Daryl Hall & John Oates and Fischerspooner could not seem more opposite: the former a white-R&B hit factory from long ago, the latter a current New York band fond of plumed headpieces and art-gallery gigs. But they do share one peculiar goal–keeping the ’80s alive.
With Reagan-era nostalgia on the rise, Daryl Hall & John Oates picked a good time for a comeback. But they’re not the same men they were during the early days of MTV. More acoustic soul than the Motown hand-me-downs they pumped out in the ’80s, Do It for Love is the sound of weathered romantics chastened by years of business and personal turmoil. At times, the smooth-groove appeal remains: ”Man on a Mission” and a version of the New Radicals’ ”Someday We’ll Know” have the ardent falsetto harmonizing and hooks of old. But after a strong start, the CD settles into a lite-FM haze of drowsy songs and light-as-meringue arrangements.
Fischerspooner are obsessed with another style of the ’80s: old-wave techno-pop (now called electroclash). Their debut, #1, has everything one would want from an album recorded in, say, 1982: farty synths and ping-pongy drum machines, a blood-drained singer, synthetic hand claps. It’s both impressive (the whooshy “Emerge” and a cover of Wire’s “The 15th”) and pointless. Thin songwriting doesn’t help either. The new element Fischerspooner bring to the table is kitsch: With their campy costumes and Twyla Tharp-on-X dance troupe, they’re as much a performance-art project as a group. The way the band cherishes and mocks its sources says a lot about what distinguishes the ’80s renaissance from previous revivals. Everybody may be walking on sunshine, but they’re winking all the while. Do It for Love:B- #1:C+