Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Paradise Regained (UNCUT 11-01-2002)

date: Jan 11, 2002



- JEOPARDY * * * *
- ALL FALL DOWN * * * *
- PROPAGANDA * * * - All Renascent

- HARMONY AND DESTRUCTION **** - Red Sun Records

Rediscovered classics from critically-adored early Eighties band who got away.

THE SOUND were tragically overlooked in their time and have remained unjustly neglected since. We can but hope that the re-issuing of most of their albums (first time on CD, most with extra tracks), plus the posthumous release of late frontman Adrian Borland; last solo work, will bring them into the light. Their early Eighties rivals and peers -Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, U2 - went on to become, respectively, revered legends, affable evergreens, and a billowing phenomenon. Initially, THE SOUND were tipped to be the biggest of the lot. Things didn't pan out that way. They split in '88, huge in Holland, a cult here. Until his suicide in 1999, Borland was very depressed by this. Sometimes he'd act as if he could shrug it off, put it down to the absurdities and accidents of life, What the hell, get another drink in. But he wasn't a terrific actor. He was an exceptionally strong songwriter, performer and guitarist who once told me" music separates living from existing" and meant it. All these songs, old and new, are raw, frank, epic, emotional. Unfashionably so. The Wimbledon-based Borland didn't look the part of a rock god, and, worse, knew it, which hurt him. Perhaps his angst made the records bleed like this.

The 1980 debut, "Jeopardy", was recorded on no budget but had critics, correctly, energised: "More spirit, soul and downright honesty than any other record this year, "said Melody Maker. Its opening track, tellingly, is "I Can't Escape Myself": a theme Borland would repeatedly mine. The band's infamous anti-violence anthem "Missiles" got its first outing: it was to become a perennial live set-piece. Already, THE SOUNDs marriage of punk/Stooges riffs and attitudes to mainstream rock's big chords and surging choruses was lending them a unique, thrilling dynamic. A year later Korova (known as the Bunnymen's label) had snapped them up and the essential line-up was established. Behind Borland on vocals and guitar were bassist Graham Green, keyboardist Max Mayers and drummer Mike Dudley. Some of us vouch to this day that they were the most exiting live band of their era. "From The Lion's Mouth", produced by Hugh Jones in '81, was supposed to be the one to send them huge. I can't explain why it didn't; no one can. Reviews roared. It was perfect for its time, which feels an odd thing to say because it's perfect now. Its one of the all-time great 'tost' albums. From the unworldly swirl of "Winning", through the staccato stampedes of "Sense Of Purpose" and "Skeletons", to the haunted ballad "Silent Air". It's both flawless and rough-edged. Converts - too few - still swear by it. It didn't take off. The label (by now a Warners wing) sulked, and THE SOUND sulked back. They released '82's dark, menacing "All Fall Down". Warners bailed. The LP contains half a dozen sensational, tortured rants, plus "Monument", a beautiful love song. Their stab at fame scuppered. THE SOUND regrouped, making two solid, song-based albums and one incendiary live album "In The Hothouse", for Statik.

Later, there were Dutch releases and an up-and-down Borland solo career. Propaganda, recorded before "Jeopardy", is in some ways a rough draft of it, and has never been released until now. I'd recommend it to Sound obsessives. The rest I'd recommend to, well, obsessives. "Harmony & Destruction" was recorded in early "99. "Maybe I'll find a wider audience with this one," wrote Borland. Between putting down the guide and the 'real' vocal, he was gone. With the result that what Red Sun Records is releasing here (FEB. 2002) is almost more 'real' than is bearable. This is no sentimental music-biz farewell but a harrowing, uncomfortable blaze. Titles like "Living On The Edge Of God" and "When A Star Dies" are impossibly poignant, in or out of context. Adrian never was a star: he was too human, confused, compassionate, gifted and cursed for that. But couldn't just some of the awe apportioned to the Buckleys, Drake and Cobain be directed his way? Certainly THE SOUND's impassioned, imposing music - rock at its most vital - merits it.


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