Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Sound Thinking (DEBUT 4-5-1984)

date: May 4, 1984



"Ultimately, The Sound will reach people with music of substance that doesn't smother reality - This has to be important." Paul Morley - N.M.E. 

"They pack a clout meaner and more effectively than any other band . . .I'm totally hooked. " Dave McCullough - Sounds 

You see the point is that The SOUND are, and have been for most of their five year career, one of the most critically favored bands in the business or as their lead singer ADRIAN BORLAND puts it: "We've never had a bad review yet . . . which is quite incredible." So what's the crack? Why aren't these boys the biggest of the big? Between 1980 and 1982 they released three LP's - 'JEOPARDY' ('80 - Korova), 'FROM THE LIONS MOUTH' ('81 - Korova) and 'ALL FALL DOWN' ('82 - WEA). They were brash, exciting and above all a guitar group from the same stock that produced The Bunnymen, U2 and later Big Country. A recipe for success? Not quite. I managed to catch up with ADRIAN BORLAND in Germany. I asked him to fill in the details of The SOUNDs' activities since the last WEA album and the two year wait for their latest release. A mini album called 'SHOCK OF THE NEW' which has just come out on the Statik label. "We came to a mutual parting of the ways with WEA in January '83. 'ALL FALL DOWN' wasn't a very commercial album anyway and we knew they weren't realty going to promote it, which they didn't at all - some people don't even know it's out. Then it took us nine months to get the deal with Statik. It was tough because we were a non-video rock act as opposed to a pop-video act. So it was quite tough finding any company at all to take on the band."

So much for critical acclaim. But why had the three albums failed to establish the band? "The straightforward business reason that we manage ourselves and all these other bands I can see have lots of things arranged for them. It's all heavy promotion, heavy money behind it and we just keep our heads above water. All we've done, like any small business would, is looked after ourselves financially and made sure we never got into the vast debts other bands have with their managers 'cause we haven't got any managers.. On the other hand there is that bad side to it where if you haven't got a heavy manager going around all the top people all the time in the 'scene' you don't get the breaks. But we don't care … music really means more to us than that anyway." Was he personally disappointed with the three albums? "No. Only I think 'ALL FALL DOWN' fell down. I think the other two were great. The thing with WEA was we were always a little band in with a huge company. I can remember telling the people that we worked with that they'd got to deal with us in a slightly different way to the way they did with Rod Stewart. Not mentioning any names but a lot of bands get away with screaming down the phone all the time, hustling people day in day out. We just said 'Look we want this, if it's not done then you're just cutting your own noses off." Did he think perhaps the lack of a definable image had held the band back? "Oh yeah definitely. I mean we've got a lot of fans around Europe. We're playing in front of 800 to a 1,000 people a night, which is a lot more than most bands are. Hardly any British bands play to that many people except the big ones. So in Europe people really appreciate the fact that we don't dress up like Gary Glitter and have stupid haircuts because they come for the music not what the band look like. But having said that we don't deliberately look awful or anything." 

Had being lumped in with bands like The Bunnymen and U2 early on in The SOUND's career proved to be a bit of a millstone around their necks? I think that's always been a bit of a shame for us 'cause we made 'JEOPARDY' in the beginning of 1980 and at the same time The Bunnymen were doing 'Crocodile' and U2 were doing 'Boy'. They were all done oblivious of each other. All those groups were beavering away at something that they thought was going to be new melodic rock - which it was. But to be lumped together just because you're a young British rock band with all these other bands is a bit of a shame. I think people were desperately trying to make another movement out of it. A sort of pseudo punk. I didn't tike that at all." Things are now looking up for The SOUND with their new record company, a well received mini album (SHOCK OF THE NEW) and a recent series of successful gigs at The Marquee, once again attracting favorable critical reaction and hopefully the public's attention as wall. ADRIAN still had some slight reservations however. "I think it's a shame that we didn't bring out 'SHOCK' when we wrote it last year. We wrote all those songs last Easter.

Those six songs on the record were the best of the ones we wrote. But it clears the way for us to write new stuff. We've got a new album in the pipeline. It's going to surprise everyone again but at least they're interested." So would he consider 'SHOCK' more optimistic than their previous work? "Yeah. It's still tinged with a sort of melancholy but melody-wise it's stronger. I think people associate melodies with optimism somehow. A track like WINTER' is not very optimistic, it's all about being fed up really but I think because it's a strong melody it carries it." Would he describe their pre-Shock work as doom laden then? "I don't think it's doom laden at all. We only get called that because I think lyrically we're slightly more realistic 'cause we're not going Shoo-Be-Do-Wah-Baby and that sort of stuff. We've got our feet more on the ground. 

"So do The SOUND have a message for the world? "Not as such. I think we're trying to blur the lines between the political and the personal. We're trying to show that if there's any message in The SOUND it's that, how you treat someone on a one to one basis is the root of alt evil. The people who run the world are human beings as wall. That's what I'm trying to say realty. I don't think we should blame the people who become leaders for everything. If anything I'm left-wing but I don't like the self righteous left, the "We know better and we never do anything bad ourselves.' People are bound to." But can music change anything? "I don't think it can really but having said that I remember when I was about 15. I was getting into Lou Reed and lggy Pop and I think about what I've become and I think of the things that I've done and I think well maybe they have affected me. So on a personal level music can probably really mean something to you and you probably start taking the singer seriously and that's where people who write lyrics have got a responsibility to some extent." After so long a break I wondered how The SOUND would fit into a music scene somewhat different from two years ago?

"It was quite funny last year when we got this guitar band revival and we'd been doing it for nearly four years. Like 'SILENT AIR' on 'FROM THE LION'S MOUTH' is definitely pre-Big Country. I'd say the lyrical themes on it, Stuart Adamson could write that now and everybody would say that is perfectly Big Country and the same applies to The Bunnymen's new stuff." Hopefully the new album will go some way to establishing The SOUND as a major rock act in the eyes of the public rather than a critic's pet. But will the success, if and when it comes, alter the outlook of the band? "No", ADRIAN was quite adamant. "Because in a way if we do have what people call success, I call success making a good record, because ifs taken us so long and we've seen what other people have become through success I think it's quite a lesson to us and we know what ifs like to be on the bottom. So you're never really going to forget that. I think a lot of bands that go straight into success and become idiots; they can't deal with normal people. I think there's room for fun. The Police showed that, I think. They're not one of my favorite bands but they're trying to say something on their records. They're always; well if not humorous, they've got some wit about them. I think that's important." 

What does the future have in store for The Sound. "Well A&M America are releasing 'SHOCK' in the summer, well next month", he replied. We go there in September and then we're going to keep things going in London, maybe a few dates around England and get down to working on our new album in November. We're doing a single in September, a 12" or maybe ever two because we've got a rather interesting idea but we'll see what happens. New ideas always seem to get crushed in the music industry because everybody's toe afraid of them." So on that note the interview ended. The SOUND have more than their fair share of bad luck or perhaps not enough of the good sort. They are without doubt deserving of success. Live. there are few bands that can touch them although as ADRIAN said during the conversation, they don't actually put on a show as such, they merely play and believe in what they're doing. Maybe that's part of the reason for their failure to break big so far - they're honest. Honest to their audience, they certainly give value for money, and honest to themselves. Honesty isn't always the most valued of commodities in the music business. It should be and when it does shine through, the difference is noticeable as is the reaction of the groups and music around it. It blows a breath of fresh air through the scene, something perhaps the ogre known collectively as the music business is in need of right now. ADRIAN mentioned missed opportunities, could this be their best chance of all? Don't screw it up. 

Words: Peter Picton (DEBUT 4-5-1984) 

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