The Sound (of a Troubled Genius) Part 2
Jeopardy had the songs but it was evident that it was recorded cheaply and lacked the necessary production to push it into the upper echelons. Enter name producer, Hugh Jones, a bigger budget and a gatefold sleeve. It immediately looks the part with a glossy sleeve and an arty picture of a slave bound and facing a pride of lions (cover concept Howard Hughes whom I assume is notorious recluse Adrian Borland being mischievous).
As soon as the crashing chords of Winning hit, its evident that money has not just been spent on the cover. Everything that was promising on the first LP is realised here. The urgency, the desperation, the aspiration are all here but this time sounding as though they encompass the whole of humanity rather than just one man. Whilst Jeopardy sounded as if Borland was going to be ground down, the opening track displays a determination to survive: When youre on the bottom / You crawl back to the top / Something pulls you up / And a voice says you cant stop. This sheer will to survive continues into the second track Sense of Purpose where Borland recalls the passion of Heartland demanding that we use our brains and emotions in decisions we make: A call to arms, a call to use arms / A call to brains, a call to use some brains / A call to the heart, a call to have a heart / To have a sense of purpose again. And then there follows a guitar solo that wrenches the heart out of you, a guitar solo that makes you punch the air and bow down to follow the doctrine of St Adrian. On Judgement, Borland is prepared to take the consequences of his actions aware of there being no god to ultimately judge us: I will push at the powers that be / I will pull you close to me / And if I fall I go gracefully / No regrets, dont pour your pity on me.
Well, Adrian makes an attempt on here to be as optimistic as he can but ultimately the old uncertainties resurface. On Contact The Fact, Everything I touch / Turns to dust / And everyone I turn to / Turns on me. In Skeletons, Theres a gaping hole in the way we are / With nothing to fill it up any more. And his own sense of mental disintegration is never clearer than on Fatal Flaw and Possession, the tracks that end and begin sides one and two of this LP and are the centrepiece of the record. If youre a fan already, you will know that Adrian threw himself in front of a train whilst resisting medication for his mental disorder (worried that the medication affected his creative abilities). On Fatal Flaw he appears to recognise the distance between normality and how he is: We all have weakness / Moments that we cant contain / Right now Im all weakness / Ill make another retreat again. The bipolar nature of Adrians condition is even more apparent on Possession: Theres a devil in me / Trying to show his face / Theres a god in me / Wants to put me in his place. Arguably (very arguably as The Sound have so many great songs), Possession is my favourite as it seems to contain all of the essential ingredients of Borlands songwriting and musical gifts. There are the lyrics which are so obviously wrenched from the deepest recesses of his soul; there is the pent up emotion in the verse which just explodes in the chorus where Borland is desperately trying to hang on to some sort of normality: Ive got to get a hold of myself / Ive got to be in possession; and when words fail him, there is the explosive guitar solo that transcends all words and all emotions. Its a song that leaves you mentally and physically exhausted and yet, ironically at the same time, hopeful that the singer can get himself in a state of possession.
The final two tracks are far quieter, I hesitate to say contemplative because there are few Borland songs that are not. Silent Air could be interpreted as a love song with the singer enraptured by another: You showed me that silence / That haunts this troubled world / You showed me that silence / Can speak louder than words. However, to me, it sounds almost as though Borland recognises a kindred spirit who took his own life just the year before. In this context, its a chilling song acknowledging that Borland can understand why Ian Curtis hanged himself and is considering death as an option for himself. Its not made any easier by the final track New Dark Age where Weve broken our fingers / Broken our faith / Broken our hearts so many times they cant / Be broken any more, and all Borland has to look forward to: Here it comes / A new dark age.
From The Lions Mouth is the LP that should have had the world genuflecting at Borlands feet. With so many pretenders out there, this was the genuine article. Here was an artist, at the height of his powers, showing us man, naked vulnerable and desperately trying to survive against all the odds. Adrian Borland was such a man, a real man.
© 2012 www.theartyassassin.com