Fickle Heart

Sniff 'N' The Tears

Chiswick, 1978

http://www.sniffnthetears.com

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/27/2014

While the London-based band Sniff ‘N’ The Tears may never have earned household name status, they did help to usher in the New Wave movement that dominated much of the ‘80s. Their only Top 40 hit “Driver’s Seat” was well deserved. As the lead-off track on their 1978 debut Fickle Heart, it stands head and shoulders above anything that comes after. It deceivingly starts out on an acoustic guitar note, until the kick-drum, electric guitar and keyboards all chime in with blazing solos of their own. Being included on the K-Tel compilation Rock 80 certainly helped the song to get played on American radio. K-Tel was the ‘70s equivalent of what the NOW series is today. Featuring nothing but the most current and up-and-coming hits, the label was all the rage back then.

Lead singer and Sniff founder Paul Roberts has a vocal style that is reminiscent of Bob Dylan (especially on “Last Dance”), but modernized to suit the times. Roberts is a talented fellow indeed…he even painted the ultra-cool, mystery novella themed cover artwork. Hell, if his day job didn’t work out, at least he always had a Plan B career option to fall back on. The original line-up of Sniff ‘N’ The Tears made a decent go of it initially, releasing a total of four albums before disbanding. They’ve reformed with various lineups in more recent years, ultimately managing to cut three more albums. I guess quitting that day job wasn’t something Paul Roberts would ever feel all that comfortable with, so good for him for keeping at it. Still, it mustn’t be easy to only be viewed as a one hit wonder.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After the chilled out track “New Lines On Love,” comes “Carve Your Name On My Door,” which has a melody that will have you thinking of a hit song by Linda Ronstadt. Next up is the countrified “This Side Of The Blue Horizon” and the set’s one misstep, “Sing,” which is a tad cheesy for my tastes. Thankfully, the band redeem themselves with the standout track “Rock ‘N Roll Music.” Drummer Luigi Salvoni is given production credit, though you have to also tip your hat in the direction of mixer Steve Lipson for supplying the echo and sheen to make such material shine and sound so ahead of its time, almost as if the music comes from another world.

Two songs that will stay in your head for days are the overly repetitive “Fight For Love” and the jazzy ballad “The Thrill Of It All.” Whether this is a good or bad thing is open for debate, but I’d venture a guess of my own by saying this: that’s what pop music is all about. Catchy like the plague, yes, but it’s the only way to attract the ears and “fickle hearts” of the listening public. In that regard, Paul Roberts knows exactly what he’s doing. The band says as much in the credits: “Paul Roberts, who was usually right in the first place.”

Granted, Sniff ‘N’ The Tears didn’t have a strong enough IMAGE to compete in the over-the-top, MTV video-drenched ‘80s, but if a solid bar band is what you want to hear, you couldn’t go wrong hiring these guys. Their music goes down smooth and easy as any bourbon. Put on the closing tune “Looking For You” on a set of headphones and you’ll find yourself drifting away on a cloud. I promise.

Rating: B

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© 2014 Michael R. Smith 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 Chiswick, and is used for informational purposes only.