A long time ago in a galaxy right here, there was a Sydney band called The Expression. According to a DJ on a radio station at the time, they were “the new band that everyone’s talking about”. I only ever heard one of their songs – 1983’s With Closed Eyes, which was about their only song you could classify as a hit. There’s two videos for it, a world-wide one showing the band involved in some unnamed warzone (though there’s an assumption out there it’s Nicaragua), and another they made so they wouldn’t offend American sensibilities, which just showed the band mostly playing live.
(Edit: it’s not letting me embed them any more)
The US release
The world-wide one
To be fair, of everything of theirs I’ve heard, it’s their best song by some way. The remainder of their material, which can be found on Youtube and sites like this one, is undistinguished new wave/synthpop with their second album veering into spacey adult contemporary territory. Nothing on either album really stands up and takes notice like With Closed Eyes though Total Eclipse is an OK track and some of the fretless bass work is pretty good. Yet, I’ll be brutally honest, and say they created two albums of filler. Anyone who bought their first record on the strength of their biggest single probably has cause to feel ripped off. There’s nothing else even remotely like it on the LP.
Faced with a distinct lack of chart success, they disbanded in 1985. The lead singer Tom Haran, has released a couple of solo records.
So why did I post about them and their music? I’ve had the chorus of With Closed Eyes jiving through my mind lately for whatever reason, so off to Youtube I went and did some rediscovering. There you have it.
This album came out shortly after his last Tubeway Army effort was released. I mentioned there that this record is generally viewed as his magnum opus. On the strength of its songs, I’d agree, though I have a greater personal liking for Replicas simply because I heard it first.
In many ways, it’s more of the same. The major exception to that broad statement is that there’s no guitars on this record. It’s all synth and drums. It’s a showcase for the Polymoog.
As with the prior album, you’re in android territory here. Nearly all of the songs are from the view of a robot or a human caught in a robotic world and/or mindset. Even Cars, the world-wide hit, sounds like a product of an android’s fevered mind. It’s wonderfully impersonal music, though I have to say, it’s a lot warmer than its predecessor. The ballad Complex sounds far more human than the corresponding Down in the Park on the prior record.
There are no real weak tracks on this record, though you could argue it lulls a little through songs like Observer and Conservation. Some of the best music Numan has made is to be found right here, from the opening surging instrumental Airlane to the closing, pulsing Engineers. Apart from the aforementioned Cars (which isn’t even the best thing on the record) you have the classical groove of metal, the sad fey of Complex, the soaring charge of Films (album highlight), the mechanical pity of M.E and the steely reflectiveness of Tracks.
Make no mistake, this is a landmark record and it’s possibly the last great thing he ever made. The next album, Telekon, has its moments but it goes downhill from there as Numan moved away from the sound that brought him fame.
All hail this android masterpiece!
This is album number two for Tubeway Army, before Gary Numan went on to do greater and lesser things solo. The first, self-titled, record has its moments, but it’s not the cold metallic and joyfully soulless robotic outing this record is.
From the opening pulse of Me, I Disconnect From You, you are aware you have entered a grey land that promises inorganic miserable delights. There isn’t one track on this record that you could describe as warm. Far from it. Even the touching instrumental I Nearly Married a Human is an electronic approximation of an end of the world lament.
The lack of warmth is what gives this record its eternal appeal. It’s an android’s paradise, even if many of the songs are from the point of view of humans. The precise and concise metallic rhythms here are right up a robot’s alley, jerking and pulsing forth with positronic energy. Even the hit Are Friends Electric? sounds like the sort of thing C3PO would’ve composed had he been given studio time.
There’s no filler here and there are plenty of highlights. From the tight grooves of The Machman, You Are in My Vision (album highlight) and When the Machines Rock to the reflective grey skies of the title track and Down in the Park, it’s a glorious journey through a post-Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine world. Critics say Numan’s next album is the classic and in a way I agree, but he was never as cold and concise as he was on this record.
I love it, miserable thing that it is.
This is record number four for Icehouse. It sounds absolutely nothing like anything that came before it. In fact, the evolution of this band’s sound from the nervy hard rock/new wave of their first album, to the “bottled” sounding fake-rock of Sidewalk (I’ll get to Primitive Man one of these days) is all quite amazing.
Measure For Measure is all smooth textures, round edges and dreamy rhythms. In fact, it’s Iva Davies approximation of Roxy Music’s Avalon and Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream ’81-82-83-84.
Keyboards are front and centre here, and the music tries its best to float by on some ethereal current. It works sometimes, especially on the opening track Paradise, and other album cuts like Angel Street and No Promises. It falls flat too namely on tracks like Baby You’re So Strange and Lucky Me. Strangely, the B-side to Baby You’re So Strange, Too Late Now, is probably one of the best things Icehouse have recorded. They wisely included it on the CD release of the album.
But it’s intriguing listening to Mr Big, then going back in time six years and comparing it to the first album’s Fatman, which I think are two connected songs. The change in sound…talk about rapid evolution.
Anyhow, Icehouse were to hit the big time with their next record, Man of Colours, which is more or less a continuation of this. This isn’t a bad record, but it’s certainly an 80s relic. Big drums and big synths. And there’s a little too much trying to be Bryan Ferry or David Bowie (or Simple Minds) here. Iva Davies never quite did sound like himself on a record.
I’ve not listened to any other Stranglers record. Don’t know why exactly…probably just never got around to getting one. Anyhow, critics says Aural Sculpture is one of their more middling efforts. I first bought this LP way back when, on the strength of the single, Skin Deep. Or more correctly, I bought the cassette of the album. The cassette came with a game for the ZX Spectrum, called Aural Quest. Never did play it, though I heard it was nothing great.
This is one of the better albums I’ve ever owned (or listened to) and there really isn’t a poor track on it. Skin Deep is not even the highlight song here. That would go to Uptown, a great romping piece of action. Let Me Down Easy and Souls are high up there as well.
The whole record is underpinned by Dave Greenfield’s wonderful keyboard work. In fact, without it, the music would be fairly blah. Especially since the lyrics are nothing to write home about either. Whatever the case may be, the entire record lilts and floats along on the keyboard and synth sound, and is worth getting hold of just on that basis, IMHO.
To be honest, I’ve never listened to any other Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark album, so I’ve nothing to compare it with. Critics did, of course, and in general they poured a lot of scorn on this album. Don’t know why – there’s not much wrong with it. No matter how it stands up to prior efforts, a good album is always a good album. So In Love and Secret are the highlights, but there are others – 88 Seconds in Greensboro, Le Femme Accident and Bloc Bloc Bloc for example. There’s a couple of nothing songs too – Woman III just slides along in rarefied air and Hold On is pure liebesschmerz.
Crush sounds a lot like synthpop meets the lounge lizard. Keyboards are front and centre, naturally yet there’s jazzier elements and some echoes of blue-eyed soul there. There are real drums here too – compared to the drum machines I’ve heard with their earlier stuff. So what is it? A maturation? Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
Of course as the whole world knows this was the hard fought-over follow-up to the marvellous Dare. No, it’s nowhere near as good as that album – let’s get that out of the way. This album definitely ups the funk and dance quotients, with mixed results. The opening two cuts, I’m Coming Back and I Love You Too Much are wonderful songs, each with traces of the alien that weave and bob as you listen. Things go decidedly south from there, with a terrible James Brown cover and some fairly low-key lacklustre synth outings.
Admittedly, songs like So Hurt and The Sign are great and Louise is charming to a point, but the rest? They merge into some sort of processed and sanitised blur. Even their attempt at a Deadly Serious Song – The Lebanon, doesn’t come off. If the earlier EP songs: (Keep Feeling) Fascination and Mirror Man had been included as the expense of some of the blander blah songs like Life On Your Own or Betrayed, this album would’ve been so much better.
No, they never could’ve matched Dare and it’s a shame they were under pressure to do so.