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Adrian Borland & the Citizens – Alexandria review (THEARCHITECT)

date: Mar 1, 2012


The Sound were certainly one of the bands from the post punk era that never really got the recognition they deserved. After their demise in 1988, their lead-singer Adrian Borland moved to the Netherlands and formed Adrian Borland and The Citizens. Released in 1989, Alexandria was his new band’s first album. Following up on the music produced by The Sound was no easy feat, but their popularity in the Netherlands helped. Borland not only proved he was an accomplished songwriter but one capable of delivering accessible songs, if only the public would listen. Sadly, he committed suicide in London in the middle of the recording session for what his album “Harmony & Destruction”. Since 1987, he battled with depression and he fought it to the very end.

Alexandria is a mellow record in comparison to his previous work with The Sound. Passionate and intense, it reveals much about the man behind the songs. His fragile emotional state translate into songs which have an almost optimistic jangly feel yet at times moody and dramatic. Borland uses his voice really well on this record as it plays a large part in carrying the songs. Much of The Sound’s music had a rudimentary unpolished feel, Alexandria however sounds much more sophisticated and mature.

The album kicks of with the jangle rock guitars of “Light The Sky”. A vibrant and optimistic start. The magnificent “Rogue Beauty” features beautiful string arrangements over acoustic guitars and stand up bass. He sings of the self torture of bittersweet romantic illusion and hope. “Beneath The Big Wheel” is a minimalistic track with more string arrangements and brilliant touch drumming. He sings about day to day life and keeping the “Big Wheel” spinning. He refers to the Big Wheel in this context. He lets you know how bad it is in the last verse.

“It’s a rollercoaster with fairground lights
There’s a wheel on my wagon rolling into the night
And in my head there’s this beautiful sight
They’re building a different wheel”

There is ache in Borland on “Otherside of The World”. An emotional cry for being somewhere else from the life you live. Interestingly this song uses a flute of the sought you might hear from indigneous South American bands. Yet it never sounds world beat. “Shadows of Your Grace” certainly falls into the category of world beat. It is a great slow-burner but for the use of saxophones. They give it that dated 80s feel that was overdone on most mainstream pop rock at the time. “She’s My Heroine” builds like a Joy Division track with what sound like electronic bass but quickly dissipates to pop melodies and acoustic guitars. It sounds like something you would expect from Big Star, Material Issue or The Chills. The similarity of Borland’s voice to Ian McCulloch give’s the record at time a Bunnymen feel of the Evergreen period forward.

Overall Alexandria could be easily sit alongside early R.E.M., The Mighty Lemon Drops, Dream Syndicate, The Go Betweens, The Replacements and XTC. Adrian produced the album himself, having already worked with a number of independent bands. Vibrators guitar player Pat Collier was drafted in to add his special touch to a few of the songs. Alexandria is a passionate record delivered by a passionate man who luckily left us with a catalog of music to explore before he departed.

Anyone who calls himself a fan of post punk music should seek out the discography of Adrian Borland, most certainly if you are into bands like The Chameleons and Comsat Angels. Outside of the cult following of The Sound in The Netherlands and avid post punk fans, Borland’s music was fairly unheard. Critics alike agree they were amongst the best British artists from the 80s. Anyone willing to find out more about the gems produced by The Sound and Adrian Borland should check out the brilliant Brittle Heaven web site.


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