Record Review: Skids – Days In Europa [part 1]

Captain Oi! | UK | CD | 2001 | AHOY CD 172

Captain Oi! | UK | CD | 2001 | AHOY CD 172

Skids: Days In Europa UK CD [2001]

  1. Animation
  2. Charade
  3. Dulce Et Decorum Est [Pro Patria Mori]
  4. Pros & Cons
  5. Home Of The Saved
  6. Working For The Yankee Dollar
  7. The Olympian
  8. Thanatos
  9. A Day In Europa
  10. Peaceful Times
  11. Masquerade
  12. Out Of Town
  13. Another Emotion
  14. Aftermath Dub
  15. Grey Parade
  16. Working For The Yankee Dollar [7” ver.]
  17. Vanguard’s Crusade

Wow! Where has this album been all of my life? It’s not every day I walk into my favorite local emporium and see a brace of Skids CDs in the used bins. After hearing about the return of The Skids no more than 72 hours earlier, I had to purchase these CDs. I listened to “Days In Europa” first and was rewarded with an amazing Bill Nelson produced album that fairly reeked on where Nelson’s head was at in ’78-’79. What did that mean? Synthesizers working their ways into both the rhythmic and melodic space of the music. Drums were often treated with heavy effects and synths to remove them from the mainstream. Since the drummer here was Rusty Egan, fresh from Rich Kids and then creating the Visage sound [which had yet to surface commercially at the point when this album was released], that meant that Nelson had a drummer who was fully on board with his technological inclinations.

skids-animationuk7aThe album kicked off with the single “Animation.” I was immediately smitten…hard, with the viscous, churning technopop of the track! It sounded like the sort of production that Nelson had been recording on the “Quit Dreaming And Get On The Beam” album around this time. Ironically, the Nelson album was held up until 1981 for release, so the thick, analog synthetic sound this song was steeped in was not to reach the public’s ears on a Bill Nelson record for another two years. The music and performances of the band were not a million miles away from the band who had recorded “Into The Valley” earlier that year, but the anthemic rock was now embellished with level of integrated electronics that few had at this point in the game. Synths pulsed vigorously here to enhance the drums and take them to a new place. Vocalist Jobson is still bellowing with heavy Scottish glottal stoppage; it’s apparently just what he does. Guitarist Stuart Adamson is still erecting anthemic structures that allude to the stadiums that those who would follow the lead of The Skids would eventually fill. Here, there was not the formulas that Simple Minds and especially U2 would ride into the sunset. Here there was still romance, innocence, and the thrills of discovery.

skids-charadeuk7aGloryoski! When the next track, “Charade” began I was treated to what was obviously the blueprint for the previously distinctive rhythm box hook that propelled OMD’s “Enola Gay” into the charts. Here, it was still timidly staying in the background of the insistent riff rocker. OMD were smart enough to push it out front where it finally got its moment in the sun, but the ripping leads of Adamson were intended as the main course here. The phased, machine energy of the production was on a more even basis with the roaring rock energy of the band. Adamson’s solos betrayed a heavy Nelson influence. The later Be Bop Deluxe albums were obviously touchstones for Adamson’s development as a guitarist. He’s certainly a good match for the master.

“Pros + Cons” fairly leapt from the starting gate like the sort of proto-New Wave that Nelson had been proffering a year earlier on the final Be Bop Deluxe album, “Drastic Plastic.” The same sort of fizzy, kinetic art pop, laced with alternately riffing and nimble, trebly leads. Listening to this album sounded for all the world like a world class Bill Nelson album filtered through the sensibilities of Richard Jobson. I appreciated Jobson’s push of the aesthetic envelope to encompass art rock. A daring move for a band forged in the flames of punk, but the trail of anthemic Post-Punk they blazed here would ultimately coalesce into the bittersweet fruit of The Big Music in a few years time.


“Working For The Yankee Dollar” was released as a single in an alternate Mick Glossop recording, but the album version was a striking, if longer production, that by title, led me to expect a radical cover of the familiar Andrews Sisters war-era pop tune. It was hardly that. The arrangement here was catchy and memorable, if obtuse. So much of Jobson’s vocals resembled military cadences, so on this track form and function united fairly close.

“The Olympian” was a more typical rousing Skids anthem with sing-along chanting adorned with the vibrant guitars of Adamson to attain the sort of anthemic vibe that made “Into The Valley” such a strong chart hit. The energy level here was nearly peaking for the album side, and the next track too it to its crescendo. In spite of its title and subject matter, “Thanatos” was by far the most energetic song on the album. It resembled nothing as much as a lost track from Nelson’s striking Red Noise album.

The album closed on a queer note with “Peaceful Times” featuring the track “Animation” played backwards with a portentous Jobson recitation laid on top of it. Considering what non-LP material surrounded the album, it was surprising that this was not relegated to B-side status with a fantastic non-LP A-side like “Masquerade” placed on the album instead.

Next: …The Bonus Tracks


About postpunkmonk

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5 Responses to Record Review: Skids – Days In Europa [part 1]

  1. Echorich says:

    This is The Skids album to have. So many Nelson/Glam/Moroder moments can be found, but The Skids stayed true the big sound they were building. Nelson brought more color to their sound. There is a late 70’s early 80’s Germanic/Eurodisco beat that just gets inside you, and there is an abundance of glam rock like calls to arms. Adamson really stands out here and Nelson give him ample room in the production to show off his growing confidence. There are moments on Days In Europa that remind me of Magazine – the use of synths especially. All this maturing without loosing the fire of their earlier, more Punk roots.


  2. SimonH says:

    You inspired me to pick up the Virgin Years box today, £20 for over 100 songs! Have always liked them but since having the Fanfare album back in 84 (released by Virigin at the same time as a Magazine comp that was my first taste of their brilliance) and a bare bones greatest hits on cd, all these years I’d never really heard the albums properly.
    A gig ticket for next year’s Bristol gig is now on my list.
    One of the box set discs focuses on Peel sessions, the last is a weird one, Adamson was sick and so John McGeoch stood in, Siouxsie even contributed backing vocals!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – That is exactly the next thing in my sights. It’s the only affordable way to get the “Days In Europa” remix album on CD other than the 90s Japane$e copy, which was actually the first version of this album on CD. I am enjoying the two albums I bought so much that I’d be crazy to miss 6xCDs of The Skids for just a few dollars more than what I paid for just the two I got last week.


  3. SimonH says:

    It’s a bargain, decent sound and a good booklet.
    After all these years Joy still sounds like the curveball it was back in 81! Credit to them for having the nerve to do whatever the hell they wanted to do, not many bands these days would take a risk like that. It’s not really my cup of tea, but has its moments.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – At the very least, the roundly derided “Joy” contains Billy MacKenzie backing vocals on “Fields.” I’ve had that track as a DL just for that reason, but the album on CD will be better. Actually, this box is the only way that happens. There was never a CD of “Joy” otherwise.


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