Monday, 4 June 2018

The Tom Robinson Band - Power In The Darkness (1978)

Better decide which side you're on....


Released in May 1978

Recorded at Wessex Studios, London

What a debut album this was. It had taken the Tom Robinson Band seemingly ages of "cult band" existence before it finally hit the streets in the hot May of 1978. It is up there with "The Clash", "Inflammable Material", "Ramones", "Rattus Norvegicus", Talking Heads 77" and "New Boots And Panties" as one of the best debut album entries into the music world of the late seventies. It burned with as much anti-establishment fire as any of the punk offerings, in fact, probably more so. I would say it was the most politically potent of all of them. It was such a shame that TRB's fire extinguished so soon after it had taken light.


1. Up Against The Wall

2. Grey Cortina
3. Too Good To Be True
4. Ain't Gonna Take It
5. Long Hot Summer
6. Winter Of '79
7. Man You Never Saw
8. Better Decide Which Side You're On
9. You Gotta Survive
10. Power In The Darkness                              

The album kicks off, literally with the acerbic, punky, gloriously riffy Up Against The Wall, which is still one of my favourite "punk" singles". It bristles with teenage venom and ire. Every last second of it is absolutely glorious.

Then we get the quirky, tongue-in-cheek Grey Cortina, with its name check for Bruce Springsteen (who not everybody had heard of at the time, believe it or not), followed by the laid-back but cynical, slightly bluesy Too Good To Be True. Old Tom (or young Tom as he was) had his finger on the pulse of contemporary UK politics, for sure.

Ain't Gonna Take It was a loud, chanty rant against the machine and Long Hot Summer  was an atmospheric diatribe against racism with some excellent guitar from the enigmatic Danny Kustow and swirling organ from Mark Ambler.

The rocking, anthemic Winter Of 79 precedes the post apocalyptic, unnerving run of tracks that begins with the unnerving The Man You Never Saw, You Better Decide Which Side You're On and the disturbing post-nuclear You Gotta Survive

The original album ends with the totemic Power In The Darkness with its magnificent spoken word bit in the middle, parodying a bigoted Tory MP. Marvellous stuff, especially if you're eighteen, as I was at the time. Angry young men couldn't have asked for more. 

Also needing mentioning was the chart single, the anthemic 2-4-6-8 Motorway and the excellent b side, a cover of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released. Both of which are included on this re-issue. Also included is the Rising Free EP and the tracks Don't Take No For An Answer, Glad To Be Gay, Martin and Right On Sister. You know, while The Clash, The Jam and The Ramones were my favourites, I always retain one hell of an affection for TRB. In them lay the heart of 1978. God bless 'em. 

Below is a clip of TRB playing Up Against The Wall. Great memories. RIP Danny Kustow too. 


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