Boomkat Product Review:
Sorely overlooked 1989 gold by Graham Lewis (Wire/Dome) solo project He Said finally available on download format!!! An absolute revelation of late ‘80s synthetic soundcraft and hard grooving art-pop ambition that only recently came into our earshot, and on heaviest rotation since. Think Prince meets Scott Walker and ‘Horse Rotorvator’ era Coil at Adrian Sherwood’s gaff, with actual guest chops by Keith LeBlanc and, Paul Kendall and Daniel Miller
Simply an incredible record that has arguably never received its flowers, ‘Take Care’ is the 2nd and final album by Graham Lewis in He Said mode. It first arrived two years after the more angular ‘Hail’ with a stunning refinement of that album’s ideas, melding Lewis’ distinctively expressive croon with prevailing US dance music influence and an undercurrent of dare-to-differ, prism-pushing UK art-pop in ways that sound like little else from that era, making it so mind-boggling that it isn’t referenced among that decade’s greatest oddities. To be fair, we only cottoned on to its brilliance relatively recently, perhaps part due to the fact it’s been out of print for so long, but also don’t recall anyone else naming it as part of the whole Wire/Dome and related canon.
Exploring a broad but singular emotional register with jaw-dropping levels of layered production detail that fully embraces digital technology, the dozen songs constantly beggar belief that this sort of genius isn’t better known. Lead cut ‘Watch Take Care’ is an instant anthem packing muscular bass strut and brute-but-filigree FM synth design into a near-immaculate, strapping 9 minute groover that demands to be played over and again to revel in all the details of that glutinous bass, DM-like electro-pop drums and of course, that addictive vocal. It’s evidently the standout, but there’s close competition throughout, where Lewis even manages to make a white guy rapping in the ‘80s sound acceptable if not ace a zinger ‘A.B.C. Dicks Love’ driven by 808 and Keith LeBlanc’s bass, along with its ‘A.B.C. Dicks Love (Soft)’ variant, whilst coming off like David Sylvian doing new age dance soul on ‘Not a Soul’, replete with Happy Mondays-esque backing vocals.
Part of the album’s brilliance also comes with the emotional cadence of its sequencing, plotting perfect downstrokes in the artbreaking string arrangements and oblique synth cubism set to a questioning refrain “did you do it for love / did you do it for free?” that’s been cycling our heads for months now, beside the expansive two-part movement ‘Tongue Ties/Screen’, and the screwed, stygian flow of ‘Halfway House’, and cinematic interlude ‘Get Out of the Rain’, while ‘Hole in the Sky’ is almost proto-NIN, and the final couplet of Düsseldorfer synth-pop in ’Suzanne’ into the retooled techno-pop ballad ‘Could You (Too)’ is just a smacking chef’s kiss.
A truly gush-worthy, swooning and propulsive masterwork that deserves digital petals scattered at its feet. We’re only 35 years late to the party, but far better late than never. Massive recommendation!