The bonus tracks began with the rousing “Masquerade,” which was built on the same lurching beat popular around that time in songs like “My Shadow In Vain” or “My Sharona,” but I’ll take this song any day. Once heard, it has a tendency to play in my head for hours afterward. The single came in a 2×7″ configuration with all of the B-sides included here. “Out Of Town” was built on staccato repetition of the title vocal hook and the tightly coiled cascading descending guitar riff that followed verse two reeked so strongly of producer Nelson that I cannot believe that Bill himself didn’t play it. A most triumphant B-side was the result.
“Another Emotion” was another high energy rock tune. It sounded more stratghtforward than much of the material on “Days In Europa,” hence the decision to release it here. It sounded like something that would have fit better on the first Skids album. That makes sense. This single was an interim release between “Scared To Dance” and “Days In Europa.” The band were just getting to know Bill Nelson by this point, undoubtedly. His imprint would be heavier on the material that followed this.
Nelson co-produced the album with John Leckie, who also engineered. That’s not surprising, since Nelson and Leckie were a long-term team, and Leckie’s New Wave and Post-Punk credentials were impeccable. I’ll say it was probably Leckie himself who was responsible for the outstanding dub mic of “Masquerade,” known here as “Aftermath Dub.” Leckie had made the seminal “Go +” EP with Andy Partridge the previous year, and he was ahead of the class when it came to applying dub principles to Post-Punk music. The dub mix here is brilliant! The music really feels as if it had been stretched, pulled apart, and re-assembled into something related but radically different from “Masquerade.”
In contrast, the B-side to “Charade” was “Grey Parade,” an elegiacal mood piece that belied its nearly five minute length. It was seemingly constructed out of a male vocal choir and high-frequency, theremin-like synth leads. The last two tracks were from the “Working For The Yankee Dollar” single. sadly, this one was also available in a 2×7″ format, but the BBC session tracks on sides C and D [one of which featured drummer Rusty Egan’s cohort in The Rich Kids and Visage, Midge Ure, on keyboards] were absent from this DLX RM. “Yankee Dollar” was trimmed down to single length in this newer production by Mick Glossop. Glossop also trimmed much of the machine energy that Nelson had invested the tune with, leaving it as more typical Skids single. This track telegraphed that The Skids were probably finished with their foray into more electronic Post-Punk rock.
“Vanguard’s Crusade” was the rollicking B-side to “Yankee Dollar,” and the galloping rhythms and Morricone guitars were purely redolent of the sound of Big Country yet to come. This “Days Of Europa” CD was a massive show of strengths with nary a misstep for these ears, thought I am not typical of the fan and critical reaction to this album at the time of its issue. It was seen by many as a repudiation of the anthemic Post-Punk foundations that the first album had laid. Coupled with the heavy use of synthesizers, and the 1936 Nazi olympiad references on the cover art, it’s not surprising that the album was remixed, resequenced, and re-issued immediately in the cover seen at right. Since I enjoyed the original version so much, it remains to be seen how the remix LP will fare with me.
While all I have heard from the debut albums was the single “Into The Valley,” I think I have heard enough Skids now to see the influences that spread widely to other bands. Theatre of Hate had Kirk Brandon adopting a stentorian bellow matched with widescreen Post-Punk rock and dub to similar effect. It goes without saying that U2 cribbed much of their act from The Skids, who did it first and best, but I’d also perhaps suggest that Simple Minds were close behind. Certain of the tracks on “Europa” called to mind some of the left-field excursions that followed closely on “Real To Reel Cacophony.”
This has me very much interested in hearing more of The Skids, and to that effect, I’d like to get the 6xCD box “The Virgin Years.” It features each Skids studio album and a BBC disc with full extras included. It even has the “Europa” remix album in an affordable version. That album was actually the first Skids full album issued on CD in Japan only in 1991. “The Virgin Years” box costs about half of what that would set me back for! I’ll discuss “The Absolute Game” tomorrow, but for now, it’s safe to say that I would want the whole Skids story in the Record Cell. Their absence until now has been sore point with me, given my ardor for “Into The Valley” 15 years ago.
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