BY J. E. SUMRELL
LPs are shortened, singles are lengthened, and there’s enough remixing going on to start a concrete factory. Is that all they do in England? Here’s a review of the latest imports (first EP-singles, then albums) from the jolly land of the century’s greatest wedding.
1) Brian Eno-David Byrne, The Jezebel Spirit (E.G. EGOX1). This limited edition 12 inch EP contains two slightly remixed cuts (the title tune and "Regiment") from the celebrated My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, an album that has had too much said about it already. "Very, Very Hungry" (previously unreleased), operates in the same primal vein as Ghosts and contains dabs and sparks from Eno’s Another Green World, as well as glosses from other works which should sound familiar. The EP flows smoothly and the remix job makes it worth the time.
2) The Method Actors, Rhythms of You (Armageddon AEP 12005). Athens’ answer to Suicide, a question that was never really asked. Oh well, things could have been a lot worse. The comparisons between the Actors and Suicide are actually not so well founded, as the latter employs little, if any rhythm devices, whereas half of the Actors is a drummer. The guitarist (the other half) has a style reminiscent of a demented Andy Partridge meets the Magic Band. And the singer… a Tom Verlaine clone if there ever was one. A lack of bass creates a thin, weedy sound that prevents this disc from ever taking off. "Distortion" b/w "No Condition" would have made a killer single, though.
3) Phil Collins, If Leaving Me Is Easy (Virgin VS 425). One of the two major surprises of 1981 (the other being Steve Winwood’s Arc of a Diver) was Phil Collins’ Face Value. How were we to know that making it a top ten album would start the singles boom? This is the third single from Collins, and the first not to offer a remix of the "A" side.
This time the "B" side is the saving grace. Running nearly 15 minutes, it offers "drawing board" versions of the three singles, "In the Air Tonight," "I Missed Again" and "If Leaving Me Is Easy." It is interesting to see how the tunes were developed from their raw to their polished form, but after one listen, it becomes novelty. Strictly for collectors.
4) Wire, "Our Swimmer" b/w "Midnight Bahnhoff Cafe" (Rough Trade RT079). New Wave’s very own schizoid non-band resurfaces in this 1979 single that has all the ingredients to make one wish for more. (An album of live cuts is promised.) Sounding more like a tune from Pink Flag than 154, it is probably drawn from post-Chairs Missing days. Lacking in the eerie sophistication that made 154 such a masterpiece, it features a straight ahead approach unlike any songs from any album. After listening to Colin Newman’s A·Z it is obvious that "Our Swimmer" is a Newman piece (there are no credits on the "A" side). The "B" side is much less satisfying, probably one of the worst Wire tunes released.
5) Public Image Ltd. "Flowers of Romance" (Virgin VS 397-12). What can I say? Virgin released this in both 12 and seven inch formats, but the 12 incher is the one to get. The "A" side of both is a slight remix of "Flowers of Romance," accentuating the string-synth unlike the LP version, which focuses on drums. But the 12 inch goes on from there with a dub version a Ia Sandinista meets the Bollack Brothers. Very satisfying. The "B" side is tired PiL drawn from the vault, complete with the Wobble that your woofers can’t understand.
6) The Professionals, "Join the Professionals" b/w "Has Anybody Got an Alibi?" (Virgin V5426). And you thought punk was dead? Guess again. Rock’s own nasty boys are back again with an extremely good single full of Sex Pistols energy crossed with keen melody and an immaculate production by Mick Glossop. An album full of songs like the "A" side would be all right with me. A thunderer in the same vein as "The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle," it is everything rock isn’t these days: lively, kickass and nasty. It’s good to see that all the surviving Sex Pistols are doing so well. How about an album, fellows?
7) Jah Wobble, Jaki Liebezeit, Holger Czukay (Island 12 WIP 6701 ). Although this record is dedicated to the memory of Ian Curtis, it holds no resemblance to the haunting music he made with Joy Division. In fact, this disc holds no real resemblance to ANYTHING, except maybe Can and Pil, the former hunting grounds for these guys. This sounds more like a Wobble work than anything, with weird counter-rhythms punctuating almost-reggae instrumentation and melody-less singing, filtered to sound raspy. Poor Ian. This sort of trouble he doesn’t need. A curiosity, at best.
8) Magazine, About the Weather (Virgin VS 412-12). It says it’s an "extended version" of "About the Weather," but my album version clocks in at the same 4:03 as the single. What’s the joke? The "B" side’s two tunes are previously unreleased, and they are quite good indeed. "In the Dark" is a dark piece, sounding like a cross between B-(monster) movie soundtrack and Gary Numan. "Operative" is more familiar Magazine, something we can all live with. Sorry, so sorry, Howard, but why did you break this gang up?
Now for a few albums you’ll probably not see over here.
1) The Cure, Faith (Friction 0060.395). Sort of a strange hybrid of joy Division with Gary Numan. Heavy synthesizer and trebly bass make this difficult music, but well worth it (I can, however, do without the guitar). Very good effort, all around.
2) Colin Newman, Provisionally Entitled The Singing Fish (4AD CAD108). Wire’s last foothold on earth takes off, leaving behind a bizarre but accessible montage of ideas that work. Newman has always been a bit more "pop" than avant-garde cohorts B.C. Gilbert and Graham Lewis, but he moves more into their territory with this collection of "fish." Newman works in a more constrained fashion than Lewis and Gilbert, and the result is a tight LP, much more satisfying than anything to do with Wire since 154.
3) ½ Japanese, Loud (Armageddon ARM 7). Cacophony never sounded so good, but loud this album isn’t. In a way, it’s sort of disappointing after their brilliant 30 second blurb of "Paint It, Black" on Morgan-Fischer’s Miniatures. Anyway, the songs aren’t important. The lyrics (printed on a lyric sheet) aren’t important. It’s all sound. And these guys (and girl) sound uh, well, I dunno… They just sound. Hear before you buy.
4) Ken Lockie, The Impossible (Virgin V2187). Mr. Cowboy International charts new waters with this highly original and well-crafted LP. CI fans may be unimpressed with Lockie’s disregard for melody that made The Original Sin such a joy, but they’ll come over sooner or later. This may very well be released stateside, due to Virgin’s new contract with Epic Records, but don’t hold your breath. Get the import.