Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Live at the Marquee (Melody Maker 21-4-1984)

date: Apr 21, 1984


THE SOUND live Marquee, London 

There was a time when the so called "new progressive rock" rock bands were popping up like daffodils in springtime. U2, Echo, the Teardrop, Wah!, To say that I liked them was simply untrue- I would have jumped over a cliff for a chance to meet their music on closer terms. The bands and we were naive in many ways, but boisterous and enthusiastic. The Sound were also a part of all that... but not quite. I went to a lot of their gigs, thinking that "Jeopardy" could solve the nuclear arms-race, and that Adrian Borland could prevent me from succumbing to the horrors of believing existentialism word for word, but eventually I realized I didn't jump up and down in the same lost, desperate, but joyful way as I did to others. The Sound, too, were rather disdainful of the other bands, and still are.

Now they've released a new album which broadens their scope and music and expression, with frequent passages of poignancy as well as excitement From tonight's showing I realize I like them a whole lot more, though I still think their music spends most time, not in darkness and light as they purport to evoke, but in the gray area between the two. Borland's voice is limited but has improved, able to flower because of the added dexterity of the compositions, billowing into the auditorium like mist when the door of a haunted castle is levered open. The emotion and pitch of his voice is filled with pity and eager but isolated compassions, each line like a fine arrow carrying a message of sadness which is unlikely to reach its target. Rather than riding and inspiring the surges of the music they are heavyweights, powerfully combative, and he struggles up with good effect to avoid being spread-eagled with the audience against this concrete wall of despair. The environment they create in our senses is a volatile one, a harsh world of whirlpools, shifting mountains, new ice ages, and as a metaphor for our condition and feelings and relationships I find this clumsy.

In new songs such as "Longest Days" and "Counting The Days" the insights are a lot more subtle and personalized. But the ambitions and intentions of The Sound are quite lofty. They believe they have a unique ability to throw light down the dark caves of our complicated existence, of many contradictions and uncertainties, which we previously didn't know about. In this way The Sound have always had more to live up to after cutting themselves this high notch, and the music was always aiming to be grandiose, and therefore more useful and distinctive. But their insight remains muddled, rather limited, and not appealing or enlightening The music fails to fulfill the large sweep, to reach the majestic perimeters it sets itself. Certainly they aspire to something more than the pop groups churned out by the machine, and that's noble enough, but I am not sure if they have the talent to pull a profounder vision. 

NEIL ROWLAND (Melody Maker 21-4-1984)

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