For a thorough understanding of the '80s rock scene, the British Robert Holmes needs to be singled out from the two American ones. Interestingly enough, neither Yankee had released a recording under their own name in the first quarter century of their careers. The British Robert Holmes did, though, coming up with an unusual Virgin release in 1989 entitled The Age of Swing. Prior to that he had been active as a member of the band Red Guitars, an outfit originally formed in 1982 out of Yorkshire. This was music influenced by the commercial success of bands such as Aztec Camera and the Smiths. The singing Jerry Kidd and his guitar strumming pal Hallam Lewis did particularly well with a single entitled "Marimba Jive," plucked off a 1984 debut album.
Holmes moved into the group the following year when, kid you not, Kidd decided he was already ready for a solo career. Lou Howard was another of the new members in the version of the band that Holmes was involved in, represented discographically by the album Tales of the Expected in 1986. In 1987, Red Guitars unstrung itself, Howard and Lewis voyaged to the new combo Planet Wilson. The Holmes solo opus appeared in 1989. It apparently signified a change in musical direction, although not the switch to jazz that the album title, Age of Swing, suggests. There is jazz by a Robert Holmes, though -- that would be the '20s and '30s reed player usually credited as Bobby Holmes.
For the Virgin album, Holmes left the '80s indie folk-rock profile behind and constructed a supposedly more sophisticated image as a complex pop songman along the lines of Neil Diamond. Subsequently a massive silence has ensued from Holmes. While song titles such as "Bomb Shop" and "Nowhere Town" could be used to poke fun at what seems like a piddling reception for the effort, the album has actually managed not to sink without a trace, retaining special interest for collectors interested in the '80s music scene. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi