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The Sound - SOUND reissues reviewed (Fast'n Bulbous 01-07-2002)

date: Jul 1, 2002




The Sound might be the most unfairly ignored post-punk band, both in their time and currently. Whereas CDs have long been available for the past 15 years of contemporaries like Magazine, Joy Division, The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, Comsat Angels, Psychedelic Furs and Teardrop Explodes, this is the first time the early Sound albums have been made available. Doubly strange are the impressive punk credentials of bandleader Adrian Borland, who died in 1999. His earlier band The Outsiders was the first punk band to release a record (Calling On Youth) on their own label in May 1977. By 1979, the band had evolved into The Sound, the most powerful live band at the time, with a voice that recalled the Bunnymen's Ian McCullough, a heavy melodic bass style like Joy Division's Peter Hook, and a fiery guitar style unmatched by anyone. A demo recorded at the time has just been released as Propaganda. The band's official debut, Jeopardy, came out originally on Korova, recorded for only £800.

The album starts with "I Can't Escape Myself," sounding very bare-bones, until the crushing chorus and guitars makes the needles jump to red. It barely hints at what you're in for. "Heartland" is a complex pop masterpiece, a kaleidoscopic carnival ride which increases the nighttime urban imagery of Iggy Pop's "The Passenger" to warp speed -- "Setting out/City in your sights/You want an overview of the underground." "Hour of Need" is reminiscent of Joy Division's "Passover," with synthesizers adding extra coloring. "Missiles is a classic example of the peak of Thatcher/Reagan cold war tension and paranoia. They don't' just sing about the damage missiles can cause, the apocalyptic guitars vividly demonstrate it in a way that U2 could never match. "Heyday" is another high-energy, spiky dust devil of brilliance, and was their first single that should have made them stars. "Desire" closes the album like it began, stark and stripped down. A nearly perfect album.

From The Lions Mouth is even better. While it doesn't have the hard-hitting singles of Jeopardy, it has a shimmering, cohesive fusion of lyrics and sound. The album reaches a dark apex with "Possession" ("There's a devil in me/Trying to show his face") and the red hot "The Fire" ("Drawn towards the heat/Too fierce to contain"), and "New Dark Age," with thudding kettle drums of doom. The press went wild for it, but sales were dismal. Possibly because the album was too unique. It didn't fit neatly into any of the synth pop/new wave/new romantic stuff that was popular in '81. Nor did it have the bombast that would make Echo & the Bunnymen, U2 and Simple Minds so popular just a couple years later. Korova dumped The Sound onto its parent company, WEA as a write-off, who pressured them to go more commercial.

The group's contrarian, self-defeating response was 1982's All Fall Down, which pleased neither the label nor the fans. Aside from stand-outs "Monument," "Party Of My Mind" and "Where The Love Is," the songs were fiercely uncommercial, grim and less compelling than earlier work. Surprisingly, the band carried on, and even managed to bounce back with 1985's excellent Heads And Hearts and a blistering live set, In The Hothouse. Unfortunately, the band never received the recognition they deserved. After one more album the band broke up in 1988. Disappointed at the lack of success, Borland eventually got started on a solo album, when he was struck by a train in April 1999. It's about time these lost treasures are finally appreciated

2002 - Fester/A.S. Van Dorston - Fast'n Bulbous July 2002

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