Articles / Reviews

The Sound (of a Troubled Genius) Part 1

date: May 14, 2012


First, what a great name for a band! Second, what a great band!

Much as I love The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen, The Sound are the band who should be mentioned in the same breath, who should have had the same success. That they didn’t is slightly puzzling though it was probably a combination of far darker lyrical terrain and a lack of cheekbones that both Ian McCullough and Julian Cope possessed. There was also the fact that they were initially signed to the same record company as the Bunnymen which meant that the time, money and resources went into the band that had the best likelihood of commercial success rather than The Sound who were very much the runts of the litter.

It is probably no coincidence that Adrian Borland, lead singer and songwriter for The Sound, named his first band The Outsiders, for that is the role he played throughout his tragically short life. If you listen to those early recordings, he already had some of the songwriting dynamics and introspective lyrical concerns  that would appear on The Sound’s debut LP, ‘Jeopardy.’ Unwittingly, and regrettably presciently, this record starts with ‘I Can’t Escape Myself’, a song whose themes would recur throughout Borland’s career: “So many feelings / Pent up in here / Left all alone, I’m with / The one I most fear.” These are words we can probably all relate to but for Borland it really was a matter of life and death.

As time progressed, he would have regular periods of clinical mental illness, even being sectioned at one point, and he would frequently turn to this theme in his lyrics. That it is here so starkly formatted as track 1 on his band’s debut LP is an indication of the darkness at the heart of The Sound. The song itself is contained, scratchy, pent up, intense, with minimal instrumentation until the band explode into the chorus. It is a fine template for what would make this band so special. From the quiet, controlled opening track, the band  rip into track 2 ‘Heartland’, a song I always imagine to be Bruce Springsteen with a lightning rod up his arse. This song reveals two additional strings to The Sound’s bow: firstly, Adrian’s passion with him pleading over and over “You gotta believe / You gotta believe/ You gotta believe / You gotta believe / In a heartland.” Secondly, the song reveals a burgeoning axe hero with the guitar solos cutting through with venom and precision.

‘Hour of Need’ is another slowburner with Borland hating “the quiet times / I need some company / I miss the noise of life / The silence deafens me.” Over and over, the titles of the songs on this debut reflect a soul in trouble: ‘I Can’t Escape Myself,’ ‘Hour of Need,’ ‘Words Fail Me,’ ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Night Versus Day.’ The latter lyric displays a more literary expression to the same dilemma (Sleep guides unseen / Into new territitory every night; / Abandons us to what we keep /Enslaved within the hours of light”) while ‘Unwritten Law’ recognises the fragility of life and the ease with which it is ended (“A hand is a hand / A knife is a knife /Blood is blood / And life is life.”) And when Borland isn’t concerned with his own psyche, the lyrical concerns are no lighter: on ‘Missiles’ he writes about the proliferation of nuclear warheads.‘Jeopardy’ did what a debut LP should do: it marked out the territory that Adrian Borland would become an expert in, an exploration of man’s place in the universe, set to a series of cracking tunes.

© 2012

<< previous page