Sur La Mer

The Moody Blues

Polydor, 1988

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Of all the progressive and psychedelic rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s, none needed to change their sound as much as the Moody Blues. The silly dated hippie stuff just wouldn’t work in the mid-70s, much less the new wave Me Decade, and the band wisely streamlined their sound, ditching the Mellotron and the mystical drug crap for a sound in step with modern music.

On the basis of Sur La Mer, they should have quit while they were ahead.

While every Moodies album of the ’80s had at least one good song that became a minor hit, in many cases that was about all the album had to offer. Each progressive album got worse; this is right up there with The Other Side of Life as being truly awful.

Much of the blame falls with the band no longer being a democracy. The band had five songwriters in its heyday, but for this effort Ray Thomas is nowhere to be found, drummer Graeme Edge contributes nothing, and of course Patrick Moraz isn’t much of a songwriter, nor is he the creative force that Mike Pinder was in the ’70s. It can be argued that those three wrote the most interesting Moodies songs, even if Justin Hayward’s tunes were usually the more radio-friendly songs.

Here, Hayward writes most of the 10 songs, with John Lodge contributing a couple, but not only does Hayward have little to say, he recycles old melodies to say it. “I Know You’re Out There Somewhere” is the only exception and was the only hit off this one, even if it is a sequel to “Your Wildest Dreams” from the previous effort. Points deducted for Edge’s simplistic, computerized drumming and a somewhat cold atmosphere, but overall the song is fine; actually, it could be argued this was the last great studio song the Moodies ever recorded.

“Here Comes the Weekend” is a strange beast, a mashup of the acoustic intro to “Question” and the whole of “Gemini Dream,” set to some banal lyrics about waiting for the weekend and partying; when sung by aging hippies, it’s unintentionally funny, but the song is at least sort of interesting. An actual spark of inspiration comes in “Breaking Point,” a surprisingly dark piece about being on the edge of madness and a reminder of this band’s ability to set a mood. “River of Endless Love” is fine, I guess, although it's grasping at straws just to find a reason to listen to this again.

All of those songs were written or co-written by bassist Lodge, and they are the “high” points of the disc. The rest is cheesy electronic fluff. “No More Lies” is a rewrite of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which is bad enough, while “Vintage Wine” uses pretty much the same melody and structure as “Your Wildest Dreams” and sets it to a lyric about how great life was in 1963-69 and how Hayward would do it all again if he could. Yawn. “Love is On the Run,” “Want to Be With You” and the closing “Deep” are too long and offer absolutely nothing.

Sur La Mer could use a dash of outside voices, a spark of humanity and a whole lot less electronic manufactured underwritten junk (so, basically, kicking out Patrick Moraz). In their quest to become modern, the Moody Blues lost what made them special in the first place, and the result is a hollow shell with only a little bit to redeem it.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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