Rick Springfield: Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance
Genre: Metallic, adult-oriented pop/rock with attitude and edgy production
Caution: Objectionable language and mature subject matter
By Steve Morley
(UMCom) -- In the early 1980s, Rick Springfield was golden: not only was the photogenic actor/singer/ scoring a string of hits perfectly suited to the emerging music video age, he also enjoyed maximum visibility as Dr. Noah Drake on "General Hospital." His TV fame, though, placed his musical credibility in question with critics - an irony that caused him no end of frustration. On Springfield’s first release in many years, soap opera meets psychodrama on a set of songs that display a grittier variation of the Aussie’s ‘80s pop output. He settles the score on the question of his musical ability once and for all, serving as producer and turning in well-written melodies, rough-hewn vocals and a powerful performance. Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance seems to be a piece of long-unfinished business that briefly revisits the muscular pop/rock sound and love-wracked adolescent persona he established on "Jessie’s Girl." Now old enough to have fathered the song’s object of affection, Springfield initially seems misplaced in this role. Though he does incorporate themes and emotions of a markedly more adult nature - presumably for dramatic effect - the mature subject matter seriously pushes the boundaries of good taste, as his spurned lover character responds with full-grown rancor and a vocabulary to rival it. While he opens the disc by exposing the inherent lie of pop music’s happily-ever-after promises on the stinging rocker "Perfect," he focuses primarily on tales of romantic disillusionment that are equally shallow. Despite one truly profound number and some meaningful moments that carry the album’s theme forward, the resolution suggested in the record’s title is underplayed in favor of anger and jangled emotions.
Midway through the disc, Springfield adds some much-needed topical depth. As heart-stopping as it is out of place amidst all the psycho-romantic intrigue, "Angels Of The Disappeared" is the CD’s public service announcement, offering a poignant plea for abducted children, their hoped-for guardian angels and a world "watching and waiting to say ‘welcome home’ to you." Also effective is "Eden," which employs an exotic, eastern-tinged string arrangement and finds a "prisoner at the gates of freedom" poised at "the start of a new day." "Eden" is one of several cuts on which Springfield successfully fuses reggae elements with his trademark revved-up power pop sound, suggesting the early work of Joe Jackson and The Police. If there is a story here, it’s vague and sequentially jumbled, but Springfield at least concludes it on a promising and seemingly prayerful note with "Open My Eyes." The track, just over a minute in length, searchingly repeats the phrase "open my eyes to you" in lush, multi-tracked harmony. It’s almost as if, in classic daytime drama style, Springfield aims to kill off the character he made famous and to reveal, if only tentatively, his true self. That would be the best possible ending, as most of Shock/Anger/Denial/Acceptance makes you hope, for Springfield’s sake, he was only acting after all.
Steve Morley is a freelance music journalist living in College Grove, Tenn.
This review was developed by UMC.org, the official online ministry of The United Methodist Church.