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The Sound - The Dutch Radio Recordings review (Drowned in Sound 2006)

date: Jun 1, 2006


The Sound: Dutch Radio Recordings 
Release date: 03/07/2006 
Label: Renascent 
Info: 5 CD set or individually budget priced.

As the post-millennium, post-punk revival seems to be slowly grinding to a halt, now is as good a time as any to remind people of one of the lesser celebrated (at the time anyhow) but no less influential bands of that era, The Sound. Formed in 1979, from the remnants of London punks The Outsiders, they were touted by Warner Brothers back then as having the potential to be one of the biggest bands of the ensuing decade and, along with Echo & The Bunnymen, became the first signings to the label's independent subsidiary Korova. 

Indeed, while The Bunnymen and their Liverpudlian comrades crossed swords with Joy Division's dour Mancunian epistles, The Sound seemed to be the most likely of all to break through into mainstream territory - their admittedly bleak and desolate lyrics set to more upbeat, posturing anthemic music saw them rival and even outsell the likes of U2 and Simple Minds back in the early days. Unfortunately such success did not last, and after five studio albums and a live album recorded at the Marquee, the band called it a day, disillusioned with the industry and its disloyal failings. 

The Dutch Radio Recordings consists of five CDs recorded between 1981 and 1985, each containing a full concert that landmarks an important phase in both The Sound's development and ultimate demise. The first CD, recorded at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, documents the band's first-ever foray into Europe, and both the raw energy and disparate cries for help from tragic vocalist Adrian Borland are present and correct for all to hear, although back then no one knew if it was just part of the act. In fact, such is the band's shock at being called back for an encore that their lack of material means they end up playing 'Hey Day', eventually their swansong, twice. 

The second CD, recorded the following summer at the No Nukes Festival in Utrecht, is a fine testament to the band's growing stature - their material's more anthemic, and their confidence obvious - and suggests that this was the point where the belief of the record label and some of the media actually had an affect on the band. Contrast this with the fourth CD, also recorded at a festival - Parkpop in Den Haag - two years later and the change of heart and mind is apparent. Borland, obviously disappointed that his band still hadn't made the cut three albums down the line while all his peers were slowly gaining household name status, can't help but have a pop at irregular intervals ("Fuck off Jim Kerr" being one of the comments that punctuates the set). 

By the time the concert of CD five was recorded in Utrecht in 1985, the band's sound had started to change dramatically, adopting a more mature, MOR approach than on previous recordings. It culminated in the band's first album for the now defunct indie Statik Records, Heads and Hearts. The story of The Sound reached its ultimate conclusion with the horrific suicide of manic depressive Borland, who threw himself under a train in April 1999, but as a near-perfect epitaph to a fine band who should have achieved more than they did, these recordings prove to be disconcertingly revealing. 

Dom Gourlay - Drowned in Sound 2006

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