[…continued from last post]
The next two songs were also from the “Distinguishing Marks” campaign. The winning “Remorse Code” had all of the chops to be a great single, what with the brilliant title hook being one I had not come across yet. “All About You” was a stunningly prescient B-side to “Houdini Love” where the mood shifted away from the ringing Power pop” of the album to something more minor key and dissonant. If the album was New Wave [and it was] this B-side was post-Punk. The arrangement used dub energy throughout and the flute-like synths added reverbed atmosphere as the rhythm track went into dub space. Best of all, the lyrics were as current as one could imagine as they depicted the sort of intense, surveillance state that we live in today.
Virgin apparently jumped the gun on the band and issued “Bohemian Dance” as a single in front of the next album. It’s a fine deep cut, but didn’t sound like a single to these ears. Moreover, the band were developing their sound so quickly, that by the time they had an inkling of where they wanted to go, “Bohemian Dance” was hopelessly old hat for the band’s sound. Jimme O’Neill had been spending time in the Blitz Club and rightly sensed the New Wave Funk was on its way. But there would be some missteps along the way resulting in the fact that I own three different pressings of their third album, “Beat Noir,” to have all of the songs.Virgin apparently jumped the gun on the band and issued “Bohemian Dance” as a single in front of the next album. It’s a fine deep cut, but didn’t sound like a single to these ears. Moreover, the band were developing their sound so quickly, that by the time they had an inkling of where they wanted to go, “Bohemian Dance” was hopelessly old hat for the band’s sound. Jimme O’Neill had been spending time in the Blitz Club and rightly sensed the New Wave Funk was on its way. But there would be some missteps along the way resulting in the fact that I own three different pressings of their third album, “Beat Noir,” to have all of the songs.
The new sound for Fingerprintz for 1981 was a continuation of the pulp noir hinted at by the previous album cover but with the songs taken from the bright sounds of pop to the dancefloor at night. The single “Shadowed” was a letter perfect slice of the form that the band were achieving. It was underpinned with wa reliance on morse code rhythm guitar and dancefloor dynamics. “Shadowed” was a perfect film noir scenario and the middle eight where a deep Scots brogue gave us the internal dialogue of a P.I. meeting a femme fatale was immense fun. Details like whipcrack synth percussion and funky clavinet loops were a world away from the sound on albums one and two.The new sound for Fingerprints for 1981 was a continuation of the pulp noir hinted at by the previous album cover but with the songs taken from the bright sounds of pop to the dancefloor at night. The single “Shadowed” was a letter perfect slice of the form that the band were achieving. It was underpinned with wa reliance on morse code rhythm guitar and dancefloor dynamics. “Shadowed” was a perfect film noir scenario and the middle eight where a deep Scots brogue gave us the internal dialogue of a P.I. meeting a femme fatale was immense fun. Details like whipcrack synth percussion and funky clavinet loops were a world away from the sound on albums one and two.
Elsewhere, “Madame X” continued the thematic scenarios of pulp fiction. It and “Echohead” were dropped from the US copy of “Beat Noir,”which was my first exposure to the album in 1981 [on Stiff Records]. But “Changing” was a delicate ballad on every version of the album where it gave some change of pace to the program. “Changing” was just O’Neill with a rhythm guitar doubled with delay, a little synth, and a hi-hat barely ticking away. Minimal, but splendid pop craft of great sensitivity.
“Touch Sense” might have been a half-step back toward the Power Pop sound of “Distinguishing Marks,” but the morse code guitar pegged it as being part of this batch of songs. “Going Going Gone” was an energetic closer to the “Beat Noir” album, but this disc was capped with the last Fingerprintz single; the amazing “The Beat Escape” and one of the later tracks the band recorded and swapped out into the second pressing of the LP.
“The Beat Escape” was another one of those distinctive 1981 high-pressure funk numbers like “Chant No. 1 [I Don’t Need This Pressure On].” There must have been something in the UK water that year. Probably just the prescient sense of what the Thatcher years would hold in store. For whatever reason, the tense, urgent funk vibe really prevailed. This track was all about the sybaritic escape of the dancefloor. We should be so lucky to hear its like in a club…even now! It was not heavy on the melody, but instead it was driven by a massive, stupid beat enlivened by massed handclaps and distant vocals chanting under the driving, insistent synth bass line. It was a demand to dance even before the falsetto vocals of O’Neill started in with their repetitive strains being the only melodic development in the entire track [apart from a scant seasoning of brass injections].
In a just world, this A-side should have seen significant club play, but the funky Scots were never trendy enough for that. Which was a shame, since the vibe here with synths relegated only to the bass and the drumming and guitars proved that synths were not necessarily the only way to roll in 1981 for a funky good time. The vintage cover art perfectly captured the coiled frenzy of the music within. Here’s the 7″ mix for your edification.
Finally, one of the later songs climaxed this compilation as the dynamic “Get Civilized” showed off a Fingerprintz capable of almost anything. The arc of development from the D.I.Y. New Wave sounds of 1979 gave way to the power Pop of 1980 and dance rock of 1981. The band were very capable and O’Neill had seemingly no problem writing strong material to fit any number of scenarios. He had scored a hit early on for Lene Lovich with “Say When” but had not managed to grab the brass ring himself, and after three attempts, including the indulgence of letting the band record a new session and reissue their third album, Virgin had stuck by them for the requisite three albums. Sadly the band called it a day, with Adam Ant picking up drummer Bogdan Wiczling for “Friend Or Foe” onwards.
Jimme O’Neill then linked up with Jacqui Brookes to co-write and perform a great album of torch song material which stands as the feminine flip side to “Beat Noir.” A very stylish, an even more accomplished album. Eventually O’Neill and guitarist Cha Burnz formed The Silencers and finally managed to get some hits for themselves. But I’ve never heard that band. In the mid-80s, discretion was the better part of valor and I didn’t take the bait. I thought they would be too similar to Simple Minds of the period.
Instead, I preferred to keep my listening confined to Fingerprintz. The listener got a lot of growth and talent spread across these 22 songs, and hats off to Rubellan Remasters for having the taste and passion to make this, the first legitimate Fingerprintz CD after 41 years, finally happen in the waning days of the august format of our choice. The song selection was excellent with no complaints from this fan’s end. Each album period got the love it needed in the proper proportion, and the disc was salted with a few non-LP A/B sides in addition to 7″ and 12″ single mixes that hit many targets I would have aimed for too. In particular, the inclusion of the “Houdini Love” A-side remix and non-LP B-side! That was the one Fingerprintz record I had not yet bought for my collection and I’m happy to have this CD, sourced from the actual master taped and lovingly [as usual, for Rubellan Remasters] remastered without any brickwall nonsense, instead. Like every Rubellan Remasters disc, this one sounds phenomenally great and features a full dynamic range for pleasurable listening.
For the first time on a Rubellan Remasters CD, the liner notes featured a great interview with O’Neill filling in the details and gaps throughout the band’s brief, but eventful life. I would be so into DLX RMs of each of the Fingerprintz albums, but will probably have to do the work myself…unless this disc sells out quickly and spurs the label to continue with the program. It’s a long shot, but you know what to do! Hit that button to sample tracks and buy this gift from the New Wave gods.
– 30 –
Distinguishing Marks was was the one Fingerprintz album I owned (on vinyl, obv) and always enjoyed its power-pop goodness. Never heard anything from the first or third albums except for Shadowed (somehow a low-res MP3 “fell” into my iTunes library early in my laptop owning years). Was beyond excited to buy this disc from Rubellan Remasters, and sure enough I like the entire thing. Please bring on the CDs of all three albums. Pretty please.
Taffy – The first album was good but each album was a huge step forward from the previous one! “Beat Noir” is one of my sacred 1981 albums [but then, there are SO MANY]. Given that my first exposure to the pen of Jimme O’Neill was on Lene Lovich’s “Say When” and “Telepathy,” that was a sale right there. But he also wrote “Never Never Land” and the godlike “Sister Video!” I’d follow him anywhere just on his Lene Lovich writing! He’s such a strong writer and the band were poached by Adam Ant so that’s another strength they can boast of. I’m just astonished that it’s taken until now for anything to come of their catalog. It’s been out of print for 39 years! Insanity.
Thanks to your blog (and my hopeless Googling every year or so) I just placed the order for the Fingerprintz disc! (And Missing Persons’ Rhyme & Reason, which was another delightful discovery on Rubellan’s site). I hope it sells enough to spur releases of the 3 albums in full. Distinguishing Marks has never left my side, from bedroom LP to cassette transfer to MiniDisc and finally FLAC. I would recommend tracking down The Silencers. The first one I heard was A Letter From St Paul, which is a very solid, understated album. The rest of the albums are uneven but brilliant, due to O’Neill’s constant experimentation. I only found the Silencers because a friend heard me listening to Distinguishing Marks and freaked out when Bulletproof Heart played – O’Neill covered it on Letter From St Paul (not as good as the original), so my friend was used to that version instead!
B – Welcome to the comments! So The Silencers didn’t stay in one place? That gives me hope. I saw the occasional record and it just seemed so middle of the road to me. I always felt that The Silencers were Jimme getting down to trying to be a success and stifling the energy present on Fingerprintz and even Intro/Jacqui Brookes. That The Silencers were tied to the mid-80s probably colored that suspicion. Everyone seemed to be selling out at that time. Enjoy your Rubellan CDs! He does a fantastic job of it.
To be frank, The Silencers are middle of the road. They don’t have the same spark Fingerprintz had, for sure. That said, there is some gorgeous songwriting & performance throughout their catalogue (Rosanne, Blue Desire, Siddharta and Sacred Child all might be streaming somewhere), and it doesn’t feel like they sold out, more like they got comfortable. There are far more low-key, mid-tempo tracks than all-out rockers. I treasure Fingerprintz, and think of The Silencers as a completely different band for a calmer mood.
My Rubellan CDs will be here Monday. I keep refreshing the tracking page.
B – As I suspected on The Silencers. Perhaps I was right to give them a pass.