I'm getting worried that I'm becoming John Peel
I'm getting worried that I'm becoming John Peel; (and not only because I'm a curmudgeonly old Northerner too); but because virtually every review I do these days starts off, Peel-fashion, with the words, "you know, the other day a friend gave me this CD, I know nothing about it, or what label it's on, but hey, it's great and I suggest you find it". What fucking use is that? But, anyway, I'll tell you a story. The other day, a mate gave me this CD, stating that a very powerful person in the music bizz had given it him on the premise that it was the great "lost" link twixt mid period Factory records & Post Punk, (or something on those lines; really, I'm not party to other people's conversations you know). I don't know anything about its history save what my mate has told me. Right, Peel-like pause, embarrassing shuffle of papers and heads down for the review.
Metal on a Gun marches in and sets the atmosphere with a weird, monkish plainsong take on She Is Beyond All Good and Evil. Chops and changes galore keep you on yer toes. At this stage, its much like a lot of "arty" stuff currently filling CD racks. But, hold on a cotton pickin minute...
Eternal Lie is a meat-grinder of a track (bringing, embarrassingly, Radar Love and WASP, to mind; name but two "influences" (I might as well state now that, on listening to this album; you will be reminded of a diverse array of former exponents of the rock genre). What is more embarrassing (for stuck up types like me) is they get away with it; there are the odd wobbles on the tightrope, but then I'm not going to deny that I like this album .........Uncut Diamond is another no nonsense guitar sprint (things it reminded me of; Lush circa Mad Love), with those monkish, ardent, vocals (the singing at times reminds me, & I can't quite fathom why, of a disciple of some cult expounding the virtues of wearing sandles made of cabbages).
Advancing Flags (a great title) is well, an evocation of advancing flags, actually: (at the Motorhead May Day Parade, if I'm pressed for details). Then it's onto Missing Message, which starts like a lost Smiths Meat is Murder track, but develops into an obscure shamanic incantation on the frozen tundra. This is bleak stuff (that's probably the Factory link then). Luckily we get a Marr-like guitar reprise to bring us to a close. Silent Agreement blossoms into the greatest track the Pale Saints never wrote, weepy guitars, and a plinky- plonky ol' Joanna give an epic tragic, Rupert Brooke feel.
Laid in Stone (I tell you, there's some hidden agenda behind these titles), is a quiet reflective affair, quite Gothic in outlook, holding on to some elements of P. J. Harvey's muse; but dovetailing that against a simple sing-a-long almost Brian Wilson inspired melody. (I'm going to morph into the Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen of reviewing soon if this carries on and I'm NOT happy about that).
Effect of the Night could be an outtake from La Dusseldorf's Viva; a very high European sound with lovely mountainside melodies being brought down to the pastures by simple, unsullied handmaidens. All very lovely; It feels that after the early excitement we're on a blissful slow tempo boat ride all the way to the end of the album.
It's at this point that a dramatic sea-change in the music occurs. Remember, kids, I told you, did I not, that it reminded me, somewhat, (at times mind), of hoary ol' rockers; the ones that invade our darkest nightmares? Well, wake up! Fret ye no longer! For we are now, suddenly, in Neworderland; a place where the beat comes in tabulated patters and thumps & breaks, making you dance and jump around. What the bloody hell is going on?
Is it the same band?
(Yes children, it is, no longer P.J.Harvey/PaleSaints/Lush/Motorhead/WASP/Golden Earring/Pop Group/La Dusseldorf) but good ol' New Order. To be honest they do it so well, Glass Corridor could be off Power Corruption & Lies, and I've no problem with that in all honesty. A My Bloody Valentine guitar send off ends this track. I.C.U. is State of The Nation, and the only track I don't like; (but then, I never liked State of The Nation either). Luckily we are in for a reprieve with Disenchanted, a bloody classic (and the best song Electronic never wrote), its SO Manchester, I'm half expecting Ena Sharples to do backing vox.
A brilliant Marr guitar lament allows for a great North Western moan; "oh I feel so disenchanted....." And on it goes in its bitter sweet lachrymose way, weaving through flat capped blokes walking the dog before goin' to 'tmatch ter see United or City, past the chippy, past the gas works, dodging the permanent puddles (brought on by the incessant rain, of course), past Alf & Beryl's launderette and home in time for "Look North West".
Desert Lights is another classic mid New Order run through, reminding this reviewer of going to his local disco and seeing absurdly dressed teenagers from the local estate dance menacingly; wearing outfits entirely stolen from the high street sports shop (Burberry scarves up to the nose, Farrah pants, Nike raincoats with a ridiculous inverted triangle design); this is all too reminiscent and I must lie down to recuperate.
Actually, and honestly, this is a good lp for people under the age of 30 and with no musical clutter in their heads. Its fucking well played, written and produced. Get it.