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FARMER'S BOYS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Get Out and Walk (UK EMI) 1983
With These Hands (UK EMI) 1985

If you'd heard their early singles without paying much attention, you might have thought this Norwich quartet to be just another Anglo-dance-rock group: the usual rhythms (drum machine), the usual keyboards, the usual sort of a vocalist. One of the 45s (quite good, actually) even sounds like a cross between ABC and Dexys. But what's different? There's no overwrought melodrama, that's what — no posing. Stylistically, the sound just provides a jumping-off point for catchy, distinctive songs; cleverly arranged, succinctly produced. They don't overdo a thing, so you can really relate to the tales of botched romance, self-doubt, even drinking too much after a long day's work. The Farmer's Boys get the points across engagingly, without taking themselves too seriously.

With These Hands is more stylistically diverse than the first — leading off with a Shadows (!) tune about going out in the countryside (!!), done up in a marginally retooled version of '60s pop-rock somewhere between Spanky and Our Gang, the Turtles and the Grass Roots! (That track is one of four produced by Bruce Woolley; horns grace several others.)

The Farmer's Boys are a gas: four normal-looking guys making consistently good, durable music. No brilliance here — they haven't got the killer instinct — but these two albums provide solace for sore (or cynical but openminded) ears with cut after cut of enjoyable tunes. Suggestion for trendies and art-lovers: get out and walk.

Two former Farmers later surfaced in a band called the Avons.

[Jim Green]