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





The Comsat Angels – Fiction

16 11 2015

fiction2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels.

The Comsats released their third album Fiction in 1982. The final album in the Polydor trilogy, its an underrated album. Opening with one of the bands most haunting songs, the post-apocalyptic After The Rain.

Zinger has a slight Talking Heads feel, and a strong, fluid bassline. Now I Know has always been one of my favourite tracks from Fiction. The simple arrangement is the songs strength.

“So she took a drink from the radio”

Ju Ju Money (which was considered for the bands debut album) was finally included on Fiction. This take is a much more confident and powerful version of the song originally recorded in 1980.

The tribal drums on the reflective More place the album firmly in it’s time – with the post-punk music of Wah!, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Cure, whilst also fitting in with some of the pop sensibilities of established acts such as Peter Gabriel and his fourth album.

Pictures has not dated – ambient keyboard swirls wash under the hypnotic beat that accompanies one of Stephen Fellows most reflective and sombre lyrics.

“Tear out all the pages one by one
Put them in the fire”

The most powerful song on Fiction is Birdman – with the return of the Fellows guitar harmonics! This song must have sounded amazing live in the early 80s – the rhythm section of Bacon and Glaisher was world class. Birdman still sounds amazing, even after all these years.

According to the informative sleevenotes, Don’t Look Now was improvised in the studio. Some wonderful interplay between all the band members on this song, including some guitar parts that surely influenced an Irish stadium rock band a few years later. Cough.

The final track on the main album What Else!? has always reminded me of The Beatles. Its a great 60s infused pop song – and I mean that as a compliment, pop is not a dirty word in my house.

fiction

Remastering / extra tracks

The remastering on the main album is more noticeable on Fiction compared to the first two albums in the reissue series. There is a noticeable increase in volume and power in these tracks compared to the previous CD reissue.

The bonus disc has two great Comsats singles – opening with one of my favourites – (Do The) Empty House with its trademark harmonics. It’s History was released prior to Fiction, and has a killer chorus. How this song wasn’t a massive hit single, I’ll never know.

The rest of the second disc is made up of a mix of b sides and album out-takes plus a couple of live recordings and a Peel session from late 1981.

Fiction (Deluxe 2CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

DISC TWO
Bonus tracks
1. (Do The) Empty House
2. Red Planet Revisited
3. It’s History
4. Private Party
5. For Your Information
6. After The Rain (Remix)
John Peel Session
7. Now I Know
8. Ju Ju Money
9. Our Secret
10. Goat Of The West

VINYL – 180 gram heavyweight black vinyl
1. After The Rain
2. Zinger
3. Now I Know
4. Not A Word
5. Ju Ju Money
6. More
7. Pictures
8. Birdman
9. Don’t Look Now
10. What Else!?

Buy the album

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

 

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

 

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website





The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More

15 11 2015

sleepnomore2015Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels. The bands second album, Sleep No More, is a much darker album than their debut from the previous year. The guitar is more prominent, and the songs have a real feel of urgency.

It may not have sold as many albums as those by The Cure or Siouxsie & The Banshees from the same era but Sleep No More is easily as rewarding as Pornography and Ju Ju.

The Eye Dance opens up the album at pace, and the urgency remains with the hypnotic layered guitars and insistent drums of the title track.

“It’s late but there’s no tiredness
I can see the city glow
And I’m sure there must be somewhere
We can go”

Be Brave has a wonderful bass line from Kevin Bacon and the lyrics display a nagging paranoia that continues into the next track, the powerful Gone.

Dark Parade is the most intense track on the album, with lyrics that chronicle the loss of life in a late 70s failed US hostage rescue attempt.

Restless passed me by on first release, but is a firm favourite now. It’s mechanical rhythm works really well with the treated guitar and deep bass notes.

After the frenetic Goat Of The West, the album slows down for its final two tracks. Light Years is the albums final dark moment of the main album, containing some of the finest guitar parts from Stephen Fellows on Sleep No More.

sleep

The band saved the best for last with one of my favourite songs of all time, the beautiful and uplifting Our Secret. The track is well sequenced as it gives a hint at the direction of the next Comsats album, Fiction.

“We will never
We will never
We will never
Give it up”

The extra tracks on disc one are important songs in the Comsats canon. Eye Of The Lens seems to foretell the surveillance heavy society we live in today, and is one of the bands finest singles.

Another World has some wonderful atmospheric keyboard work from Andy Peake and more expansive percussion from Mik Glaisher, one of the best drummers to emerge during the post-Punk era. At Sea is a slow-burning piece that explodes into life towards the end of the song, and displays the band at their most experimental.

Remastering / extra tracks

As with Waiting For A Miracle, the noticeable remastering difference is on the bonus material. Tracks such as the EP version of Gone sound much brighter on this version of the CD.

The bonus material includes a handful of demos plus John Peel and Richard Skinner tracks from the era.

Sleep No More (Deluxe 2 CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. The Eye Dance
2. Sleep No More
3. Be Brave
4. Gone
5. Dark Parade
6. Diagram
7. Restless
8. Goat Of The West
9. Light Years
10. Our Secret
Bonus Tracks
11. Eye Of The Lens
12. Another World
13. At Sea

DISC TWO
1. Mass
2. Dark Parade 1 (Demo)
3. Goat Of The West (Demo)
4. Be Brave (Demo)
5. Gone (Alt. EP Version)
John Peel Session
6. Be Brave
7. At Sea
8. Eye Of The Lens
9. Dark Parade
Richard Skinner Show
10. Gone
11. Total War
12. Eye Dance
13. Be Brave

VINYL – 180 gram Heavyweight black vinyl
1. The Eye Dance
2. Sleep No More
3. Be Brave
4. Gone
5. Dark Parade
6. Diagram
7. Restless
8. Goat Of The West
9. Light Years
10. Our Secret

Buy the album

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

Also available…


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website





The Comsat Angels – Waiting For A Miracle

14 11 2015

Edsel records have issued remastered and expanded versions of the first three albums from the influential Sheffield band The Comsat Angels.

The Comsat Angels are surely long overdue a reappraisal as on the of the most important UK post-punk bands. The first three albums are essential listening for anyone who has an interest in this era of UK music, and they should also appeal to fans of current bands such as The Editors, Interpol and early Bloc Party.

waitingforamiracle2015The Comsats released their debut Waiting For A Miracle in 1980. Hearing the eerie opening guitar wails as the rhythm picks up on opening track Missing In Action always sends be back to my teenage bedroom listening to the album on vinyl.

Later albums from the band do reflect the time in which they were recorded, but the first three Polydor albums are on the whole timeless, and if you heard them for the first time in 2015, you would still find yourself under their spell.

The influence of Pere Ubu and Captain Beefheart can clearly be heard in the instrumentation on Waiting For A Miracle. The distorted bass and emotive percussion drive second track Baby.

“I don’t want to be your “baby”
I don’t want to have to crawl for you”

Not a note is wasted on this stark song – the restraint in the performance is clear.

Independence Day is the bands most well known song. The harmonics are instantly recognisable to anyone who listened to late night radio in 1980. I’ve played this song hundreds of times over the years, and Independence Day still sounds as fresh now as it did when I first heard it 35 years ago.

A sci-fi / futuristic feel runs through the core of many of the albums songs, especially the title track. Its no coincidence that the band were named after a JG Ballard short-story.

Total War is a simple but powerful arrangement. The bass, drums and keyboards power the song, which is devoid of guitar until the end section. When the original line-up of the band reformed for a hometown gig in 2009, this song was a highlight of the set.

Monkey Pilot showcases the range of the bands powerful and inventive drummer, Mik Glaisher. The feeling of isolation is mirrored by the music in Real Story, its a standout performance by the four band members.

“Now he’s in unreal estate
Until he dies”

Postcard is the darkest song on the album. a slow-building performance with ride and tom driven percussion building the tension, as some wonderful guitar lines interplay with the vocals.

“I just thought you’d like to know”

Remastering / extra tracks

All the albums in this Edsel re-issue series have been remastered by Phil Kinrade. The remaster is subtle – the drums sound a little brighter, and the mix sounds wider and less cramped. It is more noticeable on the non-album tracks – for example the early Ju Ju Money take is a noticeable improvement on the previous CD.

The extra tracks include the Red Planet EP from 1979, a selection of demos and John Peel session tracks from 1979/1980. Edsel have taken care in the reissues presentation – including lyrics for the main album songs in the booklet and making sure all the CDs use colours from the album artwork.

The sleeve-notes from Tim Peacock (Record Collector) with input from the bands Stephen Fellows, throws light on the bands early history and the recording of the first album.

Waiting For A Miracle (Deluxe 2 CD edition)

DISC ONE
1. Missing In Action
2. Baby
3. Independence Day
4. Waiting For A Miracle
5. Total War
6. On The Beach
7. Monkey Pilot
8. Real Story
9. Map Of The World
10. Postcard
Bonus Tracks
11. Home Is The Range
12. We Were
13. Ju Ju Money
14. Work

DISC TWO
1. Red Planet
2. I Get Excited
3. Specimen No.2
4. Independence Day (Demo)
5. Real Story (Demo)
6. Target Talk (Demo)
7. Living In (Demo)
John Peel Sessions
8. Total War
9. Independence Day
10. Baby
11. JuJu Money
12. Real Story
13. Monkey Pilot
14. Waiting For A Miracle
15. Home Is The Range

VINYL – 180 gram Heavyweight black vinyl
1. Missing In Action
2. Baby
3. Independence Day
4. Waiting For A Miracle
5. Total War
6. On The Beach
7. Monkey Pilot
8. Real Story
9. Map Of The World
10. Postcard

Buy the album


Buy Waiting For A Miracle Double CD from Amazon

Buy Waiting For A Miracle vinyl on Amazon

Also available…

Buy Sleep No More Double CD from Amazon

Buy Sleep No More vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fiction Double CD from Amazon

Buy Fiction vinyl on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows / Fire On The Moon Double CD on Amazon

Buy Chasing Shadows vinyl on Amazon

Buy Fire On The Moon vinyl on Amazon

Visit The Comsat Angels – Sleep No More website





The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels

29 09 2013

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat AngelsThe Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is not a history of the band, but a book focussing on what really matters – the bands music and songs.

The paper-back sized (note, this is not a “coffee-table” sized book) includes a 22 page introduction that has an exclusive q & a with band members Kevin Bacon (the band’s original bassist), singer / guitarist Stephen Fellows, drummer Mik Glaisher, keyboard player Andy Peake and later years bassist Terry Todd. The q & a provides a unique insight into the band’s chemistry, and sheds light for the first time on the band’s future.

Former live guitarist Nick Robinson also gives an insider’s view of the post Jive era of the band, and also shares some memories of the band as a fellow Sheffield musician.

The main bulk of the book is a discussion of the Comsat’s studio albums, discussing the song composition, individual playing style and performances of all band members and the lyrics, interspersed with quotes from Stephen Fellows.

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is a fascinating glimpse inside the bands music, which encourages you to listen to the albums again, so in that sense, it does it’s job.

Mark Kermode correctly states in his introduction that the book focusses on the music, not the cliched “life on the road” tales or discussions of band’s haircuts and fashion found in many rock tomes. So if you are looking for a more straight-foward rock biography, this is not it. But if you are already a fan of the band, then The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels does offer new insights, that you will not find elsewhere.

The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels is available in two formats – with a choice of colour pictures on white uncoated paper or black and white on cream uncoated paper – and has 162 pages with 24 photographs, 3 musical scores (Sleep No More, Gone, Shiva Descending), discography, gig list and a foreword by uber-fan and renowned film critic Mark Kermode.

“Written with all the devotion and attention that the Comsats require and deserve.”

Simon Armitage

Buy The Concise Musical Guide to the Comsat Angels from The Burning Shed store.

Buy Comsat Angels music

Sleep No More (MP3 album) from Amazon

Time Considered As a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones: the BBC Sessions 1979-1984 – from Amazon

My Minds Eye from Amazon

The Glamour from Amazon

To Before from Amazon








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