Simon Reynolds
August 30, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Little Magnets vs. the Bubble of Babble

type
Music
Current Status
In Season
Producers
MCA
genre
Rock

We gave it a D-

As a U.K. expatriate, I’m well qualified to warn you about Transvision Vamp. I’ve lost count of how many times singer Wendy James’ scantily clad form has appeared on British magazine covers. But what’s really aggravating is the way she cloaks her shamelessness in justifications drawn from post-feminism (exploitation is cool if it’s self-exploitation) and the Pop Art idea that there’s no difference between art and commerce. In Little Magnets, songs like ”Don’t Believe the Type” (a riposte to tabloid hacks who portray her as a bimbo) and ”Ain’t No Rules” show that James fancies herself a real she-rebel. But the bulk of Transvision’s songs — power-pop collages of licks and riffs lifted from T. Rex, the Velvet Underground, the Stones, and ’60s garage punks like the Troggs — are hot-knickered tributes to boyfriends, sung in a husky, jailbait voice, with frequent orgasmic gasps and languorous sighs. The closing ”Back on My Knees Again” is not exactly the last word in liberated female expression. But then Transvision Vamp’s real selling point isn’t subversion, it’s subservience. D-

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