Thomas Morgan Robertson
Whereas I feel myself growing old real fast, Mr. Dolby seems to keep himself young by reinventing himself. The music press frequently calls Thomas Dolby a "one hit wonder", which tells you just how much they know. I became aware of him only after he released his third album, "Aliens Ate My Buick". For the music press, that would possibly be "past his prime", for me, it was the mother lode.
Initially, it was the 50's B-movie poster pastiche that drew me in (see below). After looking at the CD cover for weeks without buying, I decided to give it a listen in the store. The decision took me all of two minutes. At first, I preferred the wacky, upbeat numbers. During a rocky relationship, Mr Dolby spoke to me through the deeply melancholic "My Brain Is Like a Sieve". When I feel down, the build-up of "Budapest by Blimp" never fails to lift me up. I rushed to track down his previous two albums. They don't quite give me the same kick, but I love them nonetheless.
It took Mr. Dolby four years to release another album proper. The cover of "Astronauts & Heretics" looks earthy, a bit goth and indy-rock. The inner sleeve displays Thomas Dolby with his eyes closed and his head turned to one side, a china doll in a fantasy uniform with a superimposed skeleton and Leonardo da Vinci wings.
By this time, an appealing cover no longer was required to draw me in. Indeed, I consider it his best work to date. Commercially, the album seems to have been a failure, but why should I care. After all these years, it still sounds as beautiful as on the first day I heard it. I listen to it and I feel understood.
Two years after "Astronauts & Heretics", Thomas Dolby published a soundtrack to a computer graphics compilation. Holding my breath, I awaited his next album proper. Instead, Dolby disappeared from the music scene and founded an Internet company. When he briefly reappeared in 2001 with an intimate live set – sold in a limited edition, web order only, I whooped and bought it without a second thought. Dolby was back, if only for a single, private engagement.
In 2006, Thomas Dolby stepped back into the music scene. He released another live album, accompanied by two concert DVDs and an EP with additional material, including his first new song in... quite a while. Now he's moved back to England, determined to compose new music.
Also available: "Gate To The Mind's Eye" (video soundtrack), "Retrospectacle" (very good compilation), "Hyperactive (less good compilation), "12x12" (remix compilation)
Not available: Cyberia soundtrack (which was, if memory serves, awesome)