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The Sound - Dutch Radio Recordings #2 review (Whisperin & Hollerin)

date: Jan 20, 2009


 

THE DUTCH RADIO RECORDINGS #2

The story of English Post-Punk/New Wave outfit THE SOUND is one of the saddest in the annals of rock. It's a story featuring some fantastic but largely ignored albums and strings of incendiary gigs, but interspersed with the usual depressing wrangling with record companies and – far worse – it ends with the band's split in early 1988 due the worsening mental illness of their enormously talented frontman Adrian Borland. Unfortunately, after a further decade of releasing inspired but commercially-undervalued solo records, Adrian ended up taking his own life when his illness became acute in April 1999. He was only 41 and his excellent final album 'Harmony & Destruction' (almost finished when Adrian died) suggests further artistic achievement lay ahead. Far from being a standard, excess-linked rock'n'roll death, Adrian Borland's story is of a young man's courageous struggle to overcome the kind of personal difficulties most of us still find it hard to comprehend today. 

Despite the critical success of their early albums, 'Jeopardy' (1980) and 'From The Lion's Mouth' (1981), The Sound would inexplicably remain prophets without honour in the UK and never really get a crack at America either. However, the one territory where they would be hailed as demi-Gods of sorts was the Low Countries. Belgian label Play It Again Sam would latterly release a number of Borland's solo albums and from the first time they set foot on Dutch and Belgian soil, The Sound would be taken to the bosom of the discerning music fan. Cue Renascent's edition of 5 CDS compiling 'The Dutch Radio Recordings'. Taken from The Sound's extensive archive of European shows from 1981 on, they are a fascinating alternate take on the band's history and while the casual observer would be best in checking Renascent's website (www.renascent.co.uk) for their studio releases first, these live recordings are an essential sister act and well worth checking out in their own right.

Although often lumped in with their post-punk contemporaries such as The Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes, The Sound rocked seriously hard live and nowhere more so than on the second of the Renascent live series, recorded at the No Nukes Festival in Utrecht during April 1982. Anyone of a similar vintage to your reviewer's will remember just how close to Armageddon the nuclear clock was at the time and numerous Post-Punk outfits from Fischer Z ('Red Skies Over Paradise') to Wah! Heat ('Seven Minutes To Midnight') were writing memorable anthems to a world seemingly moving towards the brink of extinction. The Sound would get into the act with the idealistic drama of 'Missiles' (a maniacal version of which brings this album to a close) but – even without the political backdrop – they make a gloriously convincing noise here.

To say they sound wired and pumped-up is something of an understatement. Anthemic favourites like 'Sense of Purpose' and a barnstorming 'Heartland' slash and burn with unbridled ferocity. 'I Can't Escape Myself' is stuttery and tense and earthed by a massive power surge of a chorus and even the shoulda-been hit single 'Hothouse' is introduced by an adrenalised Borland asking “Is there anyone who doesn't like this? Fuck off!” Not what you might from expect from supposedly well-mannered Home Counties chaps. Of course The Sound arrived at No Nukes around the time of their critic/fan-dividing third album 'All Fall Down'. Its' uncompromising, experimental approach would sever their alliance with WEA and certainly the drum machines, repetition and dense layers of songs like 'All Fall Down' and 'Glass And Smoke' are enough to challenge an afternoon audience in a big field. There again, 'All Fall Down' also contained moments of real beauty and one of these ('Where The Love Is') makes the cut here, sounding proud and serene after the defiance writ large of an exhilarating 'Winning' where Borland's lyrics quote from The Doors' 'Five To One'.

This being a live album, there are a few flaws. The sound quality gradually improves, despite starting off muddy and gnarly and average bootleg quality. The real disappointment, though, is that The Sound would choose one of their biggest shows to play the ropiest version of their classic song 'Silent Air'. Trebly and tuneless, it's a real let down, especially as it comes between the drum-heavy doom-mongering of 'New Dark Age' and an impassioned 'Missiles' at the end. But then, it is a live album and the heat of the moment accounts for many things. In terms of depth, scope and recording quality, 'In The Hothouse' from 1986 remains the definitive live document of The Sound in full flight. However, 'The Dutch Radio Recordings' are a worthy series, successfully capturing the articulate passion of this idealistic band in their natural environment. Discover them now and ensure their youth doesn't go to waste a second time.

author: Tim Peacock  - www.whisperinandhollerin.com

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