AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #263 : THE SOUND

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOT

(OUR SWEDISH CORRESPONDENT)

I was surprised when I realised no one had done an ICA for The Sound, so I thought I’d give it a shot. After a while I started to think I’d drop it since I found it almost impossible to narrow it down to 10 songs. I decided to do strictly The Sound – no Second Layer, no Adrian Borland & The Citizens or other solo stuff however they would make a good complement, maybe that will be yet another ICA at some point.

The Sound, just as another of my all time favourites – The Associates, were vastly underrated, had a singer who tried a later solo career without much success and then left this planet way too early by his own doing. Both from Billy MacKenzie and Adrian Borland there have been a couple of albums worth of demos and almost complete recordings issued posthumously, and both singers and their respective bands have a small but very faithful following.

It must have been early 1981 I was introduced to The Sound by the song Missiles, and fell in love with it immediately. Remember though being in general disappointed by the album which I at the time thought of as bad quality recordings, with bad sound quality (no pun intended), and then not so long after I came across From The Lion’s Mouth which was utterly fantastic and I more or less forgot about Jeopardy (this was a semi-small Swedish town in the early 80’s, a lot of music came to us rather through friends (read chance) than by releases or radio play).

I didn’t need Jeopardy any longer (young and foolish) since I now had From The Lion’s Mouth, and also the next couple of releases followed me home upon their releases. After they broke up I lost touch for a while as I was in a period when music couldn’t get the attention I wanted. After a few years of silence on my part I decided to look back and get the Jeopardy album if nothing else so for having a complete collection, and realized I had been exactly that – young and foolish. Even if I still hold From The Lion’s Mouth as much better – in fact the peak in their recording career – Jeopardy has a bunch of great tracks. Some of them I had learned to appreciate from the live album In The Hothouse, just not thinking enough about it to realize they were from the debut…

Initially signed to Korova I guess they suffered from Echo & The Bunnymen taking all the record company’s energy, attention and marketing budget. After making at least some stir with From The Lion’s Mouth they moved up to parent company WEA and released All Fall Down, a pretty bleak affair – in more than one sense. The record company pushed for a more commercial record than the previous two, the band pushed back by recording a completely non-commercial record. Of course it fared poorly, both commercially and by the reception from critics and fans – and I still have issues taking it fully to my heart even if it has grown on me. There are moments, but in general I rank it as their weakest moment and it failed to get anything represented here. In several of the tracks I feel the drum machine programming is poor and comes up front creating a lifeless soundscape. Monument and Where The Love Is were close though.

Sacked by WEA they were picked up by Statik Records and the smaller, independent environment seemed to work much better for the band who returned with the excellent mini-LP Shock Of Daylight and the likewise mostly almost as positive (well…) and accessible Heads And Hearts LP before the label went bankrupt. Their final album, Thunder Up, was released on another independent label, the Belgian Play It Again Sam. By many seen as their best effort, including the band themselves, it was again met with enthusiasm from fans and critics but sold poorly and they split up in 1988. As mentioned above, around the time they broke up my attention to new music was heavily disturbed by conflicts of interest, so at the time I missed out on the two albums Adrian put out as Adrian Borland & The Citizens. I later got my act together, left a restraining relationship and found my passion for music again – and also the “solo” recordings by Adrian. They will however have to wait for their own ICA, which they absolutely deserve.

So here we go, The Sound – What Are We Going To Do (An ICA)

Side A:

1. Missiles – I had to start here, didn’t I? This is where it all started. After the bass guitar intro it builds into a furious anti-war song. “Who the hell makes those missiles?”. Anger distilled into a great song. (Jeopardy 1980)

2. Winning – All I needed to hear was the intro to know I had found something special, something that would follow me for a long time. At first I heard it as a pretty joyous and optimistic song being Adrian, taking revenge on and for yourself. “When you’re on the bottom, crawl back to the top”, but when you focus on the first verse you realize it’s more a desperate call for hope of getting back to something that once was good. (From The Lion’s Mouth 1981)

3. Total Recall – Dealing with the same subject matter as Winning, this again finds Adrian wrestling with the frustration you feel when your love doesn’t remember the good things you share from days gone. Clinging to the hope of getting back to joy in a relationship when the other one has given up. (Heads And Hearts 1985)

4. Dreams Then PlansShock Of Daylight probably represented the album WEA had wanted instead of All Fall Down, more accessible, more of a pop feel than earlier and partly more romantic, positive lyrics. Dreams Then Plans is a great example and as the last track of the album it did provide a natural bridge to the next album to come. (Shock Of Daylight 1984)

5. I Give You Pain – A song Robert Smith would have been very proud over, builds over a slow beginning to the pain of love played through the guitar work of Colvin Mayers. (Thunder Up 1987)

Side B:

1. One Thousand Reasons (7″ version) – Simply a beautiful take on the “should I stay or should I go”-subject. One thousand reasons to stay, one thousand reasons to come away. No answers, just doubt. (Heads And Hearts)

2. Sense Of Purpose – Musically a pretty straightforward rock song, lyrically a bit more demanding urging us all to use our brains, to have a heart, to move out of a secluded security and find a sense of purpose again. (From The Lion’s Mouth)

3. You’ve Got A Way – When you realize the one you broke away from was the one who could save you. (Thunder Up)

4. Hour Of Need – Loneliness defined, these slower tracks from The Sound have a capacity of incorporating subdued desperation – and I love it. (Jeopardy)

5. New Dark Age – Sadly still very valid, we have not learned a thing over the almost 40 years since this was released. The world has leaders on all continents displaying terrifying neglect to science, facts and justice – at times letting personal gain steer their agendas. We see it in the US, in Brazil, in Hungary, in Poland, in Russia, in China, in North Korea and so on – UK (England) have their share and Sweden as well. Scary, very scary. (From The Lion’s Mouth)

It has taken me well more than two months to finish this piece, the “a while” in my second sentence above almost became forever. I’d better click the send button now, I’m already regretting not finding room for songs like Total Recall and Kinetic

Enjoy The Sound of Music!

Martin

9 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #263 : THE SOUND

  1. What a great read! The Sound are mostly unknown in the States. I think I first heard of them in connection with Borland’s obituary. So, it’s long overdue to discover what they were all about. I like that a lot of these tunes clock in at over 5 minutes–shows a restraint that seems uncommon for this sort of music at the time. Nice one, Martin!

  2. Great post Martin. I’ve also been playing around with an ICA for The Sound. I started about six months ago and gave up because, like you, I found trimming it to only 10 tracks nigh on impossible. Interestingly, the final 10 I got closest to have almost no crossover with your 10, only the almost inevitable choice of New Dark Age/ Winning. Not that I’d suggest my choices are any better, just the ten I picked at that time. The Sound really are THE great missing (not lost) band. I found myself returning to From the Lion’s Mouth and Jeopardy for too many tracks. I noticed you selected several from Heads and Hearts – not an album I listen to as often as I should, clearly!
    I’ll search out my choices and notes, perhaps even getting them into a postable format! Now to listen to From the Lion’s Mouth again!

  3. Hi Martin. Thanks for this. All I have are Jeopardy and From the Lion’s Mouth. Have wanted to dip my toe in the later material for ages… and now I can!

  4. Martin, I’ve read so much about The Sound and Adrian Borland, that I was shocked to realise how little I’d actually heard of their music. I wanted to give your ICA a few listens before commenting. What can I say? A mesmerising 45 minutes that left me wanting to hear more. And absorbing and heartfelt sleeve notes, too. Mission accomplished!

  5. Fantastic Martin! You chose a very strong 10 songs to represent one of my favorite bands. Especially great choices from the later releases. I have always thought I Give You Pain is the song Jim Morrison only dreamed he could get away with recording. I’m ready for ICA Vol. 2!

    Jeopardy is so raw and uncompromising for a debut album. It’s what makes it one of my favorite albums. I can say I have played it as often over the years and The Bunnymen’s Crocodiles and The Comsat Angels’ Waiting On A Miracle, it impacted me that much. There is a Punk root in Jeopardy which it shares with Crocodiles, but there is a darkness and Ballardian fear that it shares with WOAM. I first heard Jeopardy, the song on WNYU’s Afternoon Show and was struck by its urgency. That track alone made me buy the album.
    When I first heard Heads + Hearts, I knew that The Sound hadn’t lost a thing, even after all the record company trials and tribulations. In fact a song like Total Recall shows just how passionate Adrian Borland was about the music he made, the message he had to say.

  6. bringing back some memories, I was lucky enough to see The Sound supporting Echo & the bunnymen back in 1980 ( had to look it up to confirm the date), and the intensity of Adrian Borland was stunning particularly in comparison to the cool of Mac. I’m looking forward to listening to the full ICA as like many I missed out of the later albums. If you haven’t heard it – I would recommend ‘Adrian Be’ by Mark Burgess ( The Chameleons)- a song about Adrian Borland written well before his sad death which is just beautiful.

  7. A great read,thanks! Good to see Thunder Up well represented. Still probably the best band I have ever seen live, they just had such intensity. By chance I came to know Adrian, he blew my mind by coming to stay with my then girlfriend and I, bringing the newly finished Brittle Heaven album with him. Yes we did blast it out a bit loudly, the neighbours may not have been impressed. I doubt Bono would have done that:)

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