Associates Remasters Imminent On Pledge Music

associates 1981 I’ve known about this for some time as a Pledge Music user, but circumstances conspire to make me take a pass on preordering the new batch of DLX RMs from The Associates; my favorite band of Scot Post-Punk practitioners. I’m in a period of much travel happening right now and the budget has to go elsewhere. I’m certain that these are also available outside of the Pledge Music ecosphere. For those with the cash in hand, the deal for pre-order on Pledge Music is pretty good. All three of their first albums in 2xCD bundles can be had for £32/$46 including shipping [nods head in approval]. I am sort of obsessive over this band and would not look askance at owning everything though that’s probably not in the cards in this lifetime. Of course, they’ve salted the deal with a few more unreleased tracks that supersede the long OOP 2000 DLX RMs [single disc only] on V2 sixteen years ago. What’s on the new ones due out on May 23rd?

UK | 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: The Affectionate Punch UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. The Affectionate Punch
  2. Amused As Always
  3. Logan Time
  4. Paper House
  5. Transport To Central
  6. A Matter Of Gender
  7. Even Dogs In The Wild
  8. Would I…Bounce Back
  9. Deeply Concerned
  10. A

disc 2

  1. Boys Keep Swinging
  2. Mona Property Girl
  3. Schmoltz
  4. Green For Grief
  5. Geese
  6. Saline Drips
  7. Galaxy Of Memories
  8. Double Hipness
  9. Big Waltz (aka Paper House)
  10. Janice (aka Deeply Concerned)
  11. You Were Young
  12. Bounce Back – Remix
  13. A – Remix
  14. Amused As Always – Remix
  15. The Affectionate Punch – Remix
  16. The End

There is but a single cut here not previously released somewhere else. “Schmoltz” is the bait here. All of the rest of these tracks have been previously released before. There seem to be a handful of remixes from the 1982 remix LP of “The Affectionate Punch.” They at least picked the most interesting variations. Others were single tracks or archival material originally released on the “Double Hipness” 2xCD from the V2 reissues. We’ll assume that the first disc is the original mix of the album.

UK | 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: Fourth Drawer Down UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. White Car In Germany
  2. A Girl Named Property
  3. Kitchen Person
  4. Q Quarters
  5. Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
  6. The Associate
  7. Message Oblique Speech
  8. An Even Whiter Car

disc 2

  1. Straw Towels
  2. Kissed
  3. Fearless (It Takes A Full Moon)
  4. Point Si
  5. Blue Soap
  6. The Tree That Never Sang
  7. Straw Towels (Demo)
  8. Q Quarters (Demo)

The band’s berserk and thrilling singles compilation from their 1981 Beggars Banquet period is my favorite of their albums. The same tracks from the 2000 remaster were abetted here with three previously unheard cuts. Two demos and “The Tree That Never Sang.” Ordinarily, demos can be somewhat boring except to überfans, but Billy MacKenzie was such an inventive vocalist, he rarely sang a song the same way twice, so I’d be up for a service of Associates demos. I’d bet it would be worth my time.

UK \ 2xCD | 2016

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016

The Associates: Sulk UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. Arrogance Gave Him Up
  2. No
  3. Bap De La Bap
  4. Gloomy Sunday
  5. Nude Spoons
  6. Skipping
  7. It’s Better This Way
  8. Party Fears Two
  9. Club Country
  10. Nothinginsomethingparticular

disc 2

  1. 18 Carat Love Affair
  2. Love Hangover
  3. Club Country 12”
  4. Party Fears Two (Instrumental)
  5. It’s Better This Way (Alt Version)
  6. And Then I Read A Book
  7. Ulcragyceptimol
  8. Skipping (Alt Version)
  9. Australia
  10. Me, Myself And The Tragic Story
  11. I Never Will (demo)
  12. Club Country (Demo)
  13. Grecian 2000

Finally, the album “Sulk” which took them over the edge into stardom with its ideal neutron bomb of New Pop aesthetics and Post-Punk perfection, got a serious rewiring. Just two previously unheard tracks appear here. An instrumental version of their breakthrough hit “Party Fears Two” and an alternate take of “Skipping.” To be fair, two cuts previously on vinyl only appear here on CD for the first time. The “Club Country” 12″ has almost made it to CD but not quite. The last CD of this title in 2000 had a unique edit of the 12″ mix on the album proper in place of the original album track. The excellent alternate version of It’s Better This Way” hailed from the “Party Feats Two” single. This title only is also making the leap to vinyl in one of those excessive and spotty 180g pressings. US fans on Pledge Music cannot buy this for rights management reasons, but it’s a solid £20.

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | METRSL 123

Union Square | UK | 2xCD | 2016 | METRSL 123

The Associates: The Best Of The Associates UK 2xCD [2016]

disc 1

  1. Boys Keep Swinging
  2. The Affectionate Punch
  3. Tell Me Easter’s On Friday
  4. Q Quarters
  5. Kitchen Person
  6. A
  7. Message Oblique Speech
  8. White Car In Germany
  9. Kites
  10. Party Fears Two
  11. Club Country
  12. 18 Carat Love Affair
  13. Love Hangover

disc 2

  1. Eloise
  2. Jukebox Bucharest
  3. Window Shopping (Instrumental)
  4. Double Hipness
  5. The Affectionate Punch (Demo)
  6. The Room We Sat In Before
  7. Galaxy Of Memories
  8. Gloomy Sunday (Live – ICA 1980)
  9. Waiting For The Loveboat (Instrumental)
  10. Stephen, You’re Really Something
  11. Fear Is My Bride
  12. International Loner
  13. Edge Of The World

Finally for beginners there is also a 2xCD, already released as of last month but also available on Pledge Music for £8/$12. It’s an eclectic blend of historical singles and rarities already out in the wilds… with the exception of “Eloise” and “Jukebox Bucharest,” which have only appeared here.

Will I bite? Hmm. That’s about $57 for seven tracks I don’t already have in a new package. I’m betting I can perhaps invest in surgical DLs of these tracks. Besides, I’ve already seen some expert opinion on the mastering flaws on the already released “Best Of” CD. For anyone not already owning these albums in one or more forms, then this is your chance. Get ready to have the instrumental prowess of Alan Rankine and the vocal hyperkinetics of Mr. Billy MacKenzie blow your little mind. These albums are peerless in the time period in which they were made; full of inventive strategies and a fearless strength of character to go wherever their muse takes them.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection, Want List | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Record Review: The Teardrop Explodes – Kilimanjaro

Mercury | UK | CD | 2000 | 548 322-2

Mercury | UK | CD | 2000 | 548 322-2

The Teardrop Explodes: Kilimanjaro UK CD [2000]

  1. Ha Ha I’m Drowning
  2. Sleeping Gas
  3. Treason
  4. Second Head
  5. Poppies In The Field
  6. Went Crazy
  7. Brave Boys Keep Their Promises
  8. Bouncing Babies
  9. Books
  10. The Thief Of Baghdad
  11. When I Dream
  12. Reward
  13. Kilimanjaro
  14. Strange House In The Snow
  15. Use Me
  16. Traison
  17. Sleeping Gas [live]

My, oh my. This one had been a long time coming! I first heard The Teardrop Explodes some time in 1981 on WUSF-FM. Don’t bother looking. They’re now an NPR affiliate… zzzzzz! Back then they were a cool college radio station. They had a Friday night New Wave show that I could barely pick up on my stereo, 90 miles away in Orlando… if I held the antenna just right! Ah, the pitfalls and glories of the analog existence! Back then, it was possible to hear and see things that you weren’t supposed to due to random atmospheric conditions.

the teardrop explodes - coloursflyawayUK7AAs was policy back then, I was air-checking the broadcast onto a cheap C-90 tape I had bought at K-Mart. No need for quality as the sound was riddled with static and “FM drift,” but it did give me songs to research for future purchase later. I heard an exciting, horn-driven tune that reminded me of the late 60s brassy soul vibe which had gone dormant for about a decade by then. The tune was infectious, but the DJ only announced the name of the group. I didn’t have a handle on the lyrics owing to the difficulties in receiving the transmission, so I had no clue as to the track’s title. One of the very next things I bought in a record store was the first Teardrop Explodes UK 7″ers I saw, “Colours Fly Away.” Since the sleeve art showed a prominent horn section, I thought this might be the one, but it wasn’t. I didn’t buy any more Teardrop Explodes releases owing to my disappointment at not getting this amazing song.

I later discovered that it was called “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” and was from the album “Kilimanjaro.” I would occasionally see a LP or CD of it over the years, but never bit for reasons unknown.

<insert 35 year gap>

All of that changed last Saturday when I hot my local emporium for a copy of the new Eno album and saw this lounging in the used bins. When I popped this into the CD player, I was rewarded [did you like that?] with the still completely awesome “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” issuing from my speakers. Though it felt strange not hearing it riven with static, I managed to somehow cope . Listening to this 36 years after its release, I have to imagine that it was this record, as much as anything, that led Paul Weller to add horns to The Jam’s 1981 album “The Gift.” While that was a nice effort, the trumpeters here [Ray Martinez, Hurricane Smith] truly lift much of this music to the plane of the sublime. “Ha Ha I’m Drowning” is notable not only for the boss horns driving its propulsive epiphanies, but also the rhythmic powerhouse of a middle eight where the instrumental drum break speeds forward for a full 40 seconds before the tightly coiled rhythm guitars bring it to a searing climax.

The rest of the album was perfectly fine horn driven New Wave from a time where, Dexys Midnight Runners aside, there were few such bands operating in this space. Even so, there were other standout tracks. “Sleeping Gas” was an amazing reveal of the influence of Krautrock on Julian Cope, an eternity before his writing made the links explicit in the 90s. “Sleeping Gas” was an absolutely mesmerizing vocal, lyrical Krautrock track that locked into a groove and stayed there the whole song. Krautrock was typically an instrumental genre but like Simple Minds at the same time, The Teardrop Explodes were using its foundations to craft new hybrids that were astonishing in their invention.

The closer “When I Dream” also hit the trance zone with it’s repetitive format and 7:13 running time. I seem to have heard the first bonus tracks, the 1981 non-LP single “Reward” somewhere over the intervening years. It’s an infectious single as produced by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley; old hands at horn-driven pop. At the time, the band were part of a seemingly non-existant wave of “neo-psychedelic” bands which were anything but. I don’t really hear any of that here. More than anything, this was a soul-led group who were adding disparate genres like Krautrock to the mix. The B-side “Strange House In The Snow” was one track that seemed to actually touch psychedelia, but only the barrel dregs of it! I can’t say I think that the inclusion of this song over some of the ones left off of this as bonus tracks was justified.

More interesting was the acoustic “Use Me” and the French language translation/remix of “Treason.” The “Sleeping Gas [live]” recording dated from the next album’s “Tiny Children” 12″ single and it managed to take the already brilliant track, far and away from its relative comfort zone with a frenzied Cope riffing on John Cale’s “Mercenaries [Ready For War]” while seemingly improving the track to a never boring 9:27. The song gets completely “meta” as Cope becomes a pilot/singer attempting to “land” the song without damage. What a thrilling performance!

the teardrop Explodes - kilimanjaroUKDLXRMCDAThis 2000 RM added six bonus tracks for the first time to the CD of this title. In 2010, there was a 2xCD DLX RM which was truly canonical, but I’m fine with the shorter program of bonus tracks here. If I saw it, I might be motivated to pick it up but the going price on Discogs now begins at $40 so this is not likely unless I get lucky. The big question, is that should I also buy the 2000 RM of the second album, “Wilder” also in the used bins at Harvest Records? Enquiring minds want to know.

– 30 –

Posted in Record Review | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Record Review: Various – He’s A Liquid

Metamatic Records | UK | 12" | 2016 | META60EP

Metamatic Records | UK | 12″ | 2016 | META60EP

Various Artists: He’s A Liquid UK 12″ EP [2016]

  1. Wrangler [featuring Gazelle Twin]: He’s A Liquid
  2. Hannah Peel: Tidal Wave
  3. LoneLady: 030
  4. The Soft Moon: No-One Driving
  5. Xeno + Oaklander: He’s A Liquid

Every now and then, I manage to actually buy things that I want in a timely fashion! I pre-ordered the “He’s A Liquid” EP in February and it’s been in house for some time now.  Excellent. This was the second Foxx-commissioned cover EP project and while I would have preferred a CD like the last time [hint, hint] the 12″ will manage to make do with me. As I’d rather listen to a CD than look at a 12″ [that’s kind of like dancing about architecture, right?] the MP3 downloads that this came with have been on my REVO device for car listening. How is it, you may ask?

If Wrangler were the only band here, this still would have been a must buy for me. I’m still pinching myself over the fact that the last five years have seen Stephen Mallinder [ex-Cabaret Voltaire] return from the cold to add his less than dulcet tones to a variety of excellent projects. When he left Cab Volt, I really realized how much I valued his contribution to their sound. hearing his filthy snarl juxtaposed against the etherial wailings of Gazelle Twin is a match made in hell. That the whole song was served in the tasty, analog wrapper I’ve come to expect from Benge was icing on the warm, fresh cake. Surprisingly, the Chinese Water Torture beat of the original was kept largely intact here, though Benge has cheekily appropriated what sounds like the rhythm track to Gary Numan’s “Replicas” for re-use here.

I remember when I bought “Metamatic” back in the dawning days of 1981, I was particularly struck by the bleak soundscapes of “Tidal Wave” with Foxx deliberately singing flat to emphasize the unease the track needed. This time, Maths live band member Hannah Peel has sung it more sweetly with her multitracked voices actually harmonizing  but crucially retaining the bleak underpinning of the music bed to deliver the requisite queasy, dyspeptic feel that the song was always about. Perhaps now more than ever.

I had been hearing about but not hearing LoneLady. This should be changing after this release, since I was most struck by her version of “030” that used conventional instrumentation like cellos and guitars in addition to the requisite synths. Of all the versions here, this one, travels the furthest from the traditional Foxx path; heavy on the synthesizers. The arrangement here used the droning cellos and insect beatbox to map out  new territory, and the glitch breakdowns at the song’s end serve to heighten the bleakness of it all.

I was looking forward to The Soft Moon’s version of “No-One Driving” due to the fact that “Evidence,” their collaboration with John Foxx + The Maths from the album of the same name, now sits atop my list of Foxx favorites; displacing songs that are nearly 40 years old. There has been some chatter in the Foxx community about the qualities lacking in this version but I think that those people are crazy. The gridlike precision of the original has been swapped for a thrilling, breakneck velocity. This is a performance that’s in the red, and I happen to love how the vocals are buried in the slamming miasma of sound that it created. When it ended after a scant 2:42 I was ready to pay right then and there for a 7:30 12″ version.

The EP bookended with another version of “He’s A Liquid” by Xeno + Oaklander. Strangely enough, like Wrangler, the band kept the dry, thwacking rhythms of the original intact within the mix. The salt shaker beatbox added a skittering, insectoid energy to the otherwise ponderous, almost Gothic cover. The inclusion of two versions of the title Foxxtune was the only thing I can dock a point or two on here. Maybe a version of “Plaza” might have been more appropriate. Otherwise, Foxx’s curation of having his next generation collaborators give a going over to his oeuvre has been a great program that has yielded many pleasures for these ears. This was a pressing of 500 and the Jonathan Barnbrook cover is almost worth the price of admission alone. Purchase, here.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection, Record Review | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Record Review: Dirty Mind

Warner Bros. Records | US | CD | 1980 | 3478-2

Warner Bros. Records | US | CD | 1980 | 3478-2

Prince: Dirty Mind US CD [1980]

  1. Dirty Mind
  2. When You Were Mine
  3. Do It All Night
  4. Gotta Broken Heart Again
  5. Uptown
  6. Head
  7. Sister
  8. Partyup

Gloryoski! I was just away for a few days, taking in a trip to the Atlantic coast and a Gipsy Kings concert. A block away from where we stayed was a record store, Gravity Records. With Prince in the forebrain in the wake of his sad, sudden death last week, of course the three Prince discs I had gotten last Fall were getting much play. I thought, that if I were lucky here, I might score a copy of “Parade” or “Lovesexy” in this store as they were imperial period Prince titles that were possibly available in used bins. When I got to the Prince title card, I saw there was one CD still there, and, boy howdy, it was “Dirty Mind!

This was the point of entry for me with His Purple Badness. I had recalled seeing a video from this album when it was a brand new album. I had also managed to see the issue of Rolling Stone magazine where they gave the lead review to this album. I still recall the sculptural illo used to accompany the rave review: a sculpted plasticine brain on the curb, in the gutter. After spinning this album this morning, I can state with all certainty, that it was a video for the title track that I saw way back when. Listening to it now, for the first time since 1980, I was struck by the fashion that Prince fused funk with New Wave here with motorik beats motivating the song’s unceasing forward movement. As the tune was equally unencumbered by details like a chorus, which would have just been a drag on its progress.

I have been hearing covers of “When You Were Mine” since about two years after this album came out. Everyone from Mitch Ryder to Cyndi Lauper had made this one into a standard right out of the box. My favorite cover of this was the bonus track that appeared on Cristina’s “Sleep it Off” DLX RM CD, back in 2004. Finally hearing the Prince version of this one is almost surreal to me. It should not have taken this long! I was impressed by the jaunty New Wave bop of the track with not an ounce of funk it it. The widening of artistic scope on the album was palpable as Prince really started moving forward from the R+B/funk which was his foundation. All of this taking place during a time that the notion of “crossover” was yet to pack the punch that it would later in the decade. Meanwhile, Price was laying the groundwork for a generation of artists to follow in his footsteps in breaking down the then-rigid barriers that separated racial and class elements among listeners.

The album’s most dazzling single kicked off side two, as in the tradition of the day. “Uptown” was a euphoric funk jam that was lip-smackingly tasty. This one was perhaps less New Wave influenced than the material on side one. This one sounded more influenced by the progressive camp in disco/funk such as Parliament. Has there ever been a more contagiously fun lyric than this one?

“White, black, Puerto Rican
Everybody just a-freakin’” – Prince [“Uptown”]

I was surprised to hear the songs on side two segue together with cross fades and hard edits used to make it move like a suite. I remember the ruckus that the tracks “Head” and “Sister” raised back in the day. As for “Head,” wasn’t rock rife with tracks like this that used coded language for paeans to oral sex? All Prince did was strip out the code. What really mattered was that the song remembered to cook. As for “Sister” and its still taboo-breaking tale of incest, the shock value of the song was its alpha and omega. The brief [1:33!] number can’t be said to have stuck in my head after a single listening.

Fortunately, the closing “Partyup” remembered to couple a smoking groove to its surprising anti-war lyrics. The taut coda to the number consists of Prince delivering what sounded like military cadence rhymes decrying war and the will of the public to fight it before the song’s shock cold ending brought the album to a close. I would not be surprised of The Clash were listening to this before writing their “Sandinista!” classic “The Call Up.”

I have not heard the full albums of “For You” and “Prince” that preceded this in the marketplace, but from what little that I have heard from them, it seemed like this was the album where Prince really started spreading his wings to encompass any damn thing he wanted to. Most of the album relied on live drumming but there were inroads that drum machines were making here and there that by the time of his next album, “Controversy,” would see any acoustic drumming relegated to the sidelines as Prince began soaking up very hip New Wave and Post-Punk sounds primarily from England.

The visual contrast in packaging could not be more abrupt as well as with the soft-focus R+B of the first album and the straightforward 70s portraiture of  the second gave way here to the visceral and provocative image of this diminutive sybarite against a background of bedsprings and barbed wire. It was an image that could not be ignored. In every way, this was the album where the Prince Story truly began in earnest. In two albums time, everyone would know it. By the third album following, superstardom would be his on a platter.

– 30 –

Posted in Core Collection | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

REVO Remastering: Real Life – Heartland + [REVO 080]

REVO | CDR | 2016 | REVO 080

REVO | CD-R | 2016 | REVO 080

Real Life: Heartand + CD-R [2016]

  1. Send Me An Angel
  2. Catch Me I’m Falling
  3. Under The Hammer
  4. Heartland
  5. Breaking Point
  6. Broken Again
  7. Always
  8. Openhearted
  9. Exploding Bullets
  10. Burning Blue
  11. Send Me An Angel [Ext. Mix]
  12. Like A Gun
  13. Catch Me I’m Falling [7” Remix]
  14. Pick Me Up
  15. Send Me An Angel ‘89
  16. Always [Special Dance Mix – Raunchy Version]
  17. Catch Me I’m Falling [12” Ver.]
  18. Send Me An Angel [’89 Club Mix]

This one has been percolating for many years now. Like many, I first heard the charms of Real Life when their excellent single “Send Me An Angel” managed to get a leg up on the US charts; then besotted with both synthesizers and all things Australian. The atmospheric video didn’t hurt the MTV play, either. I remember going to Crunchy Armadillo Records and buying the LP as well as the 12″ single of “Send Me An Angel.” A little while later, I ran across the remixed US 7″ single of “Catch Me I’m Falling” and that was it for a long time regarding Real Life.

Not before I actually saw the band live on their US tour for this album, though! It was the third rock concert I ever attended and I was very happy to see them open up for Berlin on their “Love Life” tour. Truth be told, I thought that they were a more interesting band all around! I remember thinking to myself that “I may never see Ultravox [so true] but at least I was seeing another synth-rock back with a violin player!” That had to count for something. The band were excellent live and it was exciting to see an synth-rock band that was doing some good work and getting some reward for their efforts. Surprisingly, this Summer, history repeats itself; at least in Australia.

 

Curb Records | US | CD | 1989 | D2-77287

The follow up to “Heartland” was the “I-swear-I-never-saw-it” album “Flame.” What’s interesting about both of their first two albums was that they only made the CD format at the time of release in Germany in pressings that I have never seen in 33 years of scouring bins of import CDs. Probably the initial spark of remastering my version of this CD occurred when I got the 1989 Curb US comp “Send Me An Angel” in 2010, which thankfully had remixes that I didn’t previously have, and that got the Monastic wheels turning on the notion of a REVO CD. It’s now ready to face the world. After all, the 1983 German CD routinely sells for three serious figures and I was not going there. Then there was also the notion that a CD mastered from vinyl in 2016 on my equipment could really sound better than a dawn-of-time remaster from 1983. Sure, sure. There was one other pressing: the band’s own CD issued in 2009, but now even that’s selling for stupid money, and I suspect that the band just replicated the 1983 German CD, if anything.

The real tipping point that pushed me into action was finding a mint, sealed copy of the “Heartland” album for $2 in the cheapie bin at Harvest Records late last year. I then did some research and discovered that I had all of the bonus tracks that ideally should be on such a title… with the exception of an Oz-only non-LP B-side on the Oz single for “Openhearted” which, $7 and postage from Australia later, came home to roost in my Record Cell in February.

So, armed with all of the bonus tracks that the never-before extant DLX RM of “Heartland” should indeed have, and also the still wondrous ClickRepair software, I set about to make the CD I am now blogging about. I should mention that it sounds amazing for vinyl rips, but then again, it was a mint copy at my disposal! I began the process in February and with May knocking on the door, I am finally getting around to assembling my copy. The actual remastering went quickly. The vinyl was super clean and the scant noise floor that any vinyl has was no match for ClickRepair. As usual, it was the details of mere replication that stymied me and my limited free time. Where’s that PA when you need them?


We all know “Send Me An Angel” and it’s one of those perennial songs for me. I didn’t get sick of it 33 years ago and I don’t think it’ll ever happen. The band had their breakthrough single produced by Ross Cockle, and he did a great job of  helping the band craft an atmospheric and stirring synth ballad that had legs to last and then some. The album, was for the most part produced by Steve Hillage, who remixed “Send Me An Angel” but “Openhearted” was the work of producer Ross Cockle. “Catch Me I’m Falling” was the US followup single and it failed to crack the top 20, but not for not trying. The tone on this single is lighter and poppier than the preceding single. It instead offers a sweet ebullience that recalls A Flock Of Seagulls at their poppy best [think “Space Age Love Song”]. In fact the great guitar playing here by vocalist David Sperry,  sounds very similar in style and tone to that of AFOS’ underrated Paul Reynolds.

I usually correlate Real Life with Icehouse in my mind. Both were Oz bands making au-courant synth-rock but Icehouse predate this lot by several years. Both had something to offer these ears, though. And each band had a great song about Australia itself. Icehouse had an anthemic, widescreen ballad on their second album; “Great Southern Land.” Their paean to their island nation. Here, Real Life proffered the somewhat more tender sentiments of “Heartland,” the atmospheric title track.

While Real Life must have had some strong Ultravox [Mark I + II] influence in their development, for “Breaking Point” they managed to craft a song that managed the feat of pointing towards an Ultravox song that would not exist for another year. The vibe, arrangement, production, and sound design here [by the group’s secret weapon, Richard Zatorski – keys/violin] come very close to where Ultravox later went on the title track to their “Lament” album of 1984. It sounded to me like the influence was a two way street between the two bands.

Side “two” started out with a bang with the dynamic and urgent “Broken Again.” Richard Zatorski got to really put his violin to work here and the sequencers [or are they arpeggiators?] keep the energy humming at breakneck speed on this should-have-been-more-than-a-deep-cut. How this was not a single in some better world stymies me to this day. I’m not exactly certain, but this song may have also been the first time I ever heard the legendary 8-Bit Orchestra Hit® from the Fairlight sample library. It was crucially used, and not abused here with a fairly light hand, and even today I can hear it with innocent ears. While there are instances of sampling used on the album, the band had a light touch that helps keep the album from sounding terribly dated. Primarily, this was a band about performance.

real-life---openheartedOZ7Aleft“Openhearted” was an Oz-only single from this album, and the mid-tempo rocker was thick on atmosphere. It was followed by another energy peak to begin closing out the album side. “Exploding Bullets” was another in a long line of “mercenary rock” songs heavy on battle and tension. The wooshing synths created a helicopter vibe and the song’s taut middle eight erupted in a Simmons drum tattoo that climaxed the song along with Sperry’s exhortation of “but this is the war!” The vibe here was strongly reminiscent of my all time fave Duran Duran song “Hold Back the Rain.”

The album closed with “Burning Blue,” the only song that I’ve ever heard that picked up the sound of the title track to Ultravox’s “Rage In Eden” and run with it. The staccato rhythm programming here was very close to what Ultravox had created on the song “Rage In Eden.” It’s possible to begin reciting the lyrics to that one over the intro here. Of course, once Sperry begins singing, the song creates its own niche, but the detuned piano also manifests here, marking the band as big Ultravox geeks. It’s impossible to listen to this album without catching scent of that band’s spoor on the ground here.

real life - sendmeanangelUS12AThe bonus tracks are a mixture of 12″ mixes and B-sides. “Send Me An Angel” received a nice buildup, but the real treat was the song’s middle eight, unique to the 12″ version where Zatorski got to take flight for a few bars in the best way possible before Sperry’s guitar brought it back home. The B-side was “Like A Gun,” another fine track as produced by Ross Cockle and Glen Wheatley that probably lost out to the inclusion of “Exploding Bullets” on the LP.

MCA Records | UK | 12" | 1984 | MCAT 885

“Catch Me I’m Falling” appeared here in a 7″ remix that was longer than the LP version [!] and an even more expansive 12″ mix. The biggest difference to the mixes was the inclusion of a vocoded call-and-response section in the extended intro that both mixes featured. It was the era when 7″ mixes edited from a 12″ mix was just starting to become a common production gambit. The mixes in this case were by Steve Hillage, the original song’s producer.

real life - alwaysGER12AThe poppy “Always” got shaken up [and not stirred] in a Germany-only remix that was called “special dance mix – raunchy version!” The word “raunchy” might have a different meaning in Germany then, as the mix here was thick with abrupt edits of the kind common to the era, but the underlying song was so light and airy that I don’t think it could attain “raunchiness” if its life depended on it.

real-life-sendmeanangel88-gercd5a“Send Me An Angel” got a post modern remix in 1988 and that remix was released in The States in 1981, leading to it being called “Send Me An Angel ’89” by the time it reached the bins here. Considering how badly this could have turned out, the song was just reconstructed with new rhythms, that were slightly more intense than on the ’83 original. I prefer the original sound design, given the choice, but if this were the only version out there, it would have still passed muster.

Finally, there was also another non-LP B-side, and it’s the jewel in the crown of this DLX RM. If you’ve never heard the B-side to the Oz “Openhearted” 7″ and you are a fan of INXS then you would drop your chins upon hearing “Pick Me Up.” The 1983 track is nothing if not the absolute blueprint for my favorite INXS A-side, “I Send A Message” from, uh, 1984! Gawp in wonder as you hear how every element of this remarkable song was plundered outright by INXS, who at the very least, had the vision to comprehend that such a song deserved far more than being relegated to a Southern Hemisphere only B-side!

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