It’s probably a safe bet that deep down inside, Roddy Frame rues the day he wrote “Oblivious.” Frame, creator and perpetuator of Aztec Camera, had an alternative radio hit with the peppy song back in 1982. He was the flavor-of-the-month for exactly 31 days and then got left behind in the cutout bins with most of the artists from the long-gone new wave days.
Despite the release of a couple of quality albums since then, all anybody seems to remember him for is his golden oldie. Stray may not help from a sales point of view, but the record does prove that Frame has only gotten better since “Oblivious.” There are plenty of jovial tunes with melodies so irresistible that singing along with them seems as natural as breathing.
“The Crying Scene” should be music to any Top 40 programmer’s ear. and Frame’s duet with ex-Clashmeister Mick Jones. “Good Morning, Britain.” has enough bite to sound right at home on rock radio.
What really makes Stray such a cut above most pop records, though, is Frame’s ability to write a ballad. The dreamy cocktail jazz of such songs as the title track and “Over My Head” lends a touch of class to the project. You still need a decoder ring to figure out Frame’s lyrics, but with such strong music, that doesn’t matter much.
Back in the “Oblivious” days, Frame suffered most from the dreaded “new syndrome” (as in, being called everything from the new Elvis Costello to the new Bob Dylan). Now that he’s just the old Aztec Camera, maybe it’s time to give him his due. (Sire/Reprise)