Record Review: The Photos – Crystal Tips + Mighty Mice [part 1]

Cherry Red ‎| UK | CD | 2008 | CDMRED 366

The Photos: Crystal Tips + Mighty Mice UK CD [2008]

  1. My Life Story
  2. Life In A Day
  3. Luke Come Back
  4. Let’s Pack Our Bags
  5. Kill That Girl
  6. The Final Scene
  7. We Fight
  8. Thinking Of His Girlfriend
  9. Wish You Well
  10. For Beauty’s Sake
  11. Time Of My Life
  12. More Than A Friend
  13. You Won’t Get To Me
  14. It’s Always The English
  15. We’ll Win
  16. Charlotte
  17. Shy
  18. Cridsilla

When we last talked about The Photos, I had opined that I really needed to get this album. That was only a year and a half ago; miraculous for me to act upon so quickly. I never thought I’d see a copy of this outside of an Amoeba Records, but when I saw it in Atlanta at Criminal Records a few weeks ago, I was delighted to buy it.

The first album had been a great, scruffy, New Wave pop-slash-Shadow Morton affair that had plenty of heart. Where would they go on their next opus? One produced in late 1980 by Tony “Bowie” Visconti himself. Not surprisingly, their sound grew by leaps and bounds as they shed their “Blondie-lite” chrysalis to develop into a much more sophisticated band. The opener “My Life Story” had synthesizers prominently added to the mix while the guitars were deamphasized.This was far removed from the “two steps from punk” sound of the debut album. The arrangement was sophisticated enough to take into account the tempo changes of the chorus, which differed from the sleek motorik hum of the verses by introducing a reggae rhythm and cranking up the guitar skank.

The album’s first single, from late 1980, had been the stellar “Life In A Day;” not to be confused with the song of the same name by Simple Minds. The driving rhythms and synths served to put a lot of space between the naive charm of “I’m So Attractive” and where their heads were at by that time. The phased vocal effects and guitars were very technological. The vibe was far removed from the retro 60s sound of the first album. This seemed like something that could sit next to “Systems Of Romance.” Something powerful and technological, yet warm. The head rush of the cold ending could not have been more thrilling, yet this one hardly bothered the charts.

“I loved the deep hook in “Luke Come Back” as it tends to get stuck in my heard for a few hours each time I listened to it. This song seemed to have been maybe one that had been in their notebook for a while. It had a sense of continuity from the first album; something not every song on this album could claim. As ever, Visconti made certain to keep the arrangement fresh throughout and the drop in the outro leaving the gent’s backing vocals front and center for a bar. “Let’s Pack Our Bags” had a great bass line driving its urgent sentiments but the effects applied to the backing vocals crossed the gimmicky line with them sounding as if Visconti had run them through a VCS3 synth. While it worked wonders with Fripp’s solo on “Baby’s On Fire,” it just called attention to its ugliness in an otherwise strong song.

Next: …Snuff Rock Returns


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graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Record Review: The Photos – Crystal Tips + Mighty Mice [part 1]

  1. SimonH says:

    Amazing to think this album was binned! Doesn’t Visconti say in the notes that it’s a favourite of his productions? Bearing in mind the payola issue that overshadowed the first album I think it’s fair to say the industry chewed them up and spat them out!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – Well, Visconti thought it was good [and he’s right]. The man was about to get shut out by Bowie [but didn’t know it at the time] so he had a lot of talent to spread around on other artists albums. The Boomtown Rats in particular, benefitted from his watchful gaze – though his hand on the production desk coincided with the band’s diminishment of fortunes in this world of philistines!

      As a fan of the first Photos album, none of this was known to me until decades later, I was just amazed that a band could make an album as good as “The Photos” and have a hit single from it and then just disappear! Because over here we knew nothing. I heard “I’m So Attractive” on The Import Hour [I think…] and immediately bought the album on its release in America. CBS Records back then had a developing artist series that had albums for just $4.98 instead of $7.98 and the stores I shopped at discounted by a dollar so I got mine for $3.99.


  2. Argh! This particular album is not available on Apple Music for me to enjoy instant gratification before buying the CD somewhere! Blast! Curses! I guess I’ll have to content myself with the 26-track version of their first album until I can locate a copy of this!


    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – I should hesitate to do this to such an old and trusted friend… but I won’t!


      So we’re surprised that we can’t listen to whatever we please to on the all HIGH + MIGHTY Apple Music, are we?! Well, I say unto thee that THIS is what we can expect to happen when we consort with fornicators, idolators, and [can I have a “Hallelujah” Brother McAloon?] STREAMERS!!!! When ye lay with a nest of VIPERS, ye should expect to get BIT!! The LORD does not STREAM music! [give us a “Hands Up + Amen” Sister Martin!] I say theee, NAY! The LORD doth have an almighty Record Cell filled unto bursting with all manner of discs, tapes, and yes… even cylinders, for The LORD knoweth that the hands of Apple Music that giveth, also TAKETH AWAY! And that the PATH of RIGHTEOUSNESS is for thee to build thine OWN Record Cell and yea, ye shall fill it with thine own records, discs, and tapes! Only then shall ye know the joy of toil and sweat in service to the building of thine own kingdom of Heaven that is thy own HIGH, HOLY Record CELL! [Give me a “Hallelujah Europa,” Brother Lewie!]

      Liked by 1 person

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