18 November 1985
Robert Palmer had a pretty successful run in the 1970s but it was the MTV heavy rotation of “Addicted To Love” that put him on the map for my generation. Fembots in tight black mini-dresses vamping on electric guitars and keyboards, fronted by the diminutive Palmer in 1980s post-punk Wall Street chic. The image was inescapable then and, 34 years on, unforgettable now. It was a fantastic single but an even better video, stylistic and simple to the point of being boring if the visuals hadn’t been so striking and the tune so catchy, an early example of the perfect symbiosis that can exist between music and visuals, each making the other a more impactful work of art.
Onto the album, then. Bookended by the fabulous smooth croon of the title track, consumers expecting an album full of “Addicted To Love” clones had to have been a bit taken aback to find this mellow number as the opener, but it’s a sweet reflection on the difficulties of transitioning from one relationship to another, in the vein of, say, “Torn Between Two Lovers,” but somehow cheerier. Likewise the side-two opener, “Get It Through Your Heart,” a timeless sounding soft jazz number that would be right at home on a Harry Connick Jr. album.
This is not to give the impression that the album doesn’t rock. These quieter numbers serve as the front, back, and center, but every other song on the record is a fully fleshed-out synth rocker that delivers on the promise made by “Addicted To Love.” Subsequent singles “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” and “Hyperactive” are prime ‘80s radio fodder and even non-singles like “Flesh Wound” and the bluesy cover “Trick Bag” keep the mood upbeat and power forward.
Back in August, I said some unkind things about Palmer’s 1988 follow-up release Heavy Nova and it only received a 5-CD rating from me. Listening to the near-perfection of Riptide, I’m tempted to adjust that rating downward – that he’s capable of something like this album only to follow it up with that one just heightens the offense. But I’ll not let future failures mar my enjoyment of this record; Riptide is a masterpiece.