Barry Andrews: Lost Pop Songs 78-80 UK CD 
- Rossmore Road
- Win a Night Out (with a well-known paranoiac)
- Me and My Mate Can Sing
- Bring On The Alligators
- Sargasso Bar
- Feeding Time
- Muscle & Movement
- Opposite Way in the Rush Hour
- Taking Over ICI
- Vampyr Skinhead
- Big Soft Safe Family
I wrote about this one in August and now it’s in house. I was overjoyed to see that unlike some of the short run Shriekdiscs I’ve bought in the last few years, this one is a full on, god’s own glass mastered CD instead of the pro duped CD-Rs that we might have seen in the past for such a release. That’s a thrill right there! More, please. I’ll gladly pay another $5. Mr. Andrews has written his thoughts on the project here, but now it’s time for mine.
The set began with an alternate take of the cool jazziness of “Rossmore Road.” Possibly the last thing that one would expect after being familiar with either early XTC or Robert Fripp’s League Of Gentlemen; the only pedigree Andrews might have have at the time of this single. There’s a jazzbo bass line and even clarinet, though this mix has Fripp’s very 1979 style guitar mixed up much further than what was originally released on 7″ single. The reticence of Andrews’ vocal has it mixed frightfully low in the single, with the song getting its pop on only at the song’s major chord chorus.
Amazingly, the sprawling shaggy-dog song “Win A Night Out [with a well known paranoiac]” was more of the same musically, with more jazz [almost Dixieland, this time] laying a foundation for the singer’s incredibly verbose raps showing that the song came by its title honestly. This must have been a head scratcher in 1980, and today, it doesn’t really slot into any of Andrews’ known sonic turfs.
Before the 1979 EP which was his solo debut, he’s slotted in a Brechtian deconstruction of Chic’s megasmash “Le Freak,” titled here simply “Freak.” He deftly managed to squeeze any life force out of this one in a contrary display of adolescent sneer. It’s hard to believe that just seven or eight years later he would commit a non-ironic cover of another disco smash, K.C. and The Sunshine’s Band’s “Get Down Tonight,” on the divisive “Go Bang” album. The main irony being in that it was a relative highlight of that album.
The next four songs were from the 1979 “Town + Country” EP and these seem to be all over the place as the artist, just having left the XTC nest, was trying on all sorts of pop garb in order to see what fit. The best of these songs was definitely “Sargasso Bar,” which one could definitely hear XTC playing with all of its might even here, where the backing vocal had a definitely Partridgian [is that a word?] vibe to it. Just the thing for the follow up to “Go2” that never happened.
The rest of the tunes flirt with New Wave sounds less capably than on “Sargasso.” As Andrews admitted in his liner notes, he was laying on the accent fairly thick here as it was the coloration of the Punk times. The tracks here were mastered from vinyl and I wish they had bothered to contact me about this since I have been doing this for 20 years now and have gotten to be quite good at coaxing the best out of vinyl for these purposes. The other day I was even motivated to have a go at my [unplayed until then] copy of this record and the results in just 2:15 resulted in clean noise-free [yet undistorted] copies of the tunes. Sigh.
The rest of the songs here came after the two singles from Virgin, and were mastered from cassettes in Andrews’ vaults. “Feeding Time” was a quirky examination on the joys of eating with a compulsive bass pulse by Dave Marx that grabbed one by the lapels. “Muscle + Movement” was a very different kettle of fish with a military cadence chorus of man brutes joining in the chant. The free flowing verse structure spilling forth uncontrollably until it was time for the mighty butch chorus to stop the tempo in its tracks once again.
The rest of these exploratory demos seemed to harken back to the mid to late 60s in the oh so New Wave way of the time. A big part of rejecting the seventies was to cast one’s eye back a bit further and see how the new technology of the day suited it. I’m actually quite taken with the two stabs at bluebeat ska that, according to Andrews, was about to erupt six months later as the 2-Tone movement [and label]. So he must have been honing on the zeitgeist something fierce. “Taking Over ICI” was the first song on this keyboardists’s solo effort that actually had a organ solo on it! His cheerful tone on “ICI” rewarded our ears with the most cheerful and energetic of solos. While “Vampyr Skinhead” sported a WASP synth hook and a downright weird point of view that possibly foreshadowed the strange world of Shriekback a few years down the line; in attitude if not vibe.
This was a sprawling little laboratory of sound for the quickly developing talent of Barry Andrews. The worldview that informed Shriekback had not yet begun to form, so it’s like hearing a kid play “dress up” and seeing what directions might hold some promise once the awkward developmental phase is behind them. This is good for fans of eccentricity and New Wave; just don’t go into it expecting anything like Shriekback, and no-one will get hurt.
– 30 –
Me want! Big fan of Andrews manic keyboards on those early XTC recordings. Sounds like this will be a new adventure for me.
Brian – Like I said, the keyboard hijinx only really manifest [magnificently] on the two ska tracks, but “Sargasso Bar” could have been an XTC highlight. Buy it here now as it’s on sale for an attractive £6.00! Everything in the store is still xmas sale priced. If you don’t have the new Shriekback album you must buy it.
At first I was sceptical to get this but it’s not only a document to store away as the title implies but a good listen through New Wave album, even when the sound quality differs and you can hear some authentical vinyl noise on the Town And Country EP tracks (most likely from the man’s own copy).
I must admit your review reminded me of that release and finally I took my chances, the extensive liner notes / lyrics / credits are available virtually only. The bonus of it all – the cover of ‘Le Freak’ is also great, way better than ‘Get Down Tonight’ (whatever mix) which is for me the ultra lowpoint of Shriekback’s career.
slur – Wow. I have to admit that I thought that “Get Down Tonight” was one of the high points of the unmemorable “Go Bang!” My good friend Mr. Ware once covered Shriekback’s version of that one with his New Wave cover band, The Pragmatix.
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