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The Sound - In The Hothouse review (Glenn McDonald 1997)

date: Jun 14, 1997


THE SOUND - "In The Hothouse"

Despite all The Sound's other studio albums waiting to have their own new leases on life, Renascent's second selection is the band's 1985 live album, In the Hothouse. This results in more track overlap than seems ideal to me if these two discs are to represent the band's entire career; the fifteen songs performed on the original LP include "Counting the Days" from Shock of Daylight and "Under You", "Total Recall", "Wildest Dreams" and "Burning Part of Me" from Heads and Hearts, all of which, to my ears, sound close enough to the album versions that little is accomplished by repeating them here. But perhaps other volumes are on the way. Of the other songs, then, "Winning" is harsh and insistent, "Skeletons" dark and Jobsonic, "Prove Me Wrong" exuberantly cheerful and snappy, "Heartland" ragged and stirring, "Hothouse" almost bluesy and "Judgement" sketchy and a little lost. The best part of the album, for me, by far, is the quartet of songs it ends with, "Red Paint", "Silent Air", "Sense of Purpose" and "Missiles".

The band seem to relax on these, perhaps finally having dispelled the paranoid expectation that the crowd would all leave if they let any song go past three minutes. Borland's tenuous vocal control is pushed to its tolerance when the arrangements expose his singing, but for me that's a detail that gives these live versions a much-needed identity of their own. "Red Paint" is excitingly Comsat-Angels-ish, "Silent Air" is majestic, the bass runs on "Sense of Purpose" are electrifying, and "Missiles" is unapologetically epic. The two bonus tracks added to this CD are bootlegged recordings of the fitful dirge "Monument" and the noisy "Fire", from a 1984 show in Rotterdam. The recordings aren't the best, but the performances sound better to me than most of the ones on the album proper, and scientists still haven't conclusively proven that all those horribly mutilated people you see in the cautionary public-service ads actually got that way because of tape hiss.

Copyright 1997, Glenn McDonald

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