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The Waterboys

EMI/Chrysalis

The bawl laid down by U2er Bono wasn’t the only vox populi coming out of Ireland in the early ’80s. The Waterboys were howling up a fine storm, too. Led by the duumvirate of Mike Scott and Karl “World Party” Wallinger—Scott stuck, Wallinger didn’t—the ‘boys could romp, as evidenced by The Secret Life of the Waterboys 81-85. The key issue for this dense and often pleasing array of unreleased sessions, radio broadcasts, B-sides, and live recordings is your take on Scott’s voice. That entity resides in the Bono/Bowie zone, where often there be monsters of self-aggrandizement and grandiosity. On tracks like “The Earth Only Endures” and “Somebody Might Wave Back,” the wild colonial boy’s histrionic tendencies rise nakedly over his self-accompaniment on acoustic guitar. However, during ensemble numbers, which dominate the collection, Scott’s voice recedes happily and effectively into the furze, his enthusiasm goosing the songs’ energy level while varitextured instruments keep him from reaching fingernails-on-the-blackboard intensity.