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GAVIN FRIDAY AND THE MAN SEEZER (Buy CDs by this artist)
Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves (Island) 1989
GAVIN FRIDAY
Adam'n'Eve (Island) 1992
Shag Tobacco (UK Island) 1995 (Island) 1996

More so than any other performer associated even tangentially with the lineage of goth, Dublin's Gavin Friday (born Fion n Hanvey in 1959), the driving force behind the infamous Virgin Prunes, has evolved aesthetically to a level far beyond the white-face-and-candles shtick of his contemporaries. Like Leiber/Stoller or Bacharach/David, Friday and his keyboard-playing partner Maurice Seezer splice art song and pop music together seamlessly.

Drawing on everyone from Jacques Brel ("Next") and Bob Dylan (an inspired reading of "Death Is Not the End") to Oscar Wilde (whose words were used for the title cut), Friday and Seezer create an evocative cabaret of twilights and lowlifes on Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves. Producer Hal Willner (whose résumé includes albums by Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull and tributes to Kurt Weill and others) understands Friday's vision perfectly, framing his warm, smoky baritone with such expert session players as bassist Fernando Saunders and guitarists Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot.

If Each Man errs on the arty side, Adam'n'Eve swings in the opposite direction, aiming for the charts with dexterous aplomb. "King of Trash" is a bump-and-grind homage to Marc Bolan, while "I Want to Live" and "Falling off the Edge of the World" are everything a pop song should be: big, grand, emotional and, in the latter case, political. Those two numbers also benefit from backing vocals by Friday's Dublin neighbor, Maria McKee. With the exception of the last few cuts, the eleven tracks are infused with a sense of glee that borders on dementia. Willner, Flood and Dave Bascombe share production duties, leaving just enough room in Seezer's over-the-top arrangements for Friday's growls and whoops.

Friday spent much of '93 and '94 writing music for films, including "A Thousand Years" for Annie Ross to sing in Robert Altman's Short Cuts. (Friday's rendition of the tune surfaced in '95, on the single of "Angel," a song from Shag Tobacco.) The theme song for In the Name of the Father, a duet with longtime pal Bono — who some feel lifted his more theatrical trappings from Friday — garnered him an Oscar nomination; more important, it introduced him to producer/artist Tim Simenon (aka Bomb the Bass). The two extended their relationship to Shag Tobacco (while also contributing three tracks to model Naomi Campbell's recording debut), which Simenon produced. Brilliantly tempering each other's aesthetics, they strike a disturbing balance at the intersection of the extreme tendencies of all parties involved. Friday's fascination with changing sexual mores surfaces repeatedly on "Little Black Dress," "Dolls" and "Mr. Pussy," but his own sordid background elevates the subject matter beyond cheap sensationalism. From the whispered menace of the title tune through the instrumental closer ("Le Roi D'Amour"), the twelve tracks (including a cover of T. Rex's "The Slider") simmer with delicious tension.

[Kurt B. Reighley]