[Review] Wall of Voodoo: Dark Continent (1981)

The band hits a wall early in their career with this idiosyncratic, monochromatic offering.

Kronomyth 1.0: Oh, no! It’s Voodoo.

On their initial EP, the band’s taut, tense music as a backdrop for Stan Ridgway’s prosaic delivery was an interesting combination. Over an entire album, however, it’s not so interesting. In fact, I was bored about five minutes into Dark Continent. It felt like listening to Devo’s dullest moments (e.g., “Patterns”) on an endless loop. Clearly, the band needs to mix things up more if they plan on making a career out of this.

When it clicks, Wall of Voodoo’s approach works. Back in Flesh works extremely well. Two Minutes Till Lunch, Call Box and Crack the Bell are also enjoyable for what they are. But the band seems to have fallen in love with their own sound, and each song feels like a slight variation of the previous song. For someone who would later sing “Don’t Box Me In,” Ridgway and the group seem to like their little box just fine.

The reference point for this music remains Devo, The B-52’s and Talking Heads, with the caveat that Wall of Voodoo lacks any trace of their humor or good-natured funk. Brothers Bruce and Marc Moreland generate some excitement between them, only to have computers, drum machines, harmonicas and Ridgway’s deadpan delivery suck the helium out of it all. Fortunately, the band took a broader brush to their next album, Call of the West, and the band finally seemed to have a future… only to have Ridgway leave the band.

Original elpee version

A1. Red Light (3:05)
A2. Two Minutes Till Lunch (2:15)
A3. Animal Day (3:14)
A4. Full of Tension (2:12)
A5. Me and My Dad (3:23)
A6. Back in Flesh (3:40)
B1. Tse Tse Fly (3:59)
B2. Call Box (1-2-3) (2:32)
B3. This Way Out (2:59)
B4. Good Times (2:28)
B5. Crack the Bell (3:31)

All songs by Wall of Voodoo.

The Players

Chas Gray (keyboards, synthesizers), Bruce Moreland (bass guitar, keyboards), Marc Moreland (guitar), Joe Nanini (drums, percussion), Stanard Ridgway (vocals, keyboards, harmonica). Produced by Jim Hill, Paul McKenna.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on August 18, 1981 in the US (IRS, SP 70022) and the Netherlands (Illegal/IRS, ILP 85406) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #177 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in Australia (IRS, TC-713127-4) and Germany and the Netherlands (IRS, 713127-2).
  2. Re-packaged with Call of the West on 2-for-1 compact disc in Australia (Raven, RVCD-309).

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