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FALCO (Buy CDs by this artist)
Einzelhaft (A&M) 1982
Junge Roemer (A&M) 1984
3 (A&M) 1986
Emotional (Sire) 1986
Wiener Blut (Sire) 1988

The late Falco (Johann Hoelcel) was something of a hero in his native Austria; although he sang (in a random pastiche of accented English and German) like an arch, continental smoothie, his shtick was slick, thematically simpleminded chart fare, syncopated and fashionably automated (lots of synth, computerized drums with roto-tom and cymbal overdubs). The best parts of Einzelhaft (co-produced with his songwriting partner, keyboardist Robert Ponger) are tedious rock; the tracks that brought him international viability ("Der Kommissar," a US hit when badly covered in English by After the Fire; "Maschine Brennt") are repulsive pseudo-funk with obnoxiously patronizing attempts at African-American lingo, accents and music, sung in a constipated gurgle as appealing as hearing someone vomit outside your window.

On Junge Roemer, Ponger's generally lighter touch — leaning towards Philly soul in tone if not content — cuts a lot of the crap to expose a boring collection of tepidly delivered songs. On the other hand, Falco's third LP is a grotesque monstrosity. With two new collaborators replacing Ponger, Falco essays a cultural outreach program with such garishly overproduced, overlong thumpers as "Vienna Calling" (7:40) and "Rock Me Amadeus" (8:20). Each repeats a cloying riff or chorus endlessly while all manner of gimmicky mix tricks (spoken word, scratching, dub echo, sound effects, etc.) attempt to obscure Falco's regurgo blather. Think of an endless loop of Queen's "We Will Rock You" with less melody and you'll get an idea of what a nightmare this is. To cap things off in maximally tasteless fashion, he debases Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" as a sneery lounge singer, complete with spoken asides. What a jerk! (For masochists, 3 — brilliantly mastered, incidentally — runs over 50 minutes, even on vinyl.)

Falco seems a bit of a manipulated wimp on Emotional, a record to which he contributed some of the lyrics and none of the music. Producers Rob and Ferdi Bolland are in complete control, writing and playing almost everything except guitars and sax. The (mis-)concept album ranges from ABC-like slick soul to psychopathic shrieking; Falco is as awful as ever, babbling the verbose bilingual lyrics with auto-pilot enthusiasm and the assistance of mega-tracked female backing vocals. The wildly bombastic production and pervasive low-brow mentality here cries out for Jim Steinman to produce Falco's next record.

Thankfully, that didn't come to pass on Wiener Blut. The relatively restrained side written and produced by the Bollands dispenses with the kitchen sink, leaving Falco to carry on gurgling over chattering dance tracks that more or less mind their manners. Of course, the material is utterly inane, hitting such lows as "...Rides Again" (which begs the how-can-we-miss-you-if-you-won't-go- away? question) and "Garbo" ("a mélange of Aphrodite and Venus"). Falco actually attempts to sing on the album's second side, which takes clumsy aim at soul, power balladry and other uncharacteristic styles, ending with a bizarre sequencer-and-sitar-flavored rendition of Steely Dan's "Do It Again."

[Jim Green/Ira Robbins]