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"Tribal Opera"
What? Records/A&M 1987
Tribal Opera - cover

iDOn'TKnOW what to say. The debut of iDEoLA on What?/A&M, Tribal Opera, is such an awesome delight that my superlatives are falling all over one another trying to get through my typewriter onto the paper. Just three days into the year - on my birthday, no less - it arrived and, after only one listen, I was convinced it would be the album of the year. More listens and many smiles of appreciation later, I will reserve that conclusion for later. Nevertheless...

iDEoLA, a name I cannot pronounce without singing it to the tune of The Knack's "My Sharona," exists in a panoply of sounds (acoustic as well as electric, digitally-sampled, synthesizer-produced, and computer-enhanced noises of varying origin), ideas, and graphic metaphors of social disorder and a struggling humanity. The brainchild of writer/player/producer Mark Heard, iDEoLA breaks new ground musically with death-defying dance rhythms and an overwhelming interplay of instruments orchestrated to maximize both rhythm and melody while Heard's vocal whine and howl demands response. It's a bit like Lindsey Buckingham's Go Insane in construction, it's similar to XTC in its no-rules-apply compositional inventiveness, and its generally devastating percussiveness draws a lot from numerous dance remixes on the market - but essentially iDEoLA is a unique, fresh, and undeniably relentless sound.

Tribal Opera, an appropriate title suggesting the primal instincts just below the surface of even the most sophisticated and cultured elite as well as the album's joining of "primitive" rhythms with grander musical and ideological themes, possesses the gutsiest, punchiest collection of songs to be heart anywhere. "Is It Any Wonder," the album's first single and video, asks the questions that are central to the heart of Tribal Opera: "Is it any wonder we dare to live in our dreams / Is it any wonder we scare ourselves with our screams?" We hope for beauty, trust, and treasure, but we should know better than that given the deceptive qualities of reality ("Everybody Dances") where communication and emotions are stifled ("Talk to Me," "Emotional Man," and "Hold Back Your Tears"), human destructive urges overcome common sense ("How to Grow up Big and Strong," "Why Can't We Just Say No," and "Watching the Ship Go Down"), and the answer appear to be out of reach ("Go Ask the Dead Man").

While this critique of the world system looms dark and heavy, perhaps like the observations of the World Party, Bruce Cockburn, and Peter Gabriel, there is still the world of hope and affirmation for "Love is Bigger Than Life." The call to see through the veil of the culture and past the curtain of the powerless wizard pushes us to realities and values, to ultimate meaning and purposefulness, to the beginning of any compassionate evangelism. It begins in the real world where finally Christ shared all that humanity imposes upon us and proved indeed that love is bigger than life.

iDOn'TKnOW what to say. I really liked it a lot. Happy Birthday

Brian Quincy Newcomb ( CCM, March 1987 )
Copyright © 1987 CCM Magazine

iDEoLA - Tribal Opera  ~  Lyrics / Credits / NewSound Interview / DISCOGRAPHY