Review excerpt from The Windy City TImes on the Thomas Dolby show/lecture at Martyr’s in Chicago on October 7th:
…As if all that weren’t enough the jacket design by artist Paul Sizer is such an elegant work of art that it’s equally a joy to look at and hold.
BEST NIGHTS by Hester
Windy City Media Group
“…at the extreme from FTP’s show was a rare intimate evening with tech god Thomas Dolby. Where Dolby may have gotten a bum rap as a wind-up Tin Man thanks to his quirky wave/dance/avant smash “She Blinded Me With Science” (1983) and his extensive work as a producer/engineer/session musician (his clients have included Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, David Byrne, George Clinton, Belinda Carlisle, Joan Armatrading, and Little Richard) the reality is that his recordings are warm, intimate, lush, and incredibly human. Going even further is his penchant for elegant retro-futurism, as his gadgets, props, and album jackets seem to come straight out of cinema; Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), the Buck Rogers serials (1939), and the highly stylized Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2003).
His brand new “A Map of the Floating City” (www.thomasdolby.com) fits comfortably into this oeuvre but is much more than merely Dolby’s first new album in twenty years. Realizing that the recording industry has shifted dramatically in that time Dolby decided to create a computer game with music, going way beyond a concept album or a story arc. The show at Martyr’s, which turned out to be the perfect venue, was Dolby solo, singing songs from the game, navigating through the characters, exploring the reconfigured geography of a vastly altered world, and integrating historical figures through out (Adolf Hitler, Thomas Edison, Herbert Hoover, Nikola Tesla). But far from being a convention for computer nerds Dolby’s game, ahem ‘adventure,’ is packed with shady heroes, bizarre technology, blimps, light houses, moths, floating cities, techno piracy, kidnapped damsels, hidden clues, conspiracies, and a convoluted courtroom drama for good measure.
Then there’s the music which, typical of Dolby is rich, textured, and could best be described as ‘gourmet pop/soul.’ “Love Is A Pistol,” a near torch song inspired by a dream that Dolby had where he was seduced by Billie Holiday was just him, a piano, his voice, and enough sensual karma to choke a horse. “Evil Twin Brother,” with a cameo by Regina Spektor came wrapped in layers of warm synthesizers, swirling strings, and a throbbing bass line as it recounted a nocturnal escapade worthy of prime Al Stewart. The new single, “Spice Train,” with it’s bouncing techno beat, hand claps, and trilling vocals may have seemed more conventional but had a blast of Dolby’s unmistakable humor. As if all that weren’t enough the jacket design by artist Paul Sizer is such an elegant work of art that it’s equally a joy to look at and hold.
Before he left the stage Dolby mentioned that he would be back with a full band for a bigger tour (his solo tour hit only seven cities) and that’s something to look forward to.”