Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bone Orchard – Jack (Jungle Records, 1984)

Exploding out of Brighton, the five piece Bone Orchard were one of the many early Goth outfits owing a massive debt to the musical legacy left behind by the Birthday Party.

The Jack LP however, represents something quite different from their releases before (Stuffed to the Gills EP - Jungle Records, 1983) or since (Penthouse Poultry - Vax Records, 1985). The Birthday Party influence is still obviously there, but in this case it takes a back seat. The extra instrumentation of strings, piano and saxophone makes Jack something quite exceptional and much more musically sophisticated and subtle than the group’s usual psycho-billy adventures; “Jack”, “Marianne” and “Five Days in the Neighbourhood” all writhing pieces steeped in ambient lounge-like jazz influences, although what kind of lounge would play such things exists only in our nightmares and perhaps in the imagination of David Lynch.

 A work of grotesque beauty - Jack 7" (Jungle Records, 1984)

Jack remains an astonishingly forgotten cornerstone in what would eventually become known as Dark Cabaret. 

Somewhere, there exists a parallel universe where Goth continued in this sort of experimentation instead of succumbing to rock excess. Unfortunately, it wasn’t this one. Nevermind, we can always revel in nostalgia – after all, as the song “Tongue” would observe; “there’s nothing like talking with the dead to cheer you up”.

Track Listing:
1. Jack
2. Lynched
3. Marianne
4. Touched
5. Five Days in the Neigbourhood
6. Girl with a Gun
7. Tongue
8. Scarlett Ropes

Terrifying both vocally and visually - Chrissy McGee

Line Up: Chrissy McGee (vocals), Mark Horse (guitar), Troy Tyro (guitar), Paul Hendrickson (bass), Ben Tisdall (drums), session musicians on piano, violin, cello & saxophone.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Belfegore – A Dog Is Born (Pure Freud, 1983)

Well, this is refreshingly different.

Belfegore began life in Dusseldorf as a part of the Neue Deutsche Welle (German New Wave) movement in 1982. A Dog is Born represented the debut for this German outfit and a wildly divergent album it would prove to be, ranging from the relatively straight-forward Goth sound of “Glashaus”, through the surprisingly upbeat and poppy “Herz Atmetr Echos”, the slow and dream-like “Ridiculous”, the strange punkiness of the title track, and the surprising funkiness of “WOW!” through to “Der Fall Des IQ” which is not that far removed from early period Einsturzende Neubauten. The album closes with the vocal chaos of “Tod Durch Die Blume” which reminded me of Nick Cave’s screaming on “Release the Bats”, although my long-suffering partner was rather less kind in suggesting it perhaps sounded more like The Munsters on crack.

Electronic and industrial sounds abound throughout the album, likely in part a legacy of keyboardist Walter Jaeger’s earlier association with Die Krupps. More surprising is the appearance of funky slap-bass at several points throughout the album. Common sense suggests that this kind of instrumentation should be counterintuitive on a Goth album and yet Belfegore somehow manage to pull it off without inciting the listener to rip the album out of their stereo in a fit of blind funkaphobic rage.

A self-titled second album would follow the next year which was reportedly leaning much more towards an industrial sound, before front-man Mikel Claus apparently decided he’d had enough of the music business and made a rapid exit stage left, by some reports under less than gentlemanly circumstances.

In short, a Dog is Born constitutes a fascinatingly odd album, and one exciting enough to ensure that anyone sufficiently immature as to snigger at how much lyrics to the title track may sound like “a doggy’s bum” will be immediately banished from sitting at the adults’ table and sent straight to bed without any pudding. 

Track Listing
1.Mensch Oder Gott
2. Glashaus
3. Herz Atmetr Echos
4. Deutsche Mark’n Bein
5. Ridiculous
6. A Dog is Born
7. WOW!
8. Schattenwelt
9. Der Fall Des IQ
10. Tod Durch Die Blume

Line Up: Meikel Clauss (vocals, guitar, electronics), Charly T. Charles (drums, backing vocals), Raoul Walton (bass, backing vocals), Walter Jaeger (keyboards, bass).

(Under no circumstances should Belfegore be confused with Austrian Metal band Belphegor who, with albums like Bondage Goat Zombie and Infernal Live Orgasm, seem likely to offer their own, albeit unusual, concept of entertainment.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

And Also the Trees – And Also The Trees (Reflex Records, 1984)

And Also The Trees are a band most people tend to hear little about although they apparently possess a huge cult following.

Formed in Worstershire in 1979, the band quickly developed a strong relationship with The Cure, and started out life as their support act with early demos and a single (Shantell-Future Records, 1983) being produced by The Cure’s drummer / keyboardist Lol Tolhurst.

Their first eponymous full-length followed in 1984, and once again produced by Tolhurst. The result was a very pleasing, although perhaps falling short of exceptional album that given its musical parentage unsurprisingly bore many similarities to the sound utilized by Pornography-era Cure. If some of the album seems initially indifferent, tracks like “So This is Silence”, “Midnight Garden” and “ Impulse of Man” do indeed stand out, the entire effect highlighting the group’s own love with a rural and possibly fantastical England of a time long past.

Things had to change though, with And Also The Trees’ very Cure-like sound reportedly bringing suggestions that the group were nothing but a cheap knock-off, a change of direction seemed in order. The result was the critically acclaimed Virus Meadow (Reflex Records, 1986), a very likeable record in itself, in a similar way to how the excellent Current 93, later Nick Cave or perhaps The Legendary Pink Dots are likeable. Brilliant, but musically speaking however, the album had about as much to do with Goth as hanging out at tractor pulls.

Track Listing:
1. So This is Silence
2. Talk Without Words
3. Midnight Garden
4. The Tease the Tear
5. Impulse of Man
6. Shrine
7. Twilights Pool
8. Out of the Moving Life of Circles

Line Up: Simon Huw Jones (vocals), Justin Jones (guitar), Steven Burrows (bass), Nick Havas (drums)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Sisters of Mercy – Body Electric (CNT Productions, 1982)

From the tone of this blog it could easily be inferred that I have a major axe to grind with The Sisters, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were after all, the band that introduced me to Goth, and a group I’ve loved ever after first seeing Patricia Morrison astride that huge black horse in the video for “Dominion”.

Of course, responsibility ultimately rests with them for developing the sound that would come to dominate the second wave of Goth, but it seems highly unfair to blame them for the legion of cookie-cutter, Goth-by-numbers clones that would explode out of labels like Cleopatra & Nightbreed throughout the nineties. Indeed, The Sisters always went to pains to avoid the label of “Goth” as though it were an infectious disease.

While their debut single (The Damage Done, Merciful Release, 1980) was done for pure ego, so Andrew Eldrich and Gary Marx could “hear themselves on the radio”,  and is perhaps better forgotten, their second attempt was another story.

 “Body Electric”, a tale of acid trips completely devoid of any naïve hippy insistence that this drug would somehow magically induce spiritual insight, and its B-side, the twisting beast that was “Adrenochrome” were massive statements of intent. The Sisters had introduced a completely new impulse into the post-rock/goth equation: the garage punk of Iggy and the Stooges, and the odd electronica of Suicide and with drums courtesy of Dr Avalanche – a drum machine. No one could have foreseen where this would lead.

Boy, do you think this one might just possibly be a bootleg?

The Alice7”/12” (1982), Anaconda 7”(1983) and The Reptile House EP (1983) all followed before the style was completely refined, manifesting as the Goth classic Temple of Love 7”/12”(1983, all on the band’s own label Merciful Release) which, for better or worse, would set the template for much that would follow in the nineties. All these early singles and The Reptile House EP can be found on the compilation Some Girls Wander By Mistake (Merciful Release / Eastwest, 1992).

The Temple of Love 12"

They’re still going, if only on the European festival circuit. It’s been 17 years since their last release (Under the Gun, Merciful Release, 1993) and 20 years since their last full-length album (Vision Thing, originally on East/West Albums, 1990). This in itself and the Sisters’ lasting legacy has nevertheless produced delicious ironies as friends of mine running a Goth/Industrial record store in the late 90s would discover, when confronted by a confused young man asking if they had a copy of “Temple of Love” by “that band who sounds like Rosetta Stone”.

Never fear though. I rather doubt this blog is done discussing the sordid history of The Sisters of Mercy just yet. Next stops…First & Last & Always and the Sisterhood saga.

Track Listing
1. Body Electric
2. Adrenochrome

Line Up: Andrew Eldrich (vocals), Gary Marx (guitar), Ben Gunn (guitar) Craig Adams (bass), Doktor Avalanche (drums)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UK Decay – Rising From the Dread EP (Corpus Christie, 1982)

These days, it’s a popular misconception to attribute “Goth” as having its raw seeds sown in the (presumably flat) field of Bauhaus. Lost in the mists of time though is that Luton’s UK Decay actually beat Bauhaus to the post with their first single, a split with local punk outfit Pneumania (Plastic Records, 1979) preceding Bela Lugosi is Dead by the narrowest of margins and then repeating the trick with The Black EP (AKA: The Black Cat, (Plastic Records, 1980)) hitting the stores just a few months before In the Flat Field. An interview with journalist Steve Keaton would prove strangely prophetic:

"Abbo, told me that they had a fascination with death (he was laughing at the time) Even so their imagery is striking and the music is thick with Victorian menace - and Banshee/Antz spice Could this be the coming of Punk Gothique? With Bauhaus flying on similar wings could it be the next big thing?"
Sounds, 1981

The Rising From the Dread EP ("Dread" not “Dead” despite what Wikkipedia and the band’s own album liner notes would have you believe), one of the band’s later releases, sees UK Decay at the height of their powers. Comparisons with Bauhaus are inevitable, both possessing a similar style both instrumentally and vocally, yet UK Decay seemed to have so much more “oomph” if you will. Similarities with Siouxsie and Adam and the Ants are also obvious, underscoring why UK Decay had such a vital role to play as the natural “missing link” between post-punk and what would come to be known as “Goth”.

Stylistically speaking, Rising From the Dread is light years ahead of UK Decay’s earlier works which, while enjoyable in themselves, often had a tendency to cross the fine line that lies between being archly dramatic and the unfortunately (or perhaps intentionally?) absurd. If one can ignore the somewhat annoying two and a half minutes of pointless noise that commences the beast, Rising From the Dread remains powerful, catchy and brilliant.

The brilliant artwork on the 
rear of Rising from the Dread.

The band reformed a few years back and for those lucky enough to dwell in Europe can now be seen performing the festival circuit. For people seeking more detail, an extensive and revealing interview with vocalist Abbo can be found in Mick Mercer’s book “Gothic Rock” (Pegasus Publishing Ltd, 1991). A post-reform interview is also to be found at the musicthatjumpedtheshark.com link below.

Recently, UK Decay re-released the full length album For Madmen Only (originally on Fresh Records, 1981) on CD (UK Decay Records, 2009), including the Rising From The Dread EP and a number of other tracks.While Bauhaus and other bands may have refined the style, and arguably done it better, UK Decay nevertheless did it first. Well worth owning for that reason alone.

Track Listing:
1. Werewolf
2. Jerusalem Over (The White Cliffs of Dover)
3. Rising From The Dead
4. Testament

The CD Release of For Madmen Only also contains: Duel, Battle of the Elements, Shattered, Stage Struck, Last In the House of Flames, Unexpected Guest, Sexual, Dorian, Decadance, Mayday Malady, For Madmen Only, Barbarian, Black Cat, Unwind, For My Country.

Their first release, the "Split" 7" with Pneumania (Plastic Records, 1979). The tartan trousers providing vital evidence that what would become the established "Goth Look" may have taken some little time to develop.

Line Up: Steven (Abbo) Abbott (vocals), Steve Spon (guitar), Steve Harle (drums), Eddie (Twiggy) Branch drums).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blood and Roses – Enough is Never Enough (Audiodrome Records, 1985)

Naming themselves after an old vampire flick based on Sheridan le Fanu’s Carmilla, Blood and Roses were destined to become the great lost Goth band that never was.

First coming to major attention in the British musical press along with Brigandage around 1983, the band suffered from too much attention too soon, hitting the front page of NME at a time when the only thing they’d ever officially released was the Love Under Will EP (Kamera, 1983) and the track “ShM YHShVH” on The Whip compilation (Jungle, 1983). A transcript of the original NME article is here:

Saddled by the media with the label “positive punk” the resulting public backlash to a genre totally invented by the press reportedly nearly killed off both bands, and the departure of their original drummer and the tragic misfortune of their original bass player Jez being literally hit by a bus would see Blood and Roses disappear from view for a few years.

When they do resurface in 1995, it would be in triumphant style in the form of the Enough is Never Enough album. The cover art was done by the band themselves and, while lacking much in the aesthetics department needs to be viewed in the light that Blood and Roses were very much from the DIY school of thought and as guitarist Bob Short put it;

We didn’t have designers and image consultants. We didn’t have a team of suits planning our next move. We just did it ourselves and let what ever happened happen. Besides, if we’d pooled our meager resources, we’d still have been short of a pot to piss in. There are quite a few illicit substances that are way more interesting than your average A&R man.”

The album Enough Is Never Enough is exceptional. Blood and Roses were quite obviously reading from the same play book as Sex-Gang Children, but in a vastly less confrontational way. How I wish Goth had continued in this direction. Although I’m unclear why they chose to release “Some Like it Hot”  as a single in the light of much stronger contributions here (perhaps it’s a matter of personal taste), the title track, “Enough is Never Enough”, “Your Sin is Your Salvation” and “The Tower Falls” all represent towering icons of what Goth should have become.

Sadly though, Blood and Roses had missed the boat, 1985 being the year that Goth would begin to transmogrify ever more into a rock-based entity with The Cult releasing Love and the nascent Sisters Of Mercy releasing “First and Last and Always”. 

After being out of print for years, Blood & Roses was again made available by Anagram in 2007 under their Goth Collectors series. The CD Same As it Never Was includes not only Enough is Never Enough, but also the Crowleyesque Love Under Will EP (Kamera, 1983) and a number of remastered songs. It is easily one of the best things I’ve bought in years. Truth be told, the purchase that inspired this blog.

Yes, you want to own this.

Track Listing:
  1. Enough is Never Enough
  2. Some Like it Hot
  3. Your Sin is Your Salvation
  4. Whirr
  5. Roles
  6. Breakdown
  7. Assault on Precinct 13
  8. The Tower Falls
  9. Possession
  10. Living For Today
  11. Tomorrow
  12. Spit Upon Your Grave
  13. Bonus Tracks on Same as it Never Was: Heaven, Sleepwalkers, ShmYHShVH, Necromantra (long version), Crimson Dream, Wall after Wall, Sins of the Chimera, Love Under Will, Escape From New York

Line Up: Lisa Kirby (vocals), Ralph Jezzard (bass), Bob Short (guitars, keyboards), Parrot (drums).

Blood and Roses also have a Myspace page and an entry on Deathrock.com but both bring up malware alerts - visit at your own risk.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Danielle Dax – Jesus Egg That Wept (Awesome Records, 1984)

It goes without saying that Danielle Dax’s early works are very strange by any measure. The mini-album Jesus Egg That Wept represents her second solo effort after her earlier project, the experimental post-punk of The Lemon Kittens had ground to a halt. A much more coherent effort than the very eccentric Pop Eyes (Initial Records, 1983) that had proceeded it, and as such, constitutes much less of a cautionary tale on the hazards of combining folk & world music with powerful hallucinogens than did its predecessor.

Nevertheless, folks hoping for anything approaching mainstream are destined for disappointment here as Danielle  subverts New Orleans honky tonk ("Evil Honky Stomp"), 60’s girl bands ("Fortune Cheats"), and middle eastern sounds ("Ostrich") to her own nefarious purposes. Her own very  unique contributions are not absent here either with the voodoo / early zombie film evoking "Pariah" (possibly my own favourite of anything she’s ever done) or the Kate Bush-like "Hammerheads".  The album also includes a vastly improved version of “Here Come the Harvest Buns” originally found on Pop Eyes. The lush cover art is  provided by the immaculate Holly Warburton who would go on to illustrate most of Danielle Dax's later work.

I’ve often wondered quite how Danielle Dax came to be associated with the Goth scene since she quite clearly comes from a very different musical pedigree than most of the bands more often viewed as part of that genre. Nevertheless, she had the look, and played gigs at London’s infamous Batcave. The Goths liked her, and she evidently liked the Goths. Perhaps they adopted each other?

As Danielle Dax’s career progressed she would tend to become, not so much more commercial, but definitely more accessible. Dark Adapted Eye (Sire, 1988) is an excellent retrospective compilation, and those folks who prefer her more accessible work could do far worse than to consider Blast the Human Flower (Sire/Warner, 1990). It is however, light years away from the sheer strangeness to be found on Jesus Egg That Wept.
An excellent album albeit something of an acquired taste.

Track Listing:
  1. Evil Honky Stomp
  2. Pariah
  3. Fortune Cheats
  4. Hammerheads
  5. Here Come the Harvest Buns
  6. Ostrich
  7. The Spoil Factor

Line Up: Danielle Dax (voice, instrumentation) additional instrumentation provided by David Knight and Karl Blake.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Gene Loves Jezebel – Promise (Situation Two, 1983)

I first encountered Gene Loves Jezebel in 1990 when they were performing their very MTV-friendly “Jealous”, so it was quite the little mind-fuck to discover a few years later that back in the day they’d been a band right at the cutting edge of early Goth.

Formed by the identical twin Aston brothers Jay and Michael, the band began in 1980, and released their first single, the individualistic and aggressive “Shaving My Neck” (1982) now readily available on the compilation Gothic Rock (Jungle, 1992).

The first full length album Promise and its accompanying singles “Bruises”, “Screaming for Emmalene” and “Influenza” followed, with bass provided by Julianne Regan who would depart soon after to form All About Eve. Although interspersed with intervals of slow & desolate introspection, for the most part this little beast of an album fair gallops along with catchy alternative pop sensibilities all the while exuding a miasma of bleak neuroticism. If there seems to be a certain recycling of musical ideas throughout the album, it matters little since those recycled ideas are very good ones indeed. Standout tracks include “Bruises”, “Pop Tarantula”, “Screaming for Emmalene” and “Psychological Problems”. 

By 1985, the band would go on to do the very Cultesque “Desire”, which sadly would become the song they would be remembered for, the live video leaning drunkenly towards the pop-metal fad of the day, the band displaying a far more glam look and musically baring absolutely no resemblance to their early years. The increasingly commercial directions Gene Loves Jezebel was taking evidently did not please Michael, and the brothers terminated their musical partnership in 1989.

Gene Loves Jezebel shambles onward to this day as two distinct entities, each controlled by the respective Ashton brothers. However, the likelihood of either outfit ever again recording anything remotely like the left-field brilliance displayed on Promise seems an unlikely proposition indeed.

Bruises: An indisputably brilliant song and an indisputably awful video clip - oh well.

Track List:
  1. Upstairs
  2. Bruises
  3. Pop Tarantula
  4. Screaming for Emmalene
  5. Scheming
  6. Bread From Heaven
  7. Influenza
  8. Shower me with bristle punches
  9. Wraps and Arms
  10. Psychological Problems
The 2005 CD re-release through Beggars Banquet contains an entire second disc of bonus tracks.

Line up: Michael Ashton (vocals), Jay Aston (guitar, backing vocals), Ian C. Hudson (guitar), Julianne Regan (bass, piano, backing vocals), with drums and percussion provided by Steve Goulding, Richard Hawkins, and John “Johnny Genius “Murphy.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ritual – Mind Disease 7” (Red Flame, 1982) / Kangaroo Court 12” (Red Flame, 1983)

Starting up in ’79 gives Ritual undeniable status as one of the first bands in the post punk movement to have begun venturing into the dark places that would become Goth. Journalist Mick Mercer speaks highly of them albeit briefly – a shame really, because other available information is scarce indeed. These two singles represent the only official releases by the band although a demo tape and a Peel session both took place before their release.

All of which brings us to the Mind Disease 7”. Goodness, this is a little rough, especially if you haven’t prepared yourself for some fairly low-level production, and the overall effect is not helped by what might be politely described as Errol’s modest vocal abilities. Nevertheless, it does grow with repeated listens and the beast kicks along with a pleasing punky urgency, in places oddly suggestive of some of what New Model Army would do in a much more refined way just a few short years later.

The Kangaroo Court 12” though still rough, is considerably better, both in strength of song writing and production values. Slower on the whole but with a driving aggressive drum sound, this is welcome stuff. “Brides” does indeed please, “Conscripts” perhaps less so, but the real gem here lies in the final track “Questioning the Shadow” leaving the listener to ponder what heights Ritual could have reached had they continued, possibly with a more gifted vocalist.

Apparently Ritual went on to record a full length album known as Songs for a Dead King which remains officially unreleased to this day although a demo tape version exists,and while I won't discuss it at this point, the curious will find a link to a download below.

The use of saxophone on both of these singles is interesting – it isn’t an instrument usually associated with Goth-rock (although from recollection, an early incarnation of The Nephs did experiment and the Sisters did incorporate one into “Dominion”), but Ritual certainly employed one to full effect. I say “interesting” because this was a trait also shared by their much better known contemporaries Theatre of Hate. Yet, in this instance, it looks like Ritual may have actually done it first.

Although they would never attain the fame or influence of their contemporaries Southern Death Cult or Sex Gang Children, it speaks for itself that drummer Ray Mondo ended up in first Death Cult, and then Sex Gang (before unfortunately getting deported back to Sierra Leone) and Jamie Stewart first into Death Cult and later The Cult. The remaining members minus sax reformed themselves as In Excelsis.

Since I imagine chances of finding actual copies of these singles would be slim, it’s reassuring to know that odd tracks do crop up on various compilation albums around the place, most notably “Mind Disease” on In Goth Daze (Anagram, 1994) and “Questioning the Shadow” on Goth Rock 3 Black on Black: Best of 80s Collection (Jungle, 1998). In better news though, a full download of both singles can be found at the link below.

Track Listing:

Mind Disease 7”
1. Mind Disease
2. Nine

Kangaroo Court 12”
1. Brides
2. Conscripts
3. Questioning the Shadow

Line Up: Errol Blythe (Vocals), Ray Mondo (Drums), Jamie Stewart (guitar), Mark Bond (bass), Steve Pankhurst (saxophone)


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Vyllies –Lilith (Out of Tune/Fun After All, 1986)

That this Swiss all female three piece has somehow been overlooked by history seems inexcusable. Named after the wilis of Slavic folklore, spectres of betrothed girls who have died before their wedding night, the band began life with two early EPs, an eponymous debut in 1984 containing the very Goth-pop "Purple Gorilla" and Velvet Tales in 1985, before following with their first full length album Lilith. Containing little besides primitive keyboards, drums and vocals the album is at once minimalist, bleak and inexplicably beautiful. In keeping with their name, The Vyllies deal in a distinctive brand of desolate doom-laden imagery spiced through with a flavour of a time long-past that existed only on the fringes of imagination, hallucination and nightmare. Lilith was followed up by a second LP Sacred Games in 1987, the CD version also containing  many of the tracks already appearing on Lilith. 

Since widespread availability of any of their material seems unlikely in the foreseeable future, I suggest scouring the second-hand bins or downloading from where you can. You won’t regret it.

This is an earlier take on Whispers and IMO, somewhat inferior to the version that appears on Lilith, but sometimes you gotta take what you can find.

Track Listing:
  1. Whispers in the Shadow
  2. Seventh Heaven
  3. Bad Trip
  4. The Food Prayer
  5. La Nuit Des Vyllies
  6. Give me a Name
  7. Beautiful Diseases
  8. The Black Raven
  9. Desire (Repetition Desperation)
  10. La Nuit Des Vyllies (instrumental)

Line up: Manu Moan: (vocals, percussion), Ursula Nun: (key board, rhythm box), Ilona Prism (vocals, bass).

Monday, September 13, 2010

45 Grave – Sleep in Safety (Enigma, 1983)

Having formed as far back as 1979 gives the enigmatically named 45 Grave a legitimate claim to being one of the earliest, if not the earliest, acts on the LA Deathrock scene. Sleep in Safety represents their only full-length studio release although proceeded by the Black Cross single back in 1981.
Sleep in Safety and its accompanying EP Phantoms were substantially slower than the band’s other material, rendering them much closer to what might be considered “Goth” than the rest of their much punkier catalogue.

The Phantoms (AKA:45 Grave) EP

Taking their visual cues from Italian zombie flicks, 45 Grave always took a humorous & campy approach to their take on horror rock. While this may have left the more po-faced members of the Goth community unable to take them seriously, it is unlikely that the band would have ever intended otherwise as evidenced by the inclusions of “Riboflavin Flavored, Non-Carbonated, Poly-Unsaturated Blood” and “Surf Bat”.

Although the band would break up shortly after recording Sleep in Safety, they have since reformed, albeit with vocalist Dinah Cancer as the sole remaining member from the original line up.

Track listing
1. Insurance From God
2. Evil
3. Partytime
4. Dream Hits II
5. Slice O' Life
6. 45 Grave
7. Phantoms
8. Violent World
9. Bad Love
10. Surf Bat
11. Procession

The CD re-release has the track listing in a slightly different order from the original LP and includes "Riboflavin" a cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out" and the single version of "Partytime".

Line Up
Dinah Cancer (lead vocals), Paul Cutler (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Paul Roessler (keyboards, vocals), Rob Graves (bass, vocals), Don Bolles (drums, vocals)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Into a Circle – Assassins (Abstract Records, 1988)

Formed by Bee (aka: Paul Hampshire) and Barry Jepson escaping from the short-lived Getting the Fear (in itself formed from the ashes of Southern Death Cult) in 1985, Into a Circle never really attained the recognition they deserved. Sometimes known as In Two a Circle, or even In2a0, Assassins was the only full length album they ever recorded, ostensibly released in 1988 but in actuality, most of the material on here was recorded several years earlier. The re-released CD on Cherry Red’s Goth Collectors Series is worth owning as it includes all the duo’s singles as bonus tracks and so apart from a few B-sides effectively represents everything Into a Circle ever officially released. The often extremely frank liner notes on the re-release are also worthwhile, providing detailed and often explicit insights into the motivations underlying the pair’s music.

The Rise single (1985)

The topics that fascinated Into a Circle orbited largely around the philosophies and writings of Brion Gysin & William Burroughs, incorporating alternative sexualities (“Under Mikhail”, “Flow”), S&M (“Tender Skin”, “Rise”), drugs ("O’Siren", "And In Flames") and religion (“Allah Akhbar” – itself originally a song from the Getting the Fear period). A heady mix, that in less talented hands could easily have produced a sensationalist and bombastic assault. In the hands of Into a Circle however, Assassins emerges as a beautiful and highly introspective piece of hugely under-rated Goth with backing vocals provided by Rose McDowall of Strawberry Switchblade.

Things couldn’t be sustained however, drugs and an already difficult relationship with Abstract Records exacerbated by the duo insisting on total control over all aspects of music, production and artwork saw Into a Circle implode. Barry now works as a tour manager in the UK and Bee relocated to Thailand where he works in various electro bands including Futon & Goo with former Suede drummer Simon Gilbert.
For punters not content with Assassins, a live bootleg (2nd generation cassette) is available for free download.
Track listing:
  1. Beneath Mikhail
  2. Over & Over
  3. The Swinging Tree
  4. ‘elim
  5. Forever
  6. Allah Akhbar
  7. Tender Skin
  8. Evergreen
  9. Assassins
  10. Seraphim Twin
Bonus tracks on the 2008 Cherry Red re-release:
  1. O’Siren
  2. Inside out
  3. Reward
  4. Flow
  5. Forever (remix)
  6. Evergreen (remix)
  7. Rise
  8. And In Flames
Lineup: Bee (vocals), Barry Jepson (guitar & bass), Rose McDowall (backing vocals), various uncredited session musicians.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

X-Mal Deutschland – Fetisch (4AD 1983)

Originally an all-female outfit from Germany, X-Mal had already released two singles"Großstadtindianer" and the cult favourite “Incubus Succubusand shed a member in favour of Wolfgang Ellerbrock on bass by the time they released this, their debut album in 1983. Forever compared to a darker version of Siouxsie and the Banshees, X-Mal were propelled by Anja’s droning vocals and Fiona Sangster’s distinctive keyboard style accompanied by driving, urgent bass and drums.

Leading with the powerful single “Qual”, Fetisch alternates between the lush exoticness of songs like “Orient” to the minimalist “Hand in Hand”. The fact that they sung predominately in their native German only added to their mystique. The following year they would release the impossibly even more brilliant album Tocsin, before making the perhaps unwise choice to begin singing increasingly in English. Two further albums (Viva, 1987 and Devils, 1989) followed before the wheels fell off the machine altogether.

Track listing:

  1. Qual
  2. Geheimnis
  3. Young Man
  4. In der Nacht
  5. Orient
  6. Hand in Hand
  7. Kämpfen
  8. Danthem
  9. Boomerang
  10. Stummes Kind
The CD reissue includes bonus tracks “Qual” 12” version, “Zeit” & “Sehnsucht”.

Lineup: Vocals: Anja Huwe (Vocals), Manuela Rickers (guitars), Fiona Sangster (keyboards), Wolfgang Ellerbrock (bass), Manuela Zwingman (drums)