Ian Anderson should stick to music, because he most definitely is not a storyteller. This is the muddled story of one Ray Lomas, “the last of the old rockers,” whose long hair and tight jeans mark him as a person whom time has passed by. After a series of events remarkable only for their lack of humor and originality, we leave the “hero” as he is about to become a pop star in his own right.
We can take comfort, though, in knowing that Anderson’s technical prowess as a composer remains undiminished. The album abounds in breathtaking musical passages. The title cut, for one, is a textbook example of the use of dynamics and nuance in a rock song: instruments subtly creep in during the verses, with the slightest of musical nods to let us know they’re there. The music builds with a tension that heightens a desperate theme, then erupts in the chorus. “Quizz Kid” features, in addition to numerous startling changes in texture, several brief but pungent solos by guitarist Martin Barre, whose playing is exemplary throughout.
Unfortunately, the power of these passages and several beautiful melodies is undercut by Anderson’s stillborn vocals and lyrical verbosity. Though his attempts at pithiness generally yield nothing more invigorating than:
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Clear your throat and pray for rain to
Irrigate the corridors that echo in
Your brain filled with empty nothing-
Ness, empty hunger pains,
it seems fair to suggest that a little less conversation would have saved this album from its most embarrassing moments.