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The Sound - THE SOUND reissues reviewed (Big Takeover 01-06-2002)

date: Jun 1, 2002




At last Renascent secures the rights to the first three Sound LPs from a stingy Warner Bros. U.K., who issued them from 1980-1982 on their Korova subsidiary. Along with Renascent's reissues of the two that followed, 1984's "Shock of Daylight" and 1965's enduring "Heads and Hearts", the double live LP, "In The Hothouse", and the LP the label compiled out of unknown "Jeopardy" recordings, the whole catalog of this incredible London group is now on CD and available (The sixth and final proper LP, 1987's "Thunder Up", was originally issued on CD via Play It Again Sam.)

The Sound? Just one of the finest bands of the 1980s, and these three remarkably different LPs formed the basis for their lasting interest, despite all lack of commercial success. These reissues of long-out-of-print material are made even more poignant by the sad suicide of singer/songwriter/guitarist Adrian Borland, whose troubled vision these LPs painstakingly, and heartrendingly document. Like Borland's early influences, Iggy Pop/Stooges and Velvet Underground, tempered severely by his 1979 immersion into Joy Division, this is what fans seek: music that challenges, musically, lyrically, emotionally. It's the full impact of art from one person expressing all he feels as withering experience, with the all-important great-group, dynamic. 

1980's "Jeopardy" kicked things off following a hot indie single, 1979's "Cold Beat" Recorded as a demo to get a deal, the band wisely didn't rerecord these 11 songs after signing, leaving the session intact in all its raw edges. The only straight-ahead post-punk/rock 'n' roll LP they'd make (hearkening back to Borland's more simple but invigorating 1977-1979 punk band. The Outsiders, who were the first to self-release a punk LP after Buzzcocks had done likewise on 7"), "Jeopardy" is like a spunkier Magazine with a heart-on-sleeve singer. Its harrowing opener, the revealingly-titled "I Can't Escape Myself," sets the tone for the band's - and Borland's - whole career. (He made half a dozen solo LPs after The Sound's demise.) Imagine a less insular, less-cocooned Ian Curtis, reacting with horror instead of surrender to his alienation from others and himself, and you have heady stuff, set to a flashing, jagged guitar and volume shifts. This sort of internal conflict is played out in more smashing material such as the hot single "Heyday," the onrushing "Resistance," and in Borland's also-zippy fave, "Heartland" - which is further chilled by Bi Marshall's icy keyboards. Also notable is "Missiles," which tackles Borland's disillusionment, after the promise of the punk revolution, at the inability of an individual to impact inane global human activity - in this case ICBM proliferation. A remarkable debut that remains a must from that harsher era. (This reissue adds the obscure, 1981 four-song Dutch live EP.) 

Switching gears in 1981 to more moody, atmospheric, beautiful yet claustrophobic terrain - much as Korova labelmates Echo & the Bunnymen coincidentally did, going from "Crocodiles" to "Heaven up Here", and touring with The Sound - "From the Lion's Mouth" established the foursome as a formidable band for the ages. One of those masterpiece LPs as flawless as it is quietly disturbing, the whole shebang is divinely rendered by the best producer then, Hugh Jones (who also did the aforementioned Heaven Up Here). You know what you're in for when you see Briton Riviere's still-striking cover painting, of a bowed, biblical Daniel surrounded by seven roaring lions lit in a glowing orange. Yikes! Songs such as "New Dark Age," "(We're living like) Skeletons" and "(Fell into) The Fire" are cleaner-recorded "Jeopardy" style personal apostasy, but the LP really turns on the songs where Borland confronts the tide that's pulling him under, the colossal "Winning" and "Sense of Purpose," and the ones where he directly and movingly reacts to romantic failures, "Contact the Fact," "Judgment," and "Fatal Flaw." Bassist Graham Green really steps out here, with one stand-alone rumbling line after another, as new member the late Max Mayers keyboards seem to swoop like vultures on Borland's prone soul. A more mature, and slightly sleeker Sound is an incredible one, given such spacious songs of overwhelming content, and the way the sleeve artwork and title add artistic ballast to the package. It remains one of those "100 best LPs" lists-type records. [The non-LP A-side "Hothouse" is added.] 

After "Lion's Mouth" failed to match the Bunnymen's success, however, the label called the band on the carpet, demanding more commercial hits. In stunningly admirable fashion, The Sound responded with their most blatantly uncommercial and bleak record, the underappreciated, formidable, and well-titled "All Fall Down". While a bit too hard to take due to its paranoia, like Comsat Angels' incredible "Sleep No More" the year prior, it's still one of those LPs to marvel at in its brutal, uncompromising nature - perhaps the purest statement Borland would undertake, if not necessarily his best material. There's no reason to bypass an LP with individual goodies like the nerve-wracking title track opener (with its terrified, blaring horns), the brief respite of the more whimsical "Party of the Mind" and actually sweet "Monument," and the traumatic "Red Paint." It's just not the place to start! It's still something of a lost LP, as the angry label refused to promote it, and dumped its insubordinate band with relish the second the contract ran out. (The reissue adds three unknown outtakes from the sessions that didn't make the LP, too!) And that was it. Aside from the remembrances of the surviving Green and drummer Michael Dudley. In a recent loving article in Uncut this year, and what they say in these liner notes, the music is all we have left with Borland's unwise demise. It will surely last forever, if it's just gained more import in these less ambitious times, 20 years later. 

2002 - Jack Rabid - The Big Takeover nr. 50 June 2002

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