Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Confessions of a Yo-Yo man (Melodymaker May 1985)

date: May 13, 1985



"Only a thousand words? Tell 'em to make it a page at least!" With a full-scale European tour already under way and a new LP, "Heads And Hearts", to promote. The Sound's vocalist Adrian Borland is understandably miffed about the apparent lack of interest in his band. Seems as recently as last year The Sound were still the ones to watch; yet here they are now. the safety catch refusing to budge on their success and the critics who hailed them caught up in an altogether janglier sound. After all, no one likes to be proved wrong. "There's an obsession with success and the charts. It's not how good an album is, it's how high it gets." Adrian is getting into his stride "Music isn't a competition. People are saying 'why do you carry on if you haven't had this success?' but I don't feel hard done by. I don't look in terms of success and failure and it surprises me that journalists who are so hot to pick up on a band when they 'sell out" ignore those who refuse to. We're still making valid, thoughtful music. What the hell's wrong with that? Isn't that enough in itself? it is for me." 

But is it enough for an industry which equates talent with a Top 10 record? Borland has a right to be angry, having seen the Bunnymen, U2 and all the other bands who shared the same launch pad as The Sound rocket safely into hyper-space while he still languishes in orbit. It seems more people have read about The Sound than have actually heard their music. Knocking out an LP a year and doing a bit of press isn't going to bring them fame and fortune, and a sniff of the latter is necessary if the band are to survive. The singer concedes the point and reaches for another bottle of wine. "Obviously you have to sell enough records to justify your existence, but we do. In Europe anyway," he adds in clarification, "For those bands who do make it big, it has been quite a priority in their organisation. The manager has told them what to do and when to do it. Obvious example is a band like Duran but it gets a little bit grey when you talk about the Bunnymen and groups like that. I'm not accusing them of anything, it's just that they've paid more attention to that side of things and we've paid the price in terms of success. But I wouldn't want to be among all that wheeling and dealing." Pertinent example of The Sound's no-sell-out stance was their third LP. The infamous "All Fall Down", it was a stroppy little bugger that eventually led to them being shown the WEA door. The singer is as defiant as ever. "We could have made "From The Lion's Mouth' part two if we were calculating little bastards like most of the other people in the music business. But we wanted to completely break away from that sound. It's all right for groups to sit around in interviews and say they're gonna do something different, but we actually did. We were poised on the brink of major success and we did something completely weird." The obvious satisfaction on his face means more than 100 hit singles. 

But why did that LP turn out so. errrrr. weird? "We were drinking far too much when we made it. We went in the first day and did five tracks all at twice the speed they should have been." He chuckles, knowing what's coming next. "One morning I got up and according to various reports I was almost blue. Max our keyboardist, came down for breakfast and said 'Hello'. This annoyed me so much I just slammed my fist on the table and screamed 'Fuck off. It was a weird time and the album reflects that." "I've never said hello since." Max laughs, breaking the tension. After a year in the wilderness the band signed to indie label Statik and released another well-received LP, "Shock 0f Daylight". The album reflected a commercially optimistic Sound. Free from corporate restriction, they ironically recorded the LP WEA would have loved to release. "We really threw ourselves into the action with "Shock Of Daylight". The new album, "Heads and Hearts", is the period after after when you look back. The whole LP has a feeling of emotional neutrality. In a way it's facing up to the other side of the coin. You can't be up all the time, and to me "Heads and Hearts" is fatalistic. I often feel like Mac's 'Yo-Yo Man', always up or down. He certainly has every right to, seeing as the song rips off lyrics from two of his best, "Winning" and "Counting The Days". "Oh, you noticed too didn't you" He smiles, gratified that the Bunnymen's bit of burglary has not gone undetected. This fatalistic yoyo-ing does seem to be the key to the Sound's success, or rather lack of. 

While other bands make a career of being either up or down, The Sound, and Borland in particular, look at life from both ends of the seesaw. "I think that's what a lot of people don't like about the band. We're not really escapist enough to be a pop group. It's not that we're depressing. I hate that tag. We just admit there's love and there's no point pretending there isn't. It's all right singing, "I'll never fall in love again, but deep down you know you will." Such an accurate philosophy, what did you do before The Sound? "Various part-time jobs. I remember working as in a storeroom packing away wedding albums to happily married couples. And I used to think, "What can I do, musically, to slightly unnerve or upset them?"" So will The Sound be around to unnerve them they're queuing for the divorce courts? Borland nods. "I wanna be sure what we do next is gonna be something completely different. I think rock music is more of an attitude than anything else and there are a lot of things you can do with that attitude, I think maybe we spent more time in the studio creating atmosphere. Everyone seems to be trying to tell us that we should stop. All through Europe we've been getting comments like, "Don't you think the concept is now complete?" "We don't need people asking if we're going to continue 'til the end of the cosmos We'll stop when we fucking want to stop, thank you very much." 

MATT SMITH (Melodymaker May 1985)

<< previous page