Pop in Review (New York Times)

Legendary Pink Dots Limelight 660 Avenue of the Americas, at 20th Street Manhattan

Every few years since the late 1960’s, arty rock has fallen out of fashion, only to be revived by the next coterie of earnest literary types. The Legendary Pink Dots, an English band now based in the Netherlands, hold onto the old art-rock impulse; they definitely know the meaning of the word “pre-Raphaelite.”

On Tuesday night, the band dispensed sustained keyboard chords, haunted-house saxophone sounds, vocals that moved from weedy meditations to mad-scientist shrieks and lyrics about Jack the Ripper’s death, “Princess Coldheart” or the sinking of the Titanic: “You never know what you might run into,” Edward Ka-Spel intoned.

Most of the songs used only a subdued rhythm — a quiet tick-tock, the click of metal sticks — until the end of the set, when the band finally let loose a full-fledged electronic dance beat. The tone was spooky and hushed, the better to contemplate the nursery-rhyme melodies and Mr. Ka-Spel’s imagistic lyrics. Amid its two-chord reveries, the band also tried touches of music hall, recalling Genesis in the early 1970’s.

Mr. Ka-Spel, wearing a hooded vinyl cape that looked like a monk’s cassock, acted like a classic English eccentric, singing with slow-motion gestures or pouncing on his synthesizer keyboard like Quasimodo; at one point, he brought out a puppet and cackled over it. What saves the band from pretension is that Mr. Ka-Spel isn’t entirely somber — he has a twinkle behind his spectacles — and that like their best art-rock forebears, the songs often capture an elusive, ominous sense of whimsy.

Published: July 18, 1991


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