Strange it may seem now but NAZARETH somehow missed the NWOBHM boom of which they, together with BLACK SABBATH, could have been the godfathers. Instead, the Scots chose the AOR way, and for "Fool Circle", thanks to its diversity, the approach worked well. But the title of their next studio work is telling: too excessive in its desire to catch up with the times, the album goes against the very grain of the band's hairy rock - yet in the end reveals its addictive core.
"2XS" sure falls in the shadow of the tremulous "Dream On", NAZARETH's original ballad to match their cover of "Love Hurts" and feature in their repertoire for decades to come with Dan McCafferty's least hoarse vocals of all, but there's more hidden delights such as "Lonely In The Night", light but memorable due to its Spanish-tinged hook, or "You Love Another" that its Caribbean jive and a dub-like echo render almost transcendental. Still, the records starts in an awkward fashion with the '60s girls groups indebted sway of "Love Leads To Madness", its slick chorus smoothing the riff underneath before the rock 'n' roll groove cuts the dirt for "Boys In The Band" that takes itself too seriously to move one's soul while the feet stomp, unlike "Take The Rap" that's as reckless as it gets.
Pete Agnew's bass-driven "Preservation" stays in the ditch, though, its plastic dance rhythm coated in too insipid a melody, and "Back To The Trenches" may echo the refrain of "Teenage Nervous Breakdown" without its catchiness, whereas the mix of Manny Charlton and Billy Rankin's acoustic guitars and John Locke's piano elevates the infectious boogie of "Gatecrash". Yet the radio-friendly bricklaying of "Games" jars until Darrell Sweet turns the drift to a proud march, and "Mexico" - what a deceptive tag! - flies its Celtic colors even higher.
So what a downward spiral it is when "Sound Elixir", the group's next outing, turns the Gaelic licks of "All Nite Radio" into the MOR ripple for the chorus, and the stadium rock leanings give a lurch to a nice, sharp riff in "Whippin' Boy". Not that it's bad: the album rounds off with "Where Are You Now", arguably the sleaziest and most maudlin serenade for lost love the band have ever delivered, which possesses a winning sincerity and stands out still. The same can't be said of the bravura American veneer of "Milk And Honey", its bopping groove begging for the 12" remix, the faux anger of "Why Don't You Read The Book" that hurls its refrain into the void, and a pale slow funk of "I Ran". At the same time, "Rain On The Window" stitches NAZARETH's beloved country strum to the '80s glossy flow, but strip it off, and the same folky grit rules the den in "Backroom Boys".
The era's values find their best implementation into NAZARETH's texture in "Rags To Riches", where the band's hard rock is tamed enough to welcome a bubbly melody and a harmony-filled chorus to give FOREIGNER a run for their Transatlantic money: had it been released as a single, the Scots would have notched another hit. But "Local Still", harking back to the good ol' partying days, had no chance on this new ground, all its energy beamed to the loyal fans only. The rest would find this drink too confusing.
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