Was (Not Was) – Born To Laugh At Tornadoes (1983): Review

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Produced by Jack Tan, David Was and Don Was
Label – Ze Records/Geffen

Was (Not Was) were always more than just another contemporary Pop group. Their breadth of work and instrumentation tied in a multitude of facets and original ideas. Firstly, their liquidity of change in personnel and particularly lead vocalists continually maintained a freshness of musical interpretation that few had tried before. Secondly, much of their writing told interesting stories of the freaks, losers and lonely, much like the types one would find in sordid gossip columns. On this, their second album, they maintained the fluidity, bringing in over the top rocker Ozzy Osbourne to sing vocals on the hilarious “Shake Your Head”, former Detroit Wheel Mitch Ryder to sing the rambling rocker “Bow Wow Wow Wow”, The Knack’s Doug Fieger to sing the poor pop rock songs “Smile” and “Betrayal”, and bizarrely, jazz/cocktail great Mel Torme to sing the hauntingly cool piano ballad “Zaz Turned Blue”. Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson would be the only vocalists to become regular performers on future albums.

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If you’re looking for highlights, then look no further than the opener “(Return To The Valley Of) Out Come The Freaks” where Bowens tells the stories of voyeuristic tape recording boyfriends and topless dancing wives all set to a simple languid Latin beat. The uptempo dance song “Professor Night”, which tells the story of a gate crashing woman user, lurking around clubs and bars after dark. Where Was (Not Was) do fail is where they take the bizarre too literally at the expense of the quality of the song, and “The Party Broke Up” and “Man Vs. The Empire Brain Building” don’t stand up to critical scrutiny.

The Was “brothers” would take a break for 5 years before returning to chart action with their best work, the refreshing and deliberately unique “What Up Dog ?”, and although “Born To Laugh At Tornadoes” doesn’t maintain the high quality throughout, there is enough irreverent erstwhile fun to be had by just simply listening and realizing that it IS possible to write contemporary dance music and attempt to let the listener delve deeper than just mindless toe tapping and retain a sense of artistic depth through interesting lyrics.

Simply put, music to think, and dance to.

7/10

Track Listing
1.Knocked Down, Made Small (Treated Like a Rubber Ball) 3:07
2.Bow Wow Wow Wow 3:10
3.Betrayal 3:06
4.Shake Your Head (Let’s Go to Bed) 3:55
5.Man vs. the Empire Brain Building 4:02
6.(Return to The Valley of) Out Come The Freaks 4:22
7.Professor Night 4:10
8.The Party Broke Up 2:14
9.Smile 3:15
10.Zaz Turned Blue 4:19

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