Those REALLY First Impressions: Vice Versa [ABC]

Neutron Records | UK | 7″ | 1979 | PX 1092

Vice Versa: Music 4 EP UK7″ [1979]

  1. New Girls Neutrons
  2. Science Fact
  3. Riot Squad
  4. Camille

Yumpin yiminy…! Against all odds I am now listening to my very own copy of Vice Versa’s  “Music 4” EP, not that I ever held out the hope that this would come to pass. If the band name rings no bells, know ye this; a year later the Sheffield synth trio were called ABC and had begun their assault on the chart of your heart, but this is the primordial Sheffield synth swamp from whence they came.

Vice Versa were exactly what one would have expected of a 1979 Sheffield synth oriented release. The wailing WASP synth is aided by a rhythm box, and the core duo of Mark White and Stephen Singleton were joined here by vocalist David Sydenham, performing in a style almost exactly like the dryly, matter of fact pronouncements of Cabaret Voltaire’s Stephen Mallinder. In fact, Mal could probably ask for royalties, after listening to this record!

“New Girls Neutrons” on “side A” sounds exactly like a perfect blend of the two most influential Sheffield bands whose fingerprints are all over this release; Cab Volt and The Human League. But this is the case for all of the songs here. The cold ending after the mention of digital watches on the lyric cannot be bettered. “Science Fact” takes a dispassionate look at the ever-present specter of nuclear holocaust.

More intriguing is the song that leads off “side 1.” “Riot Squad” manages to drop the lyric “Perspex” within its first verse. The lyrical content here is touched by Cab Volt’s more politically charged imagery delivered, as would they, in an ambiguous, non-committal format. “Camille” seems to be about the 1969 hurricane that devastated the Gulf of Mexico. Sound bites from documentary recordings are used in exactly the same way that Cabaret Voltaire would have done if they had gone down this road. Mark White is playing what sounds like a real bass guitar on this cut, giving it bit of a primordial OMD feel. Anyone who has heard the “artifact” EP that was included in the first LP pressing of “Organization” or on the subsequent DLX RM of said album on CD last decade, will recognize where the band is coming from.

So I have to admit that it’s fascinating to hear where ABC started out at ground zero. Martin Fry was still in the band’s future at this point, but when he interviewed the band for his fanzine, Modern Drugs, the wheels that resulted in him displacing David Sydenham as lead vocalist would begin turning. That the resulting recordings sound so completely reflective of the exact Sheffield millieu from which they sprang is intensely charming to me, 33 years after the fact. The fact remains, that anyone with a fondness for Rough Trade era Cab Volt or The Human League as evidenced on their “Diginity of Labour” EP will have much to love here.

Special thanks to my friend Ron for sending this my way. I never thought I’d see or hear these highly sought after tracks. Now, this spurs me on to create the long mooted ABC BSOG that I’ve been threatening to make for over a decade. I had not considered taking in the Vice Versa era since these records are too rare and costly for my blood, but Ron’s generous gift spurs me on. But what of Martin Fry fronting this band? Curious minds should drop in tomorrow for more on that subject…

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Those REALLY First Impressions: Vice Versa [ABC]

  1. Echorich says:

    I was gifted Music 4 about a decade ago and subsequently found it digitally so it sits on my iTunes Library. Spot on with the Cabs/HLmk1 and I might add a bit of Clock DVA noise. Pure Sheffield and fits in well on any Synths of the North Playlist.
    Interested to see what’s up tomorrow… I’m looking forward to it. I’ll just add one word. Funk.


  2. Jeremy Kennedy says:

    After 30 years, I still can find no common denominator between Vice-Versa and ABC other than the fact that Mark White & Stephen Singleton were both in those bands. Vice-Versa is a difficult listen in comparison to a recording as successful as the Lexicon of Love, that is perhaps inarguably one of pop music’s most distinguished lullabys. I would even take the blasphemous step and compare Vice-Versa to Joy Division in their most unhappiest state. Like Cabaret Voltaire’s most experiemental records, Vice-Versa had the technology, but weren’t sure how to compose ‘important’ music out of it. If fans of electronic music or even ABC have fingers crossed that Vice-Versa will take flight and rise in the same atmospheric synthtopia of say, the Human League v.1.0, based on my personal experience, they’re going to be disappointed. After a couple of listens to Vice-Versa, it is clear that Martin Fry was destined to rejuvenate the experiment into something shiny, glamorous and existential to new wave. By the way Monk, I have more Vice-Versa if you crave it. Former member Stephen Singleton shared his DAT-tape to cds a few years back and they’ve remained stored in my music library for history lessons only.


  3. regularjoe says:

    Says here that Stephen Singleton & Mark White are preparing a Vice Versa box set.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      regularjoe – I was aware of the Vice Versa boxed set and in a perfect world, I’d be all over it like white on rice. The cost is high now, but I suspect that it will only be higher in the future. It’s fairly low priced for a VOD release, but I just don’t have the money for it right now, so it seems that it will slip through the cracks in the Record Cell.


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