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Music Reissues Weekly: The Sound - The Statik Records Years | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: The Sound - The Statik Records Years

Music Reissues Weekly: The Sound - The Statik Records Years

Box set focusing on the second chapter of Adrian Borland’s post-punk outfit

Adrian Borland, on stage with the Statik Records-era SoundRoy Tee

“There's a richness and a true depth here that places Jeopardy alongside (U2’s debut album) Boy as early Eighties tonics for ailing mainstream-rock. The Sound are on to a winner. There isn't one track here that isn't thoroughly compulsive. Overall it's a vastly impressive sound, with as much energy as I've heard on any record all year…the result is a form of sheer power-rock that doesn't make you blush or grimace.”

In November 1980, Sounds’ Dave McCullough was enthusiastic about The Sound’s first album Jeopardy. But he had some reservations about whether they could cut through to become more than a cult band – as was happening with U2. He pointed out a musical kinship with Liverpool’s Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen – The Sound and the Bunnymen were on the same label, Korova – but said “there is no style to speak of at all yet, a nice thought when you think of the currently garish and hyper-styled Bunnymen themselves.”

The Sound - The Statik Records YearsOver 20 years after Jeopardy's release, London’s The Sound would variously be declared “a lost band,” one “crowded out by kings of angst” like the Bunnymen, Cure and Joy Division and a “tragically overlooked 1980s post-punk band.” An April 2002 feature in Uncut summarised Sound main-man Adrian Borland as saying “Bono took all my ideas, I coulda been a contender.” This, remarked the piece, “wasn't delusional, or beyond comprehension, but was undignified.”

The band he led issued five albums from 1980 to 1987. The first three were on Korova. The fourth came out on Statik, a label run by Laurie Dunn, the former export manager of Virgin Records. The last, the fragmented Thunder Up, was released by Play It Again Sam in 1987. The Sound fell apart in 1988.The five-CD clamshell set The Statik Records Years digs into their post-Korova second chapter.

Borland took his own life in April 1999 and any look back at The Sound is inevitably coloured by knowledge of his death. The essay in the set's booklet notes he “was suffering from Schizoaffective Disorder, a major mental illness.” According to band members quoted in the text, his illness wasn’t an issue until around 1986 when he “became very difficult to deal with on all sorts of levels.”

the sound Shock Of DaylightEarly on, The Sound were integral to a world where the Bunnymen, Cure, Teardrops and U2 were rising post-punk stars. Along with the similarly positioned Comsat Angels and Modern Eon, The Sound were looking to expand their audience. As the Sounds review attested, the auguries were good. 

However, The Sound were different to all these bands as they directly tracked-back to punk. Like Joy Division, they had operated with a slightly different line-up and under another name in 1977, and were similarly in thrall to Iggy Pop and, implicitly, The Doors. Joy Division had been Warsaw. The Sound had been The Outsiders, as whom they issued two albums and an EP. The change to The Sound came in autumn 1979. As it also was with Joy Division, much of their attack and forcefulness derived from having roots in 1977’s upheaval.

This wasn’t enough to commercially sustain them though. Unlike the Liverpool or Manchester bands, The Sound could not be tied-in with a scene. And they were mostly, if not solely, about the music so lacked a marketable image. No Mac the mouth figure in The Sound. Korova did not expand their audience. Perhaps their focus was on the Bunnymen? Maybe The Sound could have fared better had they been with a Factory type indie label, rather than one funded by multi-national company Warners? The Korova/Warners period resulted in three albums and four singles; all great. Even so, there was no rise in profile. The Sound and Warners parted company in late 1982. Statik was The Sound's next label.

the sound Head And HeartsWith Statik, which shut-up shop in 1986, The Sound released an EP, Shock Of Daylight (April 1984), a studio album, Head And Hearts (February 1985), a live album, In The Hothouse (November 1985) and five singles. All are collected on The Statik Records Years alongside a disc of demos first issued in 2015 and, on the final disc, a handful of previously unheard demos interspersed amongst non-album tracks from the period. Most of what’s here will already have been heard by fans.

Shock Of Daylight catches The Sound at close-to their best: intense, melodic and textured. Head And Hearts seems – and seemed – smoothed-out, with Borland trying to be more immediate, poppy and less edgy, ultimately coming across as unengaged. In The Hothouse, recorded live in August 1985, was a lively to-date summary of where The Sound were at that point; a form of best-of. The demos and alternate versions collected on Discs Four and Five of The Statik Records Years don’t add understanding to the picture, but do confirm Borland was never standing still. He abruptly left the band during a 1988 gig and subsequently pursued an erratic solo career.

The Statik Records Years is not an entry point into The Sound. That will always be their essential Korova recordings. Nonetheless this set is integral to appreciating Adrian Borland and The Sound, helping to ensure they are not neglected.

@MrKieronTyler

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