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Pop Review : Carlisle Lost Amid Plastic Hype

May 17, 1986|RICHARD CROMELIN

If real life were a TV sitcom and the Go-Go's were the Monkees, this week's episode would find the girls kidnaping their departed lead singer Belinda Carlisle and trying to knock some sense into her head.

They'd bring in a deprogrammer (Michael J. Pollard?) who'd make her watch a film of Thursday night's solo show at the Roxy over and over, and in an emotional climax Jane and Gina would remind Belinda of all the things that made rock 'n' roll fun for them and their fans in the first place.

Belinda would see the light and go dump her new band of professional plastic new-wave mannequins and return with a new act that soared with the old party spirit instead of dragging under the burden of stardom.

It won't be that easy in real life, of course, and maybe Carlisle can turn things around with her current lineup. But at the Roxy show--her first hometown appearance since the Go-Go's broke up--her hyped-up combo didn't give her any room to breathe.

On her new debut album, producer and veteran popmeister Michael Lloyd has set Carlisle's increasingly mature singing in a sort of '80s high-tech hybrid of Beach Boys and Motown. It works pretty well, especially on the better songs.

Carlisle's live band gets points for turning "We Got the Beat" into a big-bottomed, Motown-style stomper, and the acoustic opening of "Our Lips Are Sealed" was a welcome relief. But everywhere else they overplayed relentlessly, as if terrified of the slightest rest or space. Carlisle kept on smiling gamely as she raced along to keep from being mowed down by the processed, synthesizer-heavy sound.

Carlisle is peppy and radiant, but she has never had the magnetism to command the stage by herself--the Go-Go's appeal in concert came largely from their variety of focal points. Carlisle's musicians don't give her anything to play off in terms of personality, so her understated interplay with fellow former Go-Go Charlotte Caffey (who contributed guitar, keyboards, vocals and some good songs) provided the only real lightness and warmth.

Aside from that, it was as tight as a beauty contestant's smile.

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