Enigma turns to art rock

February 11, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

ENIGMA 2: THE CROSS OF CHANGES

Enigma (Charisma 39236) On its first album, Enigma offered a dazzling blend of unlikely elements, mixing muscular house beats, lush synths and sampled Gregorian chants into the eerie, unforgettable "Sadeness." So how does the group's second album, "The Cross of Changes," top that trick? By turning to art rock, naturally. Granted, there's still plenty of dance-beat vitality to the rhythm tracks, and "Return to Innocence" does a more-than-passable job of emulating the exoticism of "Sadeness." But it's hard to hear raspy vocal and burbling drum machine on "Silent Warrior" without thinking of Peter Gabriel, while the slow-building arrangement and incandescent guitar solo in "I Love You . . . I'll Kill You" seem to have been taken straight from the Pink Floyd songbook.

MIRROR BLUE

Richard Thompson (Capitol 81492)

For a guy with virtually no pop instincts, Richard Thompson sure has a way with a melody. Skip around through "Mirror Blue," Thompson's 11th and latest solo album, and you'll hear little of the stuff currently associated with chart-bound singles: No slick dance beats, no throat-straining balladry, no catchphrase-slinging rap tunes. Instead, all Thompson has to offer are songs, with strong, catchy choruses, interesting, intelligent lyrics and clever, well-turned harmonies. Yet as old-fashioned as his songs may seem -- and given the Celtic cadences and skirling pipes on "MGB-GT," they sometimes sound very old-fashioned indeed -- their appeal is instantaneous, particularly on the melancholy "Beeswing" or the rockabilly

bank-robber tale "Shane and Dixie."

BARGAINVILLE

Moxy Fruvous (Atlantic 82563)

Witty wordplay is a plus for any pop group, but too often it seems that bands use clever lyrics to cover for vocal or melodic deficiencies. Not Moxy Fruvous, though. Sure, there are some funny bits on "Bargainville," the Canadian quartet's debut album, particularly numbers like "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors" and "King of Spain," but there's more to this album than punch lines. For one thing, the Moxys harmonize like angels, something that lends luster to the likes of "Laika" and fleshes out the drollery of "B.J. Don't Cry." What really raises the group above the novelty-act norm, though, is that the Moxys are just as good at being serious as they are at cracking jokes.

5/8

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