Armoury Show: Castles In Spain UK 12″ 
- Castles In Spain [Wubb Dug mix]
- Innocents Abroad
- Is It A Wonder
I vividly remember when I first heard Armoury Show. A friend was over dubbing music videos and in between clips we had the live MTV feed on. When “Castles In Spain” came on, I hit “record” since I didn’t recognize it. Good call since Armoury Show were a supergroup made up of Richard Jobson [vox] and Russell Webb [bass] from The Skids with John Doyle [drums] and the ever lovin’ John McGeoch [guitar] from Magazine. Throw me in that briar patch!
“Castles In Spain” was a cookin’ riff rocker that most successfully hit the too popular “Big Music” target of the day. This was the period when Post-Punk was giving way to more commercial sounds that were expansive and extroverted and looked back to rock music instead of trying to run away from it. So this was certainly to be grouped into the steaming cauldron where one could find U2 on the tragic end and this band on the sunnier side of the street, with albums by Big Country and Simple Minds of that period in between. Though I look askance at Big Music, by and large, on a good day it can resonate with me as on Simple Minds’ “Sparkle In The Rain” or on this record, for example.
The 12″ version [Wubb Dug mix?] of “Castles In Spain” sounds like an alternate recording for all the world to me. As such, it loses the tightly coiled tension and release of the 7″/LP version in exchange for a regrettable overall diffusion of its energy. Many coming to this record after the 7″/LP version might do well to curb their enthusiasm, since an extension of the original this is most definitely not. The guitar’s sting has been dulled considerably with the inclusion of some acoustics instead, though the bass is more prominent. And Richard Jobson’s vocals are less confident. The best way to analogize the differences in the versions is to use the mono/stereo versions of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” as an example. Sure, the stereo version of “Satisfaction” is interesting, but would you trade it for the mono version? In a heartbeat.
Far better are the B-sides, which offer much for the listening. “Innocents Abroad” would not have embarrassed on the “Waiting For The Floods” album, but it’s “Is It A Wonder” that is the buried treasure on this disc! Fans of McGeoch from his tenure in Siouxsie + The Banshees would do well to seek this track out! It starts with an intro that sounds like a cut from “JuJu” and the middle eight solo is a wondrous thing redolent of the acid psychedelia of “A Kiss In The Dreamhouse!” As such, it stands far afield from the majority of Armoury Show songs and it makes perfect sense that it appeared as a B-side, since it is a textbook perfect case of the heights to which a B-side can aspire to while proudly wearing all of the limitations of such. That is to say, it’s a fantastic song that simply doesn’t fit thematically into the album [possibly even the group] but will bring great pleasure upon hearing. The kind of B-side that rewards careful record collecting in spades and builds the stuff of young Monkdom.
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