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Title: Act: Duke of York’s Theatre, London
Author: John Wilde
Source: Melody Maker
Publish date: February 27, 1988

Duke of York’s Theatre, London

AGAIN, it seems like ideas are getting in the way here. As though Act cannot yet decide whether to chisel interesting shapes all the way up our spines or to fill our heads with lynch fiction, the kind of message of rage we are all hanging about for. It’s too mathematical. It’s not the adventure we have been promised. The records have so far served to remind us that Act are in a pickle of their own making. We give people three chances these days.

All this talk of Tom Jones’ armpits and Liberace’s stocking ladders is all well and good but it does not necessarily guarantee us one single tantalizing record. It hardly helps to take our tired minds off the fact that pop has already been pulverised by the dead hand of the future. Act will keep all of us post-moralist pop writers talking bosh and tosh for five minutes or so, but even we have our limits.

Tonight, Act are reminding us that they should be an inspired meeting of Phil Spector, Kraftwerk and Billy Fury. Big, windy and brassy. They should be saying a resounding “no” to the nonsensual throb of the modern world. They should be going back to Jane Austen, or dim daft fantasy if that is what it needs. They can escape as far away from the modern garden as they like as long as they give us The Song with fresh eyes and some vague sense of erotic joy. Something with crooked lines and something to make our eyebrows thicken. Act should be pretending to be everything that Propaganda were not — a rocket every 10 seconds, a neat pile of banknotes, tenacity and (at least) the illusion of autumn. Real mystery. Not just the swirling bits that pass for metaphysical alcohol in these second-thought times. Act for Christ’s sake. Act up.

This is what is happening on a stage in London’s West End. Lumpy rock music struggling with images and mirages, brazenly putting us on. Claudia Morley is trying to dance like Gary Numan while trying to sing like David Bowie’s char-lady. It lacks sense and sensuality. Thomas Leer is equally lost, dazzled by his own dead weight. Ian Penman, the expert non-fashion Face writer, is asleep at the end of a row. I admire his bluntness.

I would love to say that Act are the answer to our problems. I would love to say that their vast reserves of self-irony see them through. But they don’t. By the time they are crushing the last life out of “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, they are dragging themselves through a dullard routine. I would love to say that Act are modern and going boom-boom-boom all over the new world, but are they heck. I have ferocious contempt for something so cold-blooded and unloving. I can’t help that. It’s the way I am. Billy Fury knew all about the leaps and jolts of consciousness in his own blond way. Act have ideas and this is half their flaming tragedy. There’s holes in their souls. They don’t know what they are talking about. They haven’t got a f***ing clue. They are a dipsomaniac’s idea of a brilliantly messy modern pop chapter and they are nothing of the sort. I loved the piano solo because it seemed to offer some crude excuse for everything else.

Act were rigid ersatz sediment indeed. I don’t want things to be this inchoate. If you don’t f***ing mind. Over.