• O-Positive
  • Only Breathing EP (Throbbing Lobster) 1985 
  • Cloud Factory EP (UK Link) 1987 
  • toyboatToyBoatTOYBOAT (Epic) 1990 

Although some may view Boston’s O Positive as nothing more than generic college-radio pop, the Boston group’s talent and potential exceed that of many similar bands. Unfortunately, the quintet has yet to make the most of its abilities on record.

Only Breathing is a promising debut. Drummer Alex Lob and bassist David Ingham unite to form a monstrously strong rhythmic backbone, upon which guitarist/singer Dave Herlihy drapes his clumsy but earnest lyrics about self-preservation in the face of obsession and unrequited love. Although this is thematic terrain which has been crossed a million times, Herlihy displays an Andy Partridge-like penchant for clever wordplay, some of which works nicely.

Released two years later, Cloud Factory is a horrible sophomore effort. Murky sound negates the rhythm section; Herlihy’s lyrics and delivery are also gutterballs, an apparent attempt to emulate Michael “This doesn’t make much sense but it sure does sound intellectual” Stipe stylings. Add in a shameful over-dependence on guitar effects, and this is one bad record. (Perhaps for comparison purposes, one CD combines include Only Breathing and Cloud Factory, with “Walk Away Renee” as a bonus.)

toyboatToyBoatTOYBOAT, the band’s major label debut (and its first full-length album), combines the first record’s best attributes with some of the second’s shortcomings. The results — which often waver between R.E.M. imitations and U2 guitar quotes (with one laughably bad Wilson Pickett rewrite) — are generally pleasantly listenable, if nothing more. The rhythm section is as complex and appealing as before, and Herlihy’s guitar work and lyrics show improvement, but this innocuous LP is, at best, distinctly short on character.

[Ian McCaleb]