Boyz n the Hood Bugsy Cape Fear Close My Eyes The Company of Strangers Death in Brunswick The Doors The Fisher King The Hard Way Homicide The Indian Runner Johnny Suede Journey To Knock Let Him Have It Life is Sweet The Linguini Incident Little Man Tate Meet the Applegates Rambling Rose Rush The Silence of the Lambs Slacker Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Back in the days when everything wasn’t available instantly,
my friends and I would share our music. If you made a new friend you usually
discovered a new band.
I knew Soft Cell from their run of singles in 81-84 and
always liked them.
In the summer of 84 through the enthusiasm of a friend who
held much more than my casual admiration for them, I had their entire catalogue
at my disposal.
It was a rich listening experience, a gritty gaudy pop arty
tarty steampipe synthesized jangly gothic comic freakout.
Marc Almond sounded
compulsive, intense, constantly on the brink of breakdown/insanity – his
hilarious half improvised song poems soundtracked by Dave Ball’s thumping crisp
arsenal of machines invented in the 70s.
So much of it resonated, the
melancholic manic absurdity of his reflections on youth and modern society.
was particularly fond of Where The Heart Is and its b side It’s a mug’s gameand
Soul Inside also was a great late single of theirs.
Album wise though, their debut takes some beating. It has an
almost clinical everlasting freshness and bounce to it.
The sleeve evoked New
York, after dark, make up, Soho, drugs, loud clubs, twilight. The songs relived suburban boredom, secrecy, underground hedonism and heartbreak.
Marc’s sexuality didn’t resonate with me at all. I liked his
look esp the Spanish goth bit and the bangles but it was the 90s before it
clicked that he was gay which seems shortsighted now but I really was quite literal with my interpretations of
his lyrics/female backing vocalists. It made sense that he was gay but from my
point of view neither here nor there.
I remember listening to it on a Walkman in 1984 wandering near
square concrete buildings and again in a park in London in 1988 feeling
nostalgic for 1984/1981 huhhh - at 17??.
After this album they were determined to have a dense sound, imprint more of themselves onto it - to dirty it up maybe to get away from the stark crisp brilliance of their debut
what they said in 1981:
“Soft Cell offer up a glibly conceived ride through a
funhouse of fetish and kink” - New York Rocker
“some of the most dispassionate songs since Transformer,
some of the cruelest criticisms since vintage Zappa, and some of the most
pathetic posturing since Queen. Pop at its most potent. Pop at its most
pointless” Melody Maker
“Soft Cell have provided the reason for shouting eureka!,
whether in the bath or not” – Sounds
An annoying notion often flung around since the late 80s is
that U2 didn’t have a hit single until New Year’s Day in 1983 or even Pride in
1984. Granted, the goalposts changed considerably for them through the 80s and
the success of The Joshua Tree inevitably dwarfed any early achievements.
However, if you’re particularly fond of these early achievements you tend to
resent them being misremembered/labeled incorrectly e.g. Fire, their 6th
single released in Aug 1981 was a hit. It reached no. 35 in the UK charts, they
appeared on Top of the Pops, ah c'mon lads is that not a hit?
I was watching the show in my cousins’ house in Enniscorthy
and when they appeared I remember being excited and aware of its significance –
that it was the first hit single by a new Irish band since the Rats or Lizzy.
The Rats had been appearing on TOTP since 77 which seemed a lifetime ago to me (cos it
nearly was). There was more to it- of which I was barely aware - they
operated from Ireland and were distinct. Here they were on Top of the Pops
I already knew I Will Follow and Out of Control from the radio, Boy
was floating around on a reel to reel tape that summer and October was snapped
up by my brother in, um, October .
Fire was shuffly and mildly explosive - not a classic song but punctuated by several distinct moments that could define their sound. For a ten year old Irish music nerd it was ground zero.
In my mind when Gloria, the next single came
out, they were elevated to great heights. In reality they weren’t – Gloria
stalled at 55 and October got middling reviews. I was blissfully unaware of
this as my media filters were mostly Irish – RTE bigged them up continually
(correctly). In 1982 BP Fallon did a 2 parter of his BP Fallon Orchestra on them on Radio 2, I
thought ooh, they’re getting big now. Gloria and Fire were unofficial anthems
to young teenagers at discos throughout Ireland for the bones of the 80s. You
did a kind of backwards roundabout feet together bumpy bop to it and I'll still drag it out when I need the heat. Gloria
remained prominent in their set till the late 80s but Fire died out much
sooner. All spent with nowhere to grow -there was no trace of it on their 80s singles compilation in 1998- talk about too much perspective, boys.
The Believer Donnie Darko Ghost World Gosford Park In the bedroom Lantana The Lord of the Rings The Man Who Wasn’t There Monsoon Wedding Mulholland Drive The Pledge Riding in Cars With Boys The Son’s Room Vanilla Sky Waking Life Y tu mama tambien Zoolander
Sometimes, at least for a
while, you just have one album by an artist and this was our Banshees album. My
brother bought it in the summer of 1981 on the strength of the hit single
Spellbound and it hit the ground running in our house. It’s a strong, evocative
and haunting work and it soundtracked many a board game and jigsaw puzzle.
Guitarist John McGeoch's
exceptional playing is rightly acclaimed but it shouldn't be overestimated -
everyone here has raised their game. The key dynamic for each song is the
insistent interlocking rhythm of the guitar against Budgie’s drums propelled by
Steven Severin’s bass and haunted by the singer's swooping call.
It is Siouxsie's voice as
percussion/messenger/human instrument that binds the piece, makes it exotic yet
recognisable and unique.
Side one is remarkable, kicking off with
Spellbound, a thrilling single from a summer full of thrilling singles,
followed by the hook laden Into The Light featuring the unusual dulcimer
instrument. The first half-minute of Arabian Nights (another hit) demonstrates
all their powers, the creepy introductory chord harnessed by halting toms sinks
into a smothering groove verse before a thundering celebratory chorus.
The punkier Hallowe'en is next and it segues
into Monitor of which the opening rhythm chords eventually explode brilliantly
into the song proper. Monitor is the centrepiece for me and is the most played
punky band abrasive rock type song in my world for the last few years – I think
it’s aged very well.
I haven’t heard side two as much as the other
side but I intend to - it ranges from epic darkness (Nightshift, Voodoo Dolly)
to violent funk rock (Head Cut) and all out one-note-song-by-attitude shocker
Sin in my Heart.
The record sleeve looks like how the record sounds, a cryptic
postcard from a strange hot land east of the Nile, gold and black music
notation snips pasted Burroughs next to the head of a mysterious statue. The songs took you to places – hotter
stickier and scarier. The album
has a bit of a reputation as the template of goth and as the defining
moment/millstone for the Banshees but I just think of it as a really good album
which evokes enough powerful memories to prevent me overplaying it .
It’s a shaker. It’s a breaker.
- “ a gliding, comfortless delivery of self-distrust, infatuation and
Maker - “they’ve already composed quality nightmare soundtracks and they don’t
need to do it again”
– “doom is at the door…creating something intriguing, intensely brooding and
This is where I started and this is where we begin. 1971 early January it's a boy. The year hadn't drawn much breath before I drew mine, How did my mother make Xmas dinner for five children and a husband who liked his plates hot with me and the turkey in the oven. I've been collecting pictures in my non existent spare time of 1971 the digits , here's one of a wine box. Send me some if you have any. Ugh...