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NEW KIDS IN TOWN

Silencers: Shades Of U2

October 11, 1987|STEVE HOCHMAN

Band: The Silencers.

Personnel: Jimme O'Neill, guitar, vocals; Cha Burns, guitar; Joe Donnelly, bass; Martin Hanlin, drums.

History: O'Neill and Burns were the core of Fingerprintz, a Scottish quartet that first gained attention backing American new-wave singer Rachel Sweet on tour before making three excellent but largely overlooked albums on its own. "The Very Dab" (1979) matched O'Neill's bleak vision of the world with dark, new-wave musical tones, culminating with "Beam Me Up Scotty," in which O'Neill wishes he could believe that UFOs were on the way to rescue him from earthly torment. Nonetheless, the album avoids succumbing to the gloom, thanks largely to O'Neill's clever melodies. 1980's "Distinguishing Marks" had cheerier music but the same obsessions in the lyrics. In 1981, "Beat Noir" brought in heavy bass lines for a bottom-heavy funk/rock blend that emphasized O'Neill's lyrics, but was countered by relatively bright melodies. Soon thereafter the group broke up, but three years ago O'Neill and Burns teamed up with fellow Scots Donnelly and Hanlin to form the Silencers, who resettled in London to write and record their recently released debut album, "A Letter From St. Paul."

Sound: Carried over from Fingerprintz are O'Neill's fine melodic sense and preoccupation with the world's troubles. Now, though, the music is more developed and compatible with the uplifting melodies, reflecting the Christian spirituality underlying the lyrics. The album is dominated by mid-tempo guitar-based shuffles, accented occasionally by stunning electronic keyboards. At times it resembles a softer, less grandiose U2. While nothing in the music is too jarring, there's a magnetically unsettling quality to the arrangements. This is borne out in lyrics that blame Satan's strength and humanity's weaknesses for both global strife ("Painted Moon" was inspired by the Falklands War, "Bullets and Blue Eyes" by the violence in Northern Ireland) and for personal voids ("I Can't Cry"). But once again, O'Neill ends the album by asking for escape, though this time it's a heavenly chariot rather than extraterrestrial transport he calls for.

Shows: The Roxy, Thursday; the Coach House, Friday.

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