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Remote Control
The Tubes

A&M 4751
Released: March 1979
Chart Peak: #46
Weeks Charted: 18

Fee WaybillWhen, in "TV Is King" (the thematic centerpiece of the Tubes' Remote Control), lead vocalist Fee Waybill sings, "I wish I was a man with a mechanical heart," the line comes off even more ironically than it's meant to -- surely that wish, at least, was granted to him a long time ago. Cynicism is something that rock & roll has always had plenty of, but it's seldom been so explicitly built into a band's approach as it has by the Tubes. Their brand of satire and vaudeville is merely a convenient, all-purpose attitude, exploited for its tawdry charge without having any particular meaning.

The Tubes - Remote Control
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Last year's rather haphazard, in-concert double LP, What Do You Want from Live, barely seemed to exist on vinyl at all: the absence of the onstage theatrics left the songs without a leg to stand on. For what it's worth, Remote Control is a much more coherent and unchartered presentation. The idea, drearily obvious and stale though it is, of a concept album about television certainly seems like an apt vehicle for the Tubes (in part, because of how drearily obvious and stale they are). And producer Todd Rundgren has punched up and tightened the music for maximum dramatic effect, with fewer irritating sideshows and less overblown grandstanding than usual.

But the record still functions more like a self-serving, showbiz soundtrack than a real rock & roll album. Each cut is designed as an operatic showstopper, replete with head-banging electronic crescendos and massed Broadway-style vocals (especially obvious in the argumentative, back-and-forth chorus of "I Want It All Now"). You can practically see the curtains coming down on the fade-outs.




Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
The Completion Backward
Principle

The Tubes Lyrics

The Tubes Videos

Even the most effective numbers -- the hortatory recitative, "Turn Me On," and the LP's closer, "Telecide" (a buffoonish rewrite of David Bowie's "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide") -- seem hollow and incomplete because the satiric pose is too indiscriminate and unfelt to be truly revealing, and the treatment too coldly manipulative for the music to be enjoyable. Remote Control pummels you into submission without really taking you anywhere.

- Tom Carson, Rolling Stone, 7/12/79.

Bonus Reviews!

With Todd Rundgren at the production helm, this unpredictable group has become much more accessible on this outing. There's a lot of highly infectious and textured rock throughout, motorized by stinging electric guitar work. The group, however, still retains a somewhat campy and irreverent approach with the major theme here seemingly the pervasiveness of television. Best cuts: "Prime Time," "Turn Me On," "Only The Strong Survive," "TV Is The King," "I Want It All Now," "Be Mine Tonight."

- Billboard, 1979.

Their knack for songwriting always surprises me, because they deserve worse, and on this album they provide it, drenching their material in the grandiose harmonies and pomp-rock keyboard textures that thrive in the Midwest, where many poor souls still regard these transparent cynics as avatars of the new wave. You think maybe Patti Smith would do "No Mercy"? C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

On Remote Control, even Todd Rundgren's skills couldn't redeem the melodic monotony. *

- Alan Orski, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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