Record Review: Shox – “No Turning Back” UK 7″

shox no turning back cover art
Axis | UK | 7″ | 1980 | AXIS4

Shox: No Turning Back – UK – 7″ [1980]

  1. No Turning Back
  2. Lying Here

Shox were a band that I only found out about many years [decades, actually] into my Jacqui Brookes fandom. I was wondering what Ms. Brookes had been up to outside of the solo album in her own name and singles as Intro [which were well and duly in the Record Cell]. It was over a dozen years ago when I saw that she had begun her recording career as a member of the synth trio Shox, who were among the first handful of singles released in early 1980 on the Axis label, which soon had to change their name due to an earlier label with that name. Under the gun, they changed it to 4AD and you know the rest of that story.

Once I investigated this band of course I saw that their single UK 7″ was rather pricey and when reading about them at the 4AD website, I was surprised to discover that I could buy a DL from the label of this one and wasted no time in doing so. As the music on it is worlds apart from what became the established 4AD “house sound” it was probably appropriate that it came out before they had settled on that branding.

This was bright and chipper synthpop with a motorik drumbox and whirring synths blending harmoniously while Ms. Brookes sang the ebullient lyrics. There was a drop in the middle eight where most of the synths pulled away for the beat to predominate. The bubbliness of it all put the “dour synthpop” cliché on its head, though the outro did feature a lowing bass synth riff adding a subtext of disquiet beneath the relentless cheeriness. The anxiety of a phone ringing on the fade also provided complexity for the under three minute popsong.

The B-side opened with Ms. Brookes saying “lying here” four times with a beatblast of white noise demarcating it all. Interestingly enough, “lying here” was also the first lyric in the A-side as well, but that was the only vocal of Ms. Brookes on this side of the record. John Pethers sang the vocals here over a lower BPM, lurching synthpop foundation.

The bouncy quality of the sound design reminded me of two other records to come; “Marcia Baila” by Les Rita Mitsouko and Berlin’s “World Of Smiles.” The drier lyrics here were a far more typical example of New Wave with lyrics calling out to “multicolored photographs” and “selections of identity.” The hard, slapping beat from the intro interjected occasionally to add depth to the rhythm box chugging through it all. And the wooshing lead synths were perhaps down to the post-Numan environment that records like this were reliant on for commercial oxygen.

Mike Atkinson and John Pethers were pictured on the hilarious cover looking all coy beneath the covers as a fully clothed Jacqui Brookes nonetheless looked like she was basking in the afterglow. While Atkinson has been lost to the mists of time going forward, Brookes and Pethers kept their partnership going forward [at least for the next two years] int he band Siam. I have two of their three singles and am still looking for their posthumous live album, which is not getting any cheaper these days.

various - electrical languageThe six minutes of synthpop here were the only example of Shox to reach our ears, but 41 years later the sounds are easy enough to hear right now. The DL of this single is available in the usual places, and if you have a need to hear it on the silver disc, the B-side made it onto one of Cherry Red’s great compilation boxes a few years back, “Electrical Language.” I guess they picked “Lying Here” since it was a little more redolent of the Post-Punk origins of synth pop than the peppier A-side, but I would pick that one for immortalizing on CD if it came down to me. But listening to both of these tunes half a lifetime later, I can imagine a teenage John Crawford buying this single in the L.A. import bins and it having an influence a few years down the line when he was making his own technopop records with Berlin.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

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