It was 1980 when I first encountered the Polydor US compilation “Made In Britain.” It was a sampler with four bands: Protex, Excel, The Comsat Angels, and The Invaders. I loved that record from day one, but it was not for the early appearance of the Comsat Angels. Rather, my ears were immediately pinned to the four cuts by The Invaders, who for me, at least, dramatically overshadowed all other bands on that compilation. Were there other bands on it? I hadn’t noticed. The Invaders were a no-hit wonder with more than enough New Wave goods to have gotten the nod from others, but over the years, I have found that my torch is out there, seemingly alone in the dark.
I felt that what they had on their album,“Test Card” was a grasp of pop dynamics brushed with the hints of New Wave common to another cult Pop band who meant the world to me, but few others… That would be The Tourists. When I heard the four cuts culled from“Test Card” on “Made In Britain,” I was hooked, but good! It took the better part of a decade, before I finally found an import cutout of the LP at the old Sound Warehouse in Orlando near the executive airport in 1988, and man, did my eyes pop when I saw the disc finally sitting there, awaiting purchase. So I’ve had the album for 35 years. It’s been played twice in that time. The second time for this CD.
Invaders: Test Card + – US – CD-R 
- Magic Mirror
- Japanese Dreams
- Personality Profile
- Only A Man
- Backstreet Romeo
- Young Mistake
- Spirit On The Ground
- Second Choice [Kind Of Occupied]
- Rock Methodology
- Wheels Of Fortune
- Girls In Action
- No Secrets
- Best Thing I Ever Did [New Future]
- Much Closer Still
- Shirley You’re Wrong
- Rock Methodology [Peel Session]
- Invasion Of Privacy [Peel Session]
The production, by David Batchelor was immaculate and engaging. Batchelor had his hands in many a Scot band’s production over the years: The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Skids, Fingerprintz. But this band weren’t the least bit Scottish. His engineer on the album was a young Gary Langan and the album was recorded at SARM studios, which was soon to intersect with the Trevor Horn story as he recorded many of his projects there before building his SARM West sister studio. Vocalist Sid [A.K.A. Slavko/Jasoslav] Sidelynk was an unknown to me, but he wrote or co-wrote all of the excellent songs here with the aid of vocalist Soo Lucas; perhaps better known as Soo Catwoman. The photo of her with the band printed small on the back cover showed her completely shucking her iconic punk look for a polished 1950s glam femme fatale image.
The lead single from the album was the immaculate New Wave/Power Pop of “Magic Mirror.” It was understandably the lead track on the “Made In Britain” compilation. This was one of the finest examples of sheer pop perfection I’ve ever heard. With a perfect blend of Kevin Kaine’s tough, slightly crunchy guitars with expert vocal harmonies and just enough of Phil Manchester’s synths to lubricate the melodies and remind us that it was 1980. Howard Wilson’s drum fills were right in the pocket to make this song cruise frictionless down the road. I loved how the fadeout was cut breathlessly into the next song. Sid Sidelnyk captured the perfect touch of yearning in his vocal that fit the lyrics like a glove.
Another hard splice segue led from the synth coda of “Japanese Dreams” to the staccato “Personality Profile.” This was one of the tracks selected for the “Made In Britain” album and it wasn’t a stretch to imagine it as a single. The rhythmic complexity had varying meters in the verse/chorus structure with hypnotic rhythm guitar from Sidelnyk. It was followed by “Only A Man;” another song with a staccato vocal delivery from Sid. The cold ending had a beat of silence before the album’s second single, the dreamy ballad “Backstreet Romeo.” This was the only song that co-writer Soo Lucas sang lead on and her plaintive vocals were highly melodious here. The overall effect was comparable to my very favorite Blondie tracks, like “Union City Blue,” though Ms. Lucas did not have the “bite” that Debbie Harry had. The tune was certainly was a soaring ballad that existed in a dreamlike state and I could never get enough of it. As great as this album was, the only way it could have been made even better was if it had one or two more cuts where Ms. Lucas could cast her compelling spell.
Side two began with an urgent burst of energy with the outstanding “Young Mistake.”This had all of the pathos of a great Vapors tune with the narrative painting a portrait of a youth disconnected from his parents and society. Think “News At Ten.” The arrangement here was more driving than we got from The Vapors, with an incessant rhythmic kick that gave bassist Dave Rogers the spotlight here in this case. It was another would-be single to these ears. The synth fills were consistently and tastefully applied here to add melody and gloss.
“Second Choice [Kind Of Occupied]” was another urgent rocker with a unique lyrical perspective. The protagonist in the song was tired of being his girlfriend’s “second choice for love” and takes the song to rebel against his cuckholded fate. It was followed by “Intermission” which was a dub take of “Searching” with a different, slower, Reggae-tinged arrangement.There were ghostly dubs of Sidelynk’s just barely there in the mix, while keys came more to the forefront on this version.
The last of the sampler cuts here was the vibrant “Rock Methodology.” Great tarpit bass lines augmented by shards of guitar hooks and more of those creamy synths tended to make this one get stuck in the cranium for hours at a time. Then the album wrapped with another urgent rocker in “Wheels Of Fortune.” Tasty breakneck drumming from Wilson pulled me right into this one in a heartbeat. Every album has a decision to make and this one weighed in on the side of going out with a bang most capably.
So when I finally had the album I’d been chasing for years, it fell until the [fairly recent] internet era that I discovered that The Invaders had a quartet of 7′′ singles on Polydor, with only two of them being pulled from their sole album. The first single,”Girls In Action,” came out in 1979 and was produced by Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69. But it was the furthest thing from Punk with a younger sounding Sidelnyk hitting close to the Power Pop ideal of The Jags. The winning cut would have been right at home on the Rhino “DIY: Teenage Kicks UK POP I [1976-1979]” CD if it have been a 2xCD set. Even so, the synth strings on the outro were hardly canonical and showed that the band were doing things their way.
The UFO and aliens scenario of “No Secrets” showed an early grasp of the staccato delivery that would stay an undercurrent on future Invaders songs, though the arrangement here sounded very pre-Punk. It sure sounded like some of the earliest songwriting from Sidelnyk to these ears. There would be a lot of polish in both songwriting and production to come for this band based on the evidence here. But the song had a bizarre 20 second coda bolted on which sounded for all the world like Wooshie Spkamoto singing a bar of “Angel On My Shoulder” in a karaoke bar!
The band’s second single,”Best Thing I Ever Did [New Future],” came out in 1979 in advance of their album with Pursey again in the producer’s chair showed dramatic development as the band was now hitting the bullseye on the sort of Power Pop that they would go onto own on “Test Card” with solid production by Pursey that would be bettered by the time that Batchelor and Langan came into the story. This track has gotten lots of play on bootleg Power Pop compilations and for good reason! It’s a hit! Whether the philistines in charge of the charts saw it the same way or not! “Much Closer Still” was still an accomplished and urgent B- side in need of only a little more polish on the chorus.
I can only surmise that Sidelnyk must have been moved by the 1980 movie “Airplane” for him to pen a song like “Shirley You’re Wrong.” A great B- side for the stellar “Magic Mirror” that trafficked in a title and lyric that owed everything to Leslie Nielsen’s famous line in that movie. The band’s last single,”Backstreet Romeo,” had two BBC sessions as its B-sides. First up was a radical re-think of “Rock Methodology” with a busload of keyboards and a squelchy synth hook bouncing through the song like a rubber doughnut. Either way, the song was a winner. “Invasion Of Privacy” was a non-LP track driven by a cowbell rhythm but sounded like it could have been right at home on the album. Phased vocals and another memorable [if garish] synth hook on the chorus notwithstanding. The album and the singles all failed to connect with a mass audience in a pure case of pearls before swine.
I’ve always championed this band and this album, and I was thrilled to recently obtain the four singles that became the bonus material after decades of pining away for them [many thanks to commenter Nick for rounding up three of them for me – he is the reason why I finally made this CD-R!] and found that they were a worthy addition to the canon of Invaders. Looking back now, it seems a bit surreal that this band first hooked up with Jimmy Pursey to no avail, followed by the famous Soo Catwoman to write the bulk of this material, and then vanish afterward.
Soo Lucas is still out there in the world, content to balance her iconic status with privacy, but Sid [Jaroslav] Sidelnyk had apparently Ukrainian roots and quite an advanced set of songwriting chops to have left so cold a trail afterward. Thankfully, he’s recently resurfaced in Soundcloud and we can embed the players for this wonderful music. Parts of the band simply evaporated, but bassist Dave Rogers eventually got a much bigger audience as half of Mute Drivers while Phil Manchester went UK AOR with Britain’s FM [not to be confused with the Canadian act]. In the end, this album was Sid Sidelynk and Soo Lucas’ throw of the Power Pop dice that unfortunately came up snake eyes in the marketplace in spite of the rousingly great material they managed to record. And as ever, it has fallen to us to correct the cruel indifference of that outcome with this volume; 43 years in the making and finally here to listen in full.
Finally, something about The Invaders – I remember being with Jimmy and Syd (at Polydor studios I think) when they when they were mixing the beautiful Girls In Action – can’t remember what on earth I was supposed to be doing there (maybe working in the next door studio) and more-or-less to thus day, have not heard another thing about the band.
Wow! The record sounded great that day, and still does. Tot Taylor
Tot Taylor – I’ve been holding back until I had all of the singles in house before giving up a review on this great band. I’m old school. Get the discs in hand, then yammer on about them. It took me over half a lifetime to get all of those records. I still need to hear Advertising for Pete’s sake!! But I’m thrilled to find that I’m not alone in my enthusiasm for them, and that an artist whose work I hold in high esteem also shares in it. Sidelnyk definitely had the goods. Those two Invaders singles are the whole of my exposure to Jimmy Pursey, believe it or not.
I was the other half of the Central Florida Invaders fan club, having also discovered the Made in Britain comp and enjoyed all of the acts therein (Protex also stuck with me as a fun band, whereas the Comsat Angels were anything but, yet memorable nonetheless).
Like you I purchased the one album and thought it pretty terrific, but until today was unaware of the extra singles that will make up the “bonus tracks” of your project. I hope Sid (Javoslav) or Soo get wind of this wonderful overview and get in touch. May this project inspire someone out there to reissue a copy of this project to give it another go in a nostalgic marketplace!
chasinvictoria – Of course, my initial exposure to “Made In Britain” was down to you, back in 1980! You actually got a copy of “Test Card??”!” When? Where?!?! You’ve been holding out on me, Bucko! At the time , I don’t think there was another album I had wanted for so long without finding a copy. Fast forward to today, and there’s a want list as long as yer arm of things I have never seen in decades.
I can’t really trust my memory on this, but I think I picked up Test Card on a trip to the UK. The Made in Britain comp, however, was certainly obtained in Orlando at one of the several great record stores we had at that crucial time. Bless you Don, Craig, and whoever ran the Peaches import section!
chasinvictoria – I believe that it might have been Matt Gorney who managed Peaches… and of course he started out at Crunchy Armadillo!