"In some ways they are an incredibly early prototype of a New Soul Boy band such as Dexys, or an Attractions or a Talking Heads or even at times a Crocodiles era Bunnymen."
Doll by Doll – Revenge of Memory (1975-83) - live in Sheffield 1977
This LP is really something else and I have to admit that I was caught on the hop whilst listening to it. Despite the woeful (but I suppose inevitable give it's a bootleg from 1977) sound quality, there is something so intense about this recording that commands your attention. The songs are at least, in hindsight of course, a good few years ahead of their time style-wise and in no way fall into the punk bracket, despite the intensive aggressive nature of the performance. In some ways they are an incredibly early prototype of a New Soul Boy band such as Dexys, or an Attractions or a Talking Heads or even at times a Crocodiles era Bunnymen. Their closest peers must have been the (admittedly more aesthetic) Doctors of Madness, another band left to knaw at scraps in the punk hinterland.
To quote the singer Jackie Leven, "punks didn't like us because we weren't a punk band – there was a certain sense of violence to the live shows which was at odds with the cartoon violence of punks, but we delivered excitement by the yard, which is what we set out to do".
The sound they create on this CD is in places, incredibly retro or post modern if you will; drawing on late fifties and early sixties acts like the Righteous Brothers and Buddy Holly. Also noticeable are the huge spacey silences in the music, doubtless used as part of a particular track's inner dynamism such as the incredible brooding silence on Janice. Giving a couple of examples, Chances features a Scott Walker-like brooding baritone occasionally levitating into a raw cod-falsetto, all interspersed with the pretty vicious guitar breaks, as heard on early Bunnymen records. Butcher Boy is a stop-start number that feels informed by both Chuck Berry and Steppenwolf. Singer Leven's voice is something else, rich and powerful. Highlight of the CD is for me the growly Sleeping Partners, which has a spiky, tinny intensity to it which doesn't half show how far ahead of their time this band were.
It's a shame such an interesting and exciting release should have no art work or sleeve notes with it as I am now gagging to get some more of their material. Apparently all their five LPs are completely unavailable (why? They are reissuing Maximum Joy ferfuckssake so why not this lot?) And, apparently this release is based on a tape bootleg from a fan. Talk about being coy with material...
But anyway, check this release out, it's not something that you would automatically pick up from the CD racks, but it is intriguing stuff nonetheless.
Words: Richard Foster.