With its casual disregard for cultural authenticity, pop music has indulged many stylistic dilettantes, but only in a world of Velveeta and Diet Coke could a group like the Waterboys prosper. Once a pompous English rock band with a Dylan fetish, the Waterboys — led by a Scotsman — now play neo-traditional Irish folk-rock, commercializing a great musical heritage by processing some of the flavor out.
As on the group’s last album, acoustic instruments color singer-guitarist Mike Scott’s rustic melodies and romantic prose, giving Room to Roam a sprightly ethnic veneer. But the juxtaposition of fiddle-band music with pseudo-Irish rock makes for a lumpy stew. And the two electric rockers of no particular character at the album’s center don’t improve the consistency. As a tribute to Irish roots music, Room to Roam falls far short of its inspirations; as a commercial pop-rock adaptation, it adds nothing. C+