home listen reviews artists a-z
Thomas Dolby 2006


Thomas Dolby is the Doctor Doolittle of electronic music. An eccentric, affable Englishman who not only understands the complex circuitry of Moogs, ARPs and all their bleeping brethren, but who can coax unusually warm-blooded sounds out of their circuit boards and blinking LEDs. In other words, he can talk to the synthesizers.

After a fifteen-year absence from the music business, the good doctor has returned (in that time, he started a software design company, ultimately patenting a ringtone technology that is now in over two-thirds of the world's cell phones). Rather than introduce new material here, Dolby has chosen to rework some of his best-loved tracks from the '80s. Recorded live in Chicago, The Sole Inhabitant starts with the dreamy ("Leipzig Is Calling," "One Of Our Submarines") and romantic ("The Flat Earth" and the stirring "I Live In A Suitcase") before getting into the dancier hits ("Hyperactive," "Airhead," and his signature song, "She Blinded Me With Science").

With so many new electro-pop bands on the scene, from Venus Hum to Ladytron to Future Bible Heroes, Dolby's reemergence is well-timed. What continues to keep him at the head of the class is not only his ability to humanize synth sounds but to put them in service of the song. The evocative patches he weaves through story songs like "Budapest By Blimp" and "Europa" add color and detail without ever overwhelming the melody or lyric.

In a recent interview I did with Dolby, he said, "The thing to realize about me is that I'm a songwriter first and foremost. The style and instrumentation is less of an issue to me. As a songwriter, I don't strum on a guitar or plunk away on a piano. The studio and my whole keyboard rig is my axe."

He's using it to the fullest on The Sole Inhabitant, and here's hoping it leads to an album of new compositions.
• Bill DeMain

Thomas 1984 listen to a clips
return to covers
buy it here
puremusic home