Sunday, 22 January 2012
72 Sidewalk - Icehouse
Purchased : 5th December 1987
Tracks : Taking The Town / This Time / Someone Like You / Stay Close Tonight / Don't Believe Anymore / Sidewalk / Dusty Pages / On My Mind / Shot Down / The Mountain
A fortnight later I was back in Manchester in similar circumstances and duly picked up the third Icehouse LP from the same sale. Rochdale weren't playing because it was the Second Round of the FA Cup and we'd already been knocked out. This time round City weren't so lucky, going down 3-1 to Steve Coppell's Crystal Palace thanks to clearly pre-planned gamesmanship by Mark Bright ( now a respected pundit ) who took a couple of dives to get City's goalkeeper Eric Nixon sent off. I've hated Palace, Coppell and Bright since.
This LP came out in June 1984 but did absolutely nothing in the UK despite the success of "Hey Little Girl" little over a year earlier. Radio and music press ( with the notable exception of Record Mirror's Betty Page ) alike seemed determined to treat them as one-hit wonders and neither single got played. It was therefore a blind purchase for me with no familiar tracks.
Having said that the opening track and lead single "Taking The Town" does ring a few bells with Iva Davies doing a Bowie impersonation that wouldn't disgrace John Culshaw and shamelessly lifting the oik-ish male backing vocals from Kim Wilde's Kids In America. Nor is it too far away lyrically from that song with its talk of claiming the streets for something new although wisely the 29-year old Davies doesn't explicitly align himself with the youth. It's slick, bass-heavy ( courtesy of future Pink Floyd sideman Guy Pratt ) funk-inflected pop in the same vein as Re-flex's The Politics of Dancing but doesn't have a strong tune to really grab the attention.
"This Time" is a dead ringer for Flesh And Blood - era Roxy Music with its slick sound, shamelessly romantic lyric and another faultless Ferry impersonation from Davies. It's hard to find anything else to say about it.
Then they start recycling their own songs. "Someone Like You" is a lesser cousin of "Trojan Blue" losing something of the cold grandeur with its mundane lyric about taking your chance at love when it presents itself. "Stay Close Tonight" is an even more blatant re-write of Hey Little Girl" with near-identical guitar and keyboard work. However it lacks both an interesting lyric and any real chorus. Neither of these are bad tracks but it's a little disappointing to find them so obviously treading water on only their third LP.
And then they pull out a corker with "Don't Believe Anymore" which became the second single. A slow building lament for a trust betrayed it begins with a minimal ticking drum machine and brooding atmospheric keyboards joined by growling interventions from Pratt's fretless bass and guest saxophonist Joe Camilleri. Davies drops the masks, beginning with a stoic near-spoken vocal then cracking in the bridge to a howl of pain for the power chord driven chorus. Camilleri 's extended solo is one of the best in my collection before a final crushing chorus and desolate coda. The only problem is that this song dwarfs the rest of the LP; there's always been the temptation to move the stylus straight to it.
Side two commences with the title track and their most blatant impersonation to date. A perfect distillation of the sound of Sparkle In The Rain - cavernous Waterfront drum sound, celestial keyboard chords, plangent guitar, scant traces of melody, declamatory stentorian vocal, faux-political lyric actually devoid of anything that would scare off MTV - every box is ticked. Simple Minds and Icehouse toured together in the early 80s and you assume there's some leg-pulling going on here; the ordinary listener might wish for a better song.
And he / she would get it with "Dusty Pages", a good choice for the third single. Davies sings in his own voice to a refreshing acoustic strum and there's a decent chorus. The piano fills remind me of Talk Talk's Have You Heard The News but otherwise there are no obvious pilferings. Davies is pleading with the girl not to pull the plug on their relationship but all he can offer is the past - "Of the promises we made of the good times that we had" - emphasised by the ghostly keyboards and we know she isn't listening.
"On My Mind" is a solid, glossy pop song about being unable to shake off a past love that adheres to the "Hey Little Girl" template of moody floating verses and a well-anchored catchy chorus.
After that the well of inspiration appears to have run dry for the final couple of tracks recycle music that Davies originally used to soundtrack the film Razorback ( Russell Mulcahy's underrated debut in which the horror derives not from the giant boar which all too obviously runs on wheels but the revelatory portrait of Outback life as squalid, ignorant and vicious ) . Both worked fine in context as moody synth-driven background music but "Shot Down" is a tuneless repetitive bore with back-of-a-fag packet lyrics while "The Mountain" still isn't a fully-formed song , a mixed down Davies chanting vague lines while Pratt and Camilleri improvise to no real effect.
Despite hosting one of their best songs this is by some distance the weakest of the three Icehouse LPs we've covered so far. We'll meet them again though.