Modern Eon – Fiction Tales (expanded edition) track-by-track album review

7 11 2022

The much-loved 1981 album from Liverpool’s influential band Modern Eon gets its first release on CD from Cherry Red.

Modern Eon - Fiction Tales - album cover

This expanded and remastered edition of Fiction Tales features a collection of complementary single versions, B-sides and previously unreleased recordings made in 1982, immediately prior to the band’s untimely demise.

Compiled with input from band members Alix and Danny, and accompanied by excellent detailed sleeve notes by Andrew Keeling, this is a long overdue re-evaluation of a lost post-punk classic.

Forming in Liverpool in 1978, built around the collaborative dynamics of Alix Plain and Danny Hampson, Modern Eon burned brightly but briefly, issuing a run of singles and the remarkable album Fiction Tales before disbanding prior to the recording of a second album.

Modern Eon expanded their following with a support slot on The Stranglers Meninblack tour of 1981, which is where a lot of fans picked up on the band for the first time.

I’ve still got my original vinyl copy of the album, but I am so happy to finally be able to own a CD version. A version of Fiction Tales appeared on streaming platforms a little while ago, that I presume was an un-authorised release, possibly sourced from 192kbps mp3s that were circulating on fan sites years ago.

The original album was produced by the band, with co-production / engineering by Laurence Diana (another Stranglers connection, as Laurence engineered several tracks on The Stranglers The Gospel According To The Meninblack masterpiece).

The transfers and remastering for this 2022 CD edition of Fiction Tales is by Andy Patterson. The original album has never sounded better. The remaster is not a brick-walling effort, and is very sympathetic. There is room to breathe, and key elements, such as the drums on The Grass Still Grows, shine as never before. So if you already own the vinyl, this 2022 reissue is still a must-have if, like me, you have loved this album for over 40 years.

Modern Eon - band promo picture

The album is a time-capsule of the early 80s post-punk and new wave sound. Second Still is a slow-burning but powerful opener. Metronomic drums, percussive synths and spagetti-western guitars and trebley bass are topped by the plaintive vocals of vocalist Alix.

The Grass Still Grows is wonderfully paced, with some Roxy Music-like saxophone and a powerful breakdown section. The album is well sequenced, with individual tracks flowing into each other, so the album feels like one sustained piece of music.

Playwrite features wonderful guitar work from Tim Lever, and great interplay between Cliff Hewitt on drums and bassist Danny Hampson.

Watching The Dancers is an absolutely beautiful piece of music, and a highlight of the album. The arrangement is quite sparse, which gives the song an absolutely brutal power. Watching The Dancers made me sit up and listen when I saw the band live for the first time. Oh to have a time-machine!

“I’m in a crowd
And they all surround me”

Each member of the band stamps their unique personality throughout Fiction Tales. I saw the band live twice supporting The Stranglers, and unless my memory is playing tricks on me I recall the drums were on tape, due to an injury sustained by drummer Cliff Hewitt prior to the tour commencing.

Real Hymn uses guitar harmonics to great effect, along with an intelligent use of space, military drumming and atmospherics to build a unique soundscape, with the song ending abruptly just as it hits its peak, which seems to suit the lyrics.

“Take off the clothes, I’d like to see how much of you I know”

Waiting for the Cavalry has the feel of a controlled wall of noise, with sustained, abstract synth drones adding to a feeling of paranoia and distrust.

“Maybe I saw you on a closed circuit TV in the Underground
Moving from the corners”

High Noon was another live highlight from the two gigs I saw in the early 80s. Synth bursts from the late Bob Wakelin, Tim Lever’s guitar lines that John McGeoch would surely have appreciated along with crowded, one line vocals from Alix set the scene for my favourite Modern Eon track that arrives next, the mighty Child’s Play.

The most commercial piece that the band ever recorded, it was an obvious single, and Child’s Play has really stood the test of time.

From the sombre, haunting keyboard intro, the Phil Spector influenced production to the fairy-tale lyrics, the song stands apart from the feel of the rest of the album, and offers a different perspective and mood that makes it stand apart from the other songs.

“Always, a handsome prince
Well, I’ll be one day
Some call it child’s play”

After the pure-pop of Child’s Play, the mood darkens again for Choreography, a song that would not have sounded out of place on The Comsat Angel’s Sleep No More album that was released a couple of months after Fiction Tales. There was definitely something in the waters of Sheffield and Liverpool in 1981.

Modern Eon - Euthenics / Child's Play & Mechanic single sleeves

Euthenics was Modern Eon’s second single, this time on the Inevitable label, before they moved to Dindisc. The single version from 1980 appears on disc two of this reissue. Euthenics has such a powerful chorus and end section, that the song lingers long after reaching its conclusion.

The final two tracks close the album so well, the sombre, guitarless In A Strange Way leads to the frenetic Mechanic (a shorter version became the band’s final single).

“The face has been exposed to teardrops
The kind you can’t erase”

Fiction Tales works so well as an album to be played and enjoyed in one sitting, and as a classic early 80s post-punk classic, I hope this reissue reaches a wide audience.

Disc two is a treasure-trove for fans of the band. Unfortunately, I presume due to licencing issues, or lack of access to original masters, there are missing tracks – such as radio sessions, but disc two offers up some single versions and previously unreleased material.

I’m not sure of the source for this reissue, whether its been sourced from original masters or not, but even if the early releases are vinyl rips, care and attention has been given to the restoration.

Second Still and Choreography (1979 Versions) are from Modern Eon’s Pieces, their first EP. Second Still is so much better developed on the album version, and although Choreography lacks the widescreen production of the album version, the pieces are already in place for what the band would develop into less than two years down the line.

The same can be said for the 1980 versions of Euthenics and Waiting For The Cavalry. These versions have less in the way of the wonderful keyboard layers of the album versions, but Euthenics has more saxophone, giving the song a different impetus.

The rarely heard b-sides Cardinal Signs and Visionary are welcome additions to the reissue. The single mix of Mechanic adds a new guitar and keyboard line, and feels like a re-recording, rather than a straight remix. Somewhat smoother and slightly less urgent, this is an interesting take on the song, and one I am glad is included on this release.

The b-side Splash! sounds like it was from the same session as Mechanic. Spoken vocal lines weave in and out, with a New Order meets dub bassline from Danny Hampson, and some rare acoustic piano featuring on a Modern Eon song.

The remaining tracks give an indication of where the band could have gone with their second album. Appearing in demo form, as they were not fully realised for commercial release, the songs are fascinating to hear. After The Party (“After the party, there will be quiet”) features some of the ingredients from Fiction Tales, especially with the rythmn section, but a more forceful vocal style and an less claustrophobic arrangement, with more space and some chinks of brighter light in the performances. The dub version explores the arrangement further as does the 2021 mix from Alix (now known as Alex Che Johnson).

The second “new” track is Garland Leaves, which no doubt would have been an key album track, and could have seen the band embraced by the future Goth movement. After The Party and Garland Leaves were restored by Dave Lloyd, who has done a great job in giving us a brief but tantalising glimpse into a future for the band that sadly never materialised.

If you have not heard Modern Eon before, but you are a fan of the early 80s post-punk of Teardrop Explodes, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Comsat Angels, early Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Wah! Heat, then you will surely love Fiction Tales.

Pre-order Fiction Tales from Amazon
Pre-order Fiction Tales from Burning Shed

Tracklisting

DISC ONE:

Fiction Tales album released June 1981, Din Disc (DID 11)

  1. Second Still
  2. The Grass Still Grows
  3. Playwrite
  4. Watching The Dancers
  5. Real Hymn
  6. Waiting For The Cavalry
  7. High Noon
  8. Child’s Play
  9. Choreography
  10. Euthenics
  11. In A Strange Way
  12. Mechanic

DISC TWO:

  1. Second Still (1979 Version)
  2. Choreography (1979 Version)
  3. Euthenics (1980 Version)
  4. Waiting For The Cavalry (1980 Version)
  5. Cardinal Signs
  6. Visionary
  7. Mechanic (Single Version)
  8. Splash!
  9. After The Party
  10. After The Party (Dub)
  11. After The Party (Dub) (2021 Mix)
  12. Garland Leaves

1 and 2 taken from the Pieces EP, Eon Records, November 1979 (EON 001).
3 and 4 released as a single, Inevitable, November 1980 (INEV 003).
5 released as the B-side to the Euthenics single, Din Disc, March 1981 (DIN 30).
6 released as the B-side to the Child’s Play single, Din Disc, June 1981 (DIN 31).
7 and 8 released as a single, Din Disc, August 1981 (DIN 35).
9 to 12 recorded at The Pink Studio, Ullet Road, Liverpool, May 1982.

Pre-order Fiction Tales from Amazon
Pre-order Fiction Tales from Burning Shed

Also available – Andrew Keeling’s book – Musical Guide to Modern Eon





News: Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue – Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89

2 11 2022

Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue – Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89 is a CD and vinyl compilation.

Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue - Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89 alum cover


The 4 CD version has 58 tracks exploring the creativity and progressive spirit of alternative British music from 1979-1989 featuring Wire, XTC, The Cure, Tears For Fears and Kate Bush. The CD and 7 LP versions include an expanded booklet (80 pages for the CD / 40 pages for the 7 LP) with extensive liner notes by James Nice and an introduction from Steven Wilson. The 2 LP version has a 12 page booklet.

The compilation was mastered by Phil Kinrade at AIR Mastering.

I presume that the idea for this compilation came from Steven Wilson & Tim Bowness’s successful, and always entertaining, The Album Years podcast. Its refreshing to see a compilation digging a little deeper, and avoiding the obvious hit singles.

Personal highlights for me include A Better Home in the Phantom Zone from Bill Nelson’s Red Noise, one of my favourite tracks from The Stranglers (the title track from their 1979 prog-punk masterpiece The Raven), Astradyne from Ultravox (here in its Steven Wilson Stereo Mix version), along with tracks from Tony Mansfield’s New Musik, post-Ultravox John Foxx, and the Associates.

Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue - Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89 - 4 CD

Kudos to Mr Wilson for including the extended version of I Travel from Simple Minds and the rarely celebrated Sealand by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark from their wonderful Architecture & Morality album from 1981.

SW has also chosen a couple of less obvious choices from some of the eras big-hitters – Talking Drum from Japan, Faith by the Cure, Tears for Fears Memories Fade, the sublime Brilliant Trees by David Sylvian, and Waking the Witch from Kate Bush, in its first appearance on a compilation to my knowledge.

There are also several tracks from artists who I hope can receive more attention following this collections release – namely the haunting Airwaves from Thomas Dolby’s debut album, the epic Dream Within a Dream from Propaganda, Ivy and Neet by This Mortal Coil (their trilogy is a highlight from the 80s) and a band that have given me so much pleasure over the years, Steven Wilson and Tim Bowness’s no-man with Night Sky, Sweet Earth.

Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue - Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89 - 2 LP

“This is my personally-curated attempt to redress the balance, and to perhaps introduce any ‘80s-sceptics out there to the idea that conceptual thinking and ambition didn’t suddenly evaporate after ’77… ambitious, weird and thrilling music was all around you in the ‘80s —if you looked in the right places.” 

Steven Wilson

Buy the 4 CD version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue on Amazon
Buy the 2 LP vinyl version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue from Amazon
Buy the 7 LP vinyl version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue from Amazon

4 CD Tracklisting

Disc: 1

I Should Have Known Better – Wire
A Better Home in the Phantom Zone – Bill Nelson’s Red Noise
Back to Nature – Magazine
Complicated Game (Steven Wilson 2014 Mix) – XTC
Careering – Public Image Limited
The Raven – the Stranglers
Puppet Life – Punishment of Luxury
Astradyne (Steven Wilson Stereo Mix) – Ultravox
Contract – Gang of Four
I Travel (Extended Version) – Simple Minds
Sketch for Summer – the Durutti Column
Health and Efficiency – This Heat
Burning Car – John Foxx
Cognitive Dissonance (Steven Wilson 2022 Mix) – Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen
Fatal Day – In Camera

Disc: 2

I Can’t Escape Myself – The Sound
The Eternal – Joy Division
Big Empty Field – Swell Maps
Enemies – Art Nouveau
The Joy Circuit – Gary Numan
The Gospel Comes to New Guinea – 23 Skidoo
All My Colours – Echo and the Bunnymen
Ghost Town (Extended Version) – The Specials
They All Run After the Carving Knife – New Musik
The Him – New Order
White Car in Germany (Single Edit) – The Associates
Hit – Section 25
Sealand – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Talking Drum – Japan
Faith – the Cure

Disc: 3

Three Dancers (Steven Wilson 2021 Mix) – Twelfth Night
Airwaves – Thomas Dolby
Are You Ready? – Crispy Ambulance
The Outsider – Rupert Hine
Knife Slits Water – A Certain Ratio
Memories Fade – Tears for Fears
Patient – Peter Hammill
Donimo – Cocteau Twins
In a Waiting Room – Mr and Mrs Smith and Mr Drake
Close (To the Edit) – The Art of Noise
Dalis Car – Dalis Car
Rawhide – Scott Walker
Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian
Dream Within a Dream – Propaganda

Disc: 4

Waking the Witch – Kate Bush
Ivy and Neet – This Mortal Coil
Beehead (7″ Version) – Perennial Divide
This Corrosion – The Sisters of Mercy
Ascension – O Yuki Conjugate
No Motion – Dif Juz
Gutter Busting – Slab!
Murderers, the Hope of Women – Momus
The Host of Seraphim – Dead Can Dance
R.E.S. – Cardiacs
Good Morning Beautiful – The The
Omega Amigo – The Shamen
Night Sky, Sweet Earth – No-Man
The 3rd Time We Opened the Capsule – Kitchens of Distinction

Buy the 4 CD version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue on Amazon

2 LP vinyl Tracklisting

Disc: 1

A Better Home in the Phantom Zone – Bill Nelson’s Red Noise
Back to Nature – Magazine
Complicated Game (Steven Wilson 2014 Mix) – XTC
The Raven – The Stranglers
Puppet Life – Punishment of Luxury
Astradyne (Steven Wilson Stereo Mix) – Ultravox
Sketch for Summer – The Durutti Column
Health and Efficiency – This Heat
Cognitive Dissonance (Steven Wilson 2022 Mix) – Robert Fripp and the League of Gentlemen
Three Dancers (Steven Wilson 2021 Mix) – Twelfth Night

Disc: 2

Airwaves – Thomas Dolby
Knife Slits Water – a Certain Ratio
Donimo – Cocteau Twins
Beehead (7″ Version) – Perennial Divide
No Motion – Dif Juz
Gutter Busting – Slab!
The Host of Seraphim – Dead Can Dance
R.E.S. – Cardiacs
Night Sky, Sweet Earth – No-Man

Buy the 2 LP vinyl version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue from Amazon
Buy the 7 LP vinyl version of Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue from Amazon





News: Modern Eon – Fiction Tales album reissue

30 10 2022

Cherry Red are reissuing Modern Eon’s influential album Fiction Tales, as an expanded 2CD Edition, on December 16 2022.

Modern Eon - Fiction Tales

Forming in Liverpool in 1978, built around the collaborative dynamics of Alix Plain and Danny Hampson, Modern Eon burned brightly but briefly, issuing a run of singles and the remarkable album Fiction Tales before disbanding prior to the recording of a second long player.

The band expanded their following with a support slot on The Stranglers Meninblack tour of 1981.

Issued on CD for the first time, this expanded and remastered edition of Fiction Tales features a collection of complementary single versions, B-sides and previously unreleased recordings made in 1982, immediately prior to the band’s demise.

Compiled with Modern Eon’s Alix and Danny, and accompanied by detailed sleeve notes by Andrew Keeling, this is a long overdue re-evaluation of an album that still sounds so powerful so many years later.

Pre-order Fiction Tales from Amazon

Track Listing:

Disc One

Second Still
The Grass Still Grows
Playwrite
Watching The Dancers
Real Hymn
Waiting For The Cavalry
High Noon
Child’s Play
Choreography
Euthenics
In A Strange Way
Mechanic

Disc Two

Second Still (1979 Version)
Choreography (1979 Version)
Euthenics (1980 Version)
Waiting For The Cavalry (1980 Version)
Cardinal Signs
Visionary
Mechanic (Single Version)
Splash!
After The Party*
After The Party (Dub)*
After The Party (Dub) (2021 Mix)*
Garland Leaves*

*Previously Unreleased

Pre-order Fiction Tales from Amazon

Also available – Andrew Keeling’s book – Musical Guide to Modern Eon





Toyah – Live At The Rainbow album review

12 10 2022

Cherry Red are releasing Toyah’s February 1981 concert recorded at London’s Rainbow Theatre as a CD/ DVD and a coloured double vinyl LP on 25 November 2022.

Toyah - Live At The Rainbow cover


Toyah – Live At The Rainbow is released for the first time on CD with seven additional songs, all previously unreleased and restored exclusively for this release.

Previously only available on VHS, the 53-min concert film has been remastered from the original Rolling Stones multitrack reels for the DVD release with improvements to both picture and sound. The newly remixed and remastered audio has been integrated to the concert for an enhanced viewing experience. All audio remastering was approved by Joel Bogen.

Three of the seven unheard songs appear exclusively on the CD as mono-only (originally mixed by Nick Tauber) bonus tracks, where no existing multi-tracks were available to present new stereo remixes. These three tracks do not appear on the 16-song double vinyl LP edition. Toyah provides a brand-new introduction in the 24-page booklet which contains iconic live photography by Barry Plummer and new notes by Craig Astley, Toyah’s official archivist.

I went to this gig, and so was happy to travel back in time, some 41 years later. 41 years, how did that happen? The DVD was not supplied for review, so I will have to wait until I receive my pre-order to fully relive the experience, so I am only reviewing the CD here. There has been some re-jigging of the original concert order for this release, which had to be done because of the issue of three of the tracks only being available in mono, but this release gives a good representation of the original show, and the remaster is of a high standard.

One of the support bands for this gig was Huang Chung, who became Wung Chung and had success later in the 80s. I saw on Jack Hues twitter account a couple of years ago that the bands albums, including Huang Chung’s debut from 1982, are due to be re-released in the near future, so one to watch out for.

Along with founding members Toyah Willcox and Joel Bogen, new band members Nigel Glockler, Phil Spalding and Adrian Lee make up this line-up of the Toyah band. The set opens with the heavily percussive War Boys from the Four from Toyah EP that had recently given the band their first major UK hit single.

Next up is the first selection from 1979’s Sheep Farming in Barnet album, with the punky-prog of Neon Womb, Waiting and the pop-thrills of Race Through Space.

An extended version of Four From Toyah‘s Angels & Demons slows the pace, before The Blue Meaning‘s Love Me dials in the post-punk feel again, along with album companions Mummies and Insects.

Toyah - Live At The Rainbow CD / DVD and booklet

“This next one you might have seen on Top of the Pops” introduced It’s A Mystery, which still sounds so fresh after all these years. The bass and drum interplay from Spalding and Glockler is a highlight of this 1981 live incarnation of this landmark Toyah song.

Computers makes a rare return to the set after a long absence, and early single Tribal Look highlights the added keyboard presence of new member Adrian Lee, with some wonderful Rhodes piano. Bird In Flight (the double A Side that accompanied Tribal Look) works so well with this new line-up, and this could turn out to be my favourite version of this early Toyah song.

Two of my favourite Sheep Farming In Barnet tracks follow, with Victims Of The Riddle and Danced. A powerful, just under 8 minutes version of the haunting Ieya ends the main set.

The final three tracks are mono, so lose a little of their sparkle. Revelations from the Four From Toyah EP is bookended by two Sheep Farming In Barnet tracks, Our Movie and Indecision, the latter of which loses some of its power for me, but that could well be the mono mix, with less space for the performances to breathe.

Live At The Rainbow is a great keepsake of one of Toyah’s most loved live performances, and will be welcomed by fans of the band, who have waited a long time for an updated release to replace the previously released VHS version.

Buy Toyah Live At The Rainbow CD/DVD from Amazon

Buy Toyah Live At The Rainbow double vinyl LP from Amazon

Tracklisting

CD/DVD

Disc One – CD

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Love Me
Mummies
Insects
It’s A Mystery
Computer
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Bird In Flight
Victims Of The Riddle
Danced
Ieya

Our Movie*
Revelations*
Indecision*

* mono

Disc Two – DVD

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Victims Of The Riddle
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Insects
It’s A Mystery
Danced
Ieya

Double vinyl

Disc: 1

War Boys
Neon Womb
Waiting
Race Through Space
Angels & Demons
Love Me
Mummies
Insects

Disc: 2

It’s a Mystery
Computer
Tribal Look
Ghosts
Bird in Flight
Victims of the Riddle
Danced
Ieya





Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Somapolis track-by-track album review

9 10 2022

Sweet Billy Pilgrim, now a duo comprising multi-instrumentalists Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg, will release a new album, Somapolis on November 4 2022 via Republic of Music. Their story involves a Mercury Music Prize nomination, the IT Crowd, the Royal Albert Hall, Glastonbury Festival, Late Junction and The Culture Show.

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Somapolis album cover

Guests on the album include Kate St. John (Dream Academy) with string / horn arrangements and Darren Beckett (Brandon Flowers / Madeleine Peyroux / Bryan Ferry) on drums.

Somapolis opener We Are The Bright Carvers is a real statement of intent. Featuring the deepest bass I have heard for many a year, anchoring a hyper addictive song with powerful drums and a hard-hitting, emotional arrangement. The use of space is highly evident on Somapolis, with real and synthesised strings flitting in and out, alongside scratchy, mournful new wave guitars and delightful tag-team vocals from Jana and Tim.

Jana and Tim’s vocals blend so well together, adding a unique colour and personality to the songs. The production is perfect, adding a warmth and clarity to individual instruments and featuring short sound-designs linking each track, to give the feel of one whole, linked piece. Cities are linked by their transportation systems, which is maybe why all the tracks on this album are linked, often with transport or people interaction found-sounds.

Bliss Maps is initially a rich slice of electronica, evolving as acoustic instruments, including spaghetti western guitar lines, are thrown into the mix. The beautiful vocal arrangement, as Jana and Tim are joined by a collection of other voices, works so well with the trumpet, saxophone and funk bass taking the song home.

“Did I put something in your Chardonnay?
Close your eyes…”

Attacus Atlas continues with the squelchy, Bootsy Collins bass and mellotrons that adorn many of the tracks, in a song referencing the worlds largest moth, whose brief and beautiful emergence lasts for just days before it dies. The chorus seeps into your soul, as Jana takes the lead on one of the albums key songs.

Instrumental lines appear and disappear when you least expect them, keeping you on your toes, and revealing new wonders on repeated listens.

“It’s the light that leads me home”

Attacus Atlas is a story of brief, breathless and fragrant love that undergoes a complete metamorphosis as Pass Muster, with its jittering rhythm (definitely not a dancer!) appears, layered with a honey-sweet vocal topping that transports the track into gospel directions that seemed impossible to imagine from the songs beginning.

The piano waltz of Down I Go (heralded by a tube-station sound-sketch, very clever) is simple but effective, with some of the albums strongest lyrics. When the synth sequence and percussion kicks in, the song hits you hard in your heart. The simplicity and directness of Down I Go‘s arrangement makes this song all the more powerful, following the previous songs rich and often complex arrangements.

“There is a river runs under the city at night, and down I go out of the light”

The arrangement builds for the songs final descent, and then washes away leaving just Tim’s solo vocal and piano. Down I Go quickly established itself as one of my favourite Sweet Billy Pilgrim songs.

Dead Man Dancing is an anthemic beast, featuring a mixture of 70s and 80s referencing synth sounds, with a hint of late 70s Bowie in the chorus. Stress Position returns to the dual vocals and a more widescreen arrangement, and could well be a tale of crime, but going on past Sweet Billy Pilgrim lyrics, the true meaning is probably hidden somewhere below the surface and is always open to the listeners interpretation.

Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg, of Sweet Billy Pilgrim.
Jana Carpenter and Tim Elsenburg

The processed music-box intro of The Night Watch quickly switches to a pure Steely Dan groove. The thoughts I had on first hearing The Night Watch included how on earth did the band afford to hire Donald Fagen to produce the song? It sounds so well-produced that I fully expect to see his name on the album credits. The attention to detail lovingly painted onto every detail of this song, from the shuffling drum pattern to the multiple layered vocal, make this an album highlight that I think will resonate with so many people.

A sweetly nostalgic 1960’s back-beat and organ swells underpin Pilgrim, which like Down I Go, has a feel of simplicity that makes the magical choral sections and more expansive moments all the more powerful. With no synths in sight, Pilgrim feels like a song from a bygone, long-lost era. Along with Big Big Train, Sweet Billy Pilgrim are not afraid to head back to the past and utilise more traditional tools such as brass bands, to convey emotion and help splash colour onto their wide musical canvas. The subtle production touches lift the arrangement, making Pilgrim a song that sticks with you long after the last reverb-drenched vocals fade.

Get Back To Where You Started drops you back into the here and now. After the two lighter songs that preceded it, the mood is buoyed with such a joyous chorus. The band throw everything at the production on this song, nothing is held back. Trumpet solos, big beats and deep Rhodes piano all make a welcome appearance, along with that funky as hell bass sound that is a star of the album. In an alternative universe, when the spirit of the 80s is still strong, this song would be the big hit single.

The album closes with its longest song, Skywriting. Another initially uplifting track, using a similar musical palette to songs earlier in the album, the discordant piano adds a slight feeling of apprehension that feeds into the dual mood that the song delivers. An almost classic rock driven instrumental section is simply delicious, and the synths, strings and deep electronics that see out the last minute or so hint at an ascension as the final part of the journey, with the album having lots of references to travel within the city, whether purely physical movement or through the individual journey’s that make up our lives.

There is so much love, care and a vast array of different styles shared throughout Somapolis, which appears to be the story of a city and tales of how the people who live within interact, travel and are affected by their surroundings. Somapolis is adventurous, rich, uplifting and meditative in equal measures, making it the most fully realised and satisfying release so far from the band.

Enjoy the journey.

Order Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Somapolis CD from Amazon

Order Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Somapolis vinyl from Amazon

Buy Somapolis from the Sweet Billy Pilgrim artist store

We Are The Bright Carvers
Bliss Maps
Attacus Atlas
Pass Muster
Down I Go
Dead Man Dancing
Stress Position
The Night Watch
Pilgrim
Get Back To Where You Started
Skywriting





Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 review

26 09 2022

Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 is a 3CD Box Set containing the albums Immunity (1981), Waving Not Drowning (1982) and The Wildest Wish To Fly (1983). The three early 80s albums have been newly remastered by original engineer / co-producer Stephen W Tayler. The boxset also includes an illustrated booklet featuring an essay and interviews.

Rupert Hine - Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 cover

The three albums were a partnership – with music written by Rupert Hine and lyrics written by Jeannette Obstoj. Hine had success as a member of Quantum Jump and also had an amazing career as a songwriter and producer, going on to produce more than 160 albums, including collaborations with Tina Turner, The Fixx, Howard Jones, The Members, Chris de Burgh, Jona Lewie, Rush, Bob Geldof, Stevie Nicks, Thomson Twins, The Waterboys, Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Underworld, Kevin Godley and Duncan Sheik.

Rupert Hine - Immunity cover

The first album in the collection is 1981’s Immunity. Guests on the album include an appearance by Marianne Faithfull on Misplaced Love, and Immunity includes performances from renowned guitarist Phil Palmer, drums and percussion from Trevor Morais, along with Phil Collins contributing percussion on two key tracks.

I Hang On to My Vertigo sets the scene for this trilogy. Immunity is driven by early 80s suspended piano and deep synths, expertly processed (I love the decay effects and the use of the Eventide harmoniser on the album) topped with a mixture of acoustic and electronic percussion. The songs mostly have a sombre, dark feeling with a heavy reliance on mood and atmospherics, giving the albums a timeless feel.

Samsara is a haunting piece, with heavily processed synth percussion, and layered choral vocals from Hine. Hine is often rightly praised for his production work, but was not given enough credit for his solo recording career. He had a unique, instantly recognisable vocal style that perfectly suited the material he released in the 80s, and it is easy to see how these three albums influenced other musicians of the time.

Credit must also go to lyricist Jeannette Obstoj, whose often dystopian, and always interesting lyrics clearly fed and inspired Hine’s imagination.

The album reaches a peak of darkness with I Think A Man Will Hang Soon. An initially sparse arrangement, with sharp peaks and troughs, and the album’s first appearance of live percussion and heavy guitar, adding to the feeling of fearful apprehension.

“I think a man will hang soon
He’s hiding in a back room
His morals are confused now
Like walls they’re bound to crack soon”

The title track and Another Stranger feature Phil Collins on percussion. Marimbas pepper Immunity throughout the verses, for one of the lighter, more uplifting songs on the album. Another Stranger has a heady mix of electronic with acoustic instrumentation. Phil Palmer adds some delicious heavily chorused guitar, and Collins contributions are understated, serving the song well.

I always wondered if the “Boredom–boredom–boredom” from the chorus of Psycho Surrender was a lyrical nod to the Buzzcocks track from three years earlier? Psycho Surrender includes some of the techniques that came to the fore in electronic music a few years further down the line, when sampling technology arrived, although in this case, the “samples” are bottles being smashed and recorded in real time.

Make a Wish is once again driven by synth percussion and multi-tracked vocals, amongst the fractured mechanical arrangement, that has the feel of an old AM radio tuning in and out of the static. The moment the noise is tuned out and Hines vocals and synths cut through, offers up one of the most powerful moments on the album.

Immunity ends with two bonus tracks, the dark Scratching At Success and the brutal minimalism of Introduction To The Menace.

“He’s scratching at success
Like some poor dog locked in a room”

Waving Not Drowning from 1982 was my introduction to Rupert’s work, and remains one of my favourite albums from the early 80s. I first heard the album on one side of a cassette lent to my by a flat-mate, and along with the album on the other side of the tape (Talking Heads More Songs About Buildings and Food from 1978), Waving Not Drowning was a constant companion for my Walkman accompanied early morning commutes to the NHS hospital where I worked at the time. I lost track of the album (when I eventually gave the tape back!) and did not hear it again until buying a CD reissue (from Voiceprint in 2001) and then tracking down an original vinyl copy from Discogs.

Rupert Hine - Waving Not Drowning cover

The Phil’s (Palmer and Collins) plus Trevor Morais are joined by Chris Thompson (Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) for Waving Not Drowning.

Waving Not Drowning is the album I am most familiar with from this collection, so to me the improvements from Stephen W Tayler’s remaster is at its most pronounced here. The songs on Waving Not Drowning are amongst Hine’s strongest, with a shift to more conventional arrangements whilst keeping most of the quirky, innovative production in place.

Eleven Faces sounds so powerful with this remaster, utilising a Hine signature – the vocal line closely following the keyboard melody.

“Do I remember how he held the woman down
His shadow made a pool so deep she had to drown”

It is also noticeable in this remaster how the volume increases slightly at key points in the arrangement of songs.

The Curious Kind has a wonderful, addictive chorus with background vocals from Christopher Thomson.

“The slow recurring point unwinds
We always were the curious kind”

The Set Up has one of those chorus’s that sticks like glue. The production is so clever on this track, a metronomic rhythm, with vocal and synths offering an unconventional bassline lurking behind an emotional synth backing.

Jeannette Obstoj provides Hine with wonderful lyrics about conformity and social shaping.

“They did it with kindness
They did it with a smile
They did it all, with a licence
They did it, according to the rules
They did it, with good advice
They did it, from inside
They did it, for some reason
They did it
Well they tried”

Dark Windows uses stormy weather as a backdrop to introduce the percussion, with swirling organs and drenched in reverb piano serving the perfect mood for the lyrics.

The Sniper details a list of ways in which one can get killed, and features stellar guitar work from Phil Palmer, alongside one of the albums most powerful percussive performances. The end section, with discordant guitars and saxophone from Ollie W. Tayler (aka Stephen W Tayler!), reminds me a little of Bill Nelson’s Red Noise.

“The sniper knows his time has come
and the life he takes means nothing more
than bullets to the gun”

Innocents in Paradise features Phil Collins on marimba, timbales and tom-toms. House Arrest was dedicated to Donald Woods, a South African anti-Apartheid activist and friend of Stephen Biko.

The Outsider is one of my favourites on the album. A mix of found sounds, utilising Synclavier and PPG Wave synths.

The pre-chorus of

“So to the spider the web is home
Now the fly lands
The fly must stay”

works so well as a pre-cursor to the bold, crashing section that comes next. The Outsider is very unsettling, and a must listen on headphones to fully appreciate the production touches.

The album proper ends with the mixture of synth-pop and cymbal heavy rock of One Man’s Poison, followed by ‘b’ side Kwok’s Quease, the only track that I always skip!

The Wildest Wish To Fly did not feature two Phil’s this time, but two Palmers. Joining Phil Palmer was Robert Palmer, who added vocals to several tracks. James West-Oram (The Fixx) also features on guitar.

Rupert Hine - The Wildest Wish To Fly cover

Rupert Hine was working with Robert Palmer around the time of The Wildest Wish To Fly, and the sounds and feel of Palmer’s wonderful Pride album seep through, along with a somewhat more conventional and less challenging set of songs, which is a shame after the landmark of the previous years Waving Not Drowning.

There is still plenty to enjoy though. Palmer guests on album opener Living in Sin, with its infectious chorus. No Yellow Heart retains some of the sonic charm of the previous albums, and the lyrics remain interesting throughout.

The simplicity of Firefly in the Night is a highlight of The Wildest Wish To Fly, reminding me of the use of acoustic instruments alongside electronics used to such great effect by Thomas Dolby and his The Flat Earth album that came out a year later.

“Then I thought I saw your face
But it was no more than a firefly in the night”

Picture Phone features another appearance from Robert Palmer, and remarkably predicts the rise of our reliance on smartphones and technology. The more commercial single mix appears towards the end of this CD. The Most Dangerous of Men feeds off the chant vocals also used on Palmer’s Pride to good effect. The organ and piano backing, allied with a steady beat, works so well.

The title track is just under a minute shorter than the original release, due to a plethora of remixed and re-edited releases in different territories. It is one of the more experimental pieces in terms of the arrangement, and features some plaintive chorused guitar from Phil Palmer and another vocal appearance from Robert Palmer. A slightly progressive feel seeps into the central section of the song, and it adds a welcome new flavour to the mix.

Four bonus tracks complete this version of the album, the highlight of which is the stripped back An Eagle’s Teaching, which offers some lovely bass work and subtle guitar lines.

The remastering by Stephen W Tayler adds so much to these versions of the classic Rupert Hine early eighties albums, that will appeal to fans of the original releases as well as anyone interested in early 80s synth based music. There is so much to enjoy in this new collection.

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Amazon

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Burning Shed

CD1
Immunity
I Hang On To My Vertigo
Misplaced Love
Samsara
Surface Tension
I Think A Man Will Hang Soon
Immunity
Another Stranger
Psycho Surrender
Make A Wish

Bonus tracks:
Scratching At Success
Introduction To The Menace

CD2
Waving Not Drowning
Eleven Faces
The Curious Kind
The Set Up
Dark Windows
The Sniper
Innocents In Paradise
House Arrest
The Outsider
One Man’s Poison

Bonus track:
Kwok’s Quease

CD3
The Wildest Wish To Fly
Living in Sin
No Yellow Heart
The Saturation of the Video Rat
Firefly in the Night
A Golden Age
Picture Phone
The Victim of Wanderlust
The Most Dangerous of Men
The Wildest Wish to Fly

Bonus tracks:
Blue Flame (Melt the Ice)
An Eagle’s Teaching
Picture Phone (remix)
No Yellow Heart (later version)

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Amazon

Buy Rupert Hine – Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 from Burning Shed





Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse album review

19 09 2022

A Fleeting Glimpse is a mini-album from by Airbag co-founder, songwriter and lead guitarist, Bjorn Riis. With A Fleeting Glimpse, Bjørn Riis has let his love of Pink Floyd run free. The album contains four new songs, with a running time of just under 30 minutes, where you can really hear the Pink Floyd influences soaked into the short album’s DNA.

Bjørn Riis - A Fleeting Glimpse album cover.

Dark Shadows (part 1) features guest vocals from Durga McBroom, who sang with Pink Floyd from the late 80s onwards. A gentle paced piece, with some uplifting David Gilmour inspired slide and lead guitar performances, the first take of Dark Shadows perfectly combines the key Floyd sounds of the 70s and 80s.

A Voyage to the Sun touches on the darker, more progressive side of the album’s inspiration. The tempo quickens for this instrumental track, my favourite song on the album. The guitars cut deeper and the percussion pushes the arrangement, with a wonderful mid-section where the instruments rapidly drop away to leave guitar feedback and bass, undercut by a mournful synth line. I love these spacey, progressive vibes that are just made for a headphone listening experience.

Just as you are soaring above the clouds, the High Hopes referencing church bells of Summer Meadows bring you crashing back down to earth. The acoustic and electric guitar intro is so beautifully pristine on this second and final instrumental. I kept expecting some spoken voice on this track, see if you agree with me when you hear the album, if it possibly evokes the same memories for you.

Bjørn Riis looking at the camera

Summer Meadows is over far too soon, and Dark Shadows (part 2) continues to build, with some emotional guitar, both lead and layered background textures, from Riis. Whilst there are four tracks, each offering slightly different emotional responses and moods, the album feels like a complete piece of music, built to be listened to in one sitting, in the order the artist has chosen.

The powerful mix for A Fleeting Glimpse by Vegard Kleftås Sleipnes and the warm mastering by White Willow / The Opium Cartel’s master-mind Jacob Holm-Lupo, lifts this album to the front of my favourite Bjørn Riis solo releases to date. I would love to hear a full length album in this style in the future. With little chance of new music from David Gilmour in this style, it would be great to have new music continuing the 70s and 80s Pink Floyd tradition.

Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on vinyl from Amazon
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on CD from Amazon
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on vinyl from Burning Shed
Buy Bjørn Riis – A Fleeting Glimpse on CD from Burning Shed

Tracklist

Dark Shadows (part 1)
A Voyage to the Sun
Summer Meadows
Dark Shadows (part 2)

Label: Karisma Records
Release Date: 30 September 2022





News: NOW Yearbook Extra 1979

16 09 2022

NOW Yearbook Extra 1979 is a 3 CD (sadly no vinyl for these “extra” releases”) compilation, highlighting an additional 67 tracks from the charts of 1979, and acting as a companion piece to the recently released NOW Yearbook 1979 (orange vinyl / CD).

Now Yearbook 1979

As I constantly mention (on this blog, to my cats and to anyone who will listen), 1979 is my favourite year for music, so if I was in charge of compiling these collections they would be 10 CD sets at least. The main collection and now this “extra” companion compilation, collect some of the essential singles from the year, along with some less obvious (and sometimes skippable) tracks to highlight the diversity of the charts in 1979.

The three CDs contain some absolute classics – Kid by The Pretenders, Roxy Music’s Angel Eyes, Reasons to Be Cheerful (Pt. 3) by Ian Dury and The Blockheads, Sparks The Number One Song in Heaven, Lost in Music from Sister Sledge and that’s just disc one.

The first 12 songs on disc two would make a great new wave compilation in their own right. Featuring a run of amazing singles from The Jam, The Stranglers, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash and the Skids finest single in my eyes, Working for the Yankee Dollar, plus one of my favourite singles from 1979, Milk and Alcohol by Dr. Feelgood.

Life in Tokyo by Japan and Electricity from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark hint at the electronic wave that was starting to crash into the charts, heralding the eventual new romantic movement that followed over the next few years.

Disc 3 has a few easy listening and novelty hits, but is otherwise filled to the brim with wonderful tracks such as Blondie’s Sunday Girl, Billy Joel’s Honesty (meaning The Boys Hughie Campbell will buy this compilation), plus Get It Right Next Time from Gerry Rafferty, The Ballad of Lucy Jordan by Marianne Faithfull, Toto’s Hold the Line, BA Robertson’s Knocked It Off and one of the last great Thin Lizzy singles Waiting for an Alibi.

So if you can’t afford (or invent) a time-machine, this wonderful compilation is the next best thing and it will transport you back to one of the great years for pop singles. Strap yourself in.

Buy NOW Yearbook Extra 1979 3 CD set from Amazon

Disc: 1

Crazy Little Thing Called Love – Queen
Message in a Bottle – The Police
Union City Blue – Blondie
Kid – The Pretenders
Last Train to London – Electric Light Orchestra
Angel Eyes – Roxy Music
Them Heavy People – Kate Bush
Up the Junction – Squeeze
Diamond Smiles – The Boomtown Rats
Reasons to Be Cheerful (Pt. 3) – Ian Dury and The Blockheads
The Number One Song in Heaven – Sparks
The Runner – The Three Degrees
Dim All the Lights – Donna Summer
Lost in Music – Sister Sledge
My Feet Keep Dancing – Chic
Is It Love You’re After – Rose Royce
Gotta Go Home – Boney M.
Let’s Fly Away – Voyage
The Prince – Madness
Duke of Earl – Darts
Blue Peter – Mike Oldfield
Daytrip to Bangor (Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time) – Fiddler’s Dram

Disc: 2

The Sound of the Suburbs – The Members
Babylon’s Burning – The Ruts
Strange Town – The Jam
English Civil War – The Clash
Duchess – The Stranglers
Playground Twist – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Death Disco – Public Image Ltd
Working for the Yankee Dollar – Skids
Jimmy Jimmy – The Undertones
C’mon Everybody – Sex Pistols
Milk and Alcohol – Dr. Feelgood
Banana Splits – The Dickies
Time for Action – Secret Affair
Back of My Hand – Jags
The Loneliest Man in the World – The Tourists
Life in Tokyo – Japan
Electricity – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Take That to the Bank – Shalamar
This Is It – Dan Hartman
H.A.P.P.Y. Radio – Edwin Starr
It’s a Disco Night (Rock Don’t Stop) – The Isley Brothers
My Forbidden Lover – Chic
The Boss – Diana Ross
Take Me Home – Cher

Disc: 3

Sunday Girl – Blondie
Painter Man – Boney M.
My Simple Heart – The Three Degrees
Sail On – The Commodores
After the Love Has Gone – Earth, Wind & Fire
Just the Way You Are – Barry White
Honesty – Billy Joel
The Ballad of Lucy Jordan – Marianne Faithfull
Get It Right Next Time – Gerry Rafferty
Hold the Line – Toto
Whatever You Want – Status Quo
Waiting for an Alibi – Thin Lizzy
Car 67 – Driver 67
Knocked It Off – BA Robertson
Luton Airport – Cats U.K.
Some Girls – Racey
Get It – Darts
Who Were You With in the Moonlight – Dollar
Mirrors – Sally Oldfield
One Day at a Time – Lena Martell
Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney

Buy NOW Yearbook Extra 1979 3 CD set from Amazon





News: David Bowie Moonage Daydream soundtrack

26 08 2022

The Bowie estate have released details of the official soundtrack to the new David Bowie documentary from Brett Morgen, Moonage Daydream.

David Bowie - Moonage Daydream. A film by Brett Morgen.

The 2 CD collection features live versions, album tracks, interview excerpts, orchestral performances, and some film-specific remixes.

You can listen to one of the soundtrack’s exclusive Moonage Daydream mixes now, in the form of Modern Love (Moonage Daydream Mix).

The soundtrack includes a previously unreleased 1973 live medley of The Jean Genie and The Beatles Love Me Do, featuring Jeff Beck on guitar, recorded during Bowie’s farewell Ziggy Stardust concert at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973, along with an unreleased 1974 live recording of Rock n’ Roll With Me from Bowie’s 1974 ’Soul Tour’ and an early demo of the Hunky Dory fan-favourite Quicksand.

There were no other details released about soundtrack specific mixes at this stage, but we will be able to find out for ourselves on September 16 2022, when the digital version of the soundtrack arrives on streaming platforms, prior to a physical release.

David Bowie - Moonage Daydream double CD and booklet.

The double CD is available to preorder from Amazon, with a release date of 18 November 2022. A 3 LP vinyl release is planned for 2023.

Moonage Daydream tracklisting

CD1

“Time… one of the most complex expressions…”
Ian Fish U.K. Heir (Moonage Daydream Mix 1)
Hallo Spaceboy (Remix Moonage Daydream Edit)
Medley: Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud / All The Young Dudes / Oh! You Pretty Things (Live)
Life On Mars? (2016 Mix Moonage Daydream Edit)
Moonage Daydream (Live)
The Jean Genie / Love Me Do / The Jean Genie (Live) (featuring Jeff Beck)
The Light (Excerpt) Performed by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop
Warszawa (Live Moonage Daydream Edit)
Quicksand (Early Version 2021 Mix)
Medley: Future Legend / Diamonds Dogs intro / Cracked Actor
Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me (Live in Buffalo 8th November, 1974)
Aladdin Sane (Moonage Daydream Edit)
Subterraneans
Space Oddity (Moonage Daydream Mix)
V-2 Schneider

CD2
Sound And Vision (Moonage Daydream Mix)
A New Career In A New Town (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Word On A Wing (Moonage Daydream Excerpt)
“Heroes” (Live Moonage Daydream Edit)
D.J. (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Ashes To Ashes (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Move On (Moonage Daydream acappella Mix Edit)
Moss Garden (Moonage Daydream Edit)
Cygnet Committee/Lazarus (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Memory Of A Free Festival (Harmonium Edit)
Modern Love (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Let’s Dance (Live Moonage Daydream Edit)
The Mysteries (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (Live Moonage Daydream Edit)
Ian Fish U.K. Heir (Moonage Daydream Mix 2)
Word On A Wing (Moonage Daydream Mix)
Hallo Spaceboy (live Moonage Daydream Mix)
I Have Not Been To Oxford Town (Moonage Daydream acappella Mix Edit)
“Heroes”: IV. Sons Of The Silent Age (Excerpt) Performed by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marin Alsop
(Moonage Daydream Mix Edit)
Ian Fish U.K. Heir (Moonage Daydream Mix Excerpt)
Memory Of A Free Festival (Moonage Daydream Mix Edit)
Starman
“You’re aware of a deeper existence…”
Changes
“Let me tell you one thing…”
“Well, you know what this has been an incredible pleasure…”

Pre-order Moonage DayDream 2 CD from Amazon





Lonely Robot – A Model Life track-by-track album review

27 07 2022

John Mitchell’s Lonely Robot release their new album, A Model Life, on limited CD digipak, gatefold 2LP+CD and as a digital album on August 26 2022.

Lonely Robot is the solo project of John Mitchell (It Bites, Arena, Frost*, Kino and The Urbane). A Model Life is album number five, and the first since 2020’s Feelings Are Good, and features Craig Blundell on drums.

“I’m walking in the shadow
of a world I used to know”

Opening with the first digital taster for the album, Recalibrating is a tale of personal re-birth and re-assessment after a relationship has sadly ended, but could possibly be seen as a reaction to the recent axis tilting few years we have all lived through.

Digital God Machine spits bile in the direction of online trolls and mis-informed, opinionated keyboard warriors. Musically, it seems to draw inspiration from Peter Gabriel 4 (Security). The heavily-treated percussion adds a palpable feeling of paranoia and dread, with some fine guitar lines on display towards the middle of the track.

“Throw your ‘oh so learned’ wisdom
At the fool you wish to bait”

Species In Transition builds slowly, as the edgy percussion and found-sounds slowly reveal themselves. Disembodied voices and nature sounds are painted onto the canvas throughout A Model Life, and are a vital part of the musical journey on this stunning album.

“Oh let go, you’re just part of the condition
So goodbye, to the species in transition”

Starlit Stardust is one of the most moving songs on the album, with a powerful and uplifting chorus.

The Island Of Misfit Toys is my favourite track on this release. The Art of Noise and the mid-80s electronica of ZTT artists such as Propaganda drive the production, with a hint of The Knack’s power-pop classic My Sharona thrown in for good measure. A Model Life is overflowing with quality guitar solos, and The Island Of Misfit Toys delivers one of the shortest but most effective solos on A Model Life.

The title track arrives at the mid-point of the album, and is one of the few down-tempo pieces. Suspended keyboard notes and an addictive bass-line underpin the verses on this song of reflection and regret.

The stripped back, short Mandalay acts as a preface to one of the albums key-tracks, the evocative Rain Kings. A track that will surely become a fan favourite, it sends shivers when the drums appear a minute and a half in. This is the song I return to most, although I prefer to listen to the album as a continuous piece, as it is sequenced with so much love and attention.

“There’s some memories, I just can’t erase”

Duty of Care highlights John Mitchell’s production and arrangement skills. The sound is crisp, clear and powerful, with simplicity and nuance in the playing, until a more theatrical performance is needed to deliver the stories in the songs.

Photo by Tom Barnes
Photo by Tom Barnes

The album closes with a real statement of intent. Saving some of his finest guitar work until the end, Mitchell’s performance on In Memoriam is calm, measured and yet emotional.

A Model Life is the most complete and cohesive release from Lonely Robot so far, and one that reveals itself fully after multiple plays.

“And in memoriam, we are not the same
And I will reclaim, yes I will reclaim, what’s mine”

Buy Lonely Robot – A Model Life on vinyl from Amazon

Buy Lonely Robot – A Model Life on CD from Amazon

Buy Lonely Robot – A Model Life on white vinyl (with CD) from Burning Shed

Lonely Robot – A Model Life

Recalibrating
Digital God Machine
Species In Transition
Starlit Stardust
The Island Of Misfit Toys
A Model Life
Mandalay
Rain Kings
Duty Of Care
In Memoriam








%d bloggers like this: