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The Sound - From the Lions Mouth review (Melody Maker 24-10-1981)

date: Oct 24, 1981


From The Lions Mouth (Korova) 

This time last year, through a welter of angst-ridden affectation -Curtis-clones and McCulloch imitators preening their private depressions/obsessions in public (for profit) -came "Jeopardy", a crude expression of confusion, an energetic cry for communication, a beacon of light, a battle cry.

The Sound - sane: pointing fingers, asking questions, paranoid, proud, demanding answers, forcing reaction. They made a stand, refused to ditch the protest potential of punk for some sham glam empty gestures, looked to Iggy, Reed - the old school - for inspiration and started working with in/on tradition (making tradition work for them!) instead of scrabbling around in obscurities boast-building themselves as something new. Pop, with all its incestuous gimmicks and games, was no be-all and end-all for Adrian Borland, more a short-cut soapbox to the nearest impressionable seeker of society.

Politics was no power play out of his grasp but a massive reflection of millions of inter-relating lives. Our lives. "Jeopardy" was his statement of this, an apocalyptic battering ram of near primal images - stirring, stark and unflinchingly honest. Songs like "Missiles" and "Unwritten Law" never messed with trivia, made straight for the heart(land), sounded strange- even, sometimes, simplistic- amid all their artier, emotionally bankrupt peers. "Jeopardy" spelled hope, a sole umbilical cord between pop and what's left of the world. It still hurts to play it. Since then, though, a whole host of alternative outlets have undermined its significance. Defunkt's serious dance stance, the League's preposterous manifestos, the Ant/Ballet kiddie assault - all elevate the art of entertainment more attractively. The Sound seem sad, ugly, party-poop-miserable in comparison. 

So where does that leave "Lion's Mouth"? Easy - crucial! As a necessary step towards commercial acceptance smoother, more musically focused - It never once relinquishes the grasp of reality of "Jeopardy", but often expresses it better. In fact, it's so easy to listen to, I hope/fear it's the end of the Sound as we know them. Their preoccupations, of course, must abide "Lion's Mouth" leaves plenty unsaid but nothing undone saying it. The style, the mode is complete - only change can offset self-parody. "Lion's Mouth" is "Jeopardy"-as- palatable-product. Little more but, significantly, never less. It sounds like the Comsats because Borland understands (at last!) that only large sales can justify the Sound's existence. "Lion's Mouth" (an unfortunate name - the only cliché on the album!) calls for an active reassessment before it's too late. Borland's use of the "love" song format as a-wider frame of reference has matured beyond measure, each one a vivid microcosm of the "New Dark Age" that Borland evokes on this album's shattering final track.

Listen, there's only one dumb moment on this album - "Skeletons"; an old song, a bit crass in the crudity of its images. The rest are songs - that's melodies perfectly complementing emotion - sounding exactly the way they were intended to sound. "Lion's Mouth" could be the end of the line for me and "rock" records - it's that good. While others content themselves posturing, pontificating in some show business vacuum, the Sound stand up and want to know why. You can ill-afford to ignore them again. 

Steve Sutherland (Melody Maker 24-10-1981) 

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