Mine for a quid, suckazzz…
I’ve long been an admirer of John Foxx’s Ultravox, and his first solo album Metamatic is still probably in my top 10 favourite albums ever. Strange then that I never explored anything after that. It just seemed that all the subsequent singles he released were compromising his vision, sounding increasingly like his former bandmate’s anthemic pop noise and increasingly desperate. The cruel irony being that, the more populist he became, the further away from popular he got: his biggest hit is still the Ballardian cold-wave classic “Underpass”.
But when I came across this Portugese pressing of The Garden (the 1981 follow-up to Metamatic) recently, I figured it was time to give it a chance. And, if you put Metamatic out of your mind, and enjoy it on it’s own terms, it’s not a bad listen. The alienating drum machine and sequencers had all been ditched in favour of a live group, but with an electronic sheen typical of productions from this period, placing Foxx in a pantheon of cold stars that would’ve included Simple Minds, OMD, Talk Talk and of course Midge Ure’s version of Ultravox. The difference being that all those other groups had mega-hits, and Foxx didn’t, which makes him look a bit sad and pathetic, despite that fact that his songwriting and arrangements still had the edge over most of those groups. The good guys don’t always win.
I’m sure we all know and love Riuichi Sakamoto’s electro classic “Riot In Lagos”, but having never owned an original 12″ I was thrilled to find this one for 49p, backed by a couple of fine b-sides. Near mint condition, too! I estimate it’s true financial worth is somewhere between £10-20, so a fine bit of thrifting all round!
Picked up this synth-laden-throbbing-conceptual-rock 12 inch monster just before Xmas – in a 4 for a quid deal in some ragged-old thrift shop in Wincanton. Not a bad deal as these are apparently fetching upwards of 20 quid a pop at present. Never much cared for old Wayne/Hayward back in the day – and the only time I have heard this stuff since has been on a couple of dodgy Hammond LPs – where a pliny-plonk interpretation has not quite convinced me to revisit the original.
However – on sticking this on the old deck – and cranking up the sub-woofer – we get a sequenced-electro-floor-filler – this gets the old walls and curtains vibrating – not to mention what it does to these old knees. A very nice piece of electronic rumbling and tasty picture vinyl if ever there was one !!
The b-side tracks suck though (at least to these jaded ears) – you however may think differently !!
Another album ‘sampler’, from another era. Virgin were selling this for the price of a 45rpm single, and it wasn’t the first time they’d tried a stunt like that – a few years earlier they’d done the same thing with The Faust Tapes, which sold quite well as a result. I believe it was Faust‘s idea originally, though you won’t find those krautrock legends on this record. Branson and Co. had already dropped them like the hot potato they were. But the marketing idea lived on. I paid 99p for it last week, which is roughly the price of a single mp3 download, so not much has changed, really.
The album covers most of Virgin’s 1980 roster, with big-hitters of the New Wave like OMD, Japan, XTC and The Human League nestling alongside less commercially visible acts like Nash The Slash, Valerie Lagrange and Fingerprinz. Not forgetting Magazine, Martha & The Muffins and The Flying Lizards. The old guard were represented by the future-blues of Captain Beefheart sitting uncomfortably next to the trad-blues of Gillan, plus the label’s flagship beardy synth-gods Tangerine Dream. The focus is on album tracks, rather than singles, so there’s actually quite a few tunes on here I’ve not heard before.
Great sleeve, I think. Each act is a ‘cut’ of beef on the side of the cow, whilst a fishnet-clad milkmaid lurks in the background, busily milking the cow for all it’s worth. Piles of money lie scattered in the field, even in the cow-pat – seems there was money to be made from shit, too. Were they making some sort of ironic comment, or just being extremely honest? This was afterall the beginning of Thatcher’s ’80s, when it was suddenly okay for everyone to aspire to being rich pop stars. And Virgin Records, born at the arse-end of the hippy years, was ready to ride the capitalist gravy train all the way.