Articles / Reviews

Adrian Borland - Cinematic Overview review (Whisperin and Hollerin)

date: Apr 25, 2011


-  Label: 'SETANTA (U.S)'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '1996'-  Catalogue No: 'SET US-PRO 002'

Re-appraisal of lost genius has become an essential facet of music journalism over the past couple of decades. How could it not? Even in this download-hungry world, record companies (or what remains of them) are still keen to have digitally re-mastered versions of ‘classic’ albums critically re-assessed to encourage instant consumption from a new generation.

I’ve always erred on the cynical side where re-packaging practices are concerned, but there again, if it wasn’t for such re-issues timeless music may well fall through the cracks, so credit where it’s due and all that.   Indeed, if you’ve read this far, the chances are you care enough to feel there’s someone’s back catalogue out there which is still deserving of the ‘expanded re-issue’ treatment. Clearly the good folk at the Renascent label felt the way I do about ADRIAN BORLAND’S magnificent body of work a decade back. To a fanfare of rave notices in the press, his entire catalogue with under-rated UK post-punk outfit The Sound was re-launched shortly after his tragic death by his own hand in 26th April 1999. Twelve years to the day I’m writing this, in fact.

Despite the best efforts of all concerned, the Renascent re-issues are now hard to lay your hands on, while Borland’s post-Sound solo career (spanning five official studio albums during his lifetime and several important posthumous releases) is currently the preserve of E-bay and vendors taking the piss with price tags sneaking into three figures. With typical irony, the closest to a Borland ‘best of’ in existence is a rare, limited edition CD called ‘Cinematic Overview’ which was issued by the USA arm of the Setanta label in 1996, partly to help promote his then-current studio album ‘Cinematic.’ Featuring 19 career-spanning tracks from 1977-1996, it’s by no means comprehensive as there’s nothing from the impressive ‘5:00AM’ or the emotional final album ‘Harmony & Destruction’ (unfinished at the time of Adrian’s death and eventually issued in 2002), but it’s still an excellent pocket-sized compendium.

Though much-maligned in the press at the time, Borland’s pre-Sound trio The Outsiders’ two albums are worth considering. While Buzzcocks issued the first independently released EP (‘Spiral Scratch’), The Outsiders’ debut LP ‘Calling on Youth’ was the first full-length DIY album and it arrived before the UK Independent Charts were even properly established. ‘Cinematic Overview’ features two of the band’s best and while they’re rudimentary and highly informed by Borland’s love of The Stooges, ‘Calling on Youth’ is refreshingly free of the class of ‘77’s nihilism and ‘Vital Hours’ buzz-saw brilliance now comes on like a forgotten three- chord Punk Rock classic. 

Straddling the formation of The Sound, Borland and Sound bassist Graham Bailey recorded an album and a couple of EPs as Second Layer, an experimental noise’ n’ drum machine affair. Their track ‘Definition of Honour’ features here and it recalls the abrasive, avant-dub sound PIL achieved on ‘Metal Box.’ The song itself is a vivid, anti-war tirade (“your country needs you, your country bleeds you dry”) and distinguishes itself as one of Borland’s few overtly political songs. The selections from The Sound’s catalogue are close to peerless. Taken from the critically-acclaimed debut LP ‘Jeopardy’ (1980), perennial favourites ‘Heartland’ and ‘Heyday’ both seethe with idealism and flash despite being recorded on a tiny budget. Money and a big name producer (Hugh Jones of Bunnymen fame) informed the making of the classic second ‘From the Lion’s Mouth’ (1981), but neither prevented tracks like ‘Sense of Purpose’ and the colossal ‘Winning’ from sounding anything but sublime.

The Sound’s third album ‘All Fall Down’ still splits the critics and its’ wilful experimentation got the band dropped from Warner Bros/ Korova back in the day. Its’ reputation has grown in stature since and both the nuclear countdown storyline of the title track and the strident ‘Party of the Mind’ sound exhilarating thirty years on. With hindsight, 1984’s mini-LP ‘Shock of Daylight’ would have made a stronger follow-up to ‘Lion’s Mouth’, though only on track - the crunching ‘Golden Soldiers’ -makes the cut here. 1985’s glacial ‘Heads & Hearts’ lacked the energy of the band’s earlier work, though the haunting ‘Total Recall’ and the meltingly lovely ‘Temperature Drop’ are classic, yearning Borland.   The live album ‘In The Hothouse’ (recorded over two nights at London’s legendary Marquee Club) bequeaths a spirited version of ‘Prove Me Wrong’, while the confident ‘Acceleration Group’ and anthemic ‘Iron Years’ sound more like a creative re-birth than the last roll of the dice the ‘Thunder Up!’ album (1987) proved to be for The Sound.

Borland’s subsequent solo career yields only four tracks. Both ‘Alexandria’ (1989) and ‘Brittle Heaven’ (1991) were rich, accomplished records as borne out by the gorgeous ‘Rogue Beauty’ and the impassioned ‘Brittle Heaven’ itself.   From 1994’s ‘Beautiful Ammunition’, ‘Someone Will Love You Today’ is a lot more anthemic than most of the semi-acoustic confessionals that dominated the album, while the hypnotic, almost Velvets-like ‘Bright White Light’(from ‘Cinematic’) is Borland at his fatalistic best and rounds things up in fine style. ‘Cinematic Overview’ merely scratches the surface of Adrian Borland’s life and times, but its’ tastefully-selected track-listing acts as both the perfect potted ‘greatest hits’ for the long-term fan and a breathtaking introduction for the uninitiated.   It usually commands fairly large fees on E-bay, so be prepared to dip into your pocket, but if seeking out the music world’s forgotten giants matters to you then you won’t regret a penny of it. RIP Adrian. 

Tim Peacock - Whisperin & Hollerin

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