Turning a deaf ear to Tubular Bells III

October, 1998
Sujesh Pavithran
The Sunday Star (Malaysian newspaper)

Too much of anything can get to the nerves, and if you’ve listened to Tubular Bells II as many times as I have, you’ll understand why I find the third and latest instalment of the Tubular Bells saga rather tiresome.

Mike Oldfield is quite possibly one of the foremost proponents of New Age music, blazing a trail long before the genre became fashionable, and yet, you get the feeling that on Tubular Bells III, he’s milked the concept cow as dry as it can get.

His recent discovery of house music forms the underlying theme for the album – those familiar opening strains (ensconced in The Source of Secrets) are backed by a 136bpm techno-tattoo and embellished with an exotic vocal line, lending the legendary theme an almost trance-acid aura.

Strange fact – n igh on the three decades after Tangerine Dreams and 20 years after Kraftwerk, Oldfield appears to think this is something novel.

There’s a paucity of fresh creative ideas here – the folksy-vocal Man in the Rain is a blatant imitation of Oldfield’s mid-80s hits, Moonlight Shadow, while excerpts from various tracks recall many of his earlier works. It’s as if he’s been permanently locked into one mode.

Sure, there are soothing moments, some nice melodic slants, and even the occasional display of exquisite guitar skills (his first instrument, anyway) across tracks like The Watchful Eye, Serpent Dream, Jewel in the Crown, Moonwatch and Secrets, but they don’t really make you want to go back for seconds.

A quarter century of carrying the Tubular Bells theme around is enough; perhaps Oldfield should put it out to pasture now. I’ll stick to my worn-out copy of II, thank you.

Mike Oldfield Tubular.net
Mike Oldfield Tubular.net