Record Review: Figures On A Beach – “Standing On Ceremony” US DLX RM CD [part 1]

figures on a beach standing on ceremony cover art
Wounded Bird Records | US | CD | 2008 | WOU 5596

Figures On A Beach: Standing On Ceremony – US – DLX RM CD [2008]

  1. No Stars
  2. The Glamour Of Motion
  3. Feel the Mood
  4. Angels Working Overtime
  5. Rhythm
  6. Elvis’ House
  7. A Pagan Gift
  8. Paris
  9. State of Emergency
  10. Delirium
  11. The Big Top
  12. No Stars [Club Remix]
  13. No Stars [Dub Version]
  14. No Stars [Remix]
  15. Eternal Repetition

It was seven years ago when I had a bit of Figures On A Beach drop into my lap, courtesy of my friend JT who had made me a CD-R of the band’s rare early cassette. I had been thinking about getting into this band for a few years thanks to how the tracks on those Sire “Just Say…” samplers really sounded vibrant and alive in the drab 90s. Last week, I finally snapped and bought a brand new copy of the band’s first full album for Sire; released in 1987 when I really should have paid more attention at the time. In 2008 our friends at the modest and self-effacing Wounded Bird Records label saw this title reissued on the solver disc, along with the 12″ single contents of “No Stars” added for extra goodness.

figures on a beach no stars cover art“No Stars” kicked the album off with a downbeat Post-Punk intro that only flirted with the Dance Rock which was the band’s métier until the expansive chorus arrived and took the song into flight into the skies of pop bliss. Chris Ewen’s juicy piano solo on the fantastic middle eight recalled past glories of Ultravox and early Talk Talk capably well. Anthony Kaczynski’s multi-tracked vocals were powerful and appealing; having a bit of the vibe of Michael Hutchence without his tendency to smoulder. This single was beautiful. How did I miss it at the time? Was there not a video serviced to 120 Minutes on MTV at the very least?

The feel moved to the sort of slinky funk that Double Duran were also dealing in around the same time with “The Glamour Of Motion” featuring John Rolski nailing the classic Nile Rodgers rhythm guitar sound to the angular, moody track. His sustained leads were also excellent. Perry Tell’s bass was not wasting any of our time on this one as the band capably switched to night prowl mode without batting an eyelash”Angels Working Overtime” changed the pace to a syncopated, martial beat that could have rolled for days. Giving the track an relentless pace reminiscent of Bjork’s “Human Behaviour.” The drumming couldn’t have been more different on “Rhythm” which eschewed the traditional drums for a pure 808 approach without coming anywhere near House music at all. Which probably took a lot of nerve in 1987.

This is Elvis’ refrigerator

This is where he made his meals

And you can get anything you want in Elvis’ Restaurant

Elvis’ House

I had bought this album expecting nimble Dance Rock, well done, but I was not prepared for the rather stunning turn of events on “Elvis’ House.” The somber pacing and low tempo drone accompanied what could only be termed Art Rock with Kaczynski methodically listing an ever expanding list of Elvis’ possessions over the 5:40 track. The lyrics became quite a fascinating meta-commentary on American culture and values, even as the band managed to inject some playful wit into the proceedings. The finale of the cut surely ascended to a plane of logical grandeur as the music bed piled on increasing levels of bombast; absolutely fully merited on this occasion.

Next: …Americans In Paris

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Record Review: Figures On A Beach – “Standing On Ceremony” US DLX RM CD [part 1]

  1. KeithC says:

    Gadzooks! You only recently purchased this? Just checked my Discogs as I clearly recall buying this solely on a PPM post recommendation. That being said, Figures on a Beach was nowhere in my geographical music sphere other than college radio in the wee hours. Upon receiving said CD, the opening track was played on repeat so much that I can’t recall any other songs from it. Off to grab it for a listen and then re-read the Apr-10-2018 post that got me there (here?)


    • postpunkmonk says:

      KeithC – Well, I’m not made of money! I want about $5K of music a year and have a budget that’s about a tenth of that on the low end, and I’m fine with that. It means that I take l-o-n-g y-e-a-r-s [if not decades] to act on my impulses. So seven years is relatively quick for me!


      • KeithC says:

        PPM – I’m with you on that point. So much I would like at this stage in life is cash constrained vs my 20s where it was 10+ CDs week with the bulk being costly UK and Japanese imports. I skipped the Marc Almond & Soft Cell box sets (my 30+ of his + almost of Soft Cell’s CD releases covered most of those tracks) and skipped the latest Heaven 17, Erasure and Fashion box sets as the CAD$ value was above both my want/need thresholds. Even the Vienna box set was a 3 day back and forth before I decided a few Rubellan titles were needed.

        But I digress; will be listening to this release in tandem with your upcoming post(s).


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