ambient intro to the main rhythm of the song that I know. The other duet between the giants, 'Gunman', is, on the other hand, paranoid and bleek, which does not work nearly as well in the overall context of the record, but it is quite inspired all the same.
There's plenty of unpredictability throughout — such as Belew's decisions to remake the King Crimson standard 'Heartbeat' (solid, if not all that necessary); to cover the Traveling Wilburys' (!) 'Not Alone Anymore' (but he does give a pretty fine Roy Orbison impression); to offer just one, but a really good one, relaxed atmospheric ballad ('Phone Call From The Moon'); and to disguise his eco-sensibility as the album's fluffiest, cheeriest pop tune ('Men In Helicopters', where you really have to pay attention to the lyrics to get its actual bitterness). And it all makes Young Lions' fourty minutes flash by in an instant and leave you yearning for more. Thumbs up without a doubt — once again, the guy manages to feed both the intellectually yearning and the emotionally demanding parts of the organism at the exact same time.