Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too

The New Radicals

MCA Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: George Agnos

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/29/1998

In New York, we have a free-form radio program on Sunday nights called "Idiots Delight." One night, the DJ, Vin Scelsa, got excited about this new band called the New Radicals. He described their music as a melding of 1970's Todd Rundgren and 1980's Prince. Being a fan of both, that made me sit up and take notice. And when he played the first single, "You Get What You Give", the sound was unmistakable. The music and the song is definitely influenced by Prince, and it is the piano playing by Richard Knowles and the chord changes that remind me of Rundgren's "Hello It's Me."

And that is pretty much what you get throughout the audicious new album by The New Radicals called my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too. The brains behind the band is guitarist Gregg Alexander, who surprisingly looks like a young, small town midwesterner, sort of like Woody from the TV show "Cheers," not the sort of person you would expect doing this kind of funky music. The song "Technicolor Lover" sounds so much like Prince, you might think it is him playing some sort of hoax. And on this cut, Alexander plays all the instruments in true Prince/Rundgren fashion.

There are a few possibilities for the next singles: my choices would be either the Rundgrenesque ballad of love lost "Someday We'll Know," the funky first song "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough," or the midtempo R&B ballad, "Gotta Stay High." The remaining songs on the album are an odd combination of songs about God and drugs, and in the song "Flowers" there is a little of both. But when the music is this good, who really cares?

"Jehovah Made This Whole Joint For You" is a winning religious song which comes off more clever than preachy. It is actually funny the way Alexander depicts the non-believers as "So original in her black lipstick, listening to obscure bands". But the best song of all might be, in a different twist, a love song with religious metaphors. "Crying Like A Church On Monday" sounds like a gospel tune, dominated by piano and bass. But it is actually about him trying to win back his girlfriend.

The New Radicals do share some of the flaws of both Prince and Rundgren. Like those two artists, sometimes the performances are a bit over-the-top. "I Hope I Just Didn't Give Away The Ending" is clever at times but is also occasionally grating, especially the beginning where he sings nonsense lyrics. And the title song is a throwaway that goes on way too long.

However, if you can forgive Prince and Rundgren for their excesses, then why not the New Radicals? Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too is a fun album, with many cool songs, and a truly original, off-center outlook. And let me also add that it is nice to hear an R&Bish album that uses acoustic piano instead of synthesizers, for a change. All in all, it is Alexander's obvious enthusiasm for his music that especially makes this album worthwhile.

Rating: B+

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© 1998 George Agnos and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.