Cameo's 'Emotional Violence' adds message to the mix

March 20, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

EMOTIONAL VIOLENCE

Cameo (Reprise 26734)

Despite a propensity for deep grooves, Cameo's output has always been a bit on the shallow side, offering little more than sex talk and catch phrases. That isn't the case with "Emotional Violence," however. Although the album's rhythmic content is as rich as ever, from the throbbing, guitar-fueled funk of "Raw But Tasty" to the pumping, rap-spiked pulse of "Kid Don't Believe It," there's more to these songs than a good beat -- there's also usually a message. That's not to say Cameo frontman Larry Blackmon has turned preachy on us; to the contrary, his lyrics are generally as witty as they are wise, from the practical economics of "Money" to the sassy insistence of "Don't Crash."

BREAK LIKE THE WIND

Spinal Tap (MCA 10514)

When you get right down to it, the funniest thing about Spinal Tap -- the pseudo-metal band impersonated by comedians Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer -- is how plausible its silly songs seem. Cue up any selection from the group's sophomore (or is it sophomoric?) effort, "Break Like the Wind," and what you'll hear is only a slight exaggeration of the sort of tripe real hard rock groups dispense. "Just Begin Again," for instance, is the epitome of every overwrought power ballad ever recorded, from its laughable lyric to Cher's herniated harmonies, while the title tune offers the sort of philosophical insight that makes "Dust in the Wind" seem like "Being and Nothingness." And that may be the album's big mistake -- by being so believable, these songs are more often scary than funny.

INGENUE

k.d. lang (Sire 26840)

Some country singers wear their stylistic allegiance like a straitjacket, but not k.d. lang. With "Ingenue," her fourth American album, the Canadian chanteuse introduces yet another twist to her sound, coming across less as an urbane cowgirl than as the thinking listener's torch singer. Sure, there's a twang to tunes like "Save Me" and "Outside Myself," but there's a lot more there as well. Although lang's material tends to stress longing over fulfillment, her range stretches well beyond the usual country cliches, and that's what gives this album its edge. From the probing of "Mind of Love" to the self-deprecating "Miss Chatelaine," lang captures the giddy tortures of romantic agony in ways too few pop singers ever achieve. A truly astonishing piece of work.

PRIEST = AURA

The Church (Arista 18683)

If mood were as marketable as melody, the Church would own the pop charts. It isn't as if this Australian quartet has any trouble staying tuneful, mind; in fact, the offerings on its new album, "Church = Aura," are nothing if not dependably melodic, packed with catchy choruses and hummable hooks. But apart from the occasional exuberance of numbers like psychedelic sea chantey "The Disillusionist," this band's best songs are never pushy, preferring to insinuate themselves into the listener's memory like so many half-dreamt hits. All of which makes "Priest = Aura" an unexpectedly haunting album.

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