Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Interview with Paul Morley (New Musical Express 9-8-1980)

date: Aug 9, 1980



The astute amongst us will have noticed that this is the time of the post-Joy Division band. This is not something to fret about, not another wagon to latch onto (those who plunder after J.D for the sake of it end up sounding like disgraceful parodies of a psychedelic Damned). It's not that there is (yet) a whole rash of insensitive imitator's, it's simply that J.D. developed an awesome effective way constructing sound and developing tension and, in exploiting the possibilities of rock instruments like few before, unleashed new possibilities. They are also opening peoples minds. Months ago, who could have predicted or appreciated, what could yet be done with those tried and mistrusted rock instruments? Who was singing so forcefully about good and evil, love and death, and where was the listener prepared to put up with it? J.D., Echo, Teardrop and Magazine have progressed somewhere unknown, and are already beginning to influence people. In this instance, influence is a charge, something that will produce more than just a queue of clones.

THE SOUND have sounded around since October 1979 (the period when Echo, Teardrop and Magazine shared the same bill) and are truly a band of today. They're influenced but not overawed by the groups we're most excited about these days, and already beginning to burst out on their own. Months ago they persuaded a friend to form a record label, and the result was the 'Physical World' EP on Torch Records. The record wasn't major, but showed THE SOUND were in tune with the right things. I wrote twenty words in favour of it in my last singles column. I could see where it was going to lead. It was a three piece band that made 'Physical World': Adrian Borland (guitars, voice, songs), Graham Green (bass) and drummer Michael Dudley. By the time I meet them a week ago they've added a keyboard player, Benita, and their sound has developed into the places one particular track on 'Physical World' (Unwritten Law) suggested it would. As groups like this seem to do, they've developed quickly: eight months from now they'll be somewhere else altogether. 

The day I meet them (not knowing what to expect visually but let's just say that there need not necessarily be a tie-in between fashion and music) they've signed to Korova Records. This is of course quite fitting for a Liverpool group, 1980, stylish ironic and deeply in love with the power-glory potential of flexible rhythms and strong melody. Except THE SOUND are not from Liverpool, they're from London and that's something worth breathing quickly about. London's a horrible place. For a multitude of reasons it tends to produce groups who are all theory and image, who are more bothered about dirt under their fingernails than tension in their songs. All but two or three of the most important groups of the last two years have emerged outside London, so it makes a change. Perhaps it'll start a trend. "It's about time we had a London renaissance" jokes affable Adrian, who doesn't hide his Outsiders past (one of those dingy Roxy groups, pre-HM). "THE SOUND: the spearhead of the London renaissance," he blunders on, tongue in cheek, cringeing at the stupid headline he can see coming out of what he's said.

More than being anything to do with a London renaissance, THE SOUND fit properly into the new movement (New Realism) that's been developing. "There's music and there's the selling of music" notes Borland, "and to me they are different things." They should be different things to everyone. THE SOUND enjoy making music (they talk enthusiastically about rehearsals, quietly please with how they're sound's progressing), need to make music, want to communicate and contribute, but resent the notion that they have to follow the path of total commercialism to make their points. As we sit in the obligatory Carnaby Street pub with THE SOUND faltering through this first but not last interview, we pull faces at this month's bland things - Any Trouble and Spandau Ballet. We know that this hollow silliness will attract momentary attention and we can predict that it won't last long, but it's annoying that the easy thrill of it all draw attention away from what's really happening. 

Ultimately, THE SOUND will reach people with music of substance that doesn't smother reality - this has to be important. But these days, getting to people isn't easy. THE SOUND have had to struggle to stand up. They started their lives as a typical DIY group. They released their EP simply to get out what they were doing at that time. Good as it was, it disappeared into the appalling flood of independents. "Peel played it twice," (poor old John, so much pinning itself on himself) "and you reviewed it - I think that's really sickening, not that you reviewed it but that you were the only one. You just can't get review nowadays. That's a reason the independent thing is getting crushed." Other reasons include general apathy, the lack of quality of independent records, the boring grimy cheapness of many of them, and their self-righteousness. Some go the independent way with style and soul: most abuse it. It's becoming an underground thing in a negative way. Groups like THE SOUND who do deserve attention are having to find 'new' ways of getting it, of elevating themselves. The new way is the same as the old way. Sign up. Borland: "It's very hard. It's a clampdown at the moment with the independent thing. There's no option. There's no point in making 1.000 singles and getting them in some shops in London and a few throughout the country. It's gone back to the big label emphasis and we're a group who has been forced to sign up. There's nothing you can actually do. 

Previously an independent label could be a way to make an impact for yourself, but no more." Green: "There used to be almost a guarantee that an independent single was going to be interesting, but now the majority are a load of shit" So everyone's given up, letting the A&R men select the sounds for them, which is pathetic given their level of competence. "You've got to be on a major label now, to show that you are different from other bands" What a turnaround! "Factory, Zoo, Rough Trade are major labels." THE SOUND try to be pleasant about it - "You can't blame people if they don't notice you" - and claim that their Korova deal is good. A deal is also desirable because it gets them gigs. It's back to the stage where you have to have some sort business backing to get the prestige gigs. Now THE SOUND are signed they'll be noticed and taken seriously. Their LP 'Jeopardy', out in September, is tough and dedicated, an exciting debut. The emphasis is on rhythm, motion, space, an avoidance of clutter and complication, a lyrical despair but a feeling of hope, a singer with a deep voice (Borland sings southern soul).

They are post-Joy Division but they are a pop group, closer to the Teardrop edge than the Distraction. They have all the right balances in check. "We want a certain tension in the music, the melody to heighten things, chord changes to heighten the feel … the music we play we couldn't have played in '77, "dogma punk days when long songs and slow pace was 'hippy-crap'. "Well, we could have but the reaction would have been totally derisive. I hate the word serious, but it is serious music. You can think about it and you can dance to it, as opposed to just thinking or just dancing." By the end of the year you'll know all about THE SOUND. Promise and threat. 

Paul Morley 
New Musical Express 09-08-1980 

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