Stars Are Stars/Going Up/Pride/Monkeys/Crocodiles/Rescue/Villiers Terrace/Pictures On My Wall/All That Jazz/Happy Death Men
Another in the long list of classic "post punk" albums that started to appear the late seventies/early seventies. At the time, as a punk, still into The Clash, The Ramones, The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers and the like, plus roots reggae, I had little time for these dourly-dressed, floppy haired, earnest student types who populated bands like this. I found them terminally dull and not a little pretentious, with sombre rhythms, a distinct like of "up and at 'em" punk excitement and some navel-gazing lyrics. Time, however, has changed my opinion, to an extent, and I became able to appreciate atmospheric, evocative albums like this.
This, the band's debut album was full of solid, rumbling, deep bass, metronomic drums and some decidedly intricate guitar work - melodic and clever. The vocals were sonorously and typically post-punk, full of apparent portent. Stars Are Stars is a classic example of a track that fits this perfection perfectly as indeed does the Joy Division-esque Going Up. Pride is all edgy guitars, beguiling lyrics, inventive little guitar bits and an insistent drum and bass rhythm that never lets up, pushing the track on, allowing the guitar and vocals to do their bit. The initial U2 albums, Boy and October were very influenced by this. In many ways, albums like this were very ground-breaking and listening to it now, it just sums up that dark, brooding late seventies/early eighties period, before "New Romanticism" had burst out in an explosion of dressing up, eyeliner and showing off. Echo & The Bunnymen had no desire to do any of that stuff (maybe a bit of eyeliner and black hair dye!). I admire them for that. They remained dour and serious.
Monkeys has a pre-U2 guitar riff that surely influenced David "The Edge" Evans. Crocodiles is great - by far the punkiest, liveliest track on the album, probably why it appeals to me. Rescue is a bassy, inscrutable track, with more winning guitar and another strong vocal from Ian McCullough - "is this the blues I'm singing?..." he asks. There's a great bass bit near the end, interjected by some more impressive guitar from Will Sergeant. Villiers Terrace is an atmospheric song about "people rolling round the carpet..mixing up the medicine..." after taking drugs in what was no doubt an interesting house to visit! You probably wouldn't get out for days.
Pictures On My Wall is the sort of miserable, morose-sounding song I despised at the time. Now I quite like it. It still reminds me of dark evenings in student accommodation in the autumn of 1980. All That Jazz is more of the same, while Happy Death Men interesting experiments with some avant-garde jazzy piano and some synthesised brass bits. An inventive ending to an impressive debut album from a very influential band.