[Review] The Tubes: Love Bomb (1985)

Their last album for a decade, at least they went out with a Bang On The Drum All Day production.

Kronomyth 8.0: How I learned to stop worrying and love The Tubes.

This is the worst record that The Tubes have released. And it’s still pretty good. That last sentence is something of an emotional breakthrough for me. For years, I held genuine antipathy for Love Bomb. (It’s a piece of plastic. I need to get a life.) The production from Todd Rundgren is polarizing. Todd was in sort of a strange place artistically, having released a string of disappointing Utopia albums and the confounding A Capella, so it’s unfair to expect that Love Bomb would become Remote Control Redux.

The album is littered with extraneous sounds, strung together in fragments, plagued by the kind of restless curiosity that presumes a lot of patience on the part of the listener. And the truth is that few people, Tubes fans included, had much use for “Muscle Girls,” “Bora Bora 2000,” “Say Hey” and “Theme From A Wooly Place.” They’re cute ideas, but the sort of thing that should have been left on the editing room floor, not sandwiched in between Rundgrenesque rock ballads. Sift out the strangeness, and Love Bomb is actually a decent record of sophisticated studio rock: “Eyes,” “Piece By Piece,” “Come As You Are.”

Bill Spooner has defended this album in interviews, and I would agree with him (now, anyway). It’s not far removed from the band’s last two records in terms of quality. David Foster reigned in the band’s strangeness, however, where Rundgren seems to feed it. It’s too bad that I didn’t warm up to Love Bomb before I wrote a review of it for All Music Guide. Lord knows it wasn’t a lack of listening to Love Bomb that led to my displeasure. Maybe I listened to it too much, looking for the treasures of the past.

Commercially, the album was a dud; that much is true. Artistically, it’s not the mess I first imagined, although I still have the sense that Todd wanted to turn The Tubes into Utopia Mark II. Yes, it’s still probably the last Tubes album you need to own, but I’ve learned to stop worrying about what it’s not and enjoy it for what it is.

Read more Tubes reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Piece By Piece (Tom Snow/The Tubes/Todd Rundgren) (4:26)
A2. Stella (The Tubes/Sterling Crew) (4:08)
A3. Come As You Are (The Tubes/Todd Rundgren/Laurie Welnick) (3:38)
A4. One Good Reason (The Tubes/Todd Rundgren/Laurie Welnick) (4:04)
A5. Bora Bora 2000 (The Tubes/King Tau Tu) / Love Bomb (The Tubes) (4:29)
B1. Night People (The Tubes) (2:09)
B2. Say Hey (The Tubes) (2:41)
B3. Eyes (The Tubes) (3:32)
B4. Muscle Girls (The Tubes) (1:12)
B5. Theme From A Wooly Place (Wooly Bully/Theme From A Summer Place) (Domingo Samudio/Max Steiner/Mack Discant) (0:45)
B6. For A Song (The Tubes/Todd Rundgren) (3:16)
B7. Say Hey (Part 2) (The Tubes) (0:35)
B8. Feel It (The Tubes/Todd Rundgren/Laurie Welnick) (3:51)
B9. Night People (Reprise) (The Tubes) (1:38)

The Players

Rick Andersen, Michael Cotten, Prairie Prince, Bill Spooner, Roger Steen, Fee Waybill, Vince Welnick with Todd Rundgren. Produced by Todd Rundgren; engineered by Todd Rundgren, Wally Buck, Stacy Baird; mixed by Todd Rundgren.

The Pictures

Front cover art by Michael Cotten and Prairie Prince. Art direction by Cotten/Prince Prod., Jim Welch. Back cover photo by Brad Mollath. Styling by Michi. Make up by Dawn Sutti. Hair by Victor. Clothes by Comme des Garcons-San Francisco.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in March 1985 in the US (Capitol, ST-12381), Germany and the Netherlands (Capitol, 2403 061) and Japan (Capitol, ECS 81699); reached #87 on the US charts.

  1. Re-released on remastered compact disc on October 9, 2001 in the US and the K (Beat Goes On, BGOCD 188).

The Last Word

“It sucked, pretty much, it really sucked.” – Fee Waybill, explaining the appeal of Love Bomb in a 2001 interview with the San Francisco Herald.

7 thoughts on “[Review] The Tubes: Love Bomb (1985)

  1. I specifically did a Google search for “Tubes + Love Bomb + review” because I love reading anything I can about the album.

    My father brought Love Bomb home on cassette in ’87? I am pretty sure it was a cut-out copy. He played the hell out of it. I was 13 at the time and I loved it. I still do. We had one other Tubes cassette (Outside Inside) in the house – I still have never listened to Outside Inside all the way through. Every once in a while a release hits just right, and for me, Love Bomb was one of those albums. I am listening to it right now.

    I can’t say I am a Tubes fan (shame on me?) but I can enthusiastically state that I am a Love Bomb fan. Piece by Piece, Come As You Are, One Good Reason, Bora Bora 2000, Night People, Eyes (especially Eyes – what an amazingly piece of ear candy,) For A Song….all jams. I was too young to understand the politics and production of Love Bomb when it was released – all I knew is that this album is fun, several songs are catchy as hell and this one will stay in rotation for me through all my days.

  2. Can anyone please enlighten me as to who sings what on Love Bomb? Aside from Piece by Piece (Fee for sure), and Come As You Are (Bill, probably) it’s difficult for me to tell the difference between Roger and Bill. Thanks for your help! FYI, I believe a full accounting of this album’s conception, production and release would make for fascinating reading, if only as a warning about how NOT to do something. I listened to the Tubes from the beginning, and have found their journey interesting, to say the least.

    1. I have heard that Cotten sings “Night People.” I know that Roger Steen sings “Eyes.” Fee sings “Piece By Piece”, “Stella” and “For a Song.” Vince Welnick does the scat singing on “Muscle Girls.” And Bill Spooner sings most of the rest…

  3. Side one is, sadly, kind of forgettable as it was neither commercial enough nor experimental enough to really make an impression on either older or newer Tubes fans. Side two, on the other hand, is the reason to listen to Love Bomb. All the tracks are gapless so each quirky groove flows seamlessly into another creating a unique and mesmerizing listening experience. Use headphones. Avoid modern MP3 players that don’t seem to handle gapless audio very well. Listen to it on CD or use an older player like WinAmp or even stodgy old Windows Media Player to hear the tracks as they were meant to be heard if listening to MP3s.

    1. Great: so I’m NOT the only Tubes fan who thinks the Night People Suite is a inventive masterpiece. Why do people hate this so much?? This was a perfect album for vinyl, because that made it easy to skip the whole first side, which was mostly forgettable but even so not early as bad as people seem to think.

      The fact that Night People is one continuous suite is actually the thing I like the most about it. It’s starts and ends with the title track, with Rick’s vigorous bass really jamming on the epilogue. In between the Night People parts all sorts of sound-FX-laden nuttiness ensues, bobbing and weaving across the stone groove of Eyes and Bill’s plaintive Rundgrenesque ballad of Feel It, only slamming the brakes halfway through to give us…Wolly Bully? mashed up with Theme from a Summer Place like the two tunes got caught in a teleporter accident? (Really? They went there??)

      Sorry, haters: Night People fuckin ROCKS; the band careens through the whole suite, as tight as a drum, a characteristic they easily exhibited when they played it in its entirety live. If the production of the album tore the group apart, then AFAIC at least they went out on a high note. Easily the best half-album of music the Tubes put out in the Eighties.

  4. To me, Side Two of Love Bomb is a MASTERPIECE. I don’t care what anyone says; it is Brilliant. I saw the band dozens of times throughout their career from the first domestic tour to their farewell show at the Palace Theatre at Heart Attack & Vine. They played two and a half hours, no theatrics and it was AMAZING. And they played the entire side two of Love Bomb and it was magnificent.

    To me The Tubes were the greatest rock band I have ever seen on a stage (that includes the theatrics, naturally) and to know that they put all the money into the show and didn’t make a dime; they were and are ARTISTS.

    For me the David Foster albums were horrible. I don’t even own them. I bought Remote Control then paused until Love Bomb. Although I understand the need to make money, hence Foster, the Toto guys, session musicians, etc. That is why Love Bomb resonates with me: it is THE BAND. If Dr. Fee didn’t like it, well, too bad. I notice they still play STELLA and PIECE BY PIECE live although now that we’ve lost Rick Anderson who knows if they’ll continue.

    Enough from me and kudos to any Tubes fan in the universe; if you were there during their heyday you UNDERSTAND.

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