One of the first in a breed of fresh-faced bands who fit neatly into the UK pop charts and accompanying teenybopper trappings while retaining vague new wave credibility, the Vapors started at the top and quickly sank from view. Their first single, “Turning Japanese,” was a coy paean to masturbation and an enormous international hit; the inability to match it made both of the Vapors’ subsequent albums big disappointments. They weren’t that bad, though.
New Clear Days follows in the veddy British vein originated by Ray Davies and carried on by Paul Weller and Madness. Some of singer David Fenton’s songs show a talented, mature tunesmith at work; unfortunately, they all suffer in light of the awesomely catchy jingle that dominates the record, overshadowing the subtler, more thoughtful material.
Magnets also lacks a peer for “Turning Japanese,” although “Jimmie Jones” (about Jonestown) nearly meets the challenge. Unfortunately, Fenton’s greater aspirations and budding political conscience are severely out of step with the band’s unbreakably commercial image. Had they not been doomed by their own devices from day one, the Vapors might have proven well worth following.