|THE SWEETS OF SIN Jarra Hill Records|
by MARK DEMETRIUS
THE SWEETS OF SIN boast a rich potpourri of instruments and influences, the latter including Middle Eastern, Chinese, cabaret and German electronic. But where the likes of Kraftwerk and Can were often sterile and mechanistic, this album is bursting with life and is as beautifully evocative as it is musically literate. The opening track," The Dance", has the hypnotic tribal feel of some strange Arab initiation ritual; yet it also transcends cultural specifics. Equally fascinating is "Who's Ian?' which recalls the fractured jerky rhythms of Richard Hell and the Voidoids. It's also as quirky as Devo, but with none of their cutesy plastic psychosis. The hint of whimsy in the story of a man who can't remember his brother-in-law's name belies a much more serious sense of terrified alienation. This is exacerbated by Frank Mankyboddle's extraordinary voice, anguished yet benign, likely to change at any moment into a strangulated falsetto. Even when the Sweets turn gentle and exploratory - be it with keyboards, percussion, sax or French horn - there's an implied force just below all the delicacy. It comes across in the haunting "Can Hatice", a cover of a late Seventies Turkish hit, and in the scathing "Comfort Me". Its simple rolling melody may be comforting, but thematically it's a plea for the avoidance of easy solutions like religion and conformism. ("There's safety in madness/If comfort's what you want') The Sweets of Sin have an enviable knack for tossing out instantly memorable tunes, embroidering them with colourfully diverse and innovative sounds, and making some sharp social observations en route. After such an eventful journey, the relatively modest aspirations of "The Carnival" come as some relief - wafting us gently down onto a feather bed of flutes and glockenspiel.