October 30, 2020

1980-04-09 – The Guardian

1980 04 09 The_Guardian_Wed__Apr_9__1980_


Robin Denselow listens to newcomers and veterans

Sticks in the mind

board. which‘ is a
rocker, and Which he sings
with equal conviction. Now
for the next Who album,

THE THREE most intriguing
albums this month are all
British. and are from a
superstar gone solo. a re-
turned introspective veteran.
and a bunch of complete un-

New. impressive but still
struggling hands are aIWays
the most exciting to suddenly
come across. and there‘s a
whole mass of them on Hicks
From The Sticks (Rockburgh
ROCIIH. The sticks in this

ease are the north of
l-Znelantl -- an area from
Noll ingham to Leeds to

Liverpool —- anti the hicks
are 16 new bands who are
allowed one track each on
this compilation of the talent
that's hidden away in a
region where the record com-
pany A & R men clearly don't
Venture often enough.

The contemporary sound of
the North is crisp. cool, neat.
vlippecl. unemotional. and
tends to involve synthesisers.
There are some exceptions of
course -- there’s a Wakefield
himd called Ada Wilson and
Keeping Dark. who sound
like mLiverpool Sixties soul-
pop combo. and there are
more l‘ree-form or elec-
tronics-hased outfits like
Sheffield's Clock DVA and
Liverpool‘s Wah! Heat. But
many of the rest are remark-
able for their distinctive

Just like the 2-tone ska
movement that emerged from
the Midlands, this musical
scene has been steadily grow-
ing in the North with little
outside help. and this album
sounds as it” it represents the
tip of the North‘s musical
iceberg. There are a few
weak tracks. hut a lot more
pleasant surprises. The Expe-
laires from Leeds. They Must
Be. Russians from Sheffield,
and Airkrai‘t from Halifax
are just a few of those play-
ing a fairly Simple. solid but
highly effective style of their
own that deserves wider
exposure. Writer Nigel Burn-
ham put all this together.
and he offers more to come.

At the other end of the
spectrum are the veterans
who have already had vary-
ing degrees of success, and
now look back on the music
scene. and at. themselves. in
the light of the new wave
changes. Pete Townshend and
Roy Harper may not seem to


have that: much in common,
apart from being goitariste
and distinctively British lyri-
eists, but both reflect some of
the same concerns. with
Harper typically the more

'l‘ownshend's new solo
album Empty Glass (Atco
1(50699) is best in those sec-
tions where he is not trying
to keep tabs on the moods
and styles of the Who's
beloved young audience. At
its worst, the album re-
minded me —- perhaps a
little unfairly — of one of
ilarper's bitit‘et‘ new lines on
the new Wave “and the old
wave hierarchy, try to take
‘em seriously. because they
have to." Townshend doesn't
have to, but he wants to, and
, like Rough Boys
(“going to get inside your
bitter mind“), or the title
track “All I need‘s a miryor
and I‘m a star” gloat thh
disaffected youth in a less
successful way than he has
done in the past.

Pete Townshend: impressive

Even so. it‘s an impressive
album. but more for the gui-
tar and keyboard work and
the quality of his vocals than
the lyrics. Without the Who
he can explore lighter styles.
so there’s a cascade of key-
boards on the technically
superb And I Moved, and
gentle pounding rhythm on
the delightful Keep On Work-
ing. that I suspect sums up
Townshend today —- a con-
tented ' family man who
would “rather be here than
any other place". But then
there’s also. Cats In The Cup-


of London.


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gre at

Roy Harper’s The Un-
known Soldier (Harvest
SHVL 820. available at; the
end of this week) 15 a far
more solemn and bleak
affair. and sounds at times as
if Harper was trying too
,hard to record his master-
work. It’s his first album to
he released in over three
years (the last one. Commer-
cial Break, never surfaced)
and he's been painstaking
over the recording. using five
studios here. and in France
and America. Harper has
always been an unpredictable
eccentric with a cult follow-
ing, rather than a superstar.
but he seems to collect
superstars as friends. Nearly
half the tracks here were
written with Pink Floyd’s
Dave Gilmour. who also adds
some excellent guitar work.

Musically, the range varies
from Sparse electric guitar to
the gentle acoustic styles
with which Harper started
out in the folk clubs. It's not
a concept album. as such, but
the songs taken together
present a bold, dark. coher-
ent canvas of struggle, self-
doubt, ageing and potential
horrors to come. with just a
few passages of optimism
and hope. It's not easy listen-
ing. and it goes against all
trends in dealing with every-
thing that is currently least
tashionable. So Old Faces is
like a slowed-down psychede-
lic swirl. as evocative as its
companion song Ten Years
Ago (“we were dreaming").
a'double-edged look at the
hmpy. druggy past and con-
temporary problems.

No one else is dealing with
doomsday this month. for the
continuing obsession is with
havmg fun — and fun
albums come in all styles.
From Britain. there’s The
Motors, with their elaborate
studio production on Tene-
ment -Steps (Virgin V2151).
and ballads like Love and
Loneliness and the witty
Modern Man making them
sound like new wave Righ-
teous Brothers. Then there‘s
“(reckless Erie‘s delightful
Bit! Smash (Stiff SEEZZI). a
double set of almost all his
material. from good-natured.
well-sun: heat. ballads to
rockers to a French cockney
country tune like Reconnez

Cherie. There's another
double album from Ian
Hunter. Welcome To The

Club (Chrysalis CJT6). a live
recording of his current. stir-
ringstage show, with great
vermons of.-Mott The Honnle
favourites like All The Way
From Memphis and a few
strong new songs like the
countw-flavoured Sons and
Daughters. -

.The hrashest new enorl-'
t_nne performer ‘from‘ 'Anier-
ica 15 Rocky Burnette. son of
Johnny. with The Son of‘
Rock 'n' roll (EMI EMC3322).
He could over~do it.a little
With his obsessions with his
famous parentage and with
death (there are four dedi-
cations to the deceased on
the sleeve) but he can cer-
tainly write some good songs.
Tired Of Toein’ The Line
was one of the great singles
of last year. Nothing else on
the album is quite so memor-
able. but Because of You.
which sounds like a slow
Presley weenie, comes close.
He should be over here in
the summer. as will the
Beach Boys. who keep
plugging away with Endless
Summer (Caribou CRB
86109). Thev have emerged
through their terrible phase
of a couple of years back.
and sound slick and jolly as
ever“ it' now a little insub-
stantial and very predictable.
Some Of Your Love and Sun-
shine make this worth while
for avid Beach Boys fans.