Wednesday, 5 January 2011
40 Heart Twango & Rawbeat - Original Mirrors
Purchased : February 1985
Tracks : Heart Twango & Rawbeat / Dancing With The Rebels / Teen Beat / When You're Young / Things To Come / Darling .... in London / Don't Cry Baby / Please Don't Wear Red / Swing Together / Time Has Come
Well this one's a bit of a joker in the pack. It was bought in Leeds HMV, possibly at the same time as "Meat Is Murder" , despite my never having heard a note of the band's music. There were two reasons. One was that I had read a lot ( mainly favourable ) about them in Record Mirror in the early 80s and there'd been post-mortem comments like Suggs's that Duran Duran were an inferior version plus the Record Mirror review of Talk Talk's Today that they were taking "a huge lump out of the much-missed Original Mirrors". That suggested I'd missed something. Secondly, four years after its release, it was only £0.99 in a sale.
For those who don't recall them at all they were formed out of the Liverpool post-punk scene in 1979 by future Lightning Seed (then just a pip) Ian Broudie and a singer Steve Allen from another forgotten band, Steve Allen. The band also included bass player Phil Spalding, Jonathan Perkins who'd been in the pre-recording line up of XTC and experienced drummer Pete Kircher who went on to a three year stint with Status Quo including playing at Live Aid. Despite supportive press and a tasty support slot with Roxy Music in 1980 their two LPs (of which this is the second) bombed completely and they split up in 1981.
Now obviously the sleeve (see above ) didn't help it shift many copies but what's in the grooves ? Well the first , title, track's a throwaway near-instrumental with yobbishly shouted dance instructions though no one in 1981 was going to take the floor to this horribly dated sub-Devo jerky guitar pop. It is useful in establishing the parameters of the sound with Broudie's guitars and Kircher's big drums ( his impression of Mick Tucker on Ballroom Blitz is the best thing about this track; the cod-Elvis sign- off, the worst) upfront and Perkins kept on a very tight leash . Not a great start.
Next we have "Dancing With The Rebels" as resounding a flop as a single as its parent album. This starts with an intro of drum clicks similar to Antmusic then Kircher and Spalding lay down an ominous rumble and clatter offering a solid platform for a good song. Glitter Band massed whhoah-ohs don't bode well and then Allen comes in and the reason for their failure becomes apparent. His hiccoughing pub-singer drawl with added Elvis inflections (copped from Alan Vega) is ugly and grating and doesn't hide his inability to sing in tune. In a cartoon metal band he might fit ; in a sleek and shiny new pop group he is a disaster. The song itself is another call to arms directed at "the kids" with a rather offensive nod to Jonestown - "Kool Aid lying on the floor" . For all its faults there's a certain frisson in Kircher's pounding that makes it one of the better tracks.
"Teen Beat " is dismal. The influence radar picks up on Perkins's Radio Radio keyboards on a song that's as superficial as the title suggests. Quite what their 36-year old drummer thought of this slavish obsession with chasing the youth dollar would be interesting to know.
And here we go again with "When You're Young" (not The Jam song of the same name) , another patronising yoof anthem which is utterly vacuous despite the busy bass, drum flourishes and acid guitar solo.
"Things To Come" is an improvement. An excellent intro with Spanish guitar , castanets and Russianesque male harmonies leads into a song with a relatively interesting lyric about The Lone Ranger. While the chorus doesn't make much sense in that context - Kemo Sabe wasn't noted for fretting about the future - it does achieve a sense of foreboding and drama for which they're clearly striving.
"Darling ... In London" on Side Two continues the Russian theme retaining the mass harmonies on a folk reel melody before the song proper begins and the lyric seems to concern Russian sailors looking to make the most of a brief stopover in the West (pre-dating Letter To Brezhnev) . There's some interesting phased guitar and keyboards in there too.
"Don't Cry Baby" takes us back to the 70s by melding two acts from the opposite ends of the glam spectrum with verses that are pretty similar to Bowie's Golden Years and a chorus that recalls the over-produced Spectorisms of the Rubettes. It's competent pastiche, nothing more.
"Please Don't Wear Red" is one of the two sole Broudie compositions (the title track is the other) and he gives us a break from Allen by singing it himself. There are few pointers to The Lightning Seeds here though. The thunderous drums, scratchy guitar and screechy keyboards are more reminiscent of early XTC. I can't make out enough of the lyrics (the vocals are very low in the mix) to get a sense of what the song's about but it lumbers along without having enough melody to leave a lasting impression.
"Swing Together" brings some welcome space in the sound being mainly acoustic guitar and distant keyboards with the occasional bass drum thump from Kircher. It's a good arrangement but the lyrics are the same dismal we are the youth nonsense previously peddled by Secret Affair and hearing Allen more clearly doesn't make him any better.
"Time Has Come" sees Broudie trying on a Banshees ringing guitar sound for size and the main riff is quite similar to Siouxsie and the Banshees' contemporary Spellbound which may be connected to the fact Broudie and Banshee drummer Budgie were previously in Big In Japan together. That's the only interesting thing about the track which has empty modernist lyrics and no tune. The chorus line goes "The time has come but not for you". Couldn't have put it better myself boys.
So no I hadn't really missed anything. Duran Duran and Talk Talk owe nothing to these guys. They had the sound but not the songs , the precursors of Re-flex and Wang Chung instead.