Pearl Harbor and the Explosions

  • Pearl Harbor and the Explosions
  • Pearl Harbor and the Explosions (Warner Bros.) 1980 
  • Pearl Harbour
  • Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too (Warner Bros.) 1981 
  • Pearls Galore! (Island) 1984 

Pearl Harbor and the Explosions came out of San Francisco’s early new wave scene, but their lone album consists of bouncy little pop tunes suitable for FM radio: watered-down soul and funk overtones topped off by Pearl E. Gates’ theatrical vocal posturings. Danceably forgettable.

Harbour (dropping her Gates and adopting the British spelling) hit her stride as a solo artist on Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost Too, a headlong plunge into rockabilly and similarly ancient styles. Smothered by producer Mickey Gallagher in waves of flutter echo, Pearl wails like a demon, obviously happy to have a sympathetic setting. “Fujiyama Mama” and “At the Dentist” rock wildly with old-fashioned panache; “Heaven Is Gonna Be Empty” takes a more countryfied, though equally quaint, approach. This one’s a memorable instant party.

A belated follow-up produced by Richard Gottehrer employs 20 musicians — from Ellie Greenwich to Chris Spedding to Masa Hiro Kajiura — for more fun in the old world. Harbour starts off by covering the Rocky Fellers’ 1963 chestnut, “Killer Joe,” and then launches into a program of girl-group soundalikes that quiver with melodic conviction and shake with appropriate, cliché-free backing. Sounding uncannily in spots like Kirsty MacColl, Pearls Galore! is a winning collection of tunes by a talented, adaptable vocalist.

Here Comes Trouble, which returns a long-unheard Harbour to action, boasts onetime Dead Kennedy East Bay Ray on lead guitar.

[Jon Young / Ira Robbins]

See also: Chrome, Henry Kaiser