R. Stevie Moore – “Delicate Tension” (1978)

November 1, 2008 at 3:11 pm (Kurt Loder, Reviews & Articles)

Kurt Loder’s August 1979 Trouser Press review of this album by the extremely prolific, unfairly-obscure cult artist R. Stevie Moore…  


I suppose it’s not really kosher my reviewing Delicate Tension, seeing’s how my name appears on the album cover. But since Ira Robbins, J.D. Salinger, Don Knotts and Sonny’s Chevrolet are similarly disqualified, who’s left? Besides, I was an admirer of R. Stevie Moore’s fractured pop stylings way before he was aware of my existence, and am not likely to revise that estimation.
I can only urge some latently adventurous Major Label to bestow a few of those hot dogs in the satin baseball jackets up off their A&R asses and out to Verona, New Jersey, for a reminder of what actual talent sounds like. I mean, here’s R. Stevie, bereft of the requisite beans to book himself some stretch-out time in a legit studio, and Fleetwood Mac’s been dicking around with their “long awaited” next album for what, two, three years? Is there no fucking justice?
Until the Verona Visionary’s turned loose in a real studio, though, we can be truly satisfied with Delicate Tension, a broadly eclectic album unified by a seductive pop-rock logic, and distinguished by some of the most accurate and animated overdubbing you’re likely to hear coming from any quarter. Vocally, Moore–who played virtually all of the instruments here–most closely resembles Syd Barrett during his Madcap Laughs phase, especially on “Norway,” with its lilting acoustic guitar strums, Beatle-ish oohing and delicately catchy refrain, and the gloopy-voiced “I Go Into Your Mind,” which sounds like it was sung at the bottom of a vatful of jello. But the witty “Apropos Joe”–even though taken at a pace that might leave the Ramones winded–recalls the lead wheezler with the Residents, while “Oh Pat” is pure folk rock, complete with ringing guitars, Byrdsy bass and, for spice, a sourly whimsical lyric filtered through an Enoesque limey slur. On the other hand, “Cool Daddio”‘s thick mix and drolly detached vocal captures perfectly the spirit of early-’70s English art rock.
I could go on, particularly about the lyrics (“You like Debby Boone/He likes the Ramones/I don’t understand/Why you two have a phone”). But why sit still for any further babble when you can scamper out and score a copy of this thoroughly idiosyncratic disc for your very own? For what few slumming mainstreamers may be reading this, suffice it to say that Toto will never sound the same after a few rounds with the redoubtable R. Stevie.


Kurt Loder 

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