February 03, 1986 12:00 PM

Paul Hardcastle

The Vietnam War and its psychological aftermath seem unlikely subjects for a dance hit. Yet Hardcastle, a British keyboardist-producer, pulled it off last year with 19, the title reflecting the average age of American combat soldiers in the conflict. Documentary-like speaking voices, a riotous dance rhythm and state-of-the-art studio technique presented a challenging listening experience. With this, Hardcastle’s second album, you realize that 19 (which is included) was just a lucky day for this mix-and-match musician. All his songs begin with aggressive drum-machine and synthesized bass lines, which pump up a few of the instrumentals, such as Strollin’ and Rainforest, but the effect soon palls. So Hardcastle adds a number of echo and loop production tricks that began with American hip-hop style but without gaining much. Then he weakly copies the unique appeal of 19 with another “theme” track, Just for Money, about criminal greed, using the speaking voices of Sir Laurence Olivier and actor Bob (The Cotton Club) Hoskins. By the time the record has ended, Hardcastle’s music has begun to seem like a dry, unadventurous science project repeated with predictable results. (Chrysalis)

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