Graded on a Curve:
The Power Station,
The Power Station

Terrible things transpired in 1985. Starship’s “We Built This City” and “We Are the World” were unleashed on a hapless public causing a mass panic not seen since the radio broadcast of Orson Welles’ “The War of the Worlds.” I personally witnessed people leaping from third-story windows to escape both songs. Fortunately most of them landed in shrubbery.

Another horrible event occurred in 1985, although it tended to be overlooked in the general pandemonium. The “stuporgroup” Power Station released its eponymous debut LP, and while its mediocrity didn’t cause people to throw themselves off buildings, it did stultify them to the point of near catatonia. Cases of clinical depression rose by 15 percent in 1985, and psychiatrists credited Power Station for many of them.

A band made up of long-time gadfly Robert “Addicted to Love” Palmer, guitarist Andy and bassist John Taylor of Duran Duran, and Chic drummer Tony Thompson were no more a supergroup than Asia. But there was ample reason to believe they might make good music together. Unfortunately they had certain… shortcomings, shortcomings that led most intelligent human beings to give them a wide berth. Allow me to mention them in passing so as to get this unsavory task over with as fast as humanly possible.

First and foremost there’s the generic quotient. These songs are your standard eighties MOR fare and won’t win any personality contests–think Foreigner gone New Wave. And the band–with the exception of guitarist Andy Taylor–comes up short in the charisma department. The booming rhythm section lives up to the band’s name, but its sound is far from unique–that programmed drum beat runs through the mid-eighties like a flesh-eating virus.

Ditto the synthesizers and the “jaunty” horn arrangements. As for frontman Robert Palmer, he was the one-time blue-eyed soul singer of promise who misplaced his originality at some point after releasing his excellent 1974 debut album Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.

Opener “Some Like It Hot” is the album’s highlight. It’s undeniably catchy, and even I have been known to sing along on the chorus, although I always hate myself for doing it. “Murderess” is a femme fatale crack-up, “Addicted to Love” with a chorus cloned from Hall & Oates. “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” turns Marc Bolan’s slinky Glam masterpiece into an overweight club-footed bore.

“Harvest for the World” is “We Are the World” as sung by Andy Taylor impersonating George Michael and includes lyrics along the lines of “All babies together, everyone a seed.” You get the impression Power Station would like to see the babies of the world unite to form an armed militia, which if you ask me is a jolly good idea.

“Lonely Tonight” is the worst Michael Jackson song not actually written or sung by Michael Jackson, and features synthesized strings copped straight from Led Zeppelin’s “All of My Love.” “Still in Your Heart” constitutes one of those rare instances where you can’t remember how a song goes while you’re listening to it. “Communication” is the epitome of vacuous ’80s music, a veritable facial tic of the Zeitgeist.

Only two positive things can be said of Power Station. The first is it only has eight songs. This constitutes a rare case of modesty as the band might have drawn out the torture indefinitely. The second is Andy Taylor’s guitar work, which produces sparks. You can practically see the vultures circling the LP, waiting for Taylor to take a bathroom break. His solos–such as the ones on “Some Like It Hot” and “Murderess”–provide the only respites from the tedium, But who wants to suffer through a bad album for a couple of twenty-second guitar solos?

The best (and worst) that can be said of Power Station is they were competent. Highly competent. But they wrote dull songs. Had they found themselves a good songwriter with imagination (Palmer had obviously shot his wad) they might have taken listeners to interesting places.

As it was they produced middle-of-the road cookie-cutter songs perfect for radio stations catering to listeners who like that sort of thing. Me, I listened to Power Station once and intend never to listen to it again. Jumping from third-story windows just isn’t my idea of fun.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
D

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