With her mohawk-with-braids hair, nose chain and East Village fashion sense, Canadian singer Jane Child was an anomaly on the music scene right from the start. And she made an explosive entrance back in 1990 when "Don't Wanna Fall in Love", with its New Wave-psychedelic-documentary video (which looked like the cult film Liquid Sky), burst onto the charts and the airwaves, confident and swaggering, without a hint of self-consciousness.
And Child had the chops to support it. A classically trained musician who especially excelled at keyboard and rhythm arrangements, Child produced a debut record that was virtuosic, quirky, and immensely funky, one of the best examples of perfect rock-dance fusion. This is music you can either groove or headbang to. With Child producing, writing and performing all the material (the only other credited musician is a guitar player), the obvious comparisons would be Prince, Teena Marie and Wendy & Lisa. Child's songwriting was ambitious, and to cap it all off, she was quite a good singer -- not expansive in range, but confident, almost cocky, and very catchy, perfectly suited to her aggressive synth-dance compositions and hard-edged productions. Her vocal harmonies are very impressive, gospel-tinged like Prince's best vocal arrangements.
"Don't Wanna Fall in Love" still sounds like a perfect radio dance single, with its complex chordal progressions, huge booming '80s beat, and the only keyboard solo I've ever heard that can rival the emotional intensity of the best guitar solos. "Biology" is a dark, brooding dance jam with a dangerous sneer and unexpected turns for the melodic, "DS 21" is a mighty electronic anthem, and "World Lullabye"'s cavernous sound and heavy mood reminds me of Wendy & Lisa's wrenching "Don't Try to Tell Me". I ducked one star because the synth drum sounds do sound a little dated, and the grandiose lyrics can be a little inaccessible, such as on "You're My Religion Now" and "Welcome to the Real World".
Unfortunately, Child's commercial potential was probably stonewalled by, of all people, Tommy Page, whose 1990 pap ballad "I'll Be Your Everything" kept "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" from the #1 position on Billboard. Who knows what might've happened if it had hit #1 and raised the profile of the album that spawned it? But perhaps it was for the best -- Child continues to make music her own way, steering clear of the mainstream. And who knows? This is a musician who has the potential to become a producing extravaganza like The Matrix, or a maverick recording artist who makes her own rules, like Prince. Either way, we're lucky to have her around, and this album is one of the hidden gems of the late '80s.