Big Bam Boom is the last of the big Hall & Oates albums, the one that closed their period of greatest commercial success and artistic achievement. Parting from Neil Kernon, their engineer/co-producer for Voices, Private Eyes, and H20, the duo hired Bob Clearmountain as a co-producer and engineer, bringing in hip-hop pioneer Arthur Baker for additional mixing and production, and the change behind the boards is evident on the record. As the title none too subtly implies, this is a bigger, noisier record than its predecessors, with its rhythms smacking around in an echo chamber and each track built on layers of synthesizers and studio effects. Hall & Oates' crack touring band are credited in the liner notes as playing on each track, but this is one of the first mainstream records of the '80s records where it sounds as everything was sequenced and run through a computer -- the sound that came to define the latter half of the decade. There's undeniably interesting things going on in the mix on each of the nine tracks -- frankly, there's too much going on, and the production weighs down many of the songs on this sprawling, diffuse album; it also obscures the dark undercurrent to many of the tunes, several of which seem to foreshadow the duo's long hiatus following this record. Some songs cut through on the strength of their craft, and these are usually the singles: the excellent "Out of Touch," which rivals anything on Private Eyes or Voices; the silly yet engaging "Method of Modern Love"; the haunting "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid," easily the best ballad on the record; then, the exception to the rule, the hard-rocking "Bank on Your Love," which is one time the production works in the favor of the song, adding muscle instead of diluting its impact. These songs, matched with the ambition of the rest of the record, makes Big Bam Boom an interesting, worthwhile listen, but coming after a trio of records that had very few flaws, it feels like a disappointment, and it was no great surprise that Hall & Oates took a lengthy break a year or so after its release.