286. On the Fritz – Steve Taylor
ON THE FRITZ (1985)
Steve Taylor followed up his masterpiece, Meltdown, with 1985’s “On the Fritz,” a substantially more refined and mature rock album that was great, but did not seem to match what came before or after. Produced by Ian McDonald of Foreigner and King Crimson fame, Fritz was wider and deeper musically then Meltdown, but seems to lack the more memorable touches and possessed a few too many novelties that don’t bear repeating nearly as often.
The great offender on the album was Lifeboat, a song (or mini-musical sketch as it were) that must have sounded great on paper and worked well in video format, but simply is not musical enough to bear consistent repeat listening. “Drive, He Said” comes close, but is interesting enough and has enough of a Bowie type feel that it does not quite as much as the former.
But when the album does take musical swings it hits way more often then misses and also contains some of Taylor’s finest and most personal songs. “This Disco (Used to be a Cute Cathedral)” is based on the true story of the Limelight Club in NY that was once an Episcopal Church. Musically more in line with Meltdowns manic, dance driven style, even stations adverse to playing more “upbeat” music added the song to their playlist.
The Ian McDonald guitar influence can be heard on the wonder title track. The song looks at a pop star that once confessed Christ but has turned his back in the faith to maintain his stature in the mainstream world. “It’s a Personal Thing” actually sounds like something that would have worked well on the following “I Predict 1990” album with the bass and keyboard driven approach and the political commentary and pre-dated Bill Clinton by nearly a decade.
“To Forgive” remains one of Taylor’s finest and most personal songs. The Big Country sounding E-Bow guitar creates a very Euro sounding power pop song. The story telling here is Taylor at his best.”I Manipulate” and “You Don’t Own Me Nothing” are great songs and show a progression of the artist as a songwriter out of the novelty realm.
But Taylor’s very best may have been saved for the last song on the album. “I Just Wanna Know” remains Taylor’s most personal and confessional song in his tenure. The self-doubt and internal questioning of motives for his art are examined in full sight of the listener. It is also musically captivating and a perfect ending to a very strong album.