|Gamble And Bluff
Melody Maker 22nd September 1990
Ooh Las Vegas
MY God, this is weird! This really is peculiar. Don’t you think Deacon Blue are odd? No? Well, I’ve just had this theory bouncing around my head forages that Deacon Blue, in being the straightest band ever dumped on this scummy planet, are also unspeakably bizarre. There’s something extraordinary about people who p lay it as straight as this all the time. Something unhealthy. And “Ooh Las Vegas” confirms that Deacon Blue are unwholesomely repressed. Life is where you really see Deacon Blue’s madness. They’re genuinely disturbing. Ricky Ross is one of life’s schoolteachers, If he’d stuck to the blackboard jungle we’d all be happy. But no, he gets on a stage, has all these inherited ideas in is head about rock star behaviour and tries to equal them. He puts on leather trousers and romps about showing off his extraordinary body language (he has the grace of an epileptic baboon).
It’s lucky he’s got Lorraine Mackintosh to bail him out. No wonder he married her. She’s his life raft! And now we get this peculiar document. “Ooh Las Vegas” is billed as B-sides, film tracks and sessions. It’s a double album of oddities. And it’s Deacon Blue engaged once more in their eternal quest for respectability. Critics have noted before the peculiarly tame lexicon required to define Deacon Blue: decent, polite, clever, hygienic, tasteful, etc. And it doesn’t sound like rock’n’roll to me. It’s not that I’m desirous of The Quireboys or anything; I’d lust like more spontaneity than this. This selection sounds like saccharine in the blood. It’s in theirs and eventually seeps into yours. Ricky Ross longs to be an old-time crooner. That “Bacharach & David” abortion (and what a video!) proved that and this continues the quest. What Deacon Blue can do well is produce a fiery, spirited helter of a single; “Real Gone Kid”, “Wages Day”, “Queen Of The New Year”, even (just about) “When Will You Make My Telephone Ring”. But there’s not a glimmer of such alchemy here. Not a sniff. Here, the farts are in a sedate mood.
I’m pushed to find a highlight. No, seriously lam. There’s just this huge expanse of, let’s face it, soggy music. Ross turns his hand to numerous styles — blues, gospel, pop, God knows what— in away that indicates Deacon Blue are transmuting into that most dreaded Celtic institution, the showband. I mean, look at the title! In a way, the thin spread of “Ooh Las Vegas” - so much style, so little content — makes it every inch the equal of “Rattle And Hum” for sheer conceit. It’s shot through with sentiment attempting to approximate passion, and it just won’t wash. Ah’ I’ve found one! I’ve found a highlight. “Love You Say” rattles the rafters. It’s best on offer around here, anyhow. Well, the mannered tiptoe through Julian Cope’s “Trampoline” has curiosity value. It hasn’t got a fat lot else, mind, but it’s got curiosity value. Otherwise you’re drumming your fingers, looking at your watch and working out when you can go and make some tea, or lie down, or stare at the weather, or something. “Ooh Las Vegas” isn’t what you’d call gripping.
Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South said an interesting thing once: “Who are the people who buy Deacon Blue records? Eh? Do you know any?” I must confess (no, I’m proud), I don’t. Unlike U2 or the Minds, Deacon Blue have got where they are while never being hip or vital. They’ve leapt to stadium status bypassing us completely. How did they do it? I dunno. But I do know this bag of misshapes is a real stinker. Unless you’re one of those invisible fans (in which case, I doubt you’re reading this), don’t buy this record. Ian Gittens