Deep Blue Something disappoints with off-key harmonies, vocals


by Brian Wahlert

Many radio listeners have become familiar with Deep Blue Something over the past few weeks as their single, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," has quickly moved up the charts of several different radio formats. It's a song with such a catchy melody that after just a few listens, it invades the mind and takes over to the extent that the afflicted has to play bad Green Day music for the rest of the night to supplant it.

Of course, that memorable melody is what makes it a perfect single, along with the mildly repetitive, conversational lyrics of the chorus and the bright, acoustic guitar of the song's opening that gives way to heavier percussion and electric guitar in the chorus. The singer, looking for anything at all that he and his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend can agree on, seizes on the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's , and the girlfriend has to admit, "As I recall, I think we both kinda liked it." It's a cute, catchy song that should fit in well on adult contemporary, Top-40 and alternative radio.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is not as well executed as that first single. Part of the problem is that Deep Blue Something is a four-man English band that contains three would-be lead singers. So, of course, the album's vocals are not very cohesive. Indeed, among Toby and Todd Pipes and Kirk Tatom are two very good vocalists and one who can barely stay on key, much less imbue a song with any energy or emotion.

Thus, the lyrics of "Home," a beautifully written ode to the virtues of that place "where my friends are, even when I'm not," sounds a little bit silly in the hands of the lead singer.

The song especially fails when he sings in his sing-song voice lines that already teeter between poignancy and cheese, like, "Then some kids would come in and start a fuss/ About how great their weekend in New Orleans was/Then I'd look down and smile, like their tale was my own/And I'd open my eyes, and I'd know I was home." Although a better vocalist, perhaps even a different member of Deep Blue Something, could have pulled the song off, it ultimately fails as a result of the weak lead vocals.

Partly because of the trading-off of lead vocals, characterizing Deep Blue Something's sound is not easy. The instrumentals, especially John Kirtland's drumming, are reminiscent of the Gin Blossoms' debut CD, but slightly more poppish and British and less alternative so that a better analogy might be the Gin Blossoms crossed with the Rembrandts with a little Depeche Mode thrown in.

It's doubtful that Deep Blue will ever meet with as much success as those groups have, however, because they simply don't have the songwriting talent. Sure, the Pipes, who wrote virtually all of the album's lyrics and music, have come up with a cute single and an affecting song about assisted suicide ("I Can Wait"), but they also wrote the nonsensical "Done," which apparently compares a woman to a hamburger. Even at their best, their songs' lyrics never have the same lucidity of, say, Doug Hopkins, who wrote "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You."

Still, Deep Blue could become somewhat more than a one-hit wonder because they do have a few more catchy, albeit not very deep, potential singles. "A Song to Make Love to," "Red Light" and "The Kandinsky Prince" are all like "Breakfast at Tiffany's" on speed, with bright electric guitar chords and lead vocals that pass by so fast that they seem to trip over themselves.

"The Kandinsky Prince" is the best of the three and fits in well with "Home," which follows it because in it the lead singer describes his interior decorating, which includes "the sofa from the folks and the table I just stole," while longing for his home in Brighton.

Deep Blue Something is a group with instrumental proficiency and vocal competency tempered by weak songwriting. Those characteristics are enough to carry one single up the charts, but will they make Deep Blue a lasting fixture on the American pop scene or just another one-hit wonder?

This item appeared in the Arts & Entertainment section of the October 6, 1995 issue.

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