As a follow on to my recent review about late 1970s albums by Buzzcocks and The Damned, two reissues of 1980s albums by artists I pretty much missed back in the day — Gary Numan and The Fall — may be worthy of your exploration.
The Fall are a group I’d heard of at the time but never actually heard their music until much later. They completely fell between the cracks for me, perhaps a bit too cranky on their punk side and a tad too dissonant on their commercial face to be in my wheelhouse. Or, they were perhaps not weird enough to get my attention (hey, I am a huge fan of some of their influences such as Captain Beefheart and The Velvet Underground). That said, I have been enjoying recent reissues of some of The Fall’s seminal albums on vinyl (I reviewed one last Fall, in fact…. bad pun intended).
1988’s I Am Kurious Oranj is apparently a pretty popular album by the band, music originally intended as the score to an avant-garde ballet (performed live by The Fall at the time). Listening today — completely out of time and context — the album stands fine on its own as a late 80s danceable new wave recording. Angular and repetitive, there are grooves and some hooks here for sure amidst the yelping quasi punk vocals. The title track “Kurious Oranj”and the “Overture” caught my ear right off. “Bad News Girl” starts off sounding like a sort of quaalude homage to The Cure (replete with little flute-like synth lines and mystical bell chime sparkles) but the tempo picks up a lot half way through.
The new reissue of I Am Kurious Oranj recreates the original album design and includes a reproduction of the original ballet program. It is pressed on surprisingly quiet, well centered, standard weight, quiet orange colored vinyl. Overall, this record sounds pretty solid, its songs of which would fit neatly in a mixtape with early music by The Cure and New Order, with driving beats, plucky bass lines and stabbing rhythmic guitar signatures and jangly guitars at times. You can find I Am Kurious Oranj on Tidal streaming in CD quality and there you’ll hear a somewhat expanded version of the recording with additional and sometimes longer versions of songs (click here for that). Apparently, according to the Wiki (click here) there are numerous incarnations of this (and many other Fall albums for that matter). Completists take note: this LP might not be the final word for you if you want to collect every version out there. FYI.
Gary Numan is another artist I missed out on back in 1980s, but this was mostly my choice as I was (in retrospect) being a bit of prog rock and new wave snob, so I didn’t give him a fair shake. I started making amends for that last year when I reviewed — and really enjoyed — his album Dance (click here to for the review). It was an eye opener for me.
Continuing Beggars Banquet’s fine reissue series, they sent me 1982’s I, Assassin for review and I’m again quite pleased. This is not as an immediate a record as Dance, but after a few spins I’m into what Numan was doing here: dark, synth-y, atmospheric with a rocking funky groove. This one is “a grower” as they say, so with each listen different songs have been jumping out at me.
Current faves include “A Dream of Siam” and the album opener “White Boys and Heroes.” I love the sound of the amplified drum machine beginning the title track — sounds like a Casio RZ-1 I used to have in the 80s — but that soon kicks in with some great huge real drums taking on a slightly Middle Eastern influenced groove. “We Take Mystery” was Numan’s last Top 10 hit, reaching number nine in the UK charts back in the day — and I can hear why as its got a fun funky feel perfect for the times (you could segue this into Talking Heads’ “Making Flippy Floppy” in a heartbeat!). “Glitter and Ash” is a trippy fun instrumental with sweet Fretless Bass parts (and, yeah, I’m one of the people who actually likes the effect of Fretless Bass on a rock song if its done correctly; Fernando Saunders’ work with Lou Reed is another great example of that sound).
You can find I, Assassin streaming up on Tidal in CD quality as well and it sounds solid there (click here to jump to it). The dark clear green vinyl reissue pressing is well centered and quiet. Reportedly mastered in HD from analogue tape, I’m guessing that means the album was made from a high resolution digital transfer off the original analogue master tape (which is fine and makes sense in these digital times we live in). Assuming that was the case, this seems to be a good sounding transfer as I’m really not hearing any significant anomalies in I, Assassin (as in annoying sonic textures which might make the music less enjoyable to listen to). So kudos to Beggars Banquet and Gary Numan for paying attention to the little details that matter. I’m looking forward to digging back further in Gary’s early catalog now.