Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bauhaus: Telegram Sam (1980/AD 17)

        Released in December 1980, Bauhaus's 4th and best single on 4ad consists of two covers and one original. Their cover to Telegram Sam is fairly different from the T. Rex original, being faster in pace, more punky, and overall full of energy and catchy as hell. It's fantastic and I prefer it to the original. The second track, Crowds. is the odd one out here, I can't say I love it, with the piano being too clink-clanky, and Murphy's vocals to melodramatic. This is also too dry for my tastes, I would say a little reverb would have been better.
      The final track, their cover of John Cale's Rosegarden Funeral of Sores, might just be my favorite Bauhaus track throughout their discography. The bass line is just so dark and provactive, the guitar tones by Ash are fantastic and totally suit the atmosphere, and Murphy's melodrama perfectly fitting the disturbed nature of the lyrics. Also the "chorus", with the two chord guitar chug, is fucking fantastic. It's really a testament to both Cale's songwriting skills and Bauhaus ability to make that their own. Aside from Crowds, an Amazing single and the best single by the label so far.

Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gilbert and Lewis: 3R4 (1980/CAD 16)

         The second album released on 4AD, in October 1980, was by the former Wire Members, Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, this time under the their own names instead of Cupol. This four track album features two long drone, instrumentals, called 3.4 and R respectively, separated by two short tracks called Barge Calm.
         The album, itself is fairly similar to Eno's Ambient 4 in intentions, creating a mood without a melody or chords. While this album isn't as amazing as that record, it does succeed in taking me somewhere, which in this case is some rainy new england coast seaside. The short Barge Calm tracks are practically identical consisting of metallic shaker type instruments. 3.4 begins with a two note ostinato with some added metallic sounds throughout the track. Around 7 minutes, the sounds lessen and a bass guitar with a fog horn sounding synth takes over. Then marimba like percussion followed by ambient guitar sounds are added. The whole track has somewhat of a menacing feel to it, but a rather subtle menace, behind a cloudy surface.
             The Track R is abit longer and makes me think of a nearby industrial ship ward, with hard guitar scratches, a vocal synth drone, some low metallic sounds. Around 8 minutes, with additional vocal synths and low bass sounds, reaches the climax of the album, this synth choir continues till the end with towards 18 minutes some introduced distant wooden percussion. It's a beautiful ending to a drifting, atmospheric album that while not that memorable, is decent while listening to nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Modern English: Gathering Dust (1980/AD 15)

        Modern English are back and it seems they discovered Hawkwind. This single was released in November of '80. The sound here, while still post-punk, is heavier, features more spacey electronics, and has the best production yet of any 4AD release. The track itself, Gathering Dust, is fantastic. It begins with just hi-hat, and the guitars, and slowly more is added to mix, until the chorus, where the dynamics, let loose. It's a very dramatic track.
       The B-Side is called Tranquility of a Summer Movement. It begins with some bird sounds, some guitar sounds that sound like a dog moaning, and backward vocals. Around half-way the rest of band joins in and the pace slowly picks up until the end when everyone is double speed. While not a horrible track, it lacks an real memorability and aside from the dynamic shifts, doesn't have much direction. Notably this is the first release with artwork by Vaughan Oliver who would become famous for his record sleeves with 4AD.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mass: You and I (1980/AD 14)

          After Rema-Rema disintegrated, 3/5 members plus a new drummer, created Mass, and boy are the results underwhelming. Peel said something along the lines of "the most consciously morose music I have ever heard" upon listening to this song. All of the spring from Rema-Rema is gone and bleakness for bleakness's sake has taken over. The A-side consists of some child wailing in the background with very simple organ/bass lines and the singer mostly reciting the title of the song. The end of the song has a cool chime ring but that's it.
          The B-side called Cabbage is a better track featuring the ugliest (in a good way) bass tone I have ever heard and a really sludgy sound. This song tries to establish a similar feel to This Heat's Deceit but the musicians aren't good enough to do so. It's an ok track.

Rating: 1.5/5

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bauhaus: In the Flat Field (1980/CAD 13)

          And here we have the first album released on 4AD. Coming off fresh from their third single, Bauhaus gathered together to do their first album with the decision they would produce it themselves. And the results are good, but uneven. The first track Double Dare is fantastic; a doom-laden fuzz bass line carries the track, with tribal toms, scratchy guitars, and Peter Murphy's most frightening vocal performance yet. It really sets the tone for the album. Apparently this track was recorded for the Peel Session earlier in the year due to unsatisfactory attempts to record it for the album. The title track keeps the same mood, but this time cranks up the tempo and looses the fuzz bass. In the flat Field features some great work by the guitarist Daniel Ash. God in an Alcove, quiets the whole affair down, and is the first song to really be chord based, Ash doesn't let his guitar roar here, preferring to strum it.  The song is a bit awkward overall, with Murphy's vocals being more hammy and dramatic than the instrumental. Dive is a fun track, featuring some sax blurts, punk guitar, a lot of hi-hat, and some goofy singing from Murphy. Spy in the Cab is a dud, showing some more of their dub influence, but the atmosphere isn't there and the songwriting isn't either, the pace of it is also dirgish. Small Talk Stinks is a strange track, the lyrics are goofy, but wouldn't describe this track as gothic in any way.  This is more like some loungy new-wave track. The way Murphy says "With flowers!" always cracks me up. I don't know, sometimes I like this track for how different it is, but other times I hate it. With St. Vitus Dance, the album picks up, being like a cross between Dive and In the Flat Field, but featuring a potential obnoxious sound that sounds like some one strumming a rubber band. The lyrics though seem to be about someone's photography skills. The best dub influenced track is Stigmata Martyr which is the best song in the second half, with the guitars roaring again, and Murphy melodrama fitting the music, he even screams some latin phrases towards the end of the song. The last track once again hams up the affair. Nerves is a psuedo-tango post-punk track, with a plunky piano part, and once again more tom tom heavy drumming. It's sort of cheesy and is the longest track here. Overall 2/5ths of these songs are rather goofy and I don't think fit the mood of what Bauhaus were going for, but the other 3/5ths is fantastic and worth checking out.

Released October 1, 1980

Track Listing:
1. Double Dare
2. In the Flat Field
3. God In An Alcove
4. Dive
5. Spy in the Cab
6. Small Talk Stinks
7. St. Vitus Dance
8. Stigmata Martyr
9. Nerves

Rating: 3.5/5

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Birthday Party: Friend Catcher (1980/AD 12)

Released in October 1980, the first Birthday Party single for 4AD, consists of three tracks that would later appear on their Australia-only album "The Birthday Party" a month later. The Birthday Party began, in Melbourne, as The Boys Next Door and released their first album Door, Door and their last EP Hee Haw under that name in 1979. Upon their arrival in the UK right after Hee Haw came out, they changed their name with this single. Ivo signed them to 4AD after seeing them perform the track Mr. Clarinet with a farfisa organ (which would later be a single).
        As for this release, the aside features one of the first blossomings of Rowland Howard's Metallic Noise Guitar. The song consists of many passages of screeching wall of guitar sounds that would go on to influence Robin  Guthrie of Cocteau Twins. Besides the impressive instrumental nature of this track, the song is not very melodic. Waving My Arms is probably my favorite track, being a fast paced, frantic punk romp, with one of my favorite sing-along chorus ever. "We won't get to sleep for a thousand years, and we won't get to sleep for maybe five minutes." The guitar playing is very choppy and vaguely psycobilly-esque, reflecting their Cramps influence. Following that is the track Catman, which is like a less energetic version of the last track. It has some cool dueling guitar lines going on, fantastic militaristic drumming, and  Cave's best vocal performance on the single. After Presage, the label needed something fantastic and they got it

Rating: 4/5

Monday, April 7, 2014

Presages(s): (1980/BAD 11)

             Not a suprise that a year that saw the beginning of 4AD, would field material of questionable quality along with some classics. Here we have an experiment by Ivo and Peter and releasing an EP of some demo tracks by mostly unsigned bands as some type of compilation. Overall all the bands here, except Modern English, aren't very good really, and some of the songs are just plain terrible. 
The Tracklisting is:
1. CVO: Sargaso Sea
2. Psychotic Tanks: Let's Have a Party
3. Psychotic Tanks: Security Idiots
4. Modern English: Home
5. The Last Dance: Malignant Love
6. Spasmodic Caress: Hit the Dead
7. Red Atkins: Hunk of a Punk

CVO's Sargaso Sea is a strange, electronic track featuring rather primitive keyboard tones, bad singing and a simple drum machine pattern. The track itself is ok, building on itself musically as the song goes, swaying along like a body of water. Psychotic Tanks' Let's Have a Party sounds like a half-hearted attempt at doing indie-funk, with some noise guitar, monotone vocals and some synth sound effects. Security Idiots is far more punkier and resembles an actual song, but is less interesting then Let's Have a Party. Modern English's Home is similar in many ways to their track Incident in it involves someone being killed lyrically, this time it's even goofier, bordering hammy. The music however is better with it largely being a textural  piece with no one really playing any chords, just strumming notes in a key to a continuous cymbal pitter-patter behind the singer. Last Dance's Malignant Love is just a mess of a piece, trying to do more than the band is capable. The production is weak (well it is a demo recording) but the keyboard tones are bad, the bass is murky, the drums soaked with to much reverb, and the singer sounding out of place with ever thing else. If it had better production it possibly could have sounded like a Siouxsie and the Banshees track but here its just not good. The most new wave track on Presage(s) would be Hit the Dead by Spasmodic Caress which besides Sargaso Sea is probably the best track. It's short, features a good delivery and a catchy melody/chorus. It also has a cool echo thing on the vocals in the chorus. Not bad. Sounds vaguely like Wire too, or at least Colin Newman. The last track is a joke track by Peter, at Ivo's chugrin. Red Atkins himself isn't a singer or an artist, and his track Hunk of a Punk is more like a surreal sing-a-long than an actual song. Overall Presage(s) is probably the worst thing the 4AD ever put out, things only got better from here.

Rating: 1/5