January 15, 1990 12:00 PM

Phil Collins

Here’s a switch. All the talk is about the serious-minded lyrics on Phil’s new album: homelessness, the Irish troubles, etc. That should clue you in to the fact that … But Seriously will not be numbered among Phil’s best. After all, if he was hitting on all cylinders, people would be too winded from his dance tunes or too weepy from his ballads to be discussing lyrics. However, Collins has reached the stature enjoyed by a handful of rock stars wherein their latest release gets saturation radio play no matter what its merits. (How else do you think Billy Joel’s insipid newsery rhyme, “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” just rocketed up the charts?)

Collins can thank his lucky stars his career is on automatic pilot, because there’s little to recommend here. He pulls out the same drifty, minimalist arrangement he used for “In the Air Tonight,” for the ballad “That’s Just the Way It Is,” but the melody is bland. The same judgment holds for almost every song on this album.

The popmeister has committed the cardinal sin: He forgot to make the songs catchy. (The best in a mangy litter are “Do You Remember?” and “Another Day in Paradise.”) Collins tries to compensate by piling on the craft. The production has a shimmering surface of fine harmonies, deceptively simple sounding instrumentation and the roistering Phoenix Horns.

Phil can dress these songs up all he wants, though. They’re still not worth taking out. (Atlantic)

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