Page 1



All About Eve

Southern Death Cult

Cocteau Twins

Joy Division

The Mission

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds




70992 30039


Fields Of The Nephilim

The Creatures

The Birthday Party

The Best Of

OUT NOW 19 songs including Tainted Love, Disposable Teens, mOBSCENE, The Beautiful People, Personal Jesus & two bonus tracks Special CD/DVD set available featuring 20 videos including the (s)AINT exclusive



Contents Chapter 1 1976-79 9-20

Chapter 2 1980 21-32

Chapter 3 1981 33-40

Chapter 4 1982 41-54

Chapter 5 1983 55-68

Chapter 6 1984 69-76

Chapter 7 1985 77-90

Chapter 8 1986 91-98

Chapter 9 1987 99-114

Chapter 10 1988 Chapter 11 1989 125-134

Chapter 12 1990-92 135-145



Editor’s Letter

“The children of the night, what sweet music they make”

–Count Dracula


hile research was underway on this edition of NME Originals, the estimable DJ and cool music connoisseur Mr Sean Rowley was busy compiling an album called ‘Guilty Pleasures’ full of songs generally considered naff. The phenomenal response to Mr Rowley’s project – celebrities and fans alike swamping his radio shows with calls confessing previously hidden affections for the likes of Barry Manilow and Boston – begged only one question: where was all the Goth?! If the experience of creating NME Originals: Goth has taught me anything it’s that, although we seldom dare mention its name, there’s a little bit of Goth in all of us. Cranking up the soundtrack to the months of research – the Sisters’ ‘This Corrosion’, Siouxsie’s ‘Happy House’ and, of course, the Bauhaus classic ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ booming off the CD in our tiny office – caused many a passer-by to stop at the doorway and sheepishly grin, “Fuck me, I haven’t heard that in ages. You ain’t got a copy of ‘Dawnrazor’ have you?” Why, of all musical genres, Goth should be among the last to be rehabilitated by history probably has something to do with the fact that it is a determinedly adolescent pleasure. Goth makes all the sense it’s ever going to make almost exclusively in those teenage years when you suddenly realise that everything you’re being taught, everything you’re being groomed for, everything about everything, in fact, is an utter waste of time and effort because



we’re all going to die. Goth wallows in this eternally darkest of jokes and provides a suitably doom-laden soundtrack to this monumental morbidity. As we grow older and closer to the inevitable, we understandably tend to fill our time with stuff to avoid such thoughts and slough off Goth as a ridiculous phase we grew through. Well, that and the fact that if you’re still wearing the widow’s weeds and bogbrush hair as you exit your thirties, you’re either a treasured rich eccentric like Robert Smith or you tend to look like some sad kind of escapee from the nuthouse. That said, like most things rooted in our adolescence, we are fiercely protective of its memory. Hence the incredible arguments that ensued over the compilation of the volume you’re now reading. There was no dissent over the roots of Goth. The first usage of the term referred to a tribe of ancient Germans that the civilised Romans regarded as barbaric. Later the term was applied to a particularly brutish form of medieval architecture. And then, in the early 1980s, it was used by music critics to describe the emerging black-clad movement of bands and their fans who, out of the ashes of punk, were determined to revel in the misery of human mortality. So far so good. But when it came to actually deciding who was Goth enough to feature in this magazine and who was merely Peripheral Goth, all hell broke loose. Numerous phone calls ended with colleagues or acquaintances (ex-Goths all) vowing not to buy the issue if Echo & The Bunnymen were in it or if Sex Gang

Children weren’t. Killing Joke? Some said yea and some nay. Psychedelic Furs? Mostly nay. And so on it raged until it was decided, for sanity and space’s sake, to deal with the species that I guess we might term Stadium Goth. In other words, the big, influential bands that, for better or worse, have influence on and can claim some responsibility for all of today’s dark stuff, from Marilyn Manson through Mortis to Dashboard Confessional. So, a quick apology to those faithful few who hung around the Batcave and to those who’ll throw a hissy fit because Virgin Prunes, Danse Society or Red Lorry Yellow Lorry just didn’t make the cut. And a big welcome to the rest of you. Goth, it seems to me, is in the ascendancy just now. The Cure are being honoured by MTV and name-dropped by The Strokes et al, while Interpol are reinventing Joy Division for a new generation. Gloom is back big time. So time to climb out of the closet. Buy this issue – go on, you know you want to! – wrap it inside your copy of NME if you must, hurry it home, dim the lights, spark up the candles and, as the great Nick Cave once so gruesomely hollered, release the bats!

Steve Sutherland Editor








three imaginary boys THE LEGENDARY 1979 DEBUT ALBUM


2 CD SET COMPILED BY ROBERT SMITH Digitally Remastered from the Original Master Tapes Features 6 previously unreleased songs and 17 tracks on CD for the very first time Deluxe package contains a 16 page booklet including sleevenotes with rare and previously unseen photographs 982 182-8

Chapter 1



Bromley Contingent

Siouxsie & The Banshees 100 Club, London


t’s never the same at a Pistols gig nowadays (in London, anyway) if what is known as the “Bromley Contingent” isn’t there. This inseparable unit is Steve (21), Bill (22) and Simon (19) – he sells hot dogs off a mobile stand during the day – raspberry-haired Debbie and Suzi [sic], of Suzi & The Banshees. They first heard the Pistols at their local tech in January and they’ve been faithful followers ever since. They made the trip to Paris, in a ropey old car, to see their heroes’ first overseas performance, and Siouxsie, shocking in her semi-nudity, got punched on the nose. She is nothing if not m agnificent. Her short hair, which she sweeps in great waves over her head, is streaked with red, like flames. She’ll wear black plastic non-existent bras, one mesh and one rubber stocking, and suspender belts (various colours), all covered by a polka-dotted, transparent plastic mac. Over the weeks the Bromley Contingent’s parade of inventive dress (it’s rarely the same two weeks running) has set the fashion pace of the scene. It was only a matter of time before they took their street theatre to the stage.

Apart from Suzi, it wasn’t decided who would actually end up doing the 100 Club festival until the day. Everyone thought though that they’d carry out their muchadvertised plan to sing ‘Goldfinger’. It was not to be. At the last moment, in an orgy of rock iconoclasm, they decided on ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ spiced with “the most ridiculous rock songs ever written”. Two-tone Steve (his hair is black on top, white at the sides) was on the bass he picked up for the first time

Deliver us from evil: Siouxsie, Steve Havoc, Marco Pirroni and Sid Vicious at the 100 Club

had one rehearsal. And a mature gent called Marco was the lead guitarist. The prayer begins. It’s a wild improvisation, a bizarre stage fantasy acted out for real. The sound is what you’d expect from, er, novices. But Sid, with miraculous command, starts his minimal thud and the beat doesn’t fluctuate from

‘The Lord’s Prayer’ begins. It’s wild – a bizarre stage fantasy acted out for real the night before. Sid Vicious, Johnny Rotten’s friend and inventor of the pogo dance, was on drums. He has

“Too many Jews for my liking”, sang Sioux. Ironically, of course

the start to the finish of the, er, set. Against this knobbly sound, Siouxsie, with the grace of a redeemed ghoul, rifles the senses with an unnerving, screeching recital of ‘Twist And Shout’ and ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’. Sid’s smile flickers. Marco, his guitar feeding back, rolls up his sleeves, and two-tone Steve twotones. The audience, enjoying the band’s nerve and audacity, eggs them on, gets bored, has a laugh, and then

wonders how much more it can take. Twenty minutes later, on the nod from Marco, Sid just stops. The enthusiastic cheering is just recognition of their success. If the punk rock scene has anything to offer then it’s the opportunity for anyone who wants to get up and experience the reality of their wildest, stage-struck dreams. The bar-flies are horrified. “God, it was awful,” says Howard Thompson, an A&R man from Island. But Suzi is not interested in contracts. “The ending was a mistake,” she says. “I thought we’d go on until they pulled us off.”

NME, 29 October 1977, p3


MM, 29 October 1977, p17

MM, 2 October 1976, p26



This is Siouxsie & The Banshees. They are patient. They will win. In the end. A World Domination By 1984 Special by Paul Morley NME, 14 January 1978, p7


Calm down and reflect on a bewildering reputation. It’s now 15 months since the Banshees, in a spirited, impulsive shot of audience participation, went on stage at the 100 Club and set their unique, shocking, honest precedent. That’s a dark, distant past, perhaps the only period that the Banshees have actually felt that they belonged to something. A movement that pressed self-destruct early on, a movement whose successful ones were, with odd

looking different, dancing around, on drums, PP Barnum on guitar. They were unformulated, but intense. From there, the growth has been subdued and careful, PP Barnum left (he’s now formed Heroes); Martin was brought in. The group, as would be expected, have touched controversy. There’s been a farcical fracas with the police, resulting in a £20 fine for Siouxsie, and the infamous spraying incident, “Sign Siouxsie & The Banshees.” No record deal, except the occasional futile one-off, and it’s only in the last few months that they gelled as a considered, permanent group. And now? Their development has happened away from the subcultural acceleration. There is no rush. They are patient. “Now we’re starting to do interviews, we’ve just begun to understand what we’re doing, whereas before without doing interviews we never really thought about motives.”

“When I was eight I tried to commit suicide to get noticed by my parents” exceptions, the shrewdest, the most adaptable to the business, as opposed to the most creative, challenging and committed. In March/April of ’77 a new Banshees appeared, playing their first real gig at the Roxy, with Siouxsie singing, Steve on bass, Kenny


iouxsie is the frail-faced, tough-minded, strange-light-in-her-eyes voice/ performer of Siouxsie & The Banshees. When she was a little girl… “I was very lonely. The few friends I had were gypsies. When I was eight I tried to commit suicide to get noticed by my parents. I used to do things like fall on the floor upstairs so that they’d think I’d fallen downstairs, and I’d have bottles of pills in my hands. I’ve always felt on the outside, really.” She, like the rest of the group, admits to being a loner. They don’t really like people. Their reason for existing is to perform noise with meaning for people to share and benefit from. They could be the last “rock” group. The only “rock” group. They are not a “rock” group. They are twentieth century performers. Friday night at The Nashville. An incongruously traditional venue, it would seem, for the Banshees. Isn’t anywhere? It is ‘an occasion’. Names/faces are scattered, perhaps admiring the path of individualism. Wayne County, Billy Idol, Marianne Faithfull, Jordan and on. It is a sell-out. People straggle outside, hoping for admission. Some, absurdly, produce five pound notes in vain attempts at bribing the doorman. What is this?



Southern The New Trend DeAth Cult

And yet

, despite all this, Siouxsie & The Banshees find themselves in an almost enviable position. Siouxsie is, according to the NME poll, the fourteenth most popular female singer in the world. They hold the house record at the Vortex. They sold out The Nashville two nights running. They have made no commitment sacrifices, no compromises, and they feel comfortable that what they’re saying is necessary. “Things have to go on. We’re trying to show that it does not have to be pop-punk next, it doesn’t have to be the same old rock’n’roll riffs. We don’t like trends. We formed initially because we felt we had something of our own to say.” Is it this different way of doing things/saying things/playing things that has attracted this curious following? Or is it just hip to like them? Are they the new trend? “Well, there’s the girl thing… there’s a lot of people who’ve latched on to us because of the… because they’ve understood things that aren’t there… like being labelled Nazis… many of the audience don’t understand… we probably don’t understand ourselves completely.” (Right) “Put your left leg in, your left leg out…”: Sioux invents the punk hokey-cokey



Whatever the reasons for their popularity, it exists, and their audience intuitively grasps the fact that they’re not absorbing run-of-the-mill music/noise. It is unconventional in form, but no way inaccessible. Structured noise. Do they view themselves as musicians? “As non-musicians. Sound innovators.” A comprehensible term? “It’s making different sounds with what you’ve got. We go out of our way not to be musicians… we don’t rehearse till our fingers bleed. We can play rock’n’roll, but we ignore it, shove it in a corner. We don’t see ourselves in the same context as rock’n’roll groups. We’re out on a limb. It is dangerous, but it excites us, makes it worthwhile.” Visually, Siouxsie is harsh, asexual. She wears shorts/short skirts for freedom of movement. She is nicknamed ‘Android’ by the group.

emotion that comes up, you’re not realising it.” Emotion? “Passion… it’s just emotion full stop. There’s no other words. It’s just one thing.”

If the emotions of the group have toughened/ flowered over the last few months, then so has their intensity as performers. “Now, we seem to have some sense of direction. We haven’t just gone out and done every gig that we’ve been offered. The best things are those when you go down really badly but you know you’ve done a good set… we don’t really need audience approval… we’re putting on a show for ourselves and if anyone wants to take something from it it’s up to them. We’re not going to impose anything on anyone. It’s entertainment for some people but it’s not mainstream entertainment.

Siouxsie is harsh, asexual. She wears short skirts for freedom of movement. She is nicknamed ‘Android’ Her make-up, which eerily transforms her nervous, wistful, pale face into the hard-lined clown-tragedian, is the one concession to the audience. Her voice is staggered. No orthodox fluid melodies, but clipped, forced lines, sharply falling and rising. She displays no exhaustion, exhilaration, amusement, frustration or any of those other colourful sideshows that performers often find in themselves. In the early days there was little nervousness when she got on stage. Now, she gets very nervous. “Maybe it’s because there’s a lot more emotion put into what we’re doing now… when you just get up there like we used to, the

The Banshees’ words are of a strange language, derived from experience and observation, chilling vignettes of minor atrocities and gruesome indulgences, of frustration, of unrequited love. From the dark side of life, grinning, perverted, subversive; euphoria and depression, vision and pessimism mysteriously co-exist. The truth in ugliness. Striving to manufacture some semblance of order, or purposefulness, set against the absurdity and pointlessness of life. Their realism is vital, snatches of everyday life exaggerated for effect: “People live in a dreamworld”.

Their abrasive, uncompromising language, and the way that its presented, is not of the type that is liable to entice record companies to propose lucrative deals. The group realises this is important. “We want to become successful because it would mean that people are confronting what we’re putting down on vinyl and paper… but if we are, we’d probably be successful for the wrong reasons. “Every day there’s a problem about having to compromise… everyday there’s a reporter wanting to interview just Siouxsie, getting across that it’s a backing band for Siouxsie. It’s not that at all. It’s a four-piece band. In the end you have to explain yourself in the most basic, moronic way and that takes something away. Record companies aren’t there to help a band progress, that’s bullshit. That they’re to make money for themselves. They don’t care if a band falls by the wayside as long as they’ve made enough money out of them. We want commitments from a record company so that we can do what we want to do. “We’ll win in the end. If we don’t let people get the better of us, influence us, like the establishment. “As long as we can resist I think we’ll win in the end.”


For a group who leave such a huge question mark after their work, it is hard for the Banshees to take being so readily wrapped and dismissed in the rock press, often as either “oh-a-girl, thefuture-is-female. Great. Next” or “ooh-Nazismnasty-destroy. Next.” They had indeed been misinterpreted, though admittedly, as regards ‘Nazism’, as a result of their lack of forethought. They wore swastikas. There were stiff-armed salutes. Their lushly subversive, brutally sensual words and the rhythmic/anthemic noise they create to form an undoubted Teutonic heaviness didn’t help. “But always with any sort of politics, which is why we haven’t got any, you get extremists, and once you get extremists you get people doing great things and terrible things… for every following of some sort you get followers who distort things.”

(L to r) Siouxsie, John McKay, Kenny Morris and Steve Severin

NME, 18 November 1978, p45




Good-day, second-class of ’78! And now, for the last goddam time in my life – I ask you, who wants to be David Bowie when they graduate? Hands up! Siouxsie – ah, Siouxsie, come up the front here and show the boys and girls how it should be done. One: must be skinny, wear a mass of make-up and look asexual enough to accommodate every closet’s ambivalent fantasies. Two: blind the critics with words and silence and all but a few ungrateful hack swine will lick your soles for the privilege of an interview from you. Three: flirt with the all-time contraband coquette that is Fascism, and it will still get that ridiculously uncool yet controversial minority going. Four: get out of your depth. Things I like about Siouxsie: ‘Hong Kong Garden’; the way she treats her audience like muck, knowing why the gross majority of them come to gape at her; I even kind of liked the way she danced on Top Of The Pops. Fact: until recently, Siouxsie & The Banshees included in their stage set

a song called ‘Love In A Void’. This song featured the line “Too many Jews for my liking”. This, says Siouxsie, was a metaphor for too many fat businessmen waiting to pounce, suck the youth from and cast aside new talent. I do not see the connection. I consider this to be the most disgusting and unforgivable lyric ever written. Siouxsie is well into her twenties, so ignorant youth is no excuse. Therefore she must be either evil or retarded. I am disgusted by the way Jewish writers (Viv Goldman) and otherwise extremely moral writers (Chris Brazier) have drooled over the silly cow, letting her get away with that line. Well, take your shocking song and stick it up your rude white ass, Sioux, because here’s a review that don’t believe in running with the pack. Oh daddy please, pretty please,

won’t you beat up that nasty girl and make her fade away? She hurts my ears and she bores me and the only reason she hasn’t been written off yet as a corny ‘art-rock’ act is that she once used to hang around some, ah, punk band. Standing alone, the Banshee sound is a self-important threshing machine thrashing all stringed instruments down onto the same

jigsaw pieces tra la la”) with unpleasant but truthful sociology topics (going mental, selfmutilation, Fascism, cancer): subjects which have only been dealt with in any number by “punk”. I quite enjoyed singing along to ‘Helter Skelter’ (the least awful effort here, and even that was written elsewhere), and ‘Carcass’ got me a bit jittery until I saw the joke, giggled and yawned. The rest (barely) struck me as endless plain noise totally bereft of melody. Her words for ‘Switch’ and ‘Nicotine Stain’ (she should write more lyrics alone) contain a certain germ, which is rendered totally ineffectual via drone, pretension and conceit. Her words for the stunning ‘Suburban Relapse’ are flawed only in the tune that John McKay sets it to and, naturally, by

She must be either evil or retarded. Stick your shocking song up your ass, Siouxsie low level alongside that draggy sub-voice as it attempts futile swoops around the mono-beat. Their sound is certainly different from the normal guitar-bassdrums-voice set-up. But it’s radically stodgy, as opposed to that lightfantastic Public Image trip. It’s loud, heavy and levelling, the sound of suet pudding. The Banshees unite sub-glam flowering poesie (“Amorphous

the singularly awful Banshee sound. Ah well, kid, hear it for yourself and examine your subconscious. Maybe you’ll love it. Me, I keep seeing Siouxsie up there in her swastika armband making nothing but a fashion accessory out of the death of millions of people. And I honestly don’t think that a rilly sensitive person like myself can ever see beyond that. Julie Burchill NME ORIGINALS


Where Will It End?

NME, 12 May 1979, p43

THE CURE Three Imaginary Boys (Fiction)



NME, 16 December 1978, p16

Ain’t No Blues For The Summertime Cure R

obert Smith, teenage lynchpin of The Cure, plays a Woolworth’s Top Twenty guitar that set the lad back precisely £20. Hands up those of you who still reckon you need expensive instruments to play rock’n’roll? An abrasive Light Metal trio hailing from Crawley, a far-flung southern outpost of London’s commuter hinterland, The Cure are like a breath of fresh suburban air on the capital’s smog-ridden pub and club circuit. Compact and self-sufficient – guitarist Smith balances the group’s sound live himself aided by a portable mixing desk at the side of the stage – The Cure are a triumph of impulse and spontaneity. As Smith explains, “We see so many of the people we went to school with doing absolutely nothing. A lot of them are talented enough to, but they just don’t bother themselves. “There are so many people playing music that is absolute rubbish and getting somewhere doing it. You just think, if they’re doing it, why don’t you, when you know you’re so much better?” Smith formed the band at school with drummer Lol Tolhurst and bassist Mike Dempsey as long ago as 1976. They spent most of last year in limbo, unhappily signed to German disco label Ariola-Hansa and recording demos with unsympathetic producers, but never actually getting that elusive first single release. “We thought we’d be able to do all these outrageous songs we’d written, but all they wanted were really banal old rock’n’roll songs. “Then they gave us the money to do our own demos. And of course they didn’t like them. So they tried putting us in the studio with one of their soul producers, and that didn’t work out

The Cure: (l to r) Robert Smith, Lol Tolhurst and Mike Dempsey

either. It got to the stage where we would have become the Barron Knights of punk…” With their five-year Ariola-Hansa contract terminated, The Cure, master tapes tucked firmly under their armpits, went back to gigging at local venues until an old friend lent them the cash to cut some last-ditch demos. A dozen copies of the resultant tape were mailed out to record companies. A week or so later, young Rob received a call from former Polydor A&R man and Jam producer Chris Parry, with whom they have finally recorded a single, ‘Killing An Arab’. The title comes from The Stranger, a book by Camus about an Algerian uprising. “It’s not racist, if you know what the song is about,” says Rob. “It just happened that the main character in the book had killed an Arab, but it could have been a Scandinavian or an English bloke.” With a John Peel session and more extensive London gigging on their immediate agenda, it remains to be seen whether or not The Cure can retain their refreshing joie de vivre. Adrian Thrills

“ We could have been the Barron Knights of punk”


Aaah! More alert and anguished young men. Do not applaud them. This glistening long-player contains variations upon the smoothly quirky theme that brought the world the pleasurable ‘Killing An Arab’. Over a whole album that pretty bending and doodling does a lot less than please, and a lot more than grate. But The Cure are not just making pop music. They are trying to tell us something. They are trying to tell us they do not exist. They are trying to say that everything is empty. They are represented on the ice-cream colour cover by three bulky, ageing household gadgets. Lol Tolhurst (drums) is a fridge. Michael Dempsey (bass, voice) is an upright Hoover. Robert Smith (guitar, voice) is a standard lamp. Each song is represented on the back sleeve by a picture and on the label by a symbol. All this charming, childish fiddling about aims for the anti-image but naturally creates the perfect malleable image: the tantalising enigma of The Cure. They try to take everything away from the purpose and idea of the rock performer but try so hard they put more in than they take out. They add to the falseness. The Cure, really, are trying to sell us something. Their product is more artificial than most. This is perhaps part of their master plan, but it seems more like their naivety. The Cure set themselves up as though they float along way outside the realms of anything we can understand. They are scandalous, fulfilled aliens, and they look down on us. What do they see? Not much that’ll shoot your being through with vigour or sudden understanding, but they never stop nagging. Willowy songs wallow in the murk and marsh of tawdry images, inane realisations, dull epigrams. Sometimes a song is as pretty as ‘Killing An Arab’: ‘Accuracy’ (a target over a man’s eye) or ‘Fire In Cairo’ (palm tree in the desert). But nowhere is there anything truly adventurous. What The Cure have done here is the equivalent of an album of Enid Blyton readings packaged as readings from Angela Carter. No, it’s maybe not that awful-good. It’s just that in 1979 people shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like this. There are too many who do. Fatigue music. So transparent. So light and – oh, how it nags. Paul Morley

1978 - 1979 MM, 21 July 1979, p27

JOY DIVISION Unknown Pleasures (Factory)

“To talk of life today is like talking of rope in the house of a hanged man.” Where will it end? The point is so obvious. It’s been made time and time again. At the time of writing, our very own mode of (Western, advanced, techno) capitalism is slipping down the slope to its terminal phase: critical mass. One particular and vigorous product of capitalism’s excess has been pop music, not so much because of the form’s intrinsic merit (if any) but because, for many, bar football, it’s the only arena going, in this country at least. “Trying to find a clue/Trying to find a way/ To get out!” ‘Unknown Pleasures’ is a brave bulletin, a danceable dream; brilliantly, a record of place. Of one particular city, Manchester. And in defining reaction and adjustment to place so accurately, it makes the specific general, the particular a paradigm. “To the centre of the city in the night/Waiting for you…” Joy Division’s spatial, circular themes

and Martin Hannett’s shiny, waking-dream production gloss are one perfect reflection of Manchester’s dark spaces and empty places, endless sodium lights and hidden semis seen from a speeding car, vacant industrial sites – the endless detritus of the 19th century – seen gaping like rotten teeth from an orange bus, Hulme seen from the fifth floor on a threatening, rainy day… This is not specifically to glamorise: it could be anywhere. The song titles read as an opaque manifesto: ‘Disorder’, ‘Day Of The Lords’, ‘Candidate’, ‘Insight’, ‘New Dawn Fades’. Loosely, they restate

and with lightning speed; unwinding and winding as the rigid metal music folds and unfolds over him. Recording demands a different context: Hannett imposes a colder, more controlled hysteria – songs merge in and out of one another in a brittle, metallic atmosphere. Opener ‘Disorder’ races briskly, with ominous organ swirls – at the end, Curtis intones “Feeling feeling feeling” in the tones of someone who’s not sure he has any left. Two slower songs follow, both based on massively accented drumming and rumbling bass. ‘Day Of The Lords’ is built around a wrenching chorus of “Where will it end?” while the even sparser ‘Candidate’ fleshes out the bare rhythm section with chance

The album’s two aces are ‘Insight’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’ – here, finally, Gary Glitter meets The Velvet Underground outsider themes: individuals caught in a trap they dimly perceive – anger, paranoia, alienation, feelings of thwarted power, and so on. Hardly pretty, but compulsive. What gives Joy Division their edge is the taut danceability of their faster songs, and the dreamlike spell of their slower explorations. Both rely on the tense, careful counterpoint of bass (Peter Hook), drums (Stephen Morris) and guitar (Bernard Dickin); Ian Curtis’ expressive, confused vocals croon deeply over recurring musical patterns which themselves mock any idea of escape. Live, he appears possessed by demons, dancing spastically

guitar ambience. The album’s two aces are ‘Insight’ and ‘She’s Lost Control’; here, finally, Gary Glitter meets the Velvet Underground. Both rely on rockhard echoed drumming and bass recorded well up to take the melody – the guitar provides textural icing and thrust over the top. The former’s attractive, bouncing melody belies the lyrics: “But I don’t care any more/ I’ve lost the will to want more”. ‘She’s Lost Control’, remixed to emphasise guitar and percussion,

is a possible hit single: it’s certainly the obvious track for radio to play. Deep and dark vocals ride over an irresistible, circular backing that threatens to break loose but never does; the tension ends in a crescendo of synthesized noise. Three faster tracks follow – mutated heavy pop, all built around punishing rhythms and riffs it’d be tempting to call metal, except control is everywhere. ‘Shadowplay’ is a metallic travelogue, with Curtis fleeing internal demons; ‘Wilderness’ externalises things into Lovecraftian fantasy, all echoed drumming and sickening guitar slides, while ‘Interzone’ moves through a clipped, perfect introduction to guitar shrills and murder-mystery mumbles. Both sides end with tracks – ‘New Dawn Fades’ and ‘I Remember Nothing’ – so slow and atmospheric that alienation becomes a waking dream upon which nothing impinges: “Me in my own world…” Leaving the 20th century is difficult; most people prefer to go back and nostalgise. Joy Division at least set a course in the present with contrails for the future – perhaps you can’t ask for much more. Indeed, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ may very well be one of the best white, English, debut LPs of the year. Problems remain: in recording place so accurately, Joy Division are vulnerable to any success the album may bring – once the delicate relationship with environment is altered, they may never produce anything as good again. Perhaps it’s time we all started facing the future. Where will it end? Jon Savage

Facing the future: Stephen Morris, Ian Curtis, Bernard Dickin and Peter Hook



Me In My Own World


et me draw back the curtains on a winter night last year. A midweek night of no special significance, save that Joy Division had come marching into town. It wasn’t much of a welcome. It wasn’t one of those jam-packed little-league sell-outs where you can’t get in for the length of the guest list and where breath is bated in anticipation of something about to turn big. Nothing of the sort. Down in the basement confines of a celebrated Islington watering hole it was relaxed and cool. In front of the stage, though, a gaggle of a dozen or so modern boys staked out their territory like there was some sort of conspiracy afoot. Minions were dispatched to fetch the pints. The space in front of the stage was jealously guarded. Their muted green tribal colours set them apart from the dowdy crowd. They had come, heaven knows where from, for Joy Division. Another Manchester Band. The band that looks dead set to follow Buzzcocks out of merely local and underground acclaim and into the wider limelight – at least judging by the

Take No rapturous critical reaction to their first album, ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

A single

Ian Curtis (left) and Bernard Albrecht anxiously await the Joy Division backlash



overhead spot floods the centre-stage microphone and spills out onto the heads of the aforementioned gaggle of sartorial hot-shots. Heads that start to bob furiously at the first pulse of streamlined rhythm, attached to bodies that lurch back and forth, attached to legs that jerk up and down at the knees and arms that swing in a loose crawl or elbows that flap madly. The spot picks out singer Ian Curtis. The rest of Joy Division are shrouded in darkness as they pour out their harsh metal thunder. The singer’s body shakes, rocks and palpitates, a mad dervish caught in that one spotlight. Were you to shine a torch around this subterranean scene you would see the young, tidy faces of Joy Division and notice perhaps the ordinary, neat cut of their clothes, with the barest hint of the regimental overtones of their name in their flap-pocket shirts. You might also notice the excitement in the faces of the onlookers, all locking into the irresistible motion of the music. The strongest new music to emerge this year. It owes nothing to the after-punk cult of the amateur. If it’s pop, that’s purely accidental. And it plays with musical perimeters in ingenious, never pretentious, ways – by building carefully on their standard rock basis and using sounds as textures with which to construct a song. It’s a technique that anyone who listens to the radio these days will be familiar with, from ‘I Feel Love’ to ‘Public Image’, to give but two examples. The themes of Joy Division’s music are sorrowful, painful and sometimes deeply sad. It’s music that gives often harrowing glimpses of confusion and alienation. Joy Division walk alone, with their heads bowed.

1979 noisy, unkempt beginnings in ’77 to the superb controlled heat they generate now. But up until now Joy Division have been dogged by business problems, stalled by personal problems, and ignored. They mistrust the glowing reviews they now get, and wait, dispassionately, for the backlash.

Being on the outside has made them very insular

(L to r) Bernard Albrecht, Ian Curtis, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris

and possessive about their music. It has also given them their strength: not a resentful, we’llshow-’em sort of strength, but the satisfaction they derive from their music. “All the business side – that really fucks you up,” moans Peter. “Once you get back in the rehearsal room and there’s just the four of us with instruments we’re back where we started. It still hangs over you like a cloud – but once you get your instrument you’re free…” “You’re always working on the next song,” says Ian. “No matter how many songs you’ve done, you’re always looking for the next one. Basically we play what we want. It’d be very easy for us to

NME, 11 August 1979, p24

Prisoners, Leave No Clues Not just another band from Manchester, Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ LP puts them at the top of the league. By Paul Rambali At least, that’s my interpretation. Joy Division


aren’t giving anybody any clues. They don’t agree with lyric sheets. “You get people who seem to think you should put your lyrics on so you can get your message across,” says bearded bass player, Peter Hook, with obvious disdain. “We’ve said to people, ‘Haven’t you ever been listening to a record where you’ve been singing a certain line and when you find what it really is you feel let down?’ But they just won’t admit that at all. They still wanted to know what our lyrics were about. “Don’t you think it’s wrong to pin somebody down like that? Our lyrics may mean something completely different to every single individual.” Why not write gibberish then? On a variation of the monkey-and-typewriter principle it’ll mean something to someone sooner or later. “The songs mean something personal to us, but that’s not the point. It’s like saying, ‘What did Max Escher mean when he did that painting?’” He points to a giant print of one of Escher’s typical perspective puzzles that hangs on the wall of Manchester’s Central Sound Studio, where we are now located. “He might just say, ‘I was pissed.’ We don’t want to say anything. We don’t want to influence people. We don’t want people to know what we think.”


, who writes the lyrics, broadly speaking shares these views. He is off stage the virtual opposite of what he is on. His speaking voice is

high and faltering, not swarthy and assertive, and his shyness you would not guess from his onstage abandon. Stephen Morris, the drummer who completed the foursome a few months after Ian joined, lives, like Ian, in Macclesfield, and owns a huge record collection, partly inherited from his jazz enthusiast father: “He took me to see Count Basie once… So I took him to see Hawkwind. He was getting all dressed up and I had to explain that, no Dad, it’s not that sort of concert…” He bought his first drum kit by chopping up the furniture in his house to sell as firewood. Which leaves only Bernard Albrecht, who plays guitar, and went to school with Hook. He is astute and eager to explain himself. “I don’t like a lot of music,” he admits, “but the music I do like I get more out of than from

say, ‘Well, all these people seem to like such and such a song – it’d be easy to knock out another one.’ But we don’t. “We don’t want to get diluted, really, and by staying at Factory we’re free to do what we want. There’s no one restricting us or the music – or even the artwork and promotion. You get bands that are given huge advances – loans really – but what do they spend it on? What is all that money going to get? Is it going to make the music any better?” “Another good thing about it,” says Stephen, from the heart, “is if you’ve got some sort of frustration, something eating you, you can get it out just by playing.” “The thing is, if you’ve got a brain,” explains Peter, “obviously you want to do something with your life, or whatever. I’m sure a lot of people feel like that. Now that we’ve got this, we don’t.” Ian: “When I was about 15 or 16 at school, I used to talk with me mates and we’d say, ‘Right. As soon as we leave we’ll be down in London, doing something nobody else is doing.’ Then I used to work in a factory, and I was happy

“You get back to the rehearsal room, and there’s just the four of us. You get your instrument and you’re free” anything else in life. I want to put the feeling that I get out of music back into music as well. “When we started off none of us could play. But each time we go one step forward – and that draws you on. It’s just a really good feeling. I think that’s why a lot of people get disillusioned, ’cos, like, the music dries up.” It’s relatively easy to trace the stealthy progress Joy Division have made from their aggressive,

because I could daydream all day. All I had to do was push this wagon up and down. But I didn’t have to think. I could think about the weekend, imagine what I was going to spend me money on, which LP I was going to buy… You can live in your own little world.” Too true. But whichever world you choose to live in the chances are it’ll soon coincide with Joy Division’s. They’re here to stay. NME ORIGINALS


Trouble At The Top

MM, 1 September 1979, p23

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Join Hands (Polydor)



MM, 15 September 1979, p3


he Siouxsie & The Banshees tour ground to a halt after only one gig last week when guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris left the group and disappeared after a row in a record shop. After the row, which followed a disagreement over signing autographs and giving away promotional LPs in the Aberdeen shop on Friday, the pair went back to their hotel, packed, arranged their pillows in their beds to look as if they were occupied, and fixed their backstage passes to the pillows. Apart from a brief encounter with their manager, Nils Stevenson, as they drove away in a taxi, Morris and McKay have not been seen since. Their sudden departure means that Siouxsie and Steve Severin had to pull out of their Aberdeen show, but after explaining to fans that “the two art students have left”, Siouxsie and Severin joined support band The Cure for a ten-minute version of “The Lord’s Prayer”. Severin told MM on Monday that while he and

Siouxsie were aware of problems with McKay and Morris – they were given the option of leaving the group before the tour started – they anticipated the make-or-break aspect of the tour would not be decided until the dates had finished. “They have just run away,” said Siouxsie. “Their actions were a complete cop-out. They have showed complete apathy. If they wanted to object to something, or felt they were being pressured, they should have shouted back, or hit me, but instead they did this. “I consider it is the worst, the most cowardly way they could have behaved. It is the most disgusting thing they could have done to a band, and worst of all, their action feels so calculated – it wasn’t as if they stormed out in a fury.” The band have cancelled dates this week, although there is a chance they will have been able to rehearse with two new members to open again at Oxford’s New Theatre on Friday. Venues should be checked locally. Tonight’s Bradford show has been postponed until 24 September.

“They have just run away. Their actions were a complete cop-out”


A year ago, the Banshees had a hit album, a Top 10 single (‘Hong Kong Garden’), the crossover pop audience and the punk audience. Credibility, critical acclaim and pop prowess. They even wore their clothes nicely – perfect. Blink… and it’s gone! There was a weak follow-up, ‘Staircase’. The group doesn’t play much; the audience fragments, as the matrix moves to new areas. In limbo, the Banshees plump for standbys: “art” and “mystery”. It hurts. Shorn of the bounce and verve that balanced the odd obscurity of ‘The Scream’, ‘Join Hands’ is a confusing, in parts brilliant, in parts awful, faintly musty collection. Conveniently, almost all the better pieces are kept on the first side. ‘Poppy Day’, is a short, powerful evocation of the Great War graveyards in Flanders. McKay’s phased guitar scythes out a barrage of sound while the bass carries the tune. ‘Regal Zone’ opens with an urgent flurry, muted slightly by McKay’s sax: it shifts into an urgent, insistent claustrophobia. The two best tracks follow: ‘Placebo Effect’ has a stunning flanged guitar intro, chasing clinical lyrics covering some insertion or operation. It winds down, spaciously, into the apocalyptic ‘Icon’. Siouxsie begins awkwardly, and the band slip into one of the oldest tricks in the book – the Bo Diddley rhythm – and make it their own: the brilliantly reverbed guitar is a perfect foil for Siouxsie’s soaring and, for once, emotional vocal. The second side begins with the single, ‘Playground Twist’. Siouxsie’s fascination for the macabre finds an expression that suits it in a swirl of child-like disorientation and terror. A great song. ‘Mother’ then sets alarm bells ringing: a short recital by Sioux, childlike, over a music box, it’s mawkish rather than evocative. With ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ the alarm bells burst into a cacophony of sirens. Over 13 minutes, Siouxsie pulls the wings off the Lord’s Prayer over a Banshee boogie which, when it shifts, provides the only movements of interest. It’s not art, not proper noise: the Banshees aren’t, respectively, good enough artists or incompetent enough musicians. The 100 Club one-liner (and myth), taken out of context, is made absurd. At its worst, ‘Join Hands’ is unforgivably necrophiliac; at its best, it captures the power of which the Banshees are capable. Translated practically, all this means: listen before you buy. Jon Savage


The legendary Hobgoblin beer is the per fect potion for celebrating All Hallow’s Eve. Available from all good supermarkets and of f-licences, it’s enough to scare the taste buds of f any lagerboy.

Enfants Terribles

MM, 24 June 1978, p23

JOY DIVISION An Ideal For Living (Enigma)

Yet more promising new music from Manchester. Joy Division were called Warsaw until they recorded this EP last November, and it was under that name that I saw them at the Electric Circus the month before (they’ve made it on to the new Virgin album commemorating the Circus’ last weekend). This has the familiar rough-hewn nature of homeproduced records but they’re no mere drone-vendors – there are a lot of good ideas here, and they could be a very interesting band by now, seven months on. Chris Brazier

If you really think The Banshees spent the past year in a contractless limbo because their music was too near the edge, then you must spend a lot of your time going round walking into walls. The Banshees have fans, lots of them, and no record company worth its salt would pass up the chance to sell them records. And what about releasing a record themselves? Don’t they know the old mass access argument hardly applies any more? But here it is, a brash, delirious two-chord triumph that I would never have thought them capable of, being not in the least enamoured of their facile attempts at creating radical music. ‘Hong Kong Garden’, a longtime stage favourite, is a bright, vivid narrative, something like snapshots from the window of a speeding Japanese train, powercharged by the most original, intoxicating guitar playing I’ve heard in a long, long time. Would you believe it’s going to be played on the radio? Would you believe Siouxsie on Top Of The Pops? Would you believe not one mention of Blondie… oops. Paul Rambali

NME, 19 August 1978, p19

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Hong Kong Garden (Polydor)

A lot of people have been waiting for a long time for this disc, while punk’s self-styled enfant terrible played cat-and-mouse with a music industry she openly regards with contempt and disdain. Siouxsie’s got a point. The record companies who decide what you’re going to be able to buy are often reactionary and staid and can be accused of manipulating the populace. But then she isn’t entirely blameless on that last count herself.



NME, 27 January 1979, p20

THE CURE Killing An Arab (Small Wonder)

Apparently based on Albert’s The Outsider and, if so, quite possibly the straw that broke Camus’ back. Cymbals crash once, twice, three times. A guitar, full of eerie promises, slithering like the

sprog of some belly-dancer and a poisonous reptile. Compact bass guitar motif, descending alone. Then those vocals – taut, terse, tense intonation, a voice like that feeling you get watching the faces on the workaday tube ride after stepping out at dawn for the third time without sleep. “Standing on the beach/With a gun in my hand/Staring at the sea/Staring at the sand/Staring down the barrel at the Arab on the ground/Can see his open mouth/ But I hear no sound/I’m alive/I’m dead/I’m the stranger/ Killing an Arab”. And racism has got nothing to do with it. Tony Parsons

NME, 30 June 1979, p31

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Playground Twist (Polydor)

If Ingmar Bergman produced records, they might sound like this. The listener is immediately engulfed in a maelstrom of whirling sound punctuated by the ominous tolling of church bells, phased guitars, thundering percussion, a surreal alto sax and the wail of Siouxsie’s voice. It demands to be played repeatedly at threshold-of-pain volume to elicit its full nightmarish quality. Roy Carr

MM, 30 June 1979, p31

NME, 17 November 1979, p25



Boys Don’t Cry




Hum… this is something of a disappointment. On stage ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ is invariably one of the high points, but somehow, in its translation onto vinyl, the good’s virtually gone. The agile interplay between the three Cure members, and the reverberating economy that producer Chris Parry spotlighted on the debut album, have been edged out in favour of a muddy mix and an old-fashioned hierarchy of instruments. It just sounds so ORDINARY now. The flip, ‘Plastic Passion’, doesn’t redeem the situation either. A feeling of disappointment makes a slim song sound threadbare. Such a shame. Ian Birch

Dance, dance, dance to the radio! A bass guitar slowly stirs and quivers. A relentless, dipping riff gathers momentum and sweeps its way into a spiralling electric guitar as a distant drummer pumps out strict Can doublebeats. This is an awesome disc, scaling the heights fellow Mancunians Magazine merely hinted at in ‘Shot By Both Sides’. Ian Curtis provides regular Iggy-style grunted vocal interjections while the simmering production – again the work of Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett – is crisp enough to push ‘Transmission’ into the chart. With the right breaks, this could easily be a hit! Adrian Thrills

Chapter 2



The New Pink Floyd?

Joy Division University Of London NME, 16 February 1980, p55


oy Division at the University of London was a sell-out. The guest list was huge. Their impact was substantial. Seeing Joy Division, if you are properly tuned, is a jarring experience. The music keeps coming, trenchant, serene, steady, hard, almost an orgiastic celebration of the fact that Joy Division have arrived at a noise and form that is distinctive, instinctive and immeasurably dynamic. The introversion and singularity of the four musicians is fitfully held under control and private music is forced out into the open. The tension is startling. The presentation is as grey and bland as the noise is volatile and deeply black – singer Ian Curtis’ comical trapped-butterfly flapping the only real stage movement, a visual representation of the struggle inherent in Division’s



music. As Richard Jobson said, Division’s music is genuinely violent, and it’s the violence of beauty rooted in beastly desire, the violence of breakdown, inhibition, failure, fatalism… It could be vanity, it could be impatience, even nervousness, but during a Joy Division set,

nightmares, clearly drawn, potent and personal. But Joy Division’s dreams are the inescapable places where we live. It’s all suggestion rather than direction or dogma. Joy Division sped through their early songs with intensity of feeling and concentration. The group pointedly proved that

Their songs are desperate nightmares, clearly drawn, potent and personal outside of the songs, you’ll be lucky to hear more than two or three words. Hello and goodbye. No introductions, no promotion. Good or bad? Inside the songs, careful words – settings, situations, dilemmas, images that are primitive and anxious. Joy Division are a powerful act of make-believe, their songs like desperate bits of

they still work well away from the mainstream, forging ahead down the slippery corridor of experimentation. They played more new songs than old (they didn’t play ‘She’s Lost Control’ or ‘Transmission’ or ‘Disorder’ or… name your favourite) and these new songs give no suggestion of Division stagnation.

These new songs show that Division’s music is as natural as PiL’s, not held down by the grey hands of limitation or expectation. Joy Division are still coming up with new ways to alter the shape, emphasis and texture of their music. The new songs are as organised, hostile and spacious as the last set, but there’s allround intensification, further emphasis on the lead bass and the active drums, even an overall simplification. The songs have extreme, paramelodies, and some have no bass, some no guitars. Synthesizers and bass with the drums, or two guitars. The new single ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is one hell of a ‘classic’ – bass, synth, drums, voice; Curtis hugging a white guitar up to his chest but rarely using it. The song’s mobility and fluidity shows how much potential there


Simply the First Division


MM, 14 June 1980, p10

NME, 26 April 1980, p37

THE CURE Seventeen Seconds (Fiction)

is in the simple contrasting and connecting of instruments that Division use. It’s a staggeringly melodic and momentous piece. For ‘Isolation’ they have the same instrumentation, but it’s more withdrawn and estranged; a song they wrote only days before that reveals Numan and Foxx as true fools. The full introduction of synthesizer has not damaged the coherence and balance of the music in any way. It simply increases the amount of mood, atmosphere, ephemeral terror Division are capable of achieving. The encore is a confident, compelling, utterly withdrawn ballad, something

like a dislocated and depraved improvement upon Bowie’s ‘Heroes’. So impressive. Part of Joy Division’s ‘success’ is the breadth and certainty of the reactions they inspire. For this performance there were three obvious ones: love, penetration and stimulation is one all in itself, and if I wasn’t tied down by language and responsibility I could attempt to explain. Simple frustration; that the group didn’t lay out for selfish delectation their eloquent standards. How ironical! And old-fashioned derision. A dissenter behind me, with a spiteful snort, reckoned Joy Division are the new Pink Floyd.

Joy Division’s music is physical and lucid, music about uncontrollable emotions, impulses, prejudices, fears. The group have turned inarticulacy into concrete impressions of the deepest, most degenerate desires. It’s simple music, but not simple-minded; cryptic but not impenetrable. As Danny Baker said, Joy Division are due some sort of backlash, but he’s not the one to do it. If the group had shown the slightest indication of slackening I would have attacked. But they are now better than they have ever been. Joy Division will tear you apart. Still. Paul Morley

For a group as young as The Cure, it seems amazing that they have covered so much territory in such a brief time. It’s impossible to locate one continuous thread linking works as dramatically opposed as their solemn debut 45 ‘Killing An Arab’, the classic single ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, and now the oblique, stilted soundtracks that populate ‘Seventeen Seconds’. Only one factor remains constant: Robert Smith’s pleading whine of a voice and (‘Boys Don’t Cry’ excepted) his dependence upon keeping up a shield of – often mischievous – distance. After ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ (and its commercial failure), Smith regrouped with a keyboard player, one Matthieu Hartley, taking on many of the textural chores that Smith’s guitar had previously covered. A brief, pensive keyboard exercise very much in the mould of Brian Eno’s ‘Through Hollow Lands’ – entitled ‘A Reflection’ – opens ‘Seventeen Seconds’, setting the mood. ‘Play For Today’ builds on its predecessor: keyboard notes and sombre electric guitar touches act as a prelude for an odd, mysterious piece of music that aims to haunt through extensive use of a stock pulse-beat overladen with brush-strokes of guitar, bass and synth, while Smith’s vocals hang limply in the mix. You either find yourself drawn into the landscape created or else you sit there waiting for a sudden jolt, an acceleration. This mode of musical arrangement finds its fullest realisation in the single ‘A Forest’ – yet the scenario, once created, soon sounds limp, devoid of any tension or mystery. Again, one keeps waiting for a sudden lift-off, yet the song just lies there twitching occasionally. It’s a symptom throughout ‘Seventeen Seconds’. The album occupies a midway land where much is insinuated but nothing is truly delivered. It seems caught in that very sense of ‘distance’ that Smith seems so obsessive about keeping up. To many, ‘Seventeen Seconds’ may seem a valid progression. I however find it depressingly regressive. Even so, I await their next move with great interest. Nick Kent NME ORIGINALS


Southern DeAth Something so good… Cult

Don’t Walk Away

In Silence The month before what were to have been their first American gigs, Joy Division completed an impromptu set of British dates. In keeping with their aversion to regulation and routine, the gigs hardly qualified as a tour proper. The dates took in London venues as diverse as the Rainbow, where they supported The Stranglers, to three nights at the Moonlight Club. Out of town, they went largely unannounced or were advertised only locally. Though a few dates were cancelled as Ian Curtis fell ill, it was a period of intense activity for the group. The last of the gigs was in the University Of Birmingham’s High Hall on Friday, 2 May. It was also, fatefully, the last public appearance Ian Curtis made as vocalist in Joy Division. Four days before the Birmingham gig, a video was filmed in Manchester for the forthcoming ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ single. The location – a disused, windswept, Dickensian warehouse converted into a rehearsal studio – seemed the ideal place for a Joy Division video. But the band’s attitude to proceedings was withdrawn and disinterested. Even on camera, they seemed to have little time for such promotional niceties. Such lethargy could hardly have been further removed from the mood in the university dressing room later that week as the band prepared for the Birmingham gig – Joy Division, despite their reputation as sober individuals, despite the myth of romanticised gloom, were earthy and easy-going people. As Tony Wilson says, “To people they seemed a very gloomy band, but as human beings they were the absolute opposite.” They indulged in the customary dressing room horseplay and practical joking, beer-swilling and football talk – Ian Curtis was a Manchester United supporter.

But the earthy offstage demeanours – the blunt, wary Peter Hook; the mischievous Bernie Albrecht; the quiet, easy-going Stephen Morris and the shy, fragile, polite Ian Curtis – were transformed the minute they stepped out into the misty glare of the stage spotlights. Though a reticent student audience were sluggish in warming to them, Joy Division’s power and purity of purpose was immediately apparent in the undiluted vigour of their music. Their ultimate live set, characteristically, made few concessions to rockbiz tradition, the opening number being an unfamiliar instrumental built around a revolving drum motif, one of two new songs already written and rehearsed in the few weeks since the completion of the new LP, ‘Closer’. A ripple of cheers greets a feedback-ridden, faster than usual ‘Shadowplay’. But Joy Division never stooped to easy games, and follow the familiar song with two choppy, strident ones from the new album, ‘Means To An End’ and ‘Passover’. Indeed, it is only with the end of the slow, mournful ‘New Dawn Fades’ that Ian Curtis acknowledged the audience verbally for the first time with a curt ‘Hello’. But the crowd, surprisingly, stand transfixed, their feet taking all of five numbers to warm to the dark dance music as the swirling guitar and drum patterns of the hypnotic ‘Twenty-Four Hours’ give way to the pulsebeat of the throbbing bass introduction to ‘Transmission’. The song suddenly seems to take on the aura of the hit it should have been as the audience finally begin to respond with real vigour, their reticence melting in the face of the frightening intensity of Joy Division’s performance. The euphoria rises through ‘Disorder’, Curtis’s flailing robotic juggle dance taking on almost violent proportions as Morris and Hook hold down the backbeat with precision and power and Albrecht picks out the purest improvised guitar solos.

“They seemed a gloomy band, but they were the absolute opposite”




o why do we get so animated and enthralled by Joy Division? Their music is filled with the horror of the times – no cheap shocks, no rocky horror, no tricks with mirrors, but catastrophic images of compulsion, contradiction, wonder, fear. The threatening nature of society hangs heavy; each song is a mystery, a pursuit. The music is brutally sensual and melancholically tender. The songs never avoid loneliness, cruelty, suffering; they defy these things. All this isn’t out of a love for deep, oppressive seriousness; we’re not celebrating doom. It’s more a loathing for mediocrity and hypocrisy and complacency, the deceptions rock often seems proud to mould. There can be nothing so silly as believing that rock is a saviour, and nothing as outrageous as accepting it as an artificial, attractive network of trash and flash. Joy Division pushed its possibilities to the limits. The very best rock music is art, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. Good rock music is entertaining and amusing, legitimate and intelligent, and from week to week, single to single, upset to upset, it keeps us going. It is rarely straightforward intelligence and wit that produces the very best rock music. It is dreams, naivety, aspirations, intuition, exuberance… there are dreams that shout for a better world and a deeper understanding. These are the dreams of the very best rock music. Joy Division make art. The prejudice that hangs around the word ‘art’ puts people off, makes them think of the untouchable and the unrealistic. Joy Division put reality into rock. Yet for all the intensity and violence of their images, the music never relinquishes a classic accessibility; rhythm, melody, atmosphere are awesomely sophisticated. Joy Division achieve something unique. Joy Division are not merely a hip new wave group on a fashionable independent label. Oh no!


Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division and one of the most talented performers and writers in contemporary rock music, committed suicide on 18 May 1980. Paul Morley and Adrian Thrills pay tribute to the man and the group



… Just Can’t Function No More

It doesn’t really need saying, but Ian Curtis was highly emotional, deeply romantic and acutely sensitive. It was these qualities, plus an irrational willingness to take the blame, combined with a set of problems it’s not relevant to reveal, that made him decide to leave us. A change of scenery. For him, perhaps, freedom. On Saturday 17 May, four days before Joy Division were to fly to America, he had visited his old house in Macclesfield to watch the televised film Stroszek by his favourite director, Herzog. Hours later, in the early hours of the Sunday morning, he hung himself. He was 23. That a myth will develop is inevitable, if only because of the type of group Joy Division seemed to be, the passions they arouse. Ian Curtis’ words are vivid and dramatic. They omit links and open up perspectives; they are set deep in untamed, unfenced darkness. He confronted himself with ultimate realities. However it’s written, this piece contributes to the myth. Things need to be said, things that would have been said anyway, without perhaps

so much unconstrained emotion. Ian’s leaving gives his words and his images a final desperate, sad edge of clarity. It’s a perverse way for Joy Division to get their deserved attention. Our memories add to the myth. Ian Curtis’ own myths, the myths he dragged up from the deep and tuned to our reality, inspire it. The myth gets stronger… we might as well get on with it. Ian would love this myth. Ian Curtis was young, but he had already seen the depths. His death is a waste, but he had already given us more than we dare hope from anyone. We were looking towards him. And he was no longer there.

Joy Division

played their first gig at the Electric Circus supporting Buzzcocks and Penetration in May 1977. Their name was then Warsaw, having rejected the Pete Shelley suggestion of Stiff Kittens. The name Warsaw was derived from ‘Warszawa’, a song on Bowie’s ‘Low’. Warsaw were undistinguished, but there was a great belief and romance guiding them. Slowly, the noises formed. They recorded a four-track single, ‘An Ideal For Living’, and planned to release the EP using their new name Joy Division – Joy Division being the prostitutes’ wing of a concentration camp. Poor sound quality postponed the release and even when it was put out, it created no stir, although something was obviously forming.

Ian Curtis was young, but he had seen the depths. He gave us more than we dared hope

Ian Curtis: the myth grows stronger


and recorded a thrilling single for Factory called ‘Transmission’. They quietly established their independence; prolifically and ambitiously expanded upon their already considerable originality; unpretentiously discovered the capacity there is in rock for truly traumatic and radical developments. They played scores of gigs, but never made it seem like they were merely promoting product. They created their own pace. They made it look so easy. ‘It’ being something like a total lack of compromise. Only the cruellest blow could shatter Joy Division’s brilliant development. Really, they show what is possible. They never dared wonder aloud what effect they were having. They never asked for special treatment. They never shouted for attention, they just got on with the job. Joy Division’s powerful work will naturally live on. The name Joy Division will not be used by Hook, Albrecht and Morris. The group had decided a long while back that if any one of the quartet should, for whatever reason, in whatever way, depart, the rest would, in cautious recognition of the fact they were making something special, change the name of the group. There are no set plans for the future, but it must be said that Ian Curtis was not the major force in the group. He wrote the words and offered contributions to the musical make-up. Hook and Albrecht wrote the melodies, Morris composed the rhythms. Curtis was a dazzling

In 1978 Joy Division met their manager Rob Gretton. Producer Martin ‘Zero’ Hannett took an active interest in the group, and he and Gretton became fifth and sixth members. Joy Division had a quarter of the Factory Sampler, contributing two songs, the first indication that Joy Division had a special understanding. But still, the completeness and strength of their first LP, ‘Unknown Pleasures’, was unnerving. The group had discovered their own potential. They had quietly, effectively travelled from one extreme to the other. Every word counted, every line had a chilling penetration. Somewhere between ‘An Ideal For Living’ and the few months later when ‘Unknown Pleasures’ was recorded, a radical transformation had taken place. Everything had fallen into place. An audience began to look their way, but Joy Division never let go. They relished Factory’s uncomplicated flexibility, contributing two extra songs from the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ session to Fast’s ‘Earcom 2’, recording two new songs for French label Sordide Sentimentale

focus, but the music is unique in itself. Each contribution was equal.

The impact of Joy Division can only grow stronger. Joy Division can not clean away the trivia and delusion of mass-based rock music, but they throw a shadow over it all. They emphasise the vanity and vulgarity of the rock music so recklessly publicised and glorified by industry and media, the plain mundanity of the majority of pop, and their own complete lack of conceit or ego indicates the uselessness of pretending rock is some sort of weapon of change. The very best rock is part of a fight, a widespread perception, something that actively removes prejudice and restriction. Rock’s greatness is its emotional effect on the individual. Joy Division’s worth is immense to every individual who does not resent their strange awareness. The struggle and the conflict never ceases. There is no real safety, no consolation, and often the evil, futile boundaries of existence become too claustrophobic. Ian Curtis decided to leave us, and yet he leaves words of such strength they urge us to fight, seek and reconcile. Joy Division will not change the world. But there is value; there has to be. The effect of Joy Division, the unknown pleasures each individual fully tuned into Joy Division discovers, can only be guessed at. But the moods and the insight must inspire us, excite us, challenge us… The value of Joy Division is the value of love.


The guitarist takes over on synthesizer for the two closers, the translucent ‘Isolation’ and the serene ‘Decades’, a track, like the awesome ‘Atmosphere’, that provides a sharp counterpoint to the more physical hard rock that comprises most of their set. Curtis, however, stumbles from the stage before the end of the song, totally exhausted and obviously showing signs of strain. The band, despite demands for more, return for only a sharp one-song encore, a revamped version of the 1978 Factory Sampler track ‘Digital’…



Play For Today

The Cure Mk II: (l to r) Lol Tolhurst, Mathieu Hartley, Simon Gallup and Robert Smith





ere we go again. I walk into The Cure’s dressing room for the night. I always hate these sort of entrances. The four members of The Cure, stood among empty guitar cases, practice amps, lager cans, dead chairs, look limp and vacant. I slip on my best brave face. Someone rushes off to get me a Cure T-shirt, something I’ll be happy to wear. Somebody else hands me a can of lager, something I force myself to swallow. Robert Smith is nearest to me as I hover by the open door. “Hello,” he says amiably, “are you nervous?” Yes, I say through a narrow throat, I always am. He grins goofishly. I grin goofishly. Last year, on the night of the General Election, I revieweddestroyed The Cure’s first LP ‘Three Imaginary Boys’, at first spluttering at what I saw as a queasy blend of arrogance and austerity, then growing steadily annoyed at what I fantasised as a grand conspiracy of pompous pop people and relentlessly hateful politicians. I saw ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ as a conceited scrapbook with a bitter lack of internal coherence. Wrapped up in dinky pinkness, with symbols instead of titles, it was too self-conscious, and fitted in a place where talk of innovation and stimulation was all pose, no action, and where the next mask was more important than the next song. I thought The Cure were horrible. “I listened to that LP three times,” says Robert Smith, and murmurs in assent when I mention that the second LP ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is much more soulful and direct. “The first LP in a lot of ways was like a compilation, it didn’t have a lot to do with what we were doing even at the time.” At that time Robert Smith felt hurt by my antagonism. He immediately wrote me a note, sternly and hilariously parodying my own indulgent word-play, pissing all over it. The Cure sang a song about the review during a Peel session. The incident got silly. Then quickly forgotten. When we meet, I turn up deeply in love with ‘Seventeen Seconds’ and Robert Smith doesn’t hate me at all. Smith is soft where I imagined he would be hard. He’s not a big softie. He’s always on a fine line between agitation and boredom, and such a balance turns out faintly, deviously charming. He’s no pretentious mock recluse, perpetually feigning intensity




Y’see it wasn’t that The Cure ever had a non-image, they just didn’t have an image, right? Nothing terribly wrong about that, is there? Well... Paul Morley shares a bottle and begins to understand of vision. He’s never quite sure what to say. Does he take himself seriously? “I do take myself seriously but there’s a point beyond which you become a comic figure.” Robert Smith is a songwriter who wrote songs of enough individuality and attraction to warrant interest, who got hooked into the record business and then had to start wondering about justification, morals, compromise. Robert Smith cannot believe The Fuss: “I still don’t feel comfortable holding a guitar.” Smith has the look of the perpetually puzzled. He stutters, he blunders… he wonders what the hell it’s all about, this rock thing. “I sometimes think I might be in someone else’s idea of heaven,” he says with grisly irony.

In the

early hours. We’re soul-deep into bottles of red wine, muttering about the state of the art, the idleness and extravagance of the shady rock heroes. A Cure live set of the moment is nothing like the sort of putrefied and obsolete rock’n’roll gig a lot of people think is the only way. Their new songs sound faded and lonely, rely on touch and quietness. They don’t nag at you or remove your independence. They rouse your curiosity rather than remove it. These songs are a slight chill, not a right charge. A build-up of gloom, shadows, broken bits of dreams and expectations, not guaranteed to supply the good night out.

Smith realises that The Cure don’t fit into the rude rock gig, but he likes to play. “It’s very selfish when I go on stage. It matters what the audience thinks, but I write songs for myself. It’s very narrow-minded. And we don’t present shows. We don’t leap about on stage. We could make it visual and everything but we’re not like that naturally so why should we? I’d prefer it if we really impressed a lot of people who’ll like us for a long time rather than give someone a good night out who’ll forget it next week.” What does he mean by impress? “Just to show… I dunno… that we’ve got something to offer.” He chuckles. He’ll want to change that later.

expect respect, they want their privacy. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is a record of exceptional quality. Brief and wistful. The Cure leave it there as much as they are able. “I don’t think that we have any right to an audience. I don’t think that just because we make records people should listen, or if we play they should come. If we weren’t selling records I’d still be playing in a pub or something, which I was a year before we got a recording contract. Just because I enjoy it. It’s as simple as that. I’d rather be on stage than doing anything else.”

The Cure story is a blur. It started in pubs, now it’s reached clubs and telly, and it will end quietly. They started as a three-piece in 1977:

“I still don’t feel comfortable holding a guitar. Sometimes I think I might be in someone else’s idea of heaven” The Cure form part of a new realism in a part of rock that won’t take over but won’t disappear. Rock that isn’t trapped in a maze of mirrors, that isn’t lost and ignoble in a wasteland of dead pride and rigid beliefs. The Cure don’t demand everyone be like them, and their expectations are moderate. The space to breathe, decent access to recording and releasing, a modest listening level. The Cure want to exist, they

Smith, drummer Lol Tolhurst and bassist Michael Dempsey. They played other people’s songs, it was all for fun and fun was all it was. Robert Smith was part of a very musical family. He recalls that there was always an instrument in the house, always people playing music. At five he walking around hitting guitars. Just making noises. “I don’t know if I believe that thing about some people being born musicians and some not.


That’s elevating musicians to an unfair status.” This background and his hardening pubby experience developed and disciplined Smith’s beautifully polished and adventurous guitar – a personal and delicious post-Hendrix technique wasted on the first LP but exquisitely exploited for Seventeen Seconds’. (Similarly his obsessive, compelling vocals.) It was automatic for Smith to play on a stage with friends, for himself, with the audience only half-welcome. It was difficult for Smith to express himself. There was so much he wanted to say, but it was almost as if he didn’t want anyone to hear his words. “I don’t know. I’ve always written things down ever since I could remember. Mainly because sometimes I get really angry. I’ve got a really violent temper but it’s not physical because I don’t think I should vent my frustrations and depressions on anybody else. I don’t throw tantrums or anything like that, so rather than smash the room up I write things down. It’s a release. But I haven’t got over the idea of separating communicating from preaching. My words are mainly about me, how I feel, they’re not about world situations and alternatives.” The Cure dispensed with most of their versions. They developed originals. A debut single, ‘Killing An Arab’, caused a bit of alarm; Robert Smith was pulled into the flow before he’d even tested it out. Fiction signed them. ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ was pinned together. But the three-piece Cure was destined not to last long. The Siouxsie & The Banshees bust-up accelerated fate. The Cure were supporting them. Kenny and John left the Banshees. Budgie played for Kenny. Robert played for John, using his superior guitar temperament to adapt perfectly to the Banshee shapes. For that tour he played two shows a night. The Cure barely survived. “It just became like a job. I’d known Lol since I was six, but not Michael, and the differences were between him and me. I found on the Banshees tour that I was enjoying it more playing with the Banshees than The Cure. That’s what really made the decision. Lol felt the same way, Michael wasn’t criticising or joining in on any sort of level. We were sticking to the same set night after night and the whole thing was getting like



Art And Artifice fi 

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Kaleidoscope (Polydor)

‘Kaleidoscope’ follows hard on the heels of the morale-boosting chart successes of ‘Christine’ and ‘Happy House’, both of which are featured here. ‘Christine’, the story of the schizophrenic with 22 clashing personalities, was breathtaking: strong, steady drumming, a running bass, a skilful acoustic guitar and Siouxsie’s compassionate vocals all evoke perfectly the song’s stark atmosphere. ‘Happy House’ was great pop as well, everything moving together to form its own distinctive sound. And now ‘Kaleidoscope’ – a series of sketches each evoking its own atmosphere and place. ‘Happy House’ kicks off Side One before ‘Tenant’ is ushered in with a slow, almost Public Image feel, with Severin contributing electric sitar, among other things. ‘Trophy’ is a McGeogh number with a recurring guitar motif and an exploration by Siouxsie of the futility of remembering past triumphs. ‘Hybrid’, though meticulously constructed, tends to outstay its welcome, while ‘Clockface’ seems trite, save for Siouxsie’s chanting. The side ends with ‘Lunar Camel’: slow, a trifle draggy, it lacks characteristic Banshee purpose or direction. Side Two: ‘Desert Kisses’ boasts a great swirling feel of power and intent with Siouxsie’s voice reminding us of its unique quality. ‘Red Frame’ is almost Human League but with more depth and darkness, while ‘Paradise Place’ and ‘Skin’ are just classic Banshee pieces. Hypnotic, relentless, and incisive, both feature Steve Jones on guitar, revealing a hitherto unknown side of the (S)ex Pistol. As the title implies, ‘Kaleidoscope’ aims to give the listener exactly that. A kaleidoscope of sound and imagery, new forms, and content, flashing before our eyes. Undoubtedly a lot of the album is a success on those terms, but even after about ten plays it’s still hard to fully grasp ‘Kaleidoscope’ as a concrete whole. Or maybe that’s the beauty. Paulo Hewitt



The Cure model for the Littlewood’s catalogue ‘postpunk’ collection

I stay away from. I’m not a seller. In fact I sometimes go the opposite way. Which is a bit stupid.” Sometimes it seems as though Robert Smith is embarrassed by living. He is unsettled by the extent and demands of his ego, necessarily oblique about his work, finally ashamed by the vulgar way it tends to be sold. But slowly he is beginning to realise that he cannot exist in a vacuum. He is consolidating his position within this Fuss, striking a fine balance between playing the game and reconciling his own inner conflicts. And ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is a victory of aspiration over circumstances: one of the most calm, liberating and progressive rock LPs of recent years. It’s easy (so calm! So uncluttered!) to miss. It should be heard again and again and again (fade).

Deep into

the deep red wine, deep into the deep conversation, Robert and I are talking about image. Around the time of ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ they seemed to be elaborately disguising their plainness. My mistake: I called it the anti-image. Robert Smith

“One day I’d wake up wanting to kill somebody, the next day I wouldn’t even bother getting up. I was shutting down” was utterly fed up by that. “We had to get away from that anti-image thing, which we didn’t even create in the first place. And it seemed like we were trying to be more obscure. We just didn’t like the standard rock thing. The whole thing got really out of hand. I was trying really hard to be normal, at home I was being all nice, and my mum kept saying to me, ‘What’s an anti-image?’” I tell Robert he can often be infuriatingly vague, because he can. “I am very vague. I don’t know why. Ha! Ha!” Does obscurity mean anything to Smith? “I’m not doing this to make my name go down in history. I really couldn’t care less. I’m not saying that to look good in the interview, I honestly don’t think like that. There are so many people trying to do that, it’s like another facet of the treadmill, and it’s pointless because I could never win it anyway. I’ve got faith in what I’m doing from a personal point of view, but as to whether I go down in history, I’m very doubtful about that… so I don’t let it worry me. If I let that worry me along with everything else I’d crack up before I’m going to anyway.”


MM, 26 July 1980, p17

a joke. There wasn’t much point carrying on.” Late ’79, Dempsey left. Two new members were drafted – keyboardist Matthieu Hartley and bassist Simon Gallup – who oddly made the music more sparse and withdrawn. “They’ve added a new dimension to the group – pissheads.” Resisting the compromising temptation to become a full-time Banshee, Smith and The Cure emerged more in control than they’d ever been. Out of bad times and sad times was blended the tender ‘Seventeen Seconds’ – a collection of songs restlessly remaking and reworking one particular incident from inside a love trap. Smith reflects on a moment from different points of view: resentful on ‘Play For Today’; morbid on ‘In Your House’; near-extinguished on ‘Seventeen Seconds’. “It was a really condensed incident, a rush of feelings that I’d found in myself had been watered down mainly by playing in a group. It’s a really strange situation, but I find touring and things like that shut me down. I harden and get very reclusive, sort of shun people. All the things that I’d been shutting down just came out in a big rush and for the following two weeks every day I’d just be thinking about that one particular incident. One day I’d wake up wanting to kill somebody, the next day I wouldn’t even bother getting up. It was awful. “I wasn’t fighting it, whereas in everyday life you’d have to control those feelings. But it’s good that it happened. At the time I was shutting down and didn’t feel like writing any more songs, I just couldn’t be bothered, and it was through actually being in a group, through playing songs, that caused me to stop writing songs!” Out of such a strained experience came an extraordinary LP: the atmospheres are consistently melancholic, the textures relaxed and subtle. No hurrying or harrying. The Cure use genuine technical originality – the sound is light and misty, paler and thinner than ‘Another Green World’, as convincing as rock music can be in conveying the way the mind runs, slows, repeats itself. It is definitive soft rock: a crumbling world and its pervasive persistence in memory is beautifully evoked, there is the quiet agony of love and loss, a constant sense of distance – between people, places, past and present. ‘Seventeen Seconds’ is an LP of romantic melancholy, of anguish and finally of horror. “There is genuine emotion on there and again whether people want to take it that way is up to them. I’m not going to say you’ve got to believe me, this genuine emotion, because now I’ve done it I don’t really care. It’s there if people like to listen to it. It’s not the type of LP you’re going to put on if you want a party. Nor a record to put on if you’re having a fit of depression. The whole thing of doing Top Of The Pops, of selling it, the whole shop window thing,

1980 MM, 30 August 1980, p27

Bauhaus Scamps, Oxford bass notes, ‘Double Dare’ was a killer, with Kevin Haskins beating the living daylights out of his drum kit and Danny Ash torturing his guitar – yet they all looked so restrained! ‘In The Flat Field’ was the first of two new numbers and came over very well, while ‘Boys’ had Peter Murphy dragging Danny Ash across the stage by his hair and going down on his guitar à la Bowie and Ronson. There’s more than a touch of truth in talk of their affiliation with glam rock. Their version of ‘Telegram Sam’ did justice to Marc Bolan, and both that and ‘Terror Couple Kill Colonel’ had the previously unresponsive crowd up and twitching. One of the highlights of their very varied set was ‘Stigmata Martyr’, which had the band emulating the crucifixion while chanting the blessing. They closed with ‘St Vitus Dance’, though the audience was still quiet. Bauhaus never fail to alienate certain sections of their audience, but such is the lot of a band who are consistently challenging, perplexing and elating. Enigmas indeed! Gill Smith

Oh bondage, up yours: Peter Murphy of Bauhaus



trendy disco in the centre of an Oxford shopping precinct seemed an incongruous place for a band like Bauhaus to play on the opening night of their British tour. But with this lot nothing is predictable. An extremely bizarre but intricate film served as a support, and after much shuffling around with screens, the band emerged from the crowd and walked on stage. Talk about lack of mystery! It gave everyone in the audience a chance to gawp at close quarters at them and completely destroyed, for me, their glamorous untouchability. But in a moment, with the stark white light bleaching out Peter Murphy’s elegantly

Bauhaus are consistently challenging, perplexing and elating arrogant features and with the rest of the band hovering in the half-light, all was forgiven. From the buzzing opening

NME, 8 November 1980, p32

BAUHAUS In The Flat Field (4AD)

Crossovers are interesting to observe, but generally not a lot of fun to listen to. We’re now in the throes of a hard punk/moderne monochrome crossover, with bands like Killing Joke and Bauhaus on the verge of tapping a potentially massive market opened up by Siouxsie & The Banshees, Adam & The Ants and even Joy Division. To these ears, there’s as palpable a difference between these two groups of groups as there is between the Sex Pistols and Cockney Rejects – something like the difference between art and artifice, but not quite. ‘In The Flat Field’ is the first Bauhaus album, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it storming up the “alternative” charts, at the very least. It oughtn’t to. I must admit to a passing liking for their three singles. I was even prepared to overlook their taking their name in vain (what the hell has their GothickRomantick schtick got to do with the stripped, no-nonsense principles of the Bauhaus?), but over the length of an album, their limitations and endless pretence are just too much to take. ‘In The Flat Field’ is nine meaningless moans and flails bereft of even the most cursory contour of interest, a record which deserves all the damning adjectives usually levelled at grim-faced “modernists”. It’s doom for doom’s sake. If nothing else, this sheds some light on the punk/moderne crossover audience, who, in their taste for excessive tribal plumage and dismal, doom-laden music, are more closely related to the heavy metal hordes than they’d like to believe. And Bauhaus are nothing more than a hip Black Sabbath. Really. Personally, I couldn’t give a toss, not feeling much affinity with many other human beings in general, and certainly not with any tribal group. I just wish this record had been more interesting, more original, and less reliant on the obvious. Ah well. Their singles showed Bauhaus weren’t devoid of an idea or two; this album shows they’ve used them both up. Andy Gill NME ORIGINALS


The Bye Bye CureBlackheads

an unsettled individual listening out for a strange guiding voice, while the band play an attractively doomy tune, enhanced by reticent drums and carefully folded-in keyboard lines. Nice, vaguely psychedelic, production too. Chris Bohn

NME, 8 March 1980, p23

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Happy House/ Drop Dead Celebration (Polydor)

NME, 5 April 1980, p4

THE CURE A Forest (Fiction)

Unfortunately tagged as naively witty suburbanites by admirers, precocious darlings by detractors, The Cure’s severe growth problems were largely caused by unwarranted heavy attention early on. Consequently, writer Robert Smith’s ability to construct fleetingly mysterious and highly evocative scenarios went uncredited, as critics tried instead to pinpoint the band sociologically. ‘A Forest’ is a good example, which gets better with age: Smith’s dry, lost vocal tells of

MM, 28 June 1980, p16

JOY DIVISION Love Will Tear Us Apart (Factory)

This single, a follow-up to the free flexi-disc which some baddies in record shops have been selling, has been invested with sad significance after singer Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide. Joy Division were (and may remain) an innovative and courageous band. Divorced from Curtis’ fate, this record offers a taster for their forthcoming album ‘Closer’. Evocative, interesting… a powerfully original piece of music. Martyn Sutton MM, 13 September 1980, p17

JOY DIVISION She’s Lost Control / Atmosphere (Factory)

Severin and Sioux: hell hath no fury…



A record that puts nearly everything else to shame. ‘Atmosphere’ was only available previously as a collectors’ item French import and thank God Factory Records have decided to put it out as an official release. It features a plaintive bassline and sparse drumbeats as Ian

NME, 22 November 1980, p18


Siouxsie Schmiouxsie – what does it matter as long she makes good singles? ‘Christine’ was one and ‘Israel’ isn’t. At first impressive, grandiose, the song meanders into tedium and clutter and not even the wholesale homage to Herzog’s soundtrack can offset that. As for the flip, ‘Red Over White’, God spare us from all this pseudoreligious Catholic guilt hogwash with feebly disguised drum solos and stream-of-consciousness hippy lyrics. You see how prejudice will beget prejudice? I’m quite happy humming the odd Banshees tune but faced with the attendant iconography that surrounds them these days all I can see in their image is a twee pose. Max Bell


Seemingly, hell hath no fury like a Siouxsie scorned. For all the contrived cynicism, it’s Budgie’s remarkable drop-beat drumnastics that dominate the exotic, danceable top-side. But it’s the unbridled viciousness of the flip – supported by the cryptic message ‘Bye Bye Blackheads’ etched next to the run-off groove – that overshadows the whole affair. Obviously aimed at former Banshees Morris and McKay, it’s probably one of the most venomous put-downs ever recorded. It’s as if Siouxsie is gleefully sticking pins in wax effigies as she shouts out her abuse. When it comes to carrying grudges, Sweet Sioux makes Madams Thatcher and Ghandi look like Sisters of Mercy. Roy Carr

Curtis dolefully sings “Don’t walk away in silence”. This is deeply moving music. ‘She’s Lost Control’ shows just how far the band moved ahead after recording the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ album. The song has been given a totally new feel to the original version, aided by producer Martin Hannett’s masterful drum and bass sound, and ‘Closer’-style synth work towards the end. Lynden Barber

Chapter 3



Small talk stinks

Northampton discovers art school rock!! NME, 21 February 1981, p12


f the truth doesn’t fit, embroider it. A basic rule of promotion is to set up the myth early on and hope the band will eventually live up to it. The game can be fun, and Bauhaus have always suggested that they were willing, if not particularly adept, participants. Formed a few years back, their evocative name – lifted from this century’s most influential art school – irrevocably links them with 1920s Germany, making it easy for commentators to draw expressionist leanings from their shadowy live shows. But the true face of Bauhaus is far removed from singer Peter Murphy’s pained onstage mugging, and they go to great lengths to deny the German connections when I meet them at bassist David Jay’s pleasantly suburban Northampton home. Jay and drummer brother Kevin Haskins timidly fend off criticisms, while Murphy reacts more spunkily. Danny Ash, guitarist, is absent after catching an iron filing in his eye. Bauhaus deserve their cult following. So far they’ve made two very good singles in their debut, ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, and the terse, cogent ‘Terror Couple Kill Colonel’; a failed commercial gambit in their cover of ‘Telegram Sam’; and one flop, ‘Dark Entries’. But their debut album, ‘In The Flat Field’, pointed up all the limitations of their approach. Murphy’s words get inextricably tangled in introspective journeys through the terrors of a Catholic past, but worse, his classicist leanings means he twists them into needlessly inverted sentences and forces unnecessary rhymes.

“I was brought up a Catholic… ‘Stigmata Martyr’ is about total fixation with Christ” 34 N M E


Matched as they are to tortuous hard rock workouts over lurching rhythms, Bauhaus have arrived at a pomposity almost equal to that of the early ’70s progressive bands. “I was brought up a Catholic, so I obviously felt it was something to write about,” Peter says. “One track, ‘Stigmata Martyr’ was about total fi xation with Jesus Christ to the point of bleeding from the same places as Christ bled. It seemed like a really strong subject to me.” Bauhaus are better appreciated live. Murphy’s overwrought drama is highlighted by stark white lights battened to the floor, thus throwing up heavy shadows of the band onto the wall. The effect is visibly gothic. No, it’s not, contests Kevin Haskins: “It seemed to us like a no-nonsense thing that contradicts that whole gothic romance thing.” Unless you see it in terms of old German silent movies… “We hadn’t seen any films like that when we started,” points out David Jay. “ But this statement’s considerably undermined when they hand me a copy of the ‘Bela Lugosi’ 12-inch featuring a back cover still from The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari. David Jay notices me glancing at it suspiciously. “Our guitarist Danny had torn it out of a book and gave it to us without telling us where it came from,” he explains timidly. It’s not much of an excuse but there’s no reason to disbelieve him in light of Bauhaus’ wilfully haphazard approach. Made up of former art school students and an ex-printer (Murphy) who wished he was one, Bauhaus are laudably open to ideas, but they’ve yet to show they’re capable of using them. After a brief description of art school life from Jay, Murphy rues his missed chance. “I was accepted for art college but then I changed my mind. I imagined you had to have a good idea of what you wanted to do before you enrolled.” “It’s the opposite,” says Jay. “It opens you up to different levels and ways of thinking.” Going by their singles, Bauhaus have it in them to pull off a masterpiece, but at the moment they’re still stuck at the sketchbook stage. As it is, hang onto those early sketches – look what happened to Adam & The Ants.


But school cad Chris Bohn picks apart Bauhaus designs


Siouxsie: better than Toyah. Then again, what isn’t?

NME, 27 June 1981, p34




Of course, I watched Top Of The Pops last week. It was poor – it’s going in four-week cycles at the moment, the good, the bad, the sagging, the so-so – but Siouxsie & The Banshees were on. A savage gloss, a slashing glamour amid the tepid turns, a turn-on like few others. The Banshees are a terrific vision, an exclusive attraction, a peak in entertainment; Siouxsie & The Banshees – the display of hair, skirt, boys, vanity, flash, thigh, smile, cheek to cheek, back to back – are a discerning and devious distortion of the ‘Pop Group’ that can be traced back to The Velvet Underground, Hendrix, The Doors and the dark side of Bolan: never wise or mellow, meek or smutty, sweet or ‘significant’. None of this romantic desire for action. There is nothing earthy about Banshee music. Their fourth LP – thus far, their second-best – is a gliding, comfortless delivery of selfdistrust, infatuation and fetishism. ‘Juju’ has an infernal quality: nothing majestic or mysterious but a kind of unawed unworldliness. The mistake is to imagine that Banshee

words and images are intended to be profound and responsible, or brutally corrective. ‘Juju’ songs don’t deal with dull matters, but with peculiar things in a taut and teasing manner. The words are not as imposing as people imagine. Precise syllables and broken rhythms are used to dramatise the music. The mood of a Banshee song is disapproval: not a great intensity but an idealistic, vexed profanity. A Banshee pop song is a bitter twist, a grave grace. The diabolical themes, the emotional poignancy and remoteness are part of the whole. It’s not all a weeping over lost pleasures, neither is it a thanksgiving. Banshee words are an effective way to reject the prosaic, to avoid the vulgar, and the grouping of the words, the melodramatic undercurrents enable the glorious Sioux to camp and exult with priceless poise. Side One’s highlights:

‘Spellbound’, ‘Into The Light’, ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Halloween’ and ‘Monitor’. Side Two’s highlights: ‘Night Shift’, ‘Sin In My Heart’, ‘Head Cut’ and ‘Voodoo Dolly’. ‘Juju’ is the first integrated and sparkling-complete Banshees album since ‘The Scream’. It’s ‘Electric Warrior’ to the ‘Tanx’ of Toyah’s ‘Anthem’. Paul Morley

of The Cure’s first two albums, might have spotted the penchant for pop on the first and detected the spots of blood on the sombre sleeves of the second and added them together. But he couldn’t have predicted the richness and deceptive power of ‘Faith’. They start as they mean to go on with ‘The Holy Hour’, where Simon Gallup’s slowly phased bass riff is beaten and punched by Lol Tolhurst’s fat, dead percussion. The rest of the first side, except the wonderfully streamlined single ‘Primary’, offers variations on these themes. ‘Other Voices’ slyly builds enough momentum to start pushing crockery off the sideboard. ‘All Cats Are Grey’ (in the dark?) adopts a more sluggish tempo but wrenches it into a completely different perspective via Robert Smith’s desperate keyboards. There’s an inexplicable melancholy to it which is overwhelming. Overleaf, you run straight into ‘The Funeral Party’, suggesting a coach-load of pall-bearers enjoying a works outing to the great morgues of Europe. On ‘The Drowning Man’, the skeletal structure is modified by speaker-swapping overdubs and clipped handclaps. ‘Doubt’ is Side Two’s ‘Primary’, slicing through the dominant moody textures with angry vocals and grunting bass. “Tear that flesh and rip that skin”, snarls Smith, who would rather mince people than words. Mostly, ‘Faith’ is a sophisticated exercise in atmosphere and production, gloomy but frequently majestic. You may not love it, but you’ll become addicted to it. Adam Sweeting

MM, 18 April 1981, p20

THE CURE Faith (Fiction)

There’s not a lot here you can stuff carelessly into the drawer labelled “fun”. Just check the song titles – ‘The Holy Hour’, ‘The Funeral Party’, ‘The Drowning Man’. Not the stuff Mrs Mills albums are made of. But it’s impressive. The professional genre detective, confronted by the evidence

The Cure: touring the great morgues of Europe



The sound of music Pew, what a scorcher: bassist Tracy with Nick Cave

MM, 17 October 1981, p15

BAUHAUS Mask (Beggars Banquet)



NME, 12 September 1981, p50

The Birthday Party Africa Centre, London A

strange venue for a strange group. Crammed into a hall that is more used to hearing discussions on African culture, politics and poetry are a motley collection of afterdark dancers, anticipating the arrival of a group who have been compared to The Pop Group and The Cramps. “Welcome to The Birthday Party. Forty-five minutes of sheer hell.” Nick Cave does indeed look like a skinny Lux Interior as he introduces the group, an odd assortment of Australian reptiles in checked shirts and the occasional Stetson. Their sound bursts from the tiny stage like a primordial beast shedding the chains of convention – a nightmarish Gothic brew of Beefheartian wordplay and nerve-jangling guitars stirred into a bubbling rhythmic broth.

It’s like standing too close to a firework – dangerous but compulsive Whatever reservations I have about their ‘Prayers On Fire’ LP are immediately dispelled by their dynamic performance. There is wildness in the air, a feral psychosis that owes as much to the modern notion of paranoia as it does to a prehistoric, animal instinct of survival. Cave’s voice seems to come from somewhere else; it’s hard to believe his slender frame can accommodate the relentless howl that screeches, screams and throbs its way around the sexual/surrealistic lyrics. Obsessions scuttle, slither and crawl through the songs like so many nasty little creatures – insects, fish, bugs and bats are predominant images – reinterpreting the

‘normal’ rock concerns of sex, sadism and sacrifice. Yet despite their apparent strangeness, The Birthday Party are a lot of fun. They give so totally in performance that questions of approachability and involvement go flying out of the window. Their unrestrained enjoyment in playing creates a positively organic atmosphere – a steaming jungle in which you can laugh yourself silly or be scared to death. The Birthday Party are genuine (ab)originals. Watching them is a bit like standing too close to a firework – dangerous but compulsive. Light blue touch paper and stand near. Neil Norman


Bauhaus, though I loathe to admit it, are about to be big. The signs are all there. An inevitable commercial dog-end of post-Joy Division doom, they’ve wedded that imageconscious, pretentious inner soul-searching to Bowie’s glib theatricality and come up crowd-pleasing trumps. At Bingley they were showbiz magnificent. ‘In The Flat Field’, their last long-player, sold well on sub-Banshees pseudo-religion and a splash of Cramps Hammer horror alone. ‘Mask’ (an apt name – very Siouxsie) is a suitably showy, hollow successor – a souvenir of their crass live show; all shock no substance. In the face of outmoded criteria like originality, having something to say, etc, Bauhaus are a joke; so old-hat Iggy-bound they shouldn’t exist. But with the current accent on imitative image over anything else, Murphy just MUST be an idol. Teen mags will lap up his muscular suntan and false aggression despite the patent unlistenability of just about everything they’ve ever recorded except the ‘Young Americans’-cloned ‘Kick In The Eye’ (re-recorded here). Bauhaus are a soulless stance, a pathetic excuse for idolatry in an era when heroes shouldn’t exist but seem to be so badly longed for. Adam & The Ants and The Human League all better watch out – ‘Mask’ may not yield any potentially massive hit singles but the leather-jacketed hordes are eager and waiting. The impression and atmosphere of ‘Mask’ counts today more than anybody else’s struggling commitment – a Glitter Band for post-punk depressives. Its appeal is obvious: cosmic electronics, ethereal sax, tribal drums, scratch-unfocussed guitar and eerie, effective/affected vocals… a pantomime pretence of communication. Bauhaus are an unstoppable surge towards the sham/glam mid-’70s. ‘Mask’, more than Spandau, more than Rondo, takes the stylistic route to success by the short and curlies and flaunts it as a virtue. Top Ten. I hate it. Steve Sutherland


NME, 17 October 1981, p41

JOY DIVISION Still (Factory)

It shouldn’t have happened, but as it did let’s take consolation in the fact that lan Curtis’s death on 18 May, 1980 didn’t so much bring Joy Division’s journey to the heart of darkness to an abrupt halt as freeze it for all eternity at the brink of discovery. At least we can still travel that far with them, and though they had positioned themselves well for a final breakthrough, who knows if they’d have been able to cope on the other side? Their quest remains just that, its purity unspoiled by repetition, bad moves or false conclusions. It was founded in a courageous analysis of their own condition, presented on ‘Still’ as a struggle towards a new, more complete consciousness far removed from the street squabbling of the punk that spawned it. Instead of moaning about the mess they were in, Joy Division confronted it and discovered the causes of the current depression to be rooted in spiritual rather than material impoverishment. They registered a profound estrangement from their ugly environment and shock at the callousness of the age. They were fascinated by that which repelled them; their music’s tension often emanated from their approximating the characteristics

pain either. On the contrary, they viewed exposing themselves to pain as one way of breaking the aura of insensitivity, suggesting that through brutality or self-abasement they might achieve those elusive moments of true feeling. On ‘The Sound Of Music’, Curtis sings: “I’ll walk you through the hard breaks/Show you all the outtakes/I can see it getting higher/ Systematically degraded/ Emotionally a scapegoat /I can see it getting better”, with the ecstatic affirmation: “LOVE!/ LIFE!/Makes you feel/Higher/ Higher /Higher!/ HIGHER!” At their best, Joy Division were awesome, frightening and beautiful – never more so than on ‘Dead Souls’, which somehow embodied the tragedy of their vision, their grasping after the unattainable and the inevitable disillusionment that would follow. Joy Division never resorted to faking emotions. Their concerts seemed to be purgative experiences, especially for Curtis, who found release in intense, brief bursts of butterfly movement. To watch him was like witnessing the last just man accepting the sins of the world as his personal burden. The two live sides work as a patchy retrospective,

naked feelings must have got harder every time. Joy Division presented them with that hardest thing to swallow: reality. Theirs was all the more indigestible as it juggled together the commonplace with the taboo, brutality with sensuality and stark horror with simple, appealing melody. But Joy Division never spared themselves in their pursuit of experience and truth. You can feel it still. Chris Bohn


They juggled brutality with sensitivity, and horror with simple, appealing melody of the very things they found oppressive, either in undeniably attractive abstractions of cityscapes or in superbly drilled militaristic marches. Unlike the dumb futurists, past and present, they neither embraced nor glorified the speed of modern life, but presented it as a symptom of their malaise. They wouldn’t shy away from

despite the fact the synths went horribly awry on most of the ‘Closer’ material and that Ian’s voice is often lost in the shoddy mix. Bearing in mind how quickly an audience grows accustomed to emotional shocks to its ordered system, expressing such

Ian Curtis: grasping after the unattainable



blast off!

Sometimes pleasure A Manhattan melodrama starring The Birthday Party, by Barney Hoskyns


t’s a chill, exposed night in New York City. The East Coast has just recovered from a week of torrential rain, and the winds sweeping up the island’s avenues from Battery Park to the Bronx threaten more. But the show must go on, and at a swanky disco in Union Square called the Underground it’s only just beginning. Strutting their stuff to English imports like ‘Planet Earth’ and ‘Don’t Say That’s Just For White Boys’ are second division preppies and neat executives from Hoboken. They are trying to get their dates drunk. The night is flowing by pretty amorphously when suddenly, at one o’clock, the lights dim and the sound dies. Everyone looks round; without the disco their plans are ruined. Their faces drop. Onto the stage are climbing five undesirable aliens. One, festooned in split-crotch goldlamé drainpipes, his bruised features twitching through black flames of hair, appears to be the singer. Another, strapping on a bass guitar like a giant dildo, sports a fishnet vest, a Stetson, and the sort of moustache you might cultivate for hustling some meat on Christopher Street. Perhaps most disturbing of all, a kind of

The management is not amused. After the second song, ‘Zoo-Music Girl’, someone’s climbing on the stage and telling them their time is up. They thunder into one last, outrageous exhibition of carnal mayhem and disappear. This little scenario is roughly what The Birthday Party call “a really great gig”. I mean, how degenerate can you get?

In this climate

of cold design and concealed despair, The Birthday Party take the concept of stage performance about as far as you are likely to see it go. Live, the songs of Nick Cave and Rowland Howard are driven to an emotional edge where pain and pleasure fuse – in cathartic madness for the performer and dithyrambic joy for the audience. Their concerts are feasts of energy, chaotic spectacles which break the surface of art and carry sound and lyric to ultimate violence. The Birthday Party in performance burst through the constrictions of


“Fuck it, what we’re trying to do is the biggest musical cliché in the world” gangling, psychotic hillbilly in a ridiculous suit is fastening on a guitar like he was auditioning for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not quite what the management was expecting. Hell, they haven’t even played a note and already half the crowd is filing out. The next moment, all the worst premonitions are justified. Cranking out of the amps comes this murderous death-rattle, like the gaze of Medusa freezing the few foolhardy adventurers who dare to look. The bass lurches obscenely into the foray, and finally, his body doubling up in unholy convulsions, the macilent wreck of a singer starts to spit and fume… “AMERICAN HEADS WILL ROLL IN TEXAS!” Hmmmm… like what is this? Some turn away in nervous laughter, the rest suck on straws and pray it’s over soon. When the song ends, however, an ugly pause ensues. Something’s wrong with the guitar. There’s trouble stirring. Seconds later, there’s this ashen-faced nut behind the keyboard shouting into his mic, very loudly but very slowly, again and again and again: “WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU BASTARDS?. . . WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH YOU BASTARDS? . . . WHAT’S THE MATTER?…”


The Birthday Party: Mick Harvey, Nick Cave, Phil Calvert, Tracy Pew and Roland S Howard. Jelly and ice cream not pictured

intellect to a “raw power”, that original sin which Iggy Stooge so rightly perceived as “Laughing at you and me…” But the Birthday Party do not suffer from delusions of grandeur. “I mean fuck it,” says Nick Cave, “what we’re trying to do is the biggest musical cliché in the world. It’s just that some people forget the cliché. Can you imagine Echo & The Bunnymen trying to let themselves go?”


heads must burn

NME, 17 October 1981, p29

He sprawls across the bar, finding his drink. “I think it’s really important to rely on clichés – like Suicide did. Not that it sounds like a cliché. As a matter of fact I think ‘King Ink’ is one of the best songs ever written. That song can become so intense it puts me on another planet, though I don’t think the recorded version is at all good. “The record, as a cultural event, is a very limited concept. With the cover and everything, it can be much more than just the music.” The Birthday Party have come to shake us out of our inhibitions. They militate against the sedative boundaries of Pop. Cave: “There’s a real need for an intelligent but aggressive group in London. All the treasured groups are just so softcore. At one time there was a real upsurge of new young groups, like The Pop Group before they sacrificed the music

for that soapbox, toilet-roll politico.” Pew: “Our last two London gigs have been the best. Before that the audiences only lost control when they were told to, like Pavlovian dogs.” Cave: “Compared to the gigs in Australia, especially in Sydney, they’re nothing. You remember when that girl was slicing me up with a key, Tracy? In Australia, you really feel you’re turning decent people into monsters. “We’re not setting ourselves up as some kind of demonic force, it’s just that things are more successful when they become blind and unconscious. You feel anything could happen.” Is popular music culture an important thing? Cave: “When the history of rock music is written – which, since it’s practically dead, will be soon – it’ll just be remembered as a sordid interruption of normality.” Pew: “Rock will be remembered as the

anus of culture. Not Del Shannon but Iggy Pop.” Cave: “The point is that the creative process is not some fucking craft. WE’RE A LIVING MUSICAL CLICHE.”

The Birthday Party started life as The Boys Next Door. “We went through a year in Australia playing the most disgusting kind of shit. Like [their 1979 LP] ‘Door, Door’,” Cave recalls. “We were a bunch of snivelling little poofs,” Pew interjects. So what happened? Howard stares into his drink for an answer. “It was just a case of natural progression.” Yeah, like the state of a person’s mind before he drops acid to the trip itself. Tell us another. “It’s the honest truth,” he protests, “things just got a little… wilder, that’s all.” That’s obvious. It was on the 1980 LP ‘The Birthday Party’ that perennial influences such as the Stooges and Beefheart and more recent ones like Pere Ubu and The Pop Group began to coalesce in Cave’s and Howard’s songwriting. The result is unique and unmissable. By this time, the group had been so inspired by the weird sounds imported from possible goldmines abroad they decided it was time to leave. Their sights naturally settled on England. Cave clears his throat with an evil grin. “Coming to London has been one of the most disillusioning experiences of my life. When we arrived, we saw this package show at the Lyceum, with Echo & The Bunnymen, A Certain Ratio,

“Rock will be remembered as the anus of culture” The Teardrop Explodes and so forth and… well, I’ve never been able to take English music seriously since. It was horrible.” The Birthday Party arrived in Britain just as the last, perhaps most intense vestiges of punk energy were burning themselves out: the anger, the revolt, the sensuality went into a coma. Perhaps as a result, The Birthday Party’s wake-up call has won them the kind of critical approval whose terms simply don’t apply to the likes of Spandau Ballet. ‘Release The Bats’, their “voodoo rockabilly” anthem, saw three weeks at the top of the alternative singles chart. Their latest LP, ‘Prayers On Fire’, has been in the indie LP charts ever since its release. And attendance at London gigs has been growing all the time. After the year of “pop”, 1980, The Birthday Party realised the solution was… TO ATTACK. So in the words of ‘A Dead Song’: “HIT IT! WITH WORDS LIKE “THOU SHALT NOT “THIS IS THE END”. NME ORIGINALS


mad eyed screamers

ain’t pretty, but they’re a welcome antidote to the age of Ultravox. Colin Irwin

MM, 28 March 1981, p18

THE CURE Primary (Fiction)

MM, 26 September 1981, p14

This is a triumphant return to The Cure’s rushing, rhythmic roots after the limpid wanderings of the ‘Seventeen Seconds’ album. Robert Smith has rediscovered the fine-tuning control installed in his unusual musical sensibility, and as a result ‘Primary’ is unbearably urgent, matching a new-found sense of space with brilliantly focussed precision. Smith’s propulsive guitar drone is punctuated by crashing waves of percussion, and his voice floats yearningly over the top. It’s oddly like a more tightly reined U2, and is a far better pretext for a national holiday than the forthcoming Royal Wedding. Adam Sweeting

THE CREATURES Mad Eyed Screamer/So Unreal/But Not Them/ Wild Thing/Thumb (Polydor)

NME, 4 July 1981, P31

BAUHAUS The Passion Of Lovers (Beggars Banquet)

The desperation of losers… Adrian Thrills

insensitivity by a band who’ve overcome my inherent distrust of Australians with a series of hugely entertaining interviews. Both tracks here wield similar characteristics – brutal and bloody amid a volley of drums and arrogant bravado. The Birthday Party are the kind of boys who bopped the teacher while the rest of the class sniggered and played with their geometry sets. They certainly

MM, 25 July 1981, p23

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Arabian Nights (Polydor)

MM, 23 May 1981, p27





For a group that’s accused, and rightly so sometimes, of hiding behind a “pretentious smokescreen of art”, they don’t half make great singles. This is one of them. Archetypal Siouxsie vocal, set to a strident, even military feel, that just takes off and never lets go. As exhilarating as Ricky Villa’s winner last Thursday and you know how great that was. Paulo Hewitt


More menacing childhood memories dredged up and dressed up in tired old riffs. Siouxsie sounds disinterested; McGeoch wrenches out the standard guitar atmospherics. Thin, brittle, forgettable; no push, no magic; avoid this voodoo. Allan Jones MM, 22 August 1981, p12

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY Blast Off/Release The Bats (4AD)

Three-minute horror movie soundtracks of jarring

The Creatures: some people will do anything to get on TV

I hear the sound of distant drums… again. The Sandie Shaw of yesterday’s punk, Siouxsie Banshee delivers her usual atmospheric vocals over Budgie’s lonely percussion. It’s spread over a double-45 soft-porn epic that includes a lame repeat of The Troggs’ finest two minutes and ten seconds. Jane Birkin was steamier than this. Ian Pye

Chapter 4



Last Year I Was 21… MM, 27 FEBRUARY 1982, p11

The sisterhood of terror “From Detroit, pretending to destroy themselves before anybody else could, came Iggy &The Stooges…” From Leeds, threatening to destroy everybody else in a multi-megaton pre-emptive strike, came The Sisters Of Mercy. Adam Sweeting has a terrifying experience with an extremely dangerous group


nleashed into the no-man’s-land of Vanbrugh College dining room (c/o York University), The Sisters Of Mercy are four men in pursuit of renegade drum machine Dr Avalanche. No respecter of anything, the doctor careers ahead manically like a slavering Doberman taking Norman Wisdom for a walk. Attached to the mic like it was a failing life-support system is Spiggy, alias Andy, a skinny blackclad thing from the corners of the night, kept alive by ginger beer. “These are the finest legs in rock’n’roll,” he boasts later. “These legs are thinner than any of the Delta 5’s legs. These legs are the thinnest in Leeds.” Spiggy has a high opinion of himself and his group. “We’re not a provincial band, we’re a MAJOR ENTITY. There’s no reason we should be compressed into this sort of hicks-from-thesticks mentality, which is so damning. It’s hard being a cult band when you really wanna be immense. There’s no reason we shouldn’t

and I think, er, Hunter Thompson, he was twigging something.” As Dr Avalanche pumps through the PA like a battery of AK-47s, the bespectacled Ben Gunn cowers behind his guitar at the back of the stage. A slight and tremulous figure, how could he be caught up in this hideous barrage of sound? He won’t tell me, and he won’t have his picture taken. Next to and in front of him, other guitarist Gary Marx has no such scruples. A burly figure in boots and thick socks, he storms and rages through the songs, flaying chords with his hands and crushing the stage with his feet. On bass, the stocky and stalwart Jon Langford seems to be in control of his new career – he used to drum for The Mekons. And whatever you do, don’t compare The Sisters Of Mercy to Bauhaus. “We made a tape once and took it down to Rough Trade. Geoff Travis gave it one listen, it was 18 minutes long, lotsa tracks, tapped his feet all the way through and turned round and said, ‘It’s like Bauhaus.’ “You’re continually coming up against people like that. They work in weird and wonderful ways, their marvels to perform.” Spiggy oozes a sickly sort of charisma, which is surprising considering his lank black hair and specs. “All the people who have asked me for autographs have been under 16 and female. It’s amazing, when you go out and play that raw sort of thing… it’s not pretty.”

Eldritch, aka Spiggy: skinny legs, big fat ego

be able to carry on playing more or less like we do at the moment and be IMMENSE.” Soon you will be able to purchase a single from the Sisters called ‘Adrenochrome’, a double A-side with ‘Body Electric’ (sing it!). “‘Adrenochrome’ is like a theme for the band really,” Spiggy reports, “inasmuch as I wake up a lot of mornings and I look at the wall, and I’m not sure if it’s the wall or the ceiling,

Through the boiling rage of massed guitars and mechanik percussion, it’s possible to discern the odd word that Spiggy is spitting out. Ah yes, “1969…” Spig: “It’s the first song off the first Stooges album – the first album being the best, whatever The Birthday Party say.” The Sisters Of Mercy all-time order of merit: “There was one great heavy metal group and that was the Stooges, and there’s only two bands around that can touch them, and they’re Motorhead and The Birthday Party. We’re not as good as Motorhead but we’re better than The Birthday Party. That makes us pretty damn good.”


“All the people who’ve asked me for autographs have been under 16 and female. It’s amazing”

1982 Nick The Stripper on stage at the Venue, London

MM, 27 February 1982, p27

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY/ LYDIA LUNCH Drunk On The Pope’s Blood/The Agony Is The Ecstasy (4AD)

NME, 13 March 1982, p51

The Birthday Party The venue, London



here rhythm is compressed hings weren’t looking to a disconcerting on-beat bright. The Birthday stiffness and vocals to a mere Party’s bassist, Tracy Pew, is gutteral rambling. The effect back home doing time on a is compulsive. Some of the labour farm, and his temporary earlier numbers still prove replacement, Barry Adamson, troublesome, for there’s no had only had one rehearsal. doubt that more than one But all fears were promptly of the group’s arrangements allayed by a volley of intense outstrip their current musical and hectic songs which reduced capabilities. ‘Zoo-Music Girl’, most of the spectators to for example, has grown too speechlessness. Let us make shambolic for its own good. certain things clear from the Chaos, however, is The start: The Birthday Party Birthday Party’s speciality. appal by revelling in the pain With the stage in its normal of artifice – the desperate state of disarray, bouncers and drive of will to emotion stage-hands scrambling about through exhibition. Theirs is a madly in pursuit of overturned genuinely ritualistic theatre of microphones and tripped frustration, a farrago of sound wires, Nick Cave was at his so visceral it can only produce most gloriously irresponsible. gestures of exhaustion and So perfect a parody is he of despair. Some terrible void at the rock’n’roll egomaniac the heart of human energy has been reached here. On Friday night, the group revisited their surreal junkyard of forms and images with a higher intoxication than ever. That forlorn and shimmering ballad ‘She’s Hit’ has taken on added starkness and splendour, perfectly brought out on this occasion by Adamson’s languorous bass. Previously unheard were ‘Dead Joe’ and ‘Hamlet’, two brutal, mythopoeic parables Cave: “‘Religious shorn even of the group’s conflagration of usual semi-jazz structures: melos’? Moi?”

that he possesses an almost intimidating innocence. This group is an explosion of sensuality and laughter at the desensitised mediocrity of our lives. They are our new Rolling Stones, but holding back their profiles in shadow, in the penumbra of myth. In them jazz races with punk and rock’n’roll slips on funk, a collision of forms whose domain is lust suspended in the timeless zone of excess – bodily exhumation and spiritual disease. Here Jerry Lee Lewis meets ‘The Modern Dance’, and sex meets death. Who else is using words so stridently as a musical medium of rhetoric? They are the religious conflagration of melos itself. Barney Hoskyns

So much mumbojumbo’s been made of adolescent art, of pop or rock voicing the vainglorious views of each new generation, washing the sins of the fathers (and mothers) from the hands of the kids, that it’s long been forgotten that the real truth lies in tantrum. Most lucrative noise is – and always has been – made by (non) musicians old enough to know better, but never prepared to admit or accept it. It’s not a well-aimed kick against growing up and its values, but a blind sulk and shout about already being there. Pop is a toddler’s plea for selfish attention, a “me, me, me, me” not an “I told you so”. It’s mean and it’s meaningless. And that’s its great beauty. The Birthday Party, more than most, appreciate the perverse practicality of making a row. They’re obnoxious, so much so that they piss people off. Not only the clichéd old fuddy-duddies and traditional church wardens, but also the hipsters and boffins who fawn and dote over pop flash and fact. The Birthday Party are awful. Subversively awful. Awfully great. Awesomely brilliant. ‘Drunk On The Pope’s Blood’ is their second really BAD long-playing record. Recorded live at the Venue, it struggles – in vain – to capture and/or castrate the ranting confrontation of their stage act. “Get involved … say something!” Nick Cave screams while Beefheart is brutally butchered behind. Back beyond basics, this is what punk ought to be like – angry and futile with nothing to say and barely the words to express it. The critics turn pop into protest because that gives it a comforting logic, an aim and direction that renders it open to sane comprehension. Sheer bloody-minded pointlessness is too mad and too menacing. The Birthday Party are violently pointless. That’s why they’re important. Their “16 minutes of sheer hell” is all ugly feedback. Unlistenably listenable. Love it to death. Lydia Lunch’s unpleasant squawking on the other side is even more potent. I hate it. It neither exasperates nor elevates. It irritates. And that, or course, is exactly the point. Ah art! Don’t you just love it? Steve Sutherland NME ORIGINALS


All We Ever Wanted NME, 20 March 1982, p24

Bauhaus: Breaking down the

walls of art-ache

“When we heard that you were going to interview us, we came up with two possibilities: a) being physical violence, and b) being a reasoned discussion. We decided to plump for the latter, but this doesn’t mean that the former isn’t in with a ffifi ighting chance…” Victim: Paul Morley


xcerpts from a conversation: Number Two – weak knees anticipate the kiss? Murphy: “…by intending to provoke us, maybe a reaction you’ll get will be one of absolute anger and hurt.” Jay: “You could have got your head kicked in if we were Killing Joke.” The day’s labourer: “I’ve been through this one (a similar situation) with Killing Joke.” Murphy: “I know…” Jay: “The initial reaction when we read your review and then heard that you were going to interview us, we though how we were going to approach it. We came up with two possibilities: a) being physical violence, and b) being a reasoned discussion. We decided to plump for the latter, but this doesn’t mean that the former isn’t in with a fighting chance…” Excerpts from a conversation: Number Three – sex times technology equals the future. Murphy: “I’ve always thought that as far as Bauhaus were concerned what we have to say or theorise about what we do isn’t important. “The actual act of listening to the music is the be-all and end-all of what we’re about. We don’t really want to analyse it all the time, we don’t want to have to speak about it. We do it…” The day’s labourer: “Aren’t individual interpretations from within the group an important thing, especially having made the decision to accept the interview situation?” Murphy: “One thing I find really boring is when an artist talks about his work in a really over-the-top way. It just really spoils it for me. If you like something, it’s there…”

The day’s labourer: “But because of the system that you operate within, a withdrawal or a vagueness tends to suggest that you’re merely trying to create a mystique, an enigma.” Murphy: “It’s not that… if we’re going to try and label our work, which a lot of the time comes from our subconscious, it will be a wrong labelling. What we might say about one aspect of what we do might be totally wrong because… we are not really sure ourselves. A lot of what I do is totally spontaneous. It comes from my emotions and, uh, how can you…” Jay: “We believe in the beauty of an idea, without grinding it into the ground. If something is working, no matter how simple it is, we try and maintain it without elaborating upon it. That’s really important to us.” Ash: We think that a lot of the best ideas are the simple ones.” Jay: “That’s nearly always the case. If something is overworked it will show.” The day’s labourer: “But your stage presentation does seem to be overworked.” Ash: “We feel that if the stage is there, why just stand on it and play… you might as well put a record on. You are there to entertain to a

is received that you go over the top and the idea gets smothered by incidentals.” Jay: “No… it’s just there’s a belief in the idea that we have, a passionate belief, it really is…” Ash: “Also, when we’re on stage, our feelings are concentrated into one hour… it’s all intensified and enlarged. It’s all going into one hour, not one week or one lifetime. It’s all got to be condensed and so you put everything into it.” Additional remarks: One – one little streak of grey that matched the wall. Bauhaus are recording some new music at Morgan Studios in North London. The group are sat close together when I arrive, collected around a small mixing desk. They’re almost holding hands. And I am completely ignored. I am dirt the wind’s blown in. They don’t care for me! It’s not surprising. Recently I reviewed their live show – which they say is an extreme but vigorously valid integration of the very anxious stuff they’re about – and implied that at the core of their entertainment lay a lump of shit. I suggested that their heart was made up of sick. In the little studio my presence is fi nally tightly acknowledged. The studio is probably well heated, but it’s very cold. “When you came in,” singer Pete Murphy shudders later, “it was a real sick feeling… it was horrible…” Who would have thought that a collection of words, a pile of images, teased together and presented in such a trivialised context could cause such antipathy: but then half a wink in the wrong place can cause murder. We move to the studio bar. I try to be

I implied that at the core of Bauhaus lay a lump of shit



certain degree. I have the feeling that you think that it is all really worked out, but it isn’t. It’s totally spontaneous.” The day’s labourer: “I detected an overcompensation… you have a particular idea or image and you’re so eager to make sure that it


friendly; they’re content to stay blank. They make it very clear that I have bruised them. All I wanted to do was blast away the sheets of vagueness that have covered Bauhaus. I turn on my tape recorder. They turn on theirs. The conversation will be recorded by two cassettes. This is serious: it’s surprising. This is desperate: it’s terrific. Drummer Kevin Haskins is prepared to thump me: he’s so quiet that at one point Murphy asks him if he’s alright. His brother, bass player David Jay, consistently looks at me as if to say who is this puddle of drabness and how dare he come along and question our radiance? Guitarist Daniel Ash is as reasonable as I am. To Bauhaus I am just another pop journalist. I am just a day’s labourer.

Excerpts from a conversation: Number Six – let us be friends even if we can’t hold hands. The day’s labourer: “I have a very apathetic view of Bauhaus – the dark side of the damp patch. Do you pay attention to all sorts of things, messy things and nice things?” Ash: “It’s all in there… it’s just that we seem to get picked up on the dark things…” Jay: “It’s not as though we have a whole set of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. I think that record has cast a backward shadow over everything and it’s been hard to move out into the sun.” Excerpts from a conversation: Number Eight – creative activity can undoubtedly act as a defence against all kinds of threat. Jay: “We all wanted to do something where

there was a certain amount of return. We felt we were putting a lot into things like a job and getting nothing out of it…” Ash: “I think initially we were fighting for something better than the mundane… it’s also to do with gaining respect…” The day’s labourer: “From who?” Ash: “From people around you. You want to make a statement saying, ‘I am worthwhile, I am necessary, I’ve got something to do…’ It’s about saying that you are worthwhile as a person…” Murphy: “You’re gaining self-respect as well… and everybody has potential… everyone’s wonderful… this is really idealistic… oh shit… but…we should all search for ourselves, learn to love yourself before you can love others. You have to go through shit. Or life…”


Bauhaus: (l to r) Kevin Haskins, Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, David Jay



Happy Hunting Ground 

Excerpts from a conversation: Number 15 – why are you wasting your time with snowmen when the basement needs cleaning? Haskins: “…if someone is working in a factory and they have Radio 1 on… if we came on it would make them stop for a moment.” Ash: “Oh, I very much doubt it… Pop music is for young people, and they’re pretty mixed up anyway… I’m categorising, putting people in boxes, but it’s like when they get to their thirtieth year they won’t be listening to pop music, or pop music won’t be influencing their lifestyle even if they are listening to it. It will be part of their past. “What I’m trying to say is that pop music isn’t really that important, because it only affects people when they’re mixed up and young…” Murphy: “That’s like one sad fact…” Ash: “It’s not necessarily sad…” Murphy: “That space which you can achieve, it’s potentially a really valuable vehicle and if you can, if you use that space, and if you’re able to enlighten… that is amazing, you’re asking for the world, you’re asking for a saviour…” The day’s labourer: “I know an avid fan of the group whose attitude is, ‘Oh they’ll never be on Top Of The Pops, they’re not that sort of group,’ yet I feel it can be the only logical, useful conclusion for a group like Bauhaus. They have got to be in that space, as a cult they’re surely wasting their time.”



Shivers down your spine: Bauhaus live

“Our guitarist is an accident victim. I’m a weed. Our singer is A Mouth” Jay: “That is exactly what we think…” Haskins: “Right from the very start we’ve hated that label of being underground. If you listen to our singles, any of them could be potential hits… we were really pissed off that they weren’t hits, any of them. “We want to go on Top Of The Pops. A lot of people do take it for granted that we wouldn’t go on but they couldn’t be more wrong. You can reach more people through that programme than you would doing three or four tours, it would be absolutely ridiculous not to…” Jay: “In a way it’s to our advantage that it’s taken this long for us to break through because now we’re…” Murphy: “…more determined.” Ash: “If we’d suddenly catapulted into view with the second single I think we’d all be drug addicts by now…” Excerpts from a conversation: Number 13 – how much applause, after all, has God got for his troubles over the years? The day’s labourer: “Have Bauhaus always been aware of how they could use certain aspects of the group, such as Murphy as conventional frontman, to attain commercial success or has this developed recently?” Ash: “There are various vehicles to be used.” Murphy: “Although the live show is an honest representation of our music, we’re also aware of how it will draw people to come and see us because of our reputation as a really good live band. And then they might find out about us…” The day’s labourer: “And once people become aware of you and you’re no longer underground, is that the achievement: Bauhaus become part of their day, along with the food, the commercials, the radio?” Murphy: “Not their day… once a month…” The day’s labourer: “But is that all you can expect –to make an occasional interruption?” Ash: “I think as far as music is concerned that is all you can expect. That’s as powerful as it can be. For example, PiL, their stuff is very intimidating, it’s very strong, but it does make an impact to a certain degree. It isn’t that

powerful – only a certain amount of people are going to draw from it, and accept it, because you can’t force anything down people’s throats. You only have a certain amount of strength to make a statement. It’s not that potent because it doesn’t last for long and there are hundreds of other groups.” The day’s labourer: “So can Bauhaus claim to have any distinctive value?” Ash: “It is a distinctive value but only to a certain amount of people. We can’t do anything about that, because people are only going to draw on something that they want, that they relate to. Obviously we don’t think that we’re just another band lost among hundreds.” Excerpts from a conversation: Number 21 – and then we kissed goodbye. The day’s labourer: “Do you envisage a situation where Bauhaus doesn’t exist?” Ash: “Well, Bauhaus won’t exist for ever… it might not exist next week. It might exist for another five years… you can’t say… We have other interests. But we seem to be climbing the ladder slowly, so we continue…” Additional remarks: Two – do not think I underestimate your great concern. The interview has been tidied, arranged and edited. It fails to evoke the Bauhaus art-ache: sex or nightmare. It fails because I do not enjoy their music and so placed a continual emphasis on pressurising the members to justify their existence and examine their work, and because the group are reluctant to explain their work. Perhaps Bauhaus are healthy. Perhaps they are healing people. I wouldn’t like to say. I am only the day’s labourer. I get merely a bland, unsensational impression of a group who are committed, idealistic and questioning… it’s still very cold… and I can’t wait to see them on Top Of The Pops. Excerpts from a conversation: Number 17 – the difficult bit to grasp. Ash: “It all boils down to getting that shiver down your spine.”


Excerpts from a conversation: Number Ten – what young man is by nature diligent, sober and regular in his habits? The day’s labourer: “Was the initial impetus to escape Northampton? Did you want to be pop stars or were there greater intentions involved?” Jay: “Not greater intentions, but not pop stars either…” Murphy: “No, but that is part of it. For me… a part of it, not all of it…” The day’s labourer: “And that part fits into the whole?” Murphy: “No, nothing fits in… it is… I’m not Bauhaus, he’s not, he’s not, he’s not…” Ash: “It’s always been and always will be four very disparate views and attitudes… it’s a mental chicane: all the ideas colliding and meeting in the middle…” Murphy: “I think we really respect each other… well, I hope so. It’s like a real love relationship… I really miss them when I’m away from them… It was my first experience of creating something and when you live with them on tour and work with them it really brings you together, it really brings you close.” Jay: “But it’s not all love and peace…” Murphy: “But neither’s marriage, dear… you and Ann can’t love each other and be smiling at each other all the time…” Jay: “I’m not saying that… I’m trying to give a clear view of the situation… there’s a lot of friction there. It’s central to the whole thing…” The day’s labourer: “How would you describe the four inputs that knot together?” Jay: “Our guitarist is an accident victim, I’m a weed, our drummer is a plain Ron and our singer is A Mouth…” The day’s labourer: “What is ‘the truth’?” Jay: “Ah…”

NME, 1 May 1982, p52

Southern Death Cult/ Sex Gang Children The Clarendon, London


ndi Hayward fronts Sex Gang Children with a pretension to angst that would shake Pete Murphy. This pained face, painted white, fails to convey the feelings so protractedly projected – he strikes you as a howling Marcel Marceau lost for words and signalling rejection. This is a Sex Gang Child. The name of the band

may invoke perverse and paedophilic images, but they fail to live up to their name. There is no overt or even subtle sexuality. They are sterile and

braves and how! Southern Death Cult come to sacrifice a prepared audience. The band enter and the war paint daubs the fans with fire. Ian is more a warrior than Adam ever was – pushing the primitive drums, encouraging the tribal war of sound. They cross the plain between Theatre Of Hate’s energy and the dark, percussive dance of Joy Division. Strict co-ordination is their essence and their strength. Lyrically the songs vary from the polemic ‘Moya’ to the rampant chant of ‘Fatman’. The band are not great creators or innovators – they are a four-piece with all the restrictions that implies – but they are savage, and they blow fresh with that same Western breeze that whistles through ‘Westworld’ or ‘Your Cassette Pet’. The followers know the signs and read the signals, all a perversion of Indian pride, in songs like ‘Vivisection’ and ‘Today’. All this is enhanced by the shaman-like qualities of the singer, wearing full war paint; this is Crazy Horse coaxing the faithful into his war dance. The tribal factor has been exploited before, but only in a fashionable sense – all suede, World’s End and Kings Road. This is REAL – Northern heart and soul. When Southern Death Cult charge London again it will be for scalps and for the happy hunting ground. David Dorrell


This is Crazy Horse coaxing the faithful into his war dance

Ian Astbury: a man called Hoarse

uncoordinated – warm where they should burn, tepid where they should freeze. Movement from graves to

NME, 8 May 1982, p31

THE CURE Pornography (Fiction)

It won’t improve your social life or relieve you of your load, and this music provides an antidote to nothing much at all, though it may clear out your system. But what ‘Pornography’ does show is that The Cure do have a certain flair for identifying symptoms. This record portrays and parades its currency of exposed futility and naked fear with so few distractions or adornments, and so little sense of shame. It really piles it on. The Cure have collected the very purest feelings endemic to their age, and held them right on the spot in their most unpleasantly real form. Here is an album written from the knife-edge of despair, and as a piece of craftsmanship in expressive sound, it is a very big, very harrowing achievement. The drums, guitars, voice and production style are pressed scrupulously together in a murderous unity of surging, textured mood. We are better off not picking about at particular parts of the whole: too close a look at the poetic permutations on the lyric sheet, taken with the occasionally irksome whine of Robert Smith, and he and his friends can quickly become the tiresomely self-analytical young ‘sensitives’ I’ve always feared The Cure might be. ‘Pornography’ was not designed to be probed, but taken en bloc as a dense wash of emotional colour, portraying one soul on a leash, fighting the panic in the dark. And, as such, it really works. The confessional returns, fragile, frightened, horribly forlorn, and very finely drawn. A killer of its kind. Don’t have too much fun, now. Dave Hill NME ORIGINALS


Raise The Teutonic

of, their flawed but furious debut, ‘Prayers On Fire’, but it also signals the end of a phase, maybe even the end of the band. “Welcome to the car crash/You can’t tell the boys from the girls”, can deservedly claim a premium place in this hack’s hierarchy of tasteless punter-baiting, but to what end and at what cost? ‘Prayers’ was a genuine shock, a flaunting arrogance, a flick-knife slash and a boot in the groin of last year’s short-lived trends. ‘Junkyard’ finds the Party comfortably assimilated into the scene as welcomed, accomplished shock-rockers; a species to be studied but no longer a startling experience. We’ve outlived their aggressively onedimensional examination of the atrocious potential of language and sound; we’ve moved on while they flounder in a seemingly inescapable rut, merely shifting the emphasis from the soggy bass mix of ‘Prayers’ to the arid guitar scratch of ‘Junkyard’. Don’t get me wrong:

MM, 10 July 1982, p16


Three months ago, I’d have given you this: ‘Junkyard’ is brilliant; an essential, abrasive album, something to sort out once and for all the malcontents from the chartmesmerised morons. Now I’m not so sure. Living with The Birthday Party is much like living with pain – you numb to the hurt with the passing of time. Not to say Nick Cave’s grotesque parody of a rock’n’roll messiah doesn’t stink as bad as it always did, it’s just that a skeletal production and the most cruelly callous of lyrics liberally battered by primeval grunts can’t hope to emulate the theatre of the brutal



live confrontations, can’t disguise a formula struggling and strangled at the end of its tether. Great rock or pop should act as a springboard, a jolt for your adrenalin, a catalyst for your emotions, a trigger for your reflexes to run ruinously apeshit. ‘Junkyard’ finds The Birthday Party foreclosing on interpretation and demanding attention like the spoiled brats they mercilessly seek to dismember. ‘Junkyard’ is, without doubt, an improvement on, and extension

lyrically, musically, monotonously, magnificently, ‘Junkyard’ spews all over anything you’ll have heard all year. A harrowing pantomime of the preposterous power of pop, it maliciously delights in exposing self-inflicted wounds and fertilising them with gangrenous germs. A skirmish with ‘Big Jesus Trashcan’ should suitably offend. But such wanton offence can only command brief attention and recorded revulsion soon subsides to neglect. Uneasy listening is no longer enough. Almost ironically, this party’s been fun. Pity now it’s over. There’ll never be such garbage in Honey’s sack again. Steve Sutherland

NME, 23 October 1982, p30

BAUHAUS The Sky’s Gone Out (Beggars Banquet)

‘Dark Entries’ was a wonderful single – a shuddering, wired monolith of implacable ill-intent. Since then Bauhaus have consistently disappointed, and this half-studio, half-live double album does nothing to change my view. Bauhaus’ undeserved popularity demonstrates rock’s time-hallowed need for Princes of Darkness, but razor-sharp cheekbones and a style that went down with the Teutonic does not entitle them to the Stones’ (or Doors’, Velvets’, Stooges’…) satanic raiment. Their fundamental fault is the simpleminded equation of a lurid, melodramatic narcissism with the elegant trappings of terminal weltschmertz. Pete Murphy comes across like David Bowie imitating Jacques Brel declaiming a pastiche of Lautréamont backed by the early Banshees. As silly as that. What Bauhaus believe to exude the alluring scent of the forbidden, merely stinks of flatulent rhetoric. But the band that made ‘Dark Entries’ and romped with such brio through that camp impersonation of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ can’t be all bad. ‘The Three Shadows’ and ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ faintly evoke the sinister musical-box of Lou Reed’s ‘Berlin’ or even Bowie’s ‘Kooks’. ‘Exquisite Corpse’ concludes the studio album as Bauhaus’ resounding riposte to ‘A Day In The Life’, though not half so frightening. Side One is more turgid, starting with a crude version of Eno’s ‘Third Uncle’, but it recovers on the last two numbers, ‘Swing The Heartache’ and ‘Spirit’. The latter sings the praises of Bauhaus’ communion with their audience of worshippers. It’s set to one of those pounding anthems of the sort popularised by the late, lamented Skids. Curious. The live set, titled ‘Press The Eject And Give Me The Tape’, is a brutally proficient run-through of their greatest hits, including John Cale’s ‘Rose Garden Funeral Of Sores’, a rather Blacker Mass than any of their own songs. But the album ends on a cheerful note with ‘Dark Entries’ – which is where I came in. Mat Snow


The Birthday Party throw good taste and decency on the barbie. Again


People in A Glass’Haus TOM SHEEHAN


t a pre-arranged whisper and nod from the wings, Bauhaus’ bassist David Jay cut the hack stone dead. “There’s very little spontaneous about Bau…” the hack had been babbling when David smartly cut in… “That’s a load of shit! We’d thought of this literally hours ago so surely that indicates an amount of spontaneity. This is all part of it anyway. The whole point of this is to show that an interview situation, far from being a comfortable, informative gathering, is totally absurd and bizarre so, to put it on stage in front of an audience, simplifies the abstract nature of an interview and, therefore, shows it for what it really is… a load of old balls!” (Somewhere, high in the auditorium, the spirit of Sir Robin Day guffaws: “If you believe that you’ll believe anything!”) Satisfied that the tumultuous whooping and wailing signalled sort of psychological victory,

the bassist staged an animatedly agitated exit, followed, rather sheepishly, by the rest of the band. The hack, somewhat stupidly, stood his ground, dismayed but barely rattled, and waited for the barracking and hailing glasses to cease before attempting to vindicate the idea of an interview. His efforts were largely lost in catcalls, encouraged by Jay’s sarcastic final comment: “The journalist always has the last word!” “Strange,” thought the hack, swollen with pride, “that this sentence of prophetic spleen should amount to the only sensible comment that Bauhaus had mustered all evening!”

Just how the hack found himself on stage at the Lyceum and subsequently engaged in a heartto-heart with a band he hoped he’d washed his hands of forever is a rather protracted tale, but one that’s vital to grasp if any sense at all is to be made of this extraordinary encounter.

MM, 30 October 1982, p24

In the 4 July 1981 issue of Melody Maker, the hack had published his conclusions on a weekend spent on tour with Bauhaus. The piece was presented as “Anarchy in Aylesbury” and subtitled “Steve Sutherland travels in the shadow of Bowie with Bauhaus” – nothing new, nothing startlingly original, the article merely sounded out opinions already widely expressed by others and subsequently echoed many times. The band had baulked at every word, contested every connotation and yet, 14 months later, they seemed to be conceding an odd aboutface, putting ‘Ziggy Stardust’ back in the charts. The hack was intrigued; hadn’t the band already publicly chastised his assertions on stage? Were Bauhaus perpetrating some perverse con or had they simply gone stark, staring bonkers? The hack decided to check for himself and after a phone call to their press officer, Chris ‘King’ Carr, was informed that Bauhaus would

Steve Sutherland (Christian) faces up to Bauhaus (Lions)



Hack In The Spotlight 

grant him audience on their own terms – which involved two separate rooms in their native Northampton and an interview conducted over video. Sounded silly but a cracking good story, so the hack unconditionally agreed. Unfortunately fame, fortune and Top Of The Pops put the kibosh on the whole idea as the band were due to mime their hit for the cameras the day the interview was supposed to take place. Suddenly Bauhaus were overnight big shots and the liaison was scheduled and rescheduled according to their every passing whim. Eventually it was mooted that the hack should meet the band between their soundcheck and their gig at the Lyceum. Then, in a bewildering flurry of late evening phone calls, King Carr informed the hack that he was “being set up”. Seems the band thought the hack should be brought to the Lyceum where, without prior warning, he would be bundled onto the stage to

about imitation… we’re about humour… um… DEATH, BLACKNESS… But you’ve been very brave to accept this offer and we appreciate that.” Hack: “Why? I see an interview as a situation where, if you want to read about somebody and what they think about what they’re doing, it can be quite a revealing thing.” PM: “Well, the fact is, you were on tour in our van, under our hospitality, hiding under a cloak of friendliness and amiability and yet, when the article came out, you absolutely turned and showed yourself to be a very cynical, hypocritical person. It was a very dirty trick to do.” Hack: “You haven’t answered my question.” Daniel Ash: “Why did we put out ‘Ziggy Stardust’? Well, we’ve been tapping away at the door of acceptability and it just seemed that the door needed a fuckin’ good kick so we kicked it out. Once inside the room we shall attempt to follow up with original compositions.”

“I don’t think anyone else could do a cover version of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ like we’ve done it. It’s so dangerous… so on edge”. conduct the interview in front of the audience, in place of a pulled-out support act. The hack, again, agreed but when King Carr informed the band their scheme had been rumbled, they “ummed and aahed” for 24 hours, finally giving the go-ahead hours before the event. (The spirit of Robin Day whispers in the hack’s ear: “THAT indicates an amount of spontaneity? Tell us another!”) And so the stage was set: five microphones and a table with glasses of water, all in an elaborate attempt on the band’s behalf to belittle the hack, conduct the conversation in front of witnesses so the little rat couldn’t wilfully misinterpret their words and to prove, through their theatrical mock-up, that all interviews are worthless. The hack, for his part, was determined to get a good story, to escape the proceedings with life, limb and self-respect intact, to belittle Bauhaus as Bowie plagiarists and to show that it was only an interview situation with Bauhaus that is “totally absurd and bizarre”. The following events and conversations are documented, as far as space allows, as near as possible the way they occurred. Any additional comments – the hack’s own home crowd if you like – are attributed to the spirit of Robin Day. Those who want the grist without the gripes are therefore advised to ignore his asides.

The Hack:

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’m Steve from Melody Maker and this is Bauhaus, otherwise known as Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. I’m here because I’ve written stuff about Bauhaus that hasn’t pleased them, so maybe the first thing we should take up is that I accused you of being second-rate Bowie copyists, which you denied – and yet here’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’. What do you think of that?” Peter Murphy: “We’re very angry and very pleased as well. This is a really good occasion to get him back. In effect it’s changing the whole interview situation into something else; it’s using it as performance, something very dangerous, which is what we’re about – nothing



Hack: “So what you’re saying is you took the easy way out?” PM: “No! I don’t think anyone else could do a cover version of ‘Ziggy’ like we’ve done it. It’s so dangerous… so on edge…” DA: “And we know the chords!” Hack: “OK, it was a brave song to tackle, but what have you brought to it that wasn’t there already?” PM: “We’ve reincarnated it, we haven’t attempted to make it any different. The original version was excellent, no way could we rearrange it. We’ve put our heart into that song because it’s part of our past, part of our interest when we were young. The way we did it on Top Of The Pops was also very humorous.” Hack: “OK, but as I’ve been cast as the cynic, it seems to me you’ve been releasing a string of singles which weren’t getting anywhere and so you used ‘Ziggy’ to get there.” PM: “We did a string of singles which should have got somewhere but never did.” Hack: “Everybody says that.” PM: “But we’re different!” Hack: “OK, lets talk about the new album, ‘The Sky’s Gone Out’. Isn’t making it a double package with an album of old live numbers the oldest marketing ploy in the business?” David Jay: “Fuck off!” PM: “Of course… we want people to hear our music.” Hack: “But what has it achieved that hasn’t been achieved before?” PM: “It’s up to the audience to interpret it in whatever way you want. We feel there’s a progression there. Full stop.” Hack: “Progression’s a very easy word to use. From what I’ve heard, the new album sounds much the same as your others – melodramatic but pretty empty. It doesn’t seem to say anything,

Media circus: Melody Maker’s Steve Sutherland (centre) on stage with Bauhaus at the Lyceum, London

it uses stark, crude images in a dilettante way with a little bit of reggae, a little Bowie, a little bit of Eno… I mean, who are you and what are you saying? At the end you’re left feeling as empty as you started…” DA: “That’s up to the individual.” Hack: “That’s a cop-out. What did you want it to do? DA: “Making that album, we had a lot of fun.” Hack: “Everybody says that.” (Spirit: “There ensues an embarrassing series of squabbles concerning the value of entertainment, captive audiences and references to Des O’Connor, the hack fielding platitudes, left, right and centre, hurling them back in at the wicket. Sad to see a band so sensitive that they resort to the oldest trick in the book, adopting superior, sarcastic detachment and patronising benevolence as if, in humiliating one hack, they repudiate all criticism.) Hack (some time later): “What’s the point in being in Bauhaus?” PM: “What d’you mean, what’s the point? We’re excellent and that’s it. We’re a sparkling cell of activity, we’re really enjoying our work.” Hack: “Why won’t you answer my questions? Why are you putting forward all this bullshit?” PM: “What do you mean, not answering your questions? You’re putting out all these comments


“You deal in Hammer horrorisms. I mean lyrics about fishes’ piss – Jesus Christ!” and opinions which are totally wrong. Why should we bother to argue with them? You’re so negative, so uninterested in what we’re doing, you’re not really attempting to understand…” Hack: “Well shouldn’t you, in that case, be thinking about the way you communicate to people if I’ve so obviously missed the point?” PM: “You’re one of the people who shouldn’t listen to us. Why should you even interview us?”

Moments later they’d stormed off stage. The hack, head reeling, heart thumping, joined them in their dressing room. Hack: “Very nicely rehearsed spontaneous walkout! Very John Lydon 1977! Now that charade’s over, when do I get the real interview?” DJ: “That was it! That’s all!” David storms out and doesn’t return for about half an hour. Later he declines to stay for a photo session and leaves after the show. Hack: “Surely he doesn’t believe the sham out there was serious. Come on! You can’t just leave it like that!” DA: “OK. The idea of doing ‘Ziggy Stardust’ was partly a reaction to people like you who were slagging us off as Bowie rip-offs. It’s like a statement that we’re not ashamed of: liking David Bowie. Instead of running away from it we’re admiring the guy. Full stop.” Hack: “But I find the whole idea of ‘Ziggy’ so pathetic because it doesn’t say anything – it just creates myths for people to escape into. OK, so Bowie made a few people dress up, moved on

and made them dress a bit differently… so what?” DA: “I get your point now totally, but what the hell are “That journalist is you supposed to do? interrupting my meditation. Slay Change the world?” him, my pretties” Hack: “No… but we can try!” DA: “Well we’re not. We’re not trying to change the world at all, we’re trying to open people’s minds. We aren’t interested in politics or political parties because they’re all a fuckin’ waste of time. “I think you can open people’s minds on a personal level… it’s not about telling other people what to do, it’s about suggesting something and it’s up to them to take what they want from the music.” Hack: “But I don’t think you suggest or open up anything. The area you delve in is so small and morbid. It’s easy doom for a doomy time. You may see humour in it, but I don’t. What you deal in is Hammer horrorisms. I mean lyrics about fishes’ piss – Jesus Christ!” PM: “Shall I dissect that lyric? It’s not Hammer horror. It’s tapping my own experience of – here we go again – the religious suppression of a lot of people. It’s like a mirror of the reaction I experienced to the absurd images that my teachers, for instance, put into me. I was very impressionable at the time, very young and

they frightened me silly and now, after burying them for years because they’re too painful to remember, they come out and I write about it. “It’s like tapping the subconscious, which is something Bauhaus is very interested in doing. It’s not giving answers, it’s almost asking, expressing the pus. I mean the fish symbol was the original Christian symbol; it wasn’t supposed to be shocking, it was just an image I used…” Hack: “That’s exactly why an interview is so valuable with a band like you. Who would have guessed in a million years that’s what the fish image meant? See, I’m prepared to believe you’ve got something to say, but I still think you’re so off the mark you go beyond communicating badly to not communicating at all.” PM: “Well I’d admit there’s a lot of mask there. I’ve still got these inhibitions and if I express them literally… I think I’m afraid of the comeback from my family or whatever. But I can read those lyrics like an objective reader and, although they’re very blacked with mystique and obscurity, I still find them interesting.” Hack: “But aren’t they dangerous? You unleash an awful lot of energy – live, if not on record – but so few of your implications get through that you excite people, get ’em up, make ’em angry and what do they do? Punch each other! I call that irresponsible…” DA: “Music of any particular type, of 1982, can only reflect the times, how people think – it doesn’t actually say ‘do this, do that’. Music is only a reflection and that’s what we are.” PM: “My view is that you should never attempt to be a philosopher until you’ve reached a point of understanding. Until that point you’re questioning and whether people understand that… that’s the only thing I can do. There’s so much I haven’t learned yet…” Hack: “But your fans see you as an idol!” PM: “That’s a sad result of human need; like someone to enact one’s fantasies, to take them to the edge and experience the edge for them.” DA: “All we can do is be honest with ourselves. If we started considering if what we do was gonna upset somebody or have an adverse effect, then we wouldn’t be able to do anything. I think it’s very unfortunate if the public – like you say they do – take what we say as gospel. I would never have imagined that to be the case!” (Spirit: “The hack disappeared to lubricate shattered nerves, Bauhaus prepared to dress ‘down’ for the show and I’m left here to have the last say. It seems Bauhaus may know what they’re on about, but the fans who think they’re peddling solutions and the foes who take them for trumped-up tarts just aren’t catching the clues. Worshipped for almost all the wrong reasons, Bauhaus’ poor handling of the Lyceum fiasco proved they aren’t up to putting their plans into practice. For fans, band and hack alike, it must have seemed like a kick in the eye.) NME ORIGINALS


Let’s Go To Bed And then there were two: Lol Tolhurst and Robert Smith

s e l b a r u c in The

MM, 18 December 1982, p18

Have The Cure split? Is Robert Smith joining the Banshees? Does anybody care? Steve Sutherland investigates



The Bunnymen… there’s very few, but I think they’ve kept a sort of intensity. “That’s what I was always striving for with The Cure, but there were far too many things working against it really; things of our own making like anti-image and all that rubbish. That was probably a big mistake, not establishing ourselves as personalities earlier.” The Cure always seemed to me to promote a woolly, unvaried imprecision, refusing to entertain any conclusions. “That was through apathy more than anything else. As long as I would have bought stuff that we were producing, then that was reason enough for releasing the records. “There was never any idea of covering a certain section of the market or broadening out and appealing to more people. I’ve never been a public face, I wouldn’t ever dare to presume that people hold me up a some kind of figure and, if they did, they’d be really stupid because I’m much too horrible to be a model for anybody. “You can’t gear your life around presenting yourself as something to be consumed by

What virtues

and values should such lasting music exhibit? “I can’t say… it’s impossible to verbalise. Everything we’ve done has been instinctive. You never – well, hardly ever – have pure insight. There’s really no answers or solutions.” That’s a cop-out. Your music is presented in such a manner as to suggest significance. “But the first line on ‘Pornography’ is ‘It doesn’t matter if we all die’. There could be nothing more throwaway than that. To me, that’s a really funny line…”

“‘It doesn’t matter if we all die’. To me, that’s a really funny line” Or a really pretentious one… “No, it’s not pretentious – I really think that! I’m as convinced by arguments for the end of the world as I am for saving whales – it’s a completely theoretical area. If I saw someone jumping on a baby, I’d probably go over the try to stop them but, at the same time, I can sit here and glibly say that it doesn’t matter if we all die. “It’s not sixth-form angst or immaturity. It’s a paradox in that what we were doing, to most people, seemed really doomy and depressing and



hatever happened to The Cure? Parttime Banshee Robert Smith sits in the lounge of the Kensington Hilton, sips his ice-cool Perrier and worries whether it’s time to write his baby’s obituary. “Do The Cure really exist any more? I’ve been pondering that question myself. See, as I wrote 90 per cent of the ‘Pornography’ album, I couldn’t really leave because it wouldn’t have been The Cure without me. “But it has got to a point where I really don’t fancy working in that format again. People keep saying, ‘You mustn’t break up, because it’s become like an institution’ – that almost gives me an incentive to pack it in anyway. I think it’s really awful seeing bands just disintegrate slowly in a stupid way, don’t you? “Whatever happens, it won’t be me, Laurence and Simon together any more. I know that.” I wonder if you ever did have any idea what The Cure were doing? “I don’t know. It’s impossible to articulate really. It sounds really horrible but it’s more than words and music. I’ve always aspired to be like certain bands who affected me: Joy Division, New Order, the Banshees, Echo &

the people. I mean, people like Culture Club do, but we were trying to reach beyond that façade, beyond current fashion to actually do something that was gonna last.”


yet, as a band, we were almost absurdly happy. “I’ve never really considered that I’ve had anything of importance to say on record and yet we get hundreds of letters from people who are very concerned about what we’ve done; it’s almost been like a soundtrack to their crises.” Exactly. The Cure were not a Cure, they were an ailment, pandering to the emotional afflictions of their listeners. “No, it’s not like an incentive for someone to wallow in their own despair. It’s impossible for me to justify what we’ve done because it only really mirrored our experiences, it never really sought to do anything more than that.” Fiction have just released a new single, ‘Let’s Go To Bed’, credited to The Cure but really

recorded by Robert and Laurence Tolhurst as a disco experiment. Laurence has packed in drumming and is learning keyboards; Simon Gallup has formed his own band and Robert has recorded a “pop” single with Steve Severin. Meanwhile, the guitarist relaxes on tour with

What about as far as the Banshees are concerned? “I don’t know, we haven’t really discussed it that much. I thought it would be very presumptuous to say something like that but… well, once a Banshee, always a Banshee. I don’t think I’ve said anything in this interview, have I? It’s all so ambiguous. It just perpetrates the wanton obscurity.” You’ve managed to not clear up the Cure and Banshees mysteries quite successfully. “Yeah, it’s all just a state of flux at the moment. There’s nothing clear-cut to say except… I know what I want for Christmas, Melody Maker readers – a hologram kit.”

“The Cure are almost like a soundtrack to people’s crises” the Banshees as a substitute for John McGeogh. Rumours abound that the position may prove permanent. How ’bout it Robert? “As far as I’m concerned, I’m just doing this tour. Never believe rumours.”



High-Camp Menace

NME, 20 February 1982, p 17

BAUHAUS Kick In The Eye (Beggars Banquet)

Bauhaus are a cumbersome, archaic as hell, hard rock blurge who owe more to The Stranglers’ gothic battering ram than the Pistols’ explosive rage. They trade in the old high-camp pseudoart menace with their onstage theatrics and ponderous musical attack. ‘Kick In The Eye’ is one of their most popular songs, so hopefully all who want it have got it and we’ll be hearing as little of it as possible in the coming weeks. Gavin Martin

wiping riff of ‘Adrenochrome’ still sounds like the greatest fourchord sequence ever invented. Look, the Stones, The Kinks, The Byrds, the Pistols, the Stooges, The Clash and all the other morons were just testing out a few ideas. THIS was the riff they were looking for. Put it this way: it’s not bad. Vocal-wise the lead Sister (a male) sounds like Lux Interior if he were given a decent group and some proper songs instead of a collection of musical cripples like The Cramps… or Ian Curtis on ‘Transmission’, even. Purchase. Lynden Barber

NME, 17 April 1982, p22

MM, 15 April 1982, p22


Ha! So there’s life in the ould beast yet, the creature in question being “a form of music characterised by a simple repetitive beat and extremes of volume, popular among young people during the post-war economic boom.” (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1993 edition.) Rock, that is. The Sisters come from Leeds, wear young rebel trousers and make a din so glorious they sound like they stumbled on rock music by accident without ever having heard a note of it before. About six plays after first digging this from the bottom of the vinyl junkyard, the brain-



MM, 16 October 1982, p23


days, a decline in standards reinforced by the inclusion of the original versions of ‘Killing An Arab’ and ‘A Forest’ on one portion of this doublepack. It’s just as well that The Cure have now jettisoned what was their finest moment, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’, a song now being respectfully refurbished in a Glasgow home by The Bluebells, who seem to be the sort of people that appreciate it more. Believe it or not, I was actually the first person to write about The Cure, although it’s not something I tell anyone but my closest acquaintances. Adrian Thrills

It’s a sad comment on the state of Music Today (assumes grandadlike posture and nestles into rocking chair) that there are hundreds of groups who make their livings by impersonating their heroes as accurately as possible, in much the same way as 57 years ago a group called Wild Wally wore out the tarmac on the M1 bringing watered down rock’n’roll to the kids. What is worse, some people appear to accept their liverish dross. All you need to know about The Cocteau Twins is that they make “Siouxsie & The Banshees” records. OK? Lynden Barber

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Fireworks (Polydor)

Unfortunately there’s not a firework within earshot on this song, which is a pity because side two of the Banshees’ ‘Once Upon A Time – The Singles Collection’ LP is a record gourmet’s delight. Gary Crowley

NME, 27 November 1982, p17

THE SISTERS OF MERCY MM, 9 October 1982, p23

Alice/Floorshow (Merciful Release)

NME, 10 July 1982, p21


BAUHAUS Ziggy Stardust

Hanging Garden

(Beggars Banquet)


Peter Murphy blows his cool badly and reveals a hidden yearning to be Mike Yarwood. Quite good facsimile of Bowie’s voice, but maybe he’d be better off doing Robin Day or Dennis Healy next time. Inexplicable. Adam Sweeting

Don’t be fooled by the Bansheeesque title, ‘Hanging Garden’ is a dismal exercise in rolling, tumbling rhythmic textures. The Cure have drifted disappointingly and indulgently from the idyllic pop invention of their younger

They’re sounding not unlike The Psychedelic Furs, this group – he said, crushing their chances of a fair hearing in one fell swoop. No, don’t be put off. This is dark and powerful stuff from Yorkshire’s Sisters. Maybe a bit too dense for extended listening, but this much I like a lot. And a big improvement on their ‘Adrenochrome’ debut. Paul Du Noyer

Chapter 5



Mercy Mercy Me


w o h s r o o l F ’ s l i Dev Adam Sweeting unravels the stream of consciousness gushing forth from The Sisters Of Mercy

MM, 15 January 1983, p20



ur problem is that talking usually ends up as a very serious affair, which isn’t a true reflection of the band as a phenomenon,” said Andy, singer with The Sisters of Mercy. “It’s very hard to convey the non-intellectual aspects of any band through talking.” What the hell, we talked anyway. We talked in Andy’s front room in Leeds, all four Sisters and me. Then I talked to Andy and guitarist Gary Marx in a Chinese restaurant. Then back to the front room. I vetoed the full all-nighter around 3.30am. Andy probably spent the rest of the night talking to himself, because he’d finally got warmed up, the night creature pacing in his lair. Before he found himself in the spotlight with The Sisters Of Mercy, Andy studied languages. Where, I queried. “Oh, all over the place,” he said guardedly. “I never finished a course because I kept finding more exciting things to do, like petty vandalism. “I’ve done French and German and Italian and Latin and Chinese and a smattering of Russian and a smattering of Dutch in my time.


Chinese was the best. Latin helped me no end – I don’t know whether it helped my brain any, but as a linguist it was certainly vital. And I can do crosswords in a zillionth of the time it takes anybody else. I can’t do the ordinary ones, but the cryptic ones are a doddle.”

The day of our meeting found The Sisters Of Mercy unaccountably quiet, possibly the result of a sordid and thinly attended gig in Bradford the night before. Consider these men: guitarist Gary Marx is tall, lanky, thick white socks of the sort favoured by mountaineers pulled up over the bottoms of his jeans. He watches the proceedings with apparent indifference, occasionally throwing in an oblique comment. On stage, he wreaks violence on his guitar. Bassman Craig Adams crimps himself into the corner of the sofa and reads an old Batman annual from cover to cover, pausing only to light another cigarette. He only uses three strings on his bass because one of the machine heads in broken. His cheerful exterior seems quite at odds with the grinding, warlike attack of his

playing. Craig is the beer-drinker of the group. Guitarist Ben Gunn sits quietly in an armchair, boyish and suspiciously innocent, the classroom swot who goes home at night and makes explosives in a shed in the back garden. Then there’s Andy, frontman, writer of all the material so far, dominant theorist and mouthpiece. Andy likes logic, order, Motorhead, cats, industrial design, The Birthday Party, The Psychedelic Furs, aeroplanes and TS Eliot. Andy hates Bauhaus, Kid Creole, false spiritualism, numerous groups from the Leeds/ Bradford area, fashion, eating and alcohol. The Sisters’ use of a drum machine instead of a drummer makes excellent sense – Andy can growl and roar and the others can torment and punish their instruments, but the beat will not slacken or surrender. Andy, if you do all the writing, how important is the rest of the group? “It’s vital. The personal chemistry is very important. Craig’s response is just to play the bass like he does, that sort of awesome noise, and that says a lot to me.

1983 “Sometimes at soundchecks, maybe after we’ve been in the van all day, he just plugs in and wham! It just knocks me out. Mark provides the more lunatic side of things. And Ben’s got a much more open mind on things. The balance of all these four is what makes it work. “Even minor decisions are ludicrously democratic. That’s one of the reasons why we never got a drummer, because drummers just don’t fit into anybody’s personal chemistry.” You talk a lot about the humour in your music, but does it communicate to an audience? “Well, basically it involves the dialectics of cynicism, which is something that takes a long time to explain,” said Andy. “It’s a very, very, very, dry joke.” Gary: “I think the gigs are pure slapstick.” Because you make them that way or because of the places you have to play in? Andy: “It starts off OK but by the end of the gig Gary’s just not in control any more, he’s just destroying things. And it is very slapstick. “But every band’s got that anyway. It’s just that most of them don’t realise it. And of course the fact that you’re being serious about it only makes it more ironic and the whole thing about irony is that is compounds itself at every stage.” Of course, a joke’s no longer a joke once you’ve picked it apart and explained it. I can only say that the first time I saw them something clicked at once. Perhaps it’s a little like that horrific thrill of driving fast on a motorway in the rain and the car suddenly starts to aquaplane, or realising that you’ve gone over the line this time but wasn’t it worth if for the rush? Gamesmanship par excellence. Check, for verification, available Sisters vinyl on their own Merciful Release label: the fierce, teeth-clenching bobsleigh runs of ‘Adrenochrome’ and ‘Body Electric’, the relentless ‘Alice’. At the moment I’m fi xated by the suspended torment of ‘Floorshow’, a roaring electric tarantella, the kill-or-cure dance of death. It’s hard rock without the pomp (though Andy can and will pose like a good ’un), heavy metal with keen critical faculties.

It’s the only thing which separates us from bozos.” Do you advocate selfdestruction? Andy: “Under certain circumstances, yes. Nietzsche once said that a man’s greatest power is the power to decide the time of his own death, and that seems perfectly reasonable. I wouldn’t hold Andrew Eldritch: your regular that suicide is necessarily a Renaissance Man symptom of unsoundness of mind, or being not in

Reading some of his lyrics on paper, I was surprised by the formal attention to detail which had gone into them. Generally the voice is used as a strand in the group’s overall sound. “Our sound says a lot about me,” Andy explained. “People say things like, ‘What’s your attitude to nuclear war?’ and I say, ‘Just listen to the sound – what the fuck do you think our attitude to nuclear war is? “The voice is much more personal than the instruments, so it’s better to mix it down, because you’re very vulnerable. I think with ‘Anaconda’ we might include a lyric sheet. We’d never print the lyrics on the sleeve ’cos that would spoil my artwork.” Andy does the Sisters’ artwork himself, and typically it’s cold and neat, iced with sharp detail, using livid monochrome to index the stark polarities contained inside. ‘Anaconda’ is about the hip games people play with heroin addiction, now worryingly back in vogue at prices too many people can afford. “There’s far too many smack songs which are a bit too callously irresponsible. Junkie chic is not where it’s at. We do ‘Sister Ray’ because it’s just an orgy of self-destruction every time we do it. That’s what it’s all about. “All of the lyrics are designed to be taken away and used. It’s not just purging myself. I couldn’t go and perform it or make a record of it if I didn’t think it was generally useful. Besides, the band wouldn’t let me and why should they?”

“The name’s a nice 50-50 balance between nuns and prostitution”

What do you love about rock? Andy: “We like a loud noise, we like a good tune. We like the relentlessness of classic rock music – heavy metal.” What do the Sisters do that’s any more than a loud physical noise? “Well, our attitude towards parody is designed to show people how this loud noise is ideally to be taken. You can frighten people and amuse them at the same time, and excite them and inspire them. Because that’s what it does to us, it does all those things.” Are you offering your audience some kind of faith? “Yeah, I mean to us cynicism is very closely linked to faith or belief or holding something dear. It’s the sort of cynicism that comes out of disappointment with one’s environment rather than despair of it, and that’s a very precious thing.

possession of all one’s faculties.” Gary: “Which is one of the connotations of the name of the group. It was picked because it had several strong images, not just one.” ‘The name’s nice and ironic,” said Andy with a thin grin, “very corporate. A nice 50-50 balance between nuns and prostitution, which seemed like a very suitable metaphor for a rock band. All this pseudo-faith business and high ritual, and yet – prostitution.” And Merciful Release? “Suitably pompous,” chortled Gary. “Vincent Price delivered the line very well once,” said Andy. “And it’s a nicely selfdeprecating way of releasing stuff. When you make a Merciful Release it’s like, ‘Well, that’s out of the way, the agony is now over.’”

By Andy’s own

admission, the Sisters are still embryonic, but plans have been laid for 1983. Depending on trivial little factors like money, they should have a single called ‘Anaconda’ out in February, and an EP is also high on the agenda. An LP is not envisaged before 1984. They’re currently entering a “slower and heavier” phase, which Andy feels he has to work out of his system forthwith.

Is there anything you’d die for?

“[Long pause] I might die for someone. Not for any cause. Dying when you don’t intend to is not my idea of an intelligent act.” What would you be doing if you weren’t in The Sisters Of Mercy? “I’d like to do all sorts of things – whether anybody’d give me the chance is another thing. I wouldn’t mind being your regular Renaissance Man, but who’s gonna employ me to do that? Not many vacancies for them in the Exchange & Mart.” How about you, Gary? “Working Class Hero. It’s true, that’s what my name is, it’s just sending it up. I’m just a born Working Class Hero – deprived background, almost a footballer.” What use are you to anybody? Andy: “You could say, ‘Well look, four million people can’t be wrong and that’s how many we’ve sold,’ and it wouldn’t justify it. You could say, ‘Well it stopped one person jumping off a bridge,’ and that wouldn’t justify it. Whatever justification you had wouldn’t prove the point; you can only offer an opinion. “That question not only asks ‘What do you do?’ but also ‘Do you regard The Sisters in ’83: (l to r) it as worthwhile?’, and obviously one Ben Gunn, Andrew Eldritch, Gary Marx, Craig Adams does or one wouldn’t do it.” NME ORIGINALS


Redskin Rock

Tunes of glory MM, 5 March 1983, p20

Adam Sweeting sings the praises and questions the poses of Southern Death Cult


met Southern Death Cult in Liverpool on a cold grey afternoon. I’d wanted to meet them because they’re one of a sadly tiny number of groups who have some sort of aura, who project more than just a chart position or a certain brand of hype. Foolishly, I’d believed what I’d read in the papers about them being the spearhead of some new movement, and consequently I had a whole clutter of preconceptions. I saw them as potential fakes (probably arrogant), who maybe believed what they’d been told about their own importance. But I hoped they didn’t. From their side, the view was different. The Death Cult don’t read the papers much, probably because what they’ve read about themselves has in general disgusted them. They saw me as



the latest in a long line of labelling machines (probably unscrupulous). After some nervous false starts, and probably to everybody’s surprise, we finally found some common ground. “A lot of people want to accept us for some reason,” said Ian, the singer, “so they’ve got to try and understand us. To understand us they’ve got to put a label on us. By putting a label on us they’re linking us with other people. But it is dangerous, it’s like the nails going in the coffin.” With their loud declarations of their absorption with North American Indian culture, the Death Cult were instantly pegged as ‘Redskin Rock’, and visions of Adam & The Ants started to haunt them. But Ian, you must have known that would happen? “I was aware of it but I thought if I could get

into an interview situation I could explain why I was interested in Indian culture. But I never got the opportunity and we were already labelled. “So I thought it would be better for the four of us if I toned everything down, and now I don’t wear those clothes any more. I haven’t packed it in ’cos it’s still in me heart, but I thought if I take the image away and people wanna find out, then they can go deeper than that…”

Meet the Death Cult… there’s guitarist Buzz, blond hair falling bashfully down one side of a face which can only be described as pretty. Buzz likes Woody Allen, Mad magazine and George Melly, all of which came as a bit of a shock since I’d expected him to say something like “Sex Gang Children and grave-robbing”.

Southern Death Cult: Ian Lindsay (soon to be Ian Astbury), Buzz, Aky and Barry

There’s drummer Aky, who’s Pakistani. He admits to reading Mayfair and likes old rock’n’roll – “the happy stuff” as he puts it. “I’m a really ambitious person,” he confesses. On bass, there’s Barry. He looks very serious, shakes my hand with great solemnity. He speaks in a wistful tone which sounds like the faintest breath of wind could carry it away. Barry reads a lot of books. Aky says: “I can never understand the questions when we get interviewed, so if they ask me I refer them to Barry.” And finally Ian, frontman and performer, chief talker of the group but not necessarily the last word on what they do or why. Ian does like Sex Gang Children – “I’m pretty much obsessed with them now. They’re about the only new group that I really like.” Ian is emotional, an extrovert in an intense sort of way, and has a penchant for selfdramatisation. Useful credentials for a singer with a rock band, but he needs more realistic qualities of the other three to prevent him from flying out of control. Ian started to tell the story of an incident which had taken place at Friars in Aylesbury the night before. Ian had been on stage at the time. “There was this little Asian kid and he sort of looked up and motioned me over, and he said, ‘You’re fuckin’ in love with yerself, aren’t yer?’ I thought, ‘You little bastard, you don’t fucking know how I feel.’

“I started babbling on to him, everything I could think of to show I wasn’t what he thought I was, but he just sort of flopped into the crowd and shrank away. But afterwards I was talking to him for like two hours, and he said, ‘Please come back and play again.’ It was good. But that first thing he said sort of knocked me on the head for the rest of the evening, it really cracked me up.” Having been elected as baby Messiahs, you have to expect problems like these. Meeting the Death Cult, I was startled by how unprepared they were for the kind of status which has been

“To a certain extent yeah, but we’re not sorta like puppets, you know, we do have feelings and we are sorta reflecting what we see around us through our music. I wouldn’t like to see what we do being taken purely as an entertainment thing, just a dance band. I’d like to see maybe a bit of thought going into it. But isn’t it an entertainment industry? “I think it was.” You mean it’s changed? “Before, people had a choice of what they wanted to be into. Now they’ve got it forced upon them, like Kajagoogoo and all that shit. I think that’s pretty wrong. “We’re not forcing ourselves upon anyone – if people want us we’re there, but if they don’t want us then fair enough. We’re not sort of on every fucking kids’ TV programme, trying to push our product to them. We’re just where we are.” There has to be an element of ‘performance’, though. You have to pose to some extent to be the frontman with Southern Death Cult. “No I don’t,” said Ian hotly. “I just do what I want. Sometimes I’ve just got to control meself, like when that kid said that thing to me at Aylesbury I just felt like getting a microphone stand and shoving it down his throat. But you just don’t take your frustrations out on people.” “What Ian does on stage isn’t a pose, it’s from the heart,” added Barry seriously.

‘Moya’ is a near-classic deployment of simple rock components, adding up to an aura of eerie suggestion

thrust their way. I thought their ‘Fatman’/‘Moya’ single was fine stuff, moody and evocative, but I’d been disappointed by a thoroughly drab session they recorded for John Peel. At the moment they’re still probing their own weaknesses and strengths, which is why songs like ‘The Girl’ can end up sounding like a raw tangle of noise, while newer stuff like ‘All Glory?’ begins to resonate with a dawning sense of power. ‘Moya’ is still their best song – a nearclassic deployment of simple rock components which adds up to an aura of eerie suggestion. So Ian, are you aiming for the group to work on that basic level of just being something for people to dance to?



Creature Discomforts 

NME, 12 February 1983


The Birthday Party have always seemed more an exercise in exhausting self-parody than the gothic Beefheart claimed by their rabid supporters. They may have come to bury rock’n’roll, but the trouble is they keep digging the grave over and over again. And after listening to this four-song EP, it seems that it won’t be long before Nick Cave and his performing troupe of deviants fall into their purpose-built tomb. It’s impossible to avoid the obvious when you’re talking about The Birthday Party simply because they are so ludicrously larger than life: sex, smack and death are all over into this unctuous assault. The playing sounds tired and overwrought, any tension lost in a barrage of clichés. The rusty stabs of bass, drums and guitar are used more as a means of colouring Cave’s schlock accounts of love gone awry than as a force in their own right – which places the emphasis on lyrics that are no longer disturbing or genuinely dark. ‘Deep In The Woods’ is a swing love song for psychotic misogynists – “Tonight we sleep in separate ditches”, croons Cave. ‘Sonny’s Burning’ is a black account of energy-saving. ‘Fears Of Gun’ boasts a chorus that runs “Fingers down the throat of love” and ‘Wild World’ is a plea for protection and little more. This is a flight into miserable fantasy; a diversion that offers hardly any insights into the sometimes poignant state of the truly wretched. The Birthday Party pretend to be crucified for the consequences of irrepressible extremes. Yet, like most of their supposed obsessions, this record is another plaything. They’ve probably forgotten it already and if you’ve any sense you’ll do the same. Ian Pye

Ian: “It just reflects the way I see things… things that may have happened to me through my life that have made me the way I am. I’ve got it all built up inside me. “When I get on stage I can hit some levels where I just open my heart completely. Like last night before I went on it was really strange, ’cos I closed me eyes and I could see me own face looking at me. I wasn’t scared, but something like that had never happened to me before.”

What are the things that have happened to Ian to make him the way he is? He’s lived in Canada, Belfast and Liverpool, and spent a month in the army before deciding that wasn’t for him. He’ll talk about some of it, but then infuriatingly stops just when the subject sounds like it’s getting weird. Such as: “The subjects you “Did we really just admit to liking could talk about, I’m too scared to, so I’d Supertramp?” rather not talk about it. It’s something I’m aware of within meself, so that’s why I control meself. Like I know certain people who think they’d like to fuck off to Nicaragua, pick up a gun and fight there, ’cos they’re too scared to fight inspirational – to go out and make whatever you in this country. It depends what you’re into…” do a bit better, you know? You can shut things Look, you’re hardly the first band to sing out around you, make yourself feel good.” about jingoism (‘Patriot’ or ‘All Glory?’) Or I think the Death Cult could fall into the same genocide (‘Moya’). traps as The Clash, of promising more than you “Oh no, certainly not,” said Ian. can deliver. So isn’t there a danger of just turning these “We don’t base everything on image and we do topics into clichés? a lot of things on feeling,” said Ian. “I suppose to “I don’t think human feelings can be clichéd a very very small extent we do things for effect, – it’s not a little trend or fashion, it is a feeling. I think everyone does. I’ve got a hell of a lot of You can’t cliché feeling. You get psychologists respect for The Clash; I think they’ve still kept saying a certain condition is schizophrenia or their integrity. Maybe they’re past their peak.” something – that’s garbage. How can you sort of It’s in your favour that you draw on a very put somebody’s frame of mind into a category so basic, traditional kind of rock power – it has a you can understand them?” weight of history behind it. Are you offering people faith, or… “Oh yeah, it goes a long way back. Back to, “I don’t think I’m offering anything. I’m just I suppose, when people were banging sticks myself, stating the way I feel about things. I’m not and stones together.” a preacher. At one time I thought I was supposed Well, I dunno about that… to be a preacher ’cos I thought I had to say things “People are always looking to the future for to get people to look at me in a certain way, or to answers – that’s why everything’s falling apart. look at us and say, ‘Well, Southern Death Cult If you go back to the past, you know what you are about being free or fucking the system,’ or are and where you’re going. whatever. But now I think no, that’s not the way. “Even us, looking back into the ’60s for “I don’t wish to become a leader or anything inspiration… Before the Sex Pistols I was like that, I don’t think any of us do, because of listening to stuff like Supertramp and Genesis – the responsibilities that we’d have.” I used to pass off The Who and that as dinosaurs. In the end, aren’t you just one more rock “It’s only been in about the past year that group out of thousands of rock groups? I’ve been doing a hell of a lot of listening to ’60s “I dunno,” sighed Ian. stuff, like Jimi Hendrix, The Who and The Small “Within ourselves I guess not,” said Barry. “As Faces, and it’s fucking mind-blowing.” regarded by other people, probably yes.” Ian, isn’t the problem with music that anything you want to say is simultaneously an like being a good year for rock groups, escape or a social occasion for your audience? and Southern Death Cult will become one of the “Yeah, I would say that. Um… I think music is best of them. How much does this matter, Aky? one of the only things people have got left where “The whole thing about the band and all everyone can express themselves the way they is that sometimes when we do gigs it shatters want to, through dancing. A lot of people can’t that whole image thing. Ian will just say or do paint or draw or write and they don’t even care something that shatters people’s image of us, like about stuff like that, but when people come to a ‘Oh, Southern Death Cult, they’re just another concert they can do what they want. Haircut One Hundred’ – which is really good. “You can use the concert as a focal point. It is There is something more than just a band.”

“Last night, before I went on stage, I closed my eyes and saw my own face looking back at me”

1983 looks

Nick Cave: “Sex, smack and death? Mmm, yes please”




questions to be asked about Hawaii, but The Creatures’ sub-Campari ad gushings – “Good ’ere, innit?” – answer none of them. Julie Burchill

as a lash-up, though “a mess” is probably closer. It’s been botched together from a couple of Radio 1 sessions, some unreleased demo versions and a live recording made at Rafters in Manchester, and on MM, 11 June 1983, p27 the whole does the chaps little justice. It’s a painful irony that Southern Death Cult, of all people, should have got themselves lumbered with a contractual Southern Death Cult obligation album of the (Beggars Banquet) most transparent sort. The sudden implosion The three live of Southern Death Cult tracks, ‘Crow’, ‘Faith’ a couple of months and ‘Vivisection’, ago, when they seemed are probably best to be on the crest of a forgotten. ‘Crow’ is wave, was a rude shock a mere fragment, to the numerous pundits while the other two who’d been touting them suffer badly from the as everything from The shrill, dry quality of the recording. Meaning Of Life to The Best Rock ‘Faith’ merely demonstrates that Group Since… guitarist Buzz has been listening The very model of to Jimi Hendrix. untogetherness, the Death Cult There are versions of the Cult’s made their hasty exit leaving loose dynamic duo, ‘Fatman’ and ‘Moya’, ends everywhere. This posthumous engineered by Mike Hedges at the LP doesn’t really tidy them up, it Playground studio. ‘Moya’ is slower just collects them together in one and altogether less sinister than place. It can charitably be described the “official” single version cut with Mick Glossop at the helm, while ‘Fatman’ displays a few The Creatures: the Sonny and minor differences in tone Cher of the and balance. Um… so what? psychiatric ward On the more positive side, you get versions of the fine ‘All Glory’ and the passionate ‘False Faces’. ‘Apache’, too, is a useful addition to available Cult material. ‘Today’ is a dramatic non-song, all breast-beating vocal from Ian Lindsay and thundering drums from Aky, demonstrating that SDC were regularly strong on atmosphere but short of decent pegs to hang it on. Finally there’s ‘The Crypt’, which is decked out with moody piano and some weird studio effects – promising, but like the rest of this stuff a mere blueprint for what might have happened if Southern Death Cult had been able to put time and effort into a full scale album. I can’t imagine the group are particularly proud of this tatty compilation, which should really have the phrase “Don’t remember me this way” displayed prominently on the sleeve. Meanwhile, we await their various next moves… Adam Sweeting





For one brief, wonderful winter when I was 11, three of my friends and I formed a small theatre company and showed off to the rest of the school with plays that we wrote, produced and performed ourselves. We’d write a certain scene time and time again – a Rising From The Grave scene, effected by the application of talcum powder to the face and getting up slowly off one’s back with a glazed look in one’s eyes and hands out in front like a sleepwalker. Eventually some squealer spilled the beans and we were hauled up in front of the head – words like “unhealthy” and “morbid” were thrown around. Morbid! We were only HAVING FUN. Siouxsie is stuck in the sort of adolescence in which the stuff dreams are made of is séances, car crashes, ketchup and the house of Hammer – I could never take her seriously with the Banshees, and The Creatures – the Sonny and Cher of the psychiatric ward – are even more transparent. They’re not evil incarnate, they’re comedians. If you take a girl from Chislehurst and drop her on a paradise island – Hawaii in the case of The Creatures’ ‘Feast’ – obviously she’s going to be impressed; but Siouxsie’s instant impressions leave a lot to be desired. The sounds of the sea and the jungle, what with Siouxsie’s complaining, droning voice imposed over them, give the record the flavour of a travelogue narrated by someone recovering from a nervous breakdown; the voices of the

Hawaiians featured seem totally superfluous and show-offy. Siouxsie will hate to face the fact, but what she does is very ’60s, very hippy, very Bad Acid. Her voice often sounds like Julie Driscoll’s, and her songs could be Arthur Brown or Edgar Broughton, or even Donovan. The key words of the record are (in order of popularity) FLOWERS, COLOURS, FIRE and DANCING – very Bad Acid. And the lyrical content throughout is as florid as Denis Healey’s face. There are doubtless many



Glove Story MM, 9 April 1983, p3

Party weary

NME, 18 June 1983, p14

Following months of rumour, The Birthday Party have announced that they are splitting up. Drummer and co-founder Mick Harvey attributed the decision to lack of artistic direction, and audience inflexibility. Brett Wright reports from the band’s home town of Melbourne on their ffi inalfifi dates in Australia, and talks to Nick Cave about his own plans for the future…


he tour was a debacle. They were reasonably well-received in Sydney, but flopped in Perth and flopped in one of two concerts in home town Melbourne. The other Melbourne show was a qualified success, but many felt cheated by the group’s unwillingness to play any more than “eight lousy songs”, as several patrons put it. At the Perth show, the absurdity came to a head. Cave was bitten on the leg by a hospital clerk named Sarah and knocked to the ground by the former lead singer of a band



called The Shuffling Hungarians. Both said they liked Nick a lot. Back in Melbourne a week later, Nick Cave was convalescing at home in his mother’s place in the affluent, tree-lined surrounds of Malvern East. He looked carefully wrecked: dark lines under the eyes; a weary, dismissive manner, drainpipe jeans, a swastika belt buckle… “I have tried to make it clear to the audience that despite what they think, I don’t like being pulled under a crowd… stomping feet and so forth. Now the British audience

treats us in a very different way. It’s like they wait for some sort of signal from the group as to what way we want them to behave.” The group return to their muchhated outpost of London this month – supposedly to complete a double EP which was begun in Berlin before the tour. And that, says Nick, will be “the last project for quite a long time for The Birthday Party”. Cave’s next project is the staging of 50 or so one-minute plays he’s written with Lydia Lunch. He doesn’t have too many details about this project, but he does have a philosophical position on it. “I find theatre the most awkward, restricting medium which you can work in. Which is primarily the reason I’m working in it and why these plays are going to be put on under the banner of traditional theatre rather than performance art or fringe theatre. Or at least, it will be presented under that guise. Once the audience are trapped within the doings of the plays it will be no longer remain respectable.” I bet it won’t.


MM, 16 April 1983, p4

The Glove t

he comely young wife with her hands in the sink smiles as her hubby strolls into the kitchen of her Los Angeles dream home. Just back from the office and starving for his dinner, he skirts the table and folds his arms around her ample waist, twisting her into an affectionate embrace. She tilts her head back to receive his kiss, and suddenly tufts of her hair drift gently to the tiles. As he recoils in horror a carving knife arcs up out of the suds and strikes and strikes and strikes again…

of Steve Severin and Robert Smith, by Steve Sutherland

This, or thereabouts anyway (it’s a long time since I’ve seen it) is a scene from Blue Sunshine, a superbly harrowing B-movie that did the rounds to little acclaim towards the end of the disillusioned ’70s. Taking its name from a reputedly super-potent strain of LSD, its plot was lip-smackingly simple: anybody who had sampled a certain contaminated batch of the said hallucinogenic would, without warning, go bald 10 years to the day that they dropped their trip and then turn into a homicidal maniac. The revenge on or of the love generation?

Some people out there would do well to start checking their diaries smartish. ‘Blue Sunshine’ is also the name of the first and only album by The Glove. This is no coincidence. After all, The Glove – that’s Robert Smith, Steve Severin and Zoo, aka dancerturned-singer Jeanette – took their name from the Blue Meanies’ giant fist-cum-executioner in Yellow Submarine. The same glove that turned back into LOVE when the power of music overcame bad with good. There’s either message or madness in these mindgames.

The further adventures

MM, 3 September 1983, p20



Kitchen sink drama 

Of course, both the Banshees and The Cure have always mucked about with the romantic notion of love, happiest with a relationship to dissect or an emotion to torture into screaming confessions of guilt, so it should come as no surprise that when Smith and Severin’s plan for a single called ‘Punish Me With Kisses’ expanded into a feverishly claustrophobic album project, love should end up on the rack. It does come as something of a shock, however, when Smith sits crosslegged on the floor and says: “It’s quite a happy album really. It’s good that it’s gonna be a summer release.” My mind swiftly retracks in panic… the nightmare-in-a-nursery of ‘Mr Alphabet’… the brooding cacophony of ‘Orgy’… the séance tension of ‘Blues In Drag’? I catch a hint of a smile. I should have known: once a Banshee always a… “We haven’t got together to do this because there’s anything trapping us within the music that we already do,” Severin insists in a whisper. “I know that I’m quite free to do whatever I like within the Banshees and always have. “The main reason the whole thing started was because, when I listened to The Cure, I could understand why Robert was putting a certain thing in a certain place; the sense of dynamics and melody was fairly similar to what I was doing with the Banshees. “The main thing now though is it’s a completely different situation, a completely different way of working…” Smith agrees: “It was a real attack on the senses when we were doing it. We were coming out of the studio at six in the morning, watching all these really mental films and then going to sleep and having really demented dreams and then, as soon as we woke up, we’d go virtually straight back into the studio, so it was a bit like a mental assault course towards the end. “When we were writing the words, we were picking up on things we’d experienced within the time of doing the album. I mean, God, we must have watched about 600 videos at the time! There’d be like all these after-images of the films we’d watched cropping up in the songs. “It wasn’t deliberate, but after a while, they were chosen, I think, almost as influences. When we were waking up, in the half-hour or so that we were just like in a coma, I’d put on a fi lm or a piece of music that was completely different to what we’d been doing the night before, so that it would influence the day. We’d set ourselves the task of writing two songs a day, so it was the only way we could refresh ourselves.” “We just kept going at it,” Severin confirms. “We had to make it sound complete. At the beginning, it was just like a dozen, 15 songs completely different from each other.” “Songs?” laughs Smith. “It sounded like 15 different groups! The other thing that influenced it, talking about snippets, was the amount of junk we were reading, the amount we



their fame. Where others make commercial success the be-all of their existence, the Banshees contingent want to use it as a weapon. Hence the splintering of the band into its offshoots – experiments with the attraction of reputation. “It’s basically an album and that’s where it’s gonna stop,” says Severin of The Glove. “And that’s what The Creatures is, just one album. The more time The Creatures are seen to be around, the more people think, ‘Have the Banshees split up?’ And all sorts of nonsense. So we’re just gonna do the minimal amount, then concentrate on other things.” “To me, it seems perfectly natural to be involved in so many different areas,” says Smith. “But it still seems odd to other people, Funny that…”

The trap is

Severin and Smith: Evil Dead meets the Blue Meanies

The Glove’s‘ Blue Sunshine’ sounds like a journey into the tunnel oflove that took a wrong turn into the horrors spent on idiot magazines and stuff like that! We were making big murals of all these cuttings and pictures and stuff, big day-glo posters.” And the films? “Oh, The Brood, Evil Dead, Helicopter Spies, Inferno… I dunno, what else? Some Divine stuff… Yellow Submarine…” Ah, but what purpose these days to such perversions of love? Can they act as anything beyond kitsch, choreographed titillation?

The love-peace vision of the ’60s has long been reduced to a fashionable quirk and ridiculed for its naivety. We tend to dismiss the whole ethos as stoned-out lunacy and look instead to cut-throat private enterprise as a means of personal, rather than global, salvation. So much for Sergeant Pepper and Blue Sunshine. And even the promise of promiscuity and dark fantasies fulfilled – inherent in Severin’s chosen pseudonym and Smith’s psychotic imagery – are a confusion, a wry comment on society’s sordidly accepted double standards. On the surface, ‘Blue Sunshine’ sounds like a journey into the tunnel of love that took a wrong turn into the horrors. But underneath, there beats a subliminal pulse, a frantic desire to test out ways of working within the confines of pop without contributing to its malaise. Severin and Smith want to do something with

, of course, that ensuring your own working environment remains vibrant doesn’t mean that what you produce will be valid to anybody else. Just because Robert Smith plays a lot more keyboards than guitar on The Glove album doesn’t necessarily mean the album’s any good. Severin is acutely aware of the problem. “The idea that The Glove could get away with anything vanished very quickly because it became a real responsibility to get it to sound not indulgent. What I wanted was for it to have more of a specific personality than the Banshees or The Cure. “I think we’ve nearly got to an idea of what me and Robert are like as people, our relationship. Songs like ‘Blues In Drag’ are the kind of thing I’m most pleased about because, if the Banshees had approached that from the beginning, it wouldn’t have ended up like that. I just wanted to do something a bit… softer, a bit more… introverted, probably. That’s what I wanted to achieve, the kind of things that are exclusive to our friendship. “Everybody I’ve played this to has almost immediately said it sounds really fresh and added to that by saying that everything else that’s coming out now is really horrible. “Last year, ‘Fireworks’ being in the charts was unusual and this year, when a Banshees single gets into the charts, it’ll be even more unusual because the climate’s just horrific!” “Chartwise, so much of it’s down to melody,” Smith intrudes. “You find yourself humming most of the Glove songs but, at the same time, they’re not pop songs. I like that about it.” The Banshees coterie are more vulnerable now than ever because, in a musical climate that encourages safety and contrition, being different for being different’s sake is one hell of a virtue. The Banshees/Glove/Creatures’ particular genius is that not only do they advocate constant change but they remain fertile and unbridled rather than cynical or calculated. “We haven’t got a clue what the next Banshees album is gonna be like,” Severin chuckles. “If you stuck the Creatures album and The Glove together, I don’t think anybody could know what is coming next from the Banshees. There’s a certain amount of glee involved in that but it’s not contrived at all.” “No,” Smith agrees, smiling. “Just manic.”


Twindrops Keep Falling On My Head

NME, 10 DECEMBER 1983, p26

Robin and Elizabeth are The Cocteau Twins – but they don’t like to brag about it. Paul Morley attempts to discover more about this obscure couple



obin and Elizabeth, two friends, are sat, drinking tea from cheap mugs, in the kitchen of their flat. It is a Wednesday. The flat, in Muswell Hill, London N10, they share with some people I do not meet. Robin and Elizabeth have their own room where they sleep and which they tidy. In the kitchen they make the tea and plan the day. The kitchen looks just like a kitchen that a few people share – well used. You almost want to pat it on the back and say well done for all it’s been through. Robin and Elizabeth sit on small wooden chairs at a skinny table. Calm, I burst in, noisy, with a carrier bag of strong lagers and a plastic case containing a mono Sony recorder and two TDK C90 cassettes. Storm. The couple in the kitchen are soft, and quiet, and remote, and only really smile for each other. Robin eyes me suspiciously. Elizabeth grips her mug as though it contains wonderful secrets. “So what do you want to talk to us about?” asks Robin, using a soft Scottish voice that is quite at home in this cold, shared kitchen fi lled with old, used utensils. He places a careful, deprecating emphasis on the ‘us’ and at the same time he challenges me. Oh, vague things, I say. The couple consider this reply. Vaguely. The three of us get used to our positions in

Mere Mortals

Robin softly

complains: “Everybody at our record company tells us how popular and important The Cocteau Twins are, but I can’t comprehend any of that. All we have to go on is our record sales, and we don’t really sell that many records.” That was something to think about. We needed something to laugh about. I asked Elizabeth if she considered herself a writer: by this time she was talking to me, not sneezing or staring down past her knees at the clean carpet.

who found, somehow, that she could sing. A technician and a voice. “That’s a bit hollow,” Robin snorts. Well, tell me more, I implore. “Oh, we’ve been spilling our bloody life stories out to you…” he sneers. Spilling? This was an exaggeration. Dripping, more like. A couple of drops. Twin drops were falling on my head. It was torture.

I asked

Elizabeth if she was excited about being a Cocteau Twin. I thought it might be interesting if she could explain whether being a Twin had taken her anywhere exciting, disturbing, stimulating, and I didn’t mean on a bus. Are you excited about being a Cocteau Twin? “Yes and no.” Drip and drop. In what ways yes and no… “Er…” A pause as long as your grandmother’s life. Or death. “Oh…” A pause as long as a sleepless night. The clock ticks. The traffic turns. “Oh God…” C’mon woman. “I’m going to say sorry again…” “What are you trying to provoke us into saying?” demands Robin. Tell me some stories, tell me where you are, tell me where you might have been… tell me something. Unfair, decides Robin. “I don’t think we should have to explain anything. I would have thought that the music explains everything really…” You feel that the music is the end, not the beginning. You won’t accept that your music, something you feel very close to and involved with and therefore special to you, will attract attention and questioning… you don’t seem to want to acknowledge all the complications that must go with making pop music. “It all comes from a rejection I have of certain

“People would come along to interview us and they’d go, ‘Oh God, we thought you at least looked good!” Are you a writer? “No.” Do you call yourself a singer? “No.” So what do you call yourself? She turns to Robin, touches his leg. “Oh, you’ve got a lot of names that you call me, haven’t you…” Robin smiles at her: “You’re a wee bastard, that’s what you are…” That made us laugh. Robin looks into a corner of the room: “I get a funny feeling up my nose and my back when people go on about having to label yourself.” He looked as if he was in some sort of pain. Robin and Elizabeth are The Cocteau Twins. If you wondered why we were all brought together, it was to talk about The Cocteau Twins, or not talk, or try to talk. At the end of our talk-not-talk I tell Robin that I have a conclusion about The Coctwins. I conclude that The Cocteau Twins are one detached Scottish boy who wants to be a record producer, and one distant Scottish girl



ideas in the music business… the selling… the competing… the music is there, it represents a particular time for us, and there it is… If I was someone else I wouldn’t want to know about me, all those little personal details, my opinions, that’s all to do with packaging, a packaging I don’t want to know about…” Is this purity possible in such a rough, raucous world? “Well, it’s a nice thought to have with you…” But it means that you’re completely defensive all the time, even towards people who are, so to speak, on your side. “On the whole in interviews I am defensive because generally the first question is, ‘Oh, why do you copy Siouxsie & The Banshees?’ Something like that. “In the days of ‘Garlands’, especially, people had these notions that we would be clad in leather, with make-up all over, and po-faced. People would actually come along to interview us and they’d ask us where The Cocteau Twins were. They’d go, ‘Oh God, we thought you at least looked good!’” Robin smirks out of a kind of triumph – he cannot hide it, although he tries – at this memory. Elizabeth shivers a little, as if this memory, like most others, was a cold wind.

Will enters

The species cocteaus geminus emerges from its burrow. Liz and Robin with Will Heggie (left)

our time together. Will and Robin wanted to make some music together, there in Scotland, and found Elizabeth dancing in a club. If she could dance that well, it was decided, surely she will sing superbly. I look at Elizabeth sat on the bed, as perplexed to be involved in a conversation about pop music as your grandmother would be, dead or alive, and I find it hard to think that she has ever danced. She rubs her fingers. At that time, had you nothing planned, did you know where you were going, or where you would be pushed? Elizabeth cannot quite flick this memory into play. Robin answers. “I think this is probably the last place she thought she’d end up.” It’s Elizabeth’s regretful, exultant voice that


the kitchen, defending in our own ways the almost handsome silence. I open a bottle of strong lager. Robin, at a distance, mixes a gin and tonic and adds a slice of lemon. Elizabeth, to my surprise, frantically rubs her fingers together, in a state of true anguish. I thought I’d been invited, but it appears I am an intruder. I could kill them, because they make me feel so ugly. But I had a feeling this would be indulgent, so I gently enquired if we would have to talk in the open wilds of the kitchen. They invite me into their room. Traffic turns right outside the windows in this room, which doesn’t smell of anything, and a clock ticks proudly by their bed. You can hardly hear Robin defending his virtue and describing his disappointments, and even he seems to be bawling compared to Elizabeth. The loudest noise she made was the first noise she made during the conversation, after many meandering minutes. She sneezed, startling me, Robin and herself. At one point Robin will pull a hair from Elizabeth’s throat: the length of the hair shocks us all, but don’t worry, it wasn’t growing out of her throat. It must have fallen there somehow. Records in the room are stacked very neatly. The room is dustless, there isn’t really a hair out of place. Or at least, if there is, it is removed with some drama, and it finds its proper place. Oblivion, or something. They’re from Falkirk.


Will leaves the time we have together. He played bass in the group until a long European tour supporting OMD: this tour hit them flat with the impact of routine and the greyness of repetition and only the two lovers could survive. “As much as I’d like to be able to say I’ve not spoken to Will since we split out of choice, I can’t. I’d love to speak to him, I just can’t bring myself to talk to him. I’m sort of frightened. He was like my best friend for eight years or whatever and suddenly he’s not here.” How can this be? “I don’t want to talk about it.” From sight, from mind. Loss, and gain.

Talking to Elizabeth, she makes me so frustrated

Liz and Robin: “You’re a wee bastard, you are”

I could hit her over the head with a lager bottle. Hearing her sing, she just leaves me moved. When did you realise you could sing? Robin answers: “It was a Cocteau Twins rehearsal. When we first started she would never sing until Will went home for his tea.” Elizabeth boldly interferes: “He fucking told Will he’d heard me sing and he hadn’t.” So Elizabeth having this supernatural voice was… fate. “Fate’s a rather romantic word for it,” says Robin, “Luck was more like it. I suppose fate will look better in print.” Was it a kind of liberation, Elizabeth, when you discovered you could sing? Elizabeth flutters… Robin answers. “It started off wonderfully, I thought.” Can you remember the moment? “I can…” smiles Robin. “I burst out laughing. I was just amazed.” What did you sing? “I can’t remember… OH!” she squeals, delightedly, unexpectedly. “I remember! Four lines, I’d written four lines… I had to squeeze them out… they were awful…” The memory rapidly burns itself out. “I can’t remember them.” Was it a liberation for you to sing? “I didn’t keep at it…” Elizabeth fades away. Robin: “She wanted to be a singer, then she didn’t, then she did…” When did you want to be a singer – why? This question seemed important, considering the uncanny power Elizabeth discovers when she sings. “Oh, I don’t know what to say… I never think about these things… it’s all very natural… we don’t force ourselves in any way…” Is this beauty? This rare, precious belief in ‘the natural’? Are you scared that you might lose something if you analyse it? Robin: “Well, if we just made records to make everybody else happy, we’d make shitty records.” In your lyrics, Elizabeth, are you trying to compile your own logic, make up your own sense, create your own reality? “No… no… I don’t think that’s right at all…” Do you know what you do? “No… but I don’t think that’s right at all…”

“I think about cooking the tea and Elizabeth about hoovering the carpet” has over the last 18 months, between the two LPs ‘Garlands’ and ‘Head Over Heels’, made The Cocteau Twins just that little bit better, a little bitter brilliance, a little brittle beauty. A light at the beginning of the tunnel. Elizabeth declares war on established language, and the songs allow a kind of orbit or cluster of possible responses, tangential readings and splintered echoes. The songs pivot inwards and we follow as best we can. The Twins’ music has a magic that has cut through everything that should have destroyed it: their innocence and insolence, which in the cold plight of the pop interview sometimes just seems a stupid modesty or a hopeless purity, has somehow worked, and a standard success has come to them. They are baffled by this. “The more successful we become,” says Robin, “the more it will get cocked up, the more we will have to do things that are nothing to do with the music… and we’ll probably feel shitty about it.” Isn’t the attention you are receiving a kind of reward?” “The idealist in me says, ‘No, fuck that, it doesn’t matter about people’s attention’… the realist in me says it’s quite nice for eating and things like that. You have to survive.” Do you feel that maybe The Cocteau Twins can encourage other people because out of nowhere, you have shown that it is possible to establish an audience in this deadening joyless world, making something unique and unclouded? Robin lets this soak in. Elizabeth doesn’t let it touch her. “I would say we’re the biggest shits, no example to anyone. We’re such a mess… we never think about those kind of things…” You don’t think about yourself at all? Robin: “Not on that sort of level… I think about cooking the tea and Elizabeth about hoovering the carpet… like mere mortals you could say…”

Elizabeth sneezes. It’s a very loud sneeze. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. It’s OK, I say. But she’s gone. Maybe she’s in the kitchen. Robin tries to join her. There’s time for me to go.

NME, 5 November 1983, p35

COCTEAU TWINS Head Over Heels (4AD)

The Cocteau Twins’ new record suggests infinite distance, or at least a massive space. Its first boom is like an avalanche. From there they wing a course over soundscapes that hypothesise Phil Spector producing ‘Spellbound’. Till I heard this, I considered Liz and Rob a Banshees for the bedsit: Liz Fraser, I thought, a Siouxsie-as-SandieShaw; Rob Guthrie as a doughboy McGeoch. I still say there’s something hollow and vaporous at work here, but when Liz is singing cosmic Chrissie Hynde and Rob is striating these ice-floes with crystal shards of guitar and huge splashes of percussion and carrying the girl away in a swirling, swooshing mist of sound, I’m not going to quibble. It’s probably a good thing, too, that we can’t hear Liz’s words, if the sleeve’s snippets – “Fig up my love paramount/Ooze out and away onehow” – are any indication of their general quality. Better to think of this extraordinary voice as being just an exotic sort of instrument. Were the sound more thistled, more thorny, Liz would be a proper Mavis of the moors, but the warp’n’woof of the lass’s warble is not one of dulcet heather purity but of, how can I say it, dry ice. That is its mysterious charm. In her elementally naïve universe, sheets and flesh don’t figure much. Everything is sugar, tinderboxes, glass and candles. It is empty of sex; empty, too, of fear and joy. You flow to pure space, soar to endless ice-capped peaks: an alien child-world. The record, this wreath of epic innocence, only comes undone when The Cocteau Twins get too cocooned, too gloved – in Banshees. Then they are weak. ‘Multifoiled’ is their poor ‘Cocoon’, in fact; ‘Tinderbox Of A Heart’ is just too morbidly deadpan. Other parts of Side Two suffer from the languor of ‘A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’. But then, of course, the record goes out on its most exultant, unabashed passionade, ‘Musette And Drums’, an impossibly cavernous finale to the free flight we have enjoyed across such spectacular surfaces. Did I mention escapism? These are garlands where I feel secure. Barney Hoskyns NME ORIGINALS


Feverish concoctions

NME, 29 January 1983, p15

BAUHAUS Lagartija Nick (Beggars Banquet)

Now that they’ve broken down the doors of the music biz with their inch-perfect ‘Ziggy Stardust’ (that was their plan, you dig), Bauhaus offer us… revolution? Salvation? Anarchy? Actually no. Just another lifeless, predictable rock song with all the usual trappings of pompous vocals, forgettable riffs and numbskull drums and bass. What catalysts you turned out to be boys, eh? Paulo Hewitt

MM, 9 July 1983, p22

THE CREATURES Right Now (Polydor)

No one else had a hope this week. The Creatures slipped in, ransacked the place and left with the best ideas in a fast car. From the earliest seconds of ‘Right Now’ you know you’re on shifting ground. Siouxsie babada-babing to the noise of her own fingers clicking until Budgie barges in with congas on speed. Christ, which way is this going? The one direction you don’t expect is a vagrant big band coughing out drunken bursts of brass in a Starlight Room of its own making. There’s no telling where their feet are going to fall next. Probably on your head. Paul Colbert



MM, 13 August 1983, p22

THE GLOVE Like An Animal (Polydor)

The Severin-Smith axis of the Banshees finally break cover with a vivacious confection. Eminently preferable to the Gothic big band swing of The Creatures’ ‘Right Now’, this is a feverish concoction: ignore the lyric, the words are nonsense; just listen to the noise. ‘Like An Animal’ sparkles. Whooshing swathes of synthesizer and keyboards erupt colourfully and continuously; jangling guitars peel away, mostly on the lip of the main action; the percussion clatters with a nervy rattle that recalls Wall Of Voodoo, while the bass simply hums through the mix, playing a melody adapted from the final vocal cascades of The Go-Betweens’ ‘Cattle And Cane’, providing a challenging counterpoint to Jeanette’s keenly pitched but rather thin vocal. ‘Like An Animal’ provides the same kind of spacious rush as The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ and races along with the exhausting momentum of the thunderclap climax of Love’s ‘Seven And Seven Is’. Are The Glove the new West Coast experimental pop art ensemble? Whatever: like all good pop records, ‘Like An Animal’ sounds like it’s always been there. The Glove may yet prove to be a real handful. Allan Jones

NME, 17 September 1983, p19

Tobe Hooper to direct a series of Jeeves, ‘The Lovecats’ is a post-modernist’s dream of a nightmare, a purrrfect example of the past purrrceived impurrfectly, then put to use on this purposeful madness, the last of The Cure’s “fun” single trilogy. ‘The Lovecats’ is Smith’s masterpiece of disorientation, a mental collage of history unhinged. Herman Munster takes spiked tea with Jean Cocteau while a taxidermist twitches the net curtains in anticipation of a cannibal feast. But how to praise something so zany? Well, at a pinch it’s psychedelic cocktail jazz, a strychnined nursery rhyme where every allusion (illusion!) triggers off a tunnel of flashbacks, but it’s so much sillier than that. Sing the slap-dash chorus, swoon to that devil-may-care decadent swing. Single of the week? Single of the year(s)! Steve Sutherland

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Dear Prudence (Polydor)

A beautiful sleeve and a less than astonishing cover. As Siouxsie’s pop standing dissolves from light to dark and back again the records of her group are getting fogged and indecisive. Whirlybird guitars and even some nostalgic phasing scarcely paper over a cracking and under-fed treatment of a dried-out chestnut. And it goes on, and on. What will they do next – ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’? Richard Cook

MM, 29 October 1983, p22

THE CURE The Lovecats (Fiction)

As if some macabre folly cast Vincent Price instead of Jeremy Irons in Brideshead Revisited, or some sinister senility chose

MM, 3 December 1983, p27

COCTEAU TWINS Sunburst And Snowblind (4AD)

When The Cocteau Twins perfected their impersonation of Joy Division nobody liked them much; now they’ve learnt another act – The Banshees’ gothic wall of sound – it seems suddenly they’re very desirable. Yet this four-track EP only serves to underline that the Twins still prefer artifice to substance. Everything about their music appears to have been chosen because of its superficial immediacy: the grandiose guitar lines, the fake majesty of the frequently incomprehensible lyrics, even the fatuous song titles: ‘Sugar Hiccup’ and ‘Because Of Whirl-Jack’! This is music for people who want to play at being serious young persons but lack the resolve to see it through to the bitter/positive end. Ian Pye

Chapter 6



Look At My Squalor!

NME, 19 May 1984, p33

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS From Her To Eternity (Mute)

‘From Her to Eternity’ is one of the greatest rock albums ever made. Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’ is, I think, the last album to achieve such extremity of feeling, scope of reference to animate it, and theatrical panache to bind it all together. Dynamic, subtly layered, funny and obsessive, ‘From Her To Eternity’ is the work of a visionary unfettered by worship of the romantic rock’n’roll mythology, and who thus reaches peaks hitherto unscaled. Like ‘Horses’, ‘From Her To Eternity’ starts with a cover. Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ looms ominously for a few seconds, then explodes into a melodramatic demon-showman snarl not far removed from one of Nick’s heroes, Alex Harvey. That gap-toothed stage pirate was a master of sinister disguise and distorted self-projection, and so too is Nick. ‘Avalanche’ has as its protagonist a vengeful hybrid of Caliban, Christ and Nietzsche’s Superman. Whether you like your savage messiahs wellread or not, you can’t escape the, er, avalanche of ‘Avalanche’: you will hear no more slashing, grinding, throbbing, wrenchingly physical rock’n’roll ever. The Bad Seeds are drummer Mick Harvey (ex-Birthday Party), bassist Barry Adamson (ex-Magazine), guitarists Hugo Race (ex-Play With Marionettes) and Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten). These men storm the ramparts of sound, these men will make you sweat. When was the last time that happened? To continue: ‘Cabin Fever!’ is a sister song to ‘83’s ‘Mutiny In Heaven’, another tale of Nick the crazed mariner adrift on the boiling seas of soul’s torment. Wheels clank and your mind’s rope is stretched to quivering tautness. Never has a keel-hauling and a hanging been so much fun. And that rope recurs in ‘Well Of Misery’, and from it “dangles the bucket of sorrow which swings slow like a bell and its toll is dead and hollow”. Note the smooth procession of imagery united in the single theme of death, for Nick’s little girl floats at the bottom of that well. Two favourite songs of Nick’s are ‘Hey Joe’ and Neil Young’s ‘Down By The River’: his motto could be “You always kill the one you love”. From the mordantly stalking bassline through the chain-gang rhythm and chorus

to the extraordinarily twisted bottleneck guitar and harmonica at the end, ‘Well Of Misery’ exemplifies the range and logic of Nick’s songwriting and the staggering musical imagination that has gone into its realisation. ‘Wings Off Flies’ is a malevolent wordassociation game on the themes of life, loss and retribution. Wickedly funny, it’s also worth mentioning that when Mick Harvey’s drums thunder to a crescendo during the first chorus, I nearly fainted with their crushing force. Back to the central concern, the oldest and saddest story of them all, three versions of which fall either side of the spine and right at the very end of the LP. They are the title track, ‘Saint Huck’, and ‘A Box For Black Paul’ – epic tragedies, ‘rock psychodramas’ as they used to be called. We’re talking ‘ Land’, we’re talking ‘The End’, we’re talking ‘Heroin’, we’re talking ‘Desolation Row’… These three songs aspire to an ambition greater still than ‘Mutiny In Heaven’, Cave’s masterpiece thus far. A whole welter of referential detail has been plundered from cliché-dom to be restored to its original force, though not perhaps a force of quite the same meaning as when first coined. “Achtung!” : in ‘Saint Huck’ you will be crushed by a relentlessly stormtrooping drive from claustrophobia to lebensraum; Robert Mitchum’s fake Southern preacher out of Charles Laughton’s Night Of The Hunter, ‘LOVE’ and ‘HATE’ tattooed on clenched white knuckles, an Amerikan Gothic knell tolling across the turgid Mississippi. Melodramatic yes, but overwrought no. ‘From Her to Eternity’, the song, is an epic, starring the most icy scalpel of a piano motif ever to cut to the heart of trauma. And backing it up is an arsenal of breakdown, electrocution and massacre that rises and rises in the multiple orgasm of a man torturing himself to death. And finally the funeral oration of ‘A Box For Black Paul’. A piano maudlin with moonshine melancholy drifts over a steaming swamp, surveying the aftermath of the lynching of Black Paul. (BP also stands for Birthday Party, and that inquest’s verdict must thus stand as murder, not suicide.) Death has reared up again, and so this elegy wends it way to the broken heart of Elvis’ ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, rewritten as the testament of a man whose loved one has not survived her leaving him. And thus Nick’s girl finally fades away in the coda, leaving just the echo of the sound that’s dominated this record, the mutated electric blues collage of a man as much in the tradition of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Moanin’ At Midnight’ as he is of Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov… As I said, this is one of the greatest rock albums ever made. Mat Snow

You wil hear no more slashing, grinding, throbbing, wrenchingly physical rock’n’roll ever



If this I’m


is heaven bailing out


he enigma of The Birthday Party, like that of Werner Herzog’s saintly idiot Kaspar Hauser, begins with grunts in the darkness and ends in murder. Slithering between irony and tragedy last year, The Birthday Party slug finally sliced itself open on that razor’s edge, but instead of the unsightly mess you might have expected, it left behind the finest examples of its art in ‘The Bad Seed’ and ‘Mutiny’ – two four-track EPs that shone through the amorphous mass of transparent mediocrity released in 1983. Both are testaments of romantic daring and sick obsessiveness, full of feverish images of guilt, pictures of murder that are simultaneously horrendous and secretly attractive. It was at that point that it first became clear that Nick Cave’s songwriting was departing from every mode known to rock and developing into some new, iridescent form, by turns trenchant and direct, epic and overblown. Meanwhile, the music was hurling itself into a state of wild, epileptic disorder. And yet in the midst of the crash, Nick captured the mood of modern Britain with an acute perception that the desperate, depressing worthiness of a Weller could never have approached: “At night my body blushed to the whistle on the birch”, he raved. “With a little practise I learned to use it on myself ”. With that line, ostensibly referring to religion, he encapsulated the masochism of a nation that seems to be yielding any notion of individual power to a higher authority. It was a reaction against the dulling of the imagination. It ended The Birthday Party in the only way possible – violently.

Who is the real Nick Cave and will he ever emerge from his gallery of masks borrowed from classical fiction and the hallowed museums of rock’n’roll? Don Watson goes in search of old Nick as he releases his debut solo LP, ‘From Her to Eternity’

NME, 12 May 1984, p28

emerged with a solo LP, ‘From Her To Eternity’. Released from all controls, Cave’s songwriting has spiralled into a wild and wheeling poetry of cruelty, pursuing the most nightmarish strands of The Birthday Party’s fascinations. It’s not constructed without a certain humour, but it’s dark, even by the standards of The Birthday Party. ‘From Her To Eternity’ is a statement of romantic irrationalism stretched to the very limits. Talk to Nick Cave and you’re talking to a variety of characters. Like JG Ballard he views external reality as a sinister novel, and he seeks to play more parts: the irresponsible artist, the wounded romantic, the hunched grotesque, the Nietzschean individualist. He plays with the cartoon personae of Nick Cave in the same manner that he manipulates the images of Elvis Presley or Iggy Pop. Right now he’s playing a character very close to the consumptive hag displaying her blood spots in Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment, as he indicates the cramped surroundings of his current living conditions. Look at my squalor! “Nice, isn’t it?” he asks with ironic relish as we enter the single room he shares with Bad Seeds Blixa Bargeld (also of Einstürzende Neubauten) and Hugo Race. At the moment, though, Blixa has fled to Berlin and Hugo to Oxford, leaving Nick to share the room with a handful of telephone messages, a copy of Moby Dick and a treasured portrait of GI period Elvis Presley. He runs nicotine-stained fingers through his back-combed nest of hair, an amused glance reflected in the bathroom mirror as he watches NME ORIGINALS


From the wreckage of ‘Mutiny’, Cave has now


In The Ghetto 

the latest voyeurs stumbling around in search of standing space amid the dirty laundry. “I always think it’s important to show people where you live,” he continues. So what are the chances that Nick Cave will give himself away? Show us the bleeding heart he delights in setting against the swastika? Well, first we’d have to distinguish just which one of the many faces on show, both here and elsewhere, precisely is Nick Cave. His art is one of dramatic fakery, executed with a wicked delight in defying expectation. Of course there’s the Wild Man Of Rock/ Thinking Man Of The Modern Age dichotomy between the most readily recognisable Nick Cave stage personae and the calm and contemplative demeanour of Nick Cave the interviewee. But his gallery of masks contains less easily classifiable characters than that – some borrowed from history, some from classical fiction, some from the most hallowed museums of rock’n’roll. In his songs fiction merges into reality: the shadow of Raskolnikov mingles with Hamlet; Cave’s own creations – Gun, King Ink, The Dim Locator – mix with hybrids like Saint Huck. All of them are partly, but never entirely, Cave himself. His latest fascination stares down at us from the wall. “I’ve just joined the Elvis Presley Fan Club,” he grins. “They’re sending me some posters; can’t imagine I’ll go to many of the meetings though.” The Presley infatuation is reflected in a vocal inflection at the end of ‘Box For Black Paul’; more specifically there’s the next single, a version of ‘In The Ghetto’. “There’s very little in it to suggest that it’s recorded with anything other than the greatest respect and admiration,” he says with a certain bemusement. “I love it – but I can imagine a Birthday Party fan might have some difficulty knowing what to make of it.” As with most of Cave’s fascinations, his interest in Presley is in his decline, in the artifice rather than the art. “The influence that I get from any fictional character,” he says, “is from their cartoon selves, the point at which they themselves become clichés. In that sense, all of my own characters are cartoons of themselves as well, in that they begin with a stock cliché that people can latch on to, that will trigger off the desired initial impression. “You have to remember what a cliché is – which is something that was formerly powerful, but through overuse has become meaningless. You can restore its meaning by putting it in a different setting.”

form at all, but he has some method of tuning the instrument that can produce the most amazing noises without the use of any effects whatsoever. He would regard using footpedals or whatever as a hopelessly middle class, public school form of playing.” Where the music is simple and direct, though, the lyrics have developed a new complexity. The images are direct and violent, but there’s always something deeper and darker than the surface indicates. It makes demands on the listener that Nick describes with a typical arrogance. “I see it in same the way as a tight, tense drama in the cinema – my songs require you to listen to the storyline from beginning to end, to listen to and understand each line. Otherwise you get lost in the same way as you would if you decided to visit the toilet in the final scenes of Taxi Driver and expect to know what the film is about.” As he proclaims, he has abandoned any careerist notions that he might have entertained. It’s a brave attempt to escape the tyrannies of commercial punishment and reward. “I would like to escape defining my own reality in terms of punishment and reward, in preference to what I consider to be good and bad. “Those lines in ‘Mutiny’ referring to punishment and reward were intended to point the finger at religion, and why people believed in the conventional concepts of good and bad, which are based on greed and fear. “I’m very interested in discovering something within myself that is not affected by other forces. I have very strong feelings that the way I am is not due to the influence of my parents or my environment that I was brought up in – any

external factors are basically quite superficial. I would like to consider myself totally alone and above those influences, which is to do with developing a character that is sufficiently strong not to be influenced by the way that other people think, but to develop a moral code that is not under the influence of ordinary laws and religious laws – and be able to live under that without a nagging conscience.”

Murder, of course, looms large in Cave’s scheme of things. “My songs are fairly harmless vehicles for expressing what I might entertain within my mind,” Cave says. “The things that I write about are things that, outside of the obvious difficulties, I would like to witness. I don’t dwell on these themes in order to be controversial. There are things that I do for those reasons but they’re very deliberate and obvious things that are making a comment on the idea of being controversial, and how ridiculous and shallow such a way of life is.’’ You mean the vacuity of the good-old fashioned shock value? “Well… In the case of the swastika I’ve always used it in the most deliberately moronic fashion. I’ll also do that in the writing, by inserting a line that is deliberately shocking or irresponsible. It’s finding those symbols and thoughts that are far more shocking in certain contexts than they are in others. As I’ve said, certain clichés in the right context can still be reasonably effective…” As the conversation continues in a local pub, an old man leans across to our table, and fi xes Nick with a stare. ‘’You’re an arrogant fellow,’’ the old man accuses. ‘’I’ve got a right to be, I’m a famous person,’’ Nick replies. “I’ve just done a European tour.’’ “Oh yeah, what’s your name?’’ “I’m Napoleon,’’ answers Nick, with a twinkle. Yes, the role of the irresponsible artist as provocateur, as enemy of the tidy world of liberal moralists has been in existence for some time now, long enough now to qualify for cliché status. All the same, some of us are grateful that the rich tapestry of rock’n’roll has been splattered with the pus and gore of The Velvet Undergrounds, the Iggy Pops, the Foetuses and the Nick Caves, figures who will play with fire and seek to scorch the glossy package of the shiny pop fantasy. Nick Cave is an ardent irrationalist, too complex a creature to plod the straight line of the liberal path. His images are a perpetual provocation contrived to throw even his admirers into a state of crisis.

Musically, ‘From Her to Eternity’ is a sparse sound, snagged with Blixa Bargeld’s corruption of the blues guitar. As a longstanding friend of Nick’s, Blixa was the natural choice – not only because Neubauten’s philosophy is in accord with Cave’s “search for a simpler, more directly violent” form of expression, but because as a non-musician he is incapable of seeing things in a conventional manner. “As far as I can work out, Blixa can’t actually play the guitar in the conventional



“I would like to define this irrationalism as the ultimate principle of infinity in our art… the yearning for meaning in madness… the continuation of life by other means, including the issues of guilt, the work of mourning as the reflection of this loneliness of infinity. At its start suffering; and at its end morality.’’ – Hans-Jurgen Syberberg, taken from Hitler: A Film From Germany.


“I’ve got a right to be arrogant. I’m famous. I’m Napoleon”


MM, 9 June 1984, p32

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Hyaena (Wonderland)

Robert Smith: tipped for ‘The Top’

MM, 5 May 1984, p24




Trying to get to the bottom of ‘The Top’ is a bit like trying to decide whether a happy lunatic would be better off sane. It’s silly and sinister, like Syd Barrett. It’s selfish, irresponsible, perfectly amoral and completely incompatible with anything else happening now or, indeed, anything that’s probably ever happened. It’s playing practical jokes where the victim dies. It’s Vincent Price in Theatre Of Blood – plotting, sawing the head off another nice song. In a way it’s as carefree and cocky as the ‘White Album’ but it never sounds wilfully disorganised. Its logic is strict, just unhinged.

‘The Top’ is psychedelia that can’t be dated, the sounds and shapes of somebody revelling in an identity crisis. It recognises no values but its own existence; no rules, no precedents, no preconceptions. ‘The Top’ is perfect freedom. I’ve yet to meet anyone who can tell me why The Cure are having hits now of all times. Have we discovered something in Smith’s busy lethargy (two bands and still dreaming all day!), and if so, what? Or has Smith uncovered some twitching nerve near our funny bone that reacts instinctively to his whimsical tortures? Whatever’s going on, Smith has done what all the Wellers have been bleating on about – he’s escaped his past and wriggled out of the cul-de-sac that we knew and loved to death as The Cure. He doesn’t care what we

think any more – he’s not the guitar hero in black with a head stuffed with Camus, but he could be next Wednesday if he felt like it. He just doesn’t give two hoots. Smith’s voice is all over the place: mock-passionate, whining, daft as Steve Harley, devious as Devoto. Where his head’s at is something else; most of the lyrics sound like video cues to egg on Tim Pope to weirder excesses. Could it be drugs? ‘The Wailing Wall’ could be an acid trip in Israel. Could it be The Banshees? ‘The Top’ itself worms around similar tunnels. Could Smith be a hippy? ‘Dressing Up’ is a gorgeous acoustic ditty, yawning and stretching like vintage String Band. Could it be cunning? Oh, very. There are clues to Smith’s inspiration: the flutey feedback of ‘Wailing Wall’ is Hendrix’s ‘If Six Were Nine’; ‘Give Me It’ echoes Nick Cave’s ‘Mutiny In Heaven’. Still, accounting for ‘The Top’ is like accounting for a dream – you add it all up and there’s still something missing. I reckon either Smith’s gone mad or we have. Maybe both. Who knows? Who cares? Love it! Steve Sutherland

The laughing dog. The scavenger. The survivor, picking over the bones of the past to nourish the present. At times ignoble, essentially alive. This is the Banshees. Their prey may have varied over the years, but it’s still the same old carrion carry-on. At their transcendental best, the Banshees are a million times more than the sum of their parts. That arrogantly independent attitude, those embarrassing excursions into the occult, the creeping spell and the sudden rush of blood is so unique that it takes on a life of its own. There are many such moments on ‘Hyaena’, moments where the Banshees are caught up in the revelry of their own creations. Parts of it are so wistfully carefree that it’s impossible not to credit Robert Smith as the talisman – his irreverence seems to course through everything. ‘Take Me Back’ is the Banshees rollicking like some primitive jazz combo drunk on the Good Lord’s wine. On ‘Belladonna’, Smith’s liquid guitar relaxes Sioux to the extent that she drops a few masks to reveal her vulnerability. When the siren sings “daylight devours your unguarded hours”, she’s illuminating her own predicament so acutely it surely can’t be coincidence. ‘Dazzle’, too, is naively daring: Siouxsie’s voice, framed alone against the firmament of strings. It could be Lloyd Webber’s Cats or something by Vaughn Williams. You can get impressed, wrapped up and lost in this. That’s the beauty but then there’s the complacency. ‘Running Town’ tries to sound eerie but instead of evoking the awful truth behind the clown’s cheery mask, it just sounds giddy and silly. And ‘Hunger For This’ and ‘Pointing Bone’ are just the Banshees being the Banshees. I doubt ‘Hyaena’ could be any other way. It urges itself to the turning point where we stop assuming what the Banshees should be and start accepting that they can do anything they like. ‘Hyaena’ is an immaculate conception. Again. Steve Sutherland NME ORIGINALS


The Last Great Rock Band

‘Horse Nation’ onwards. Gritty and noisy (‘Spiritwalker’) with finesse and calamity (‘83rd Dream’), The Cult take great strides to ease the emotions home. ‘Flower In Dreamtime (Beggars Banquet) The Desert’ and ‘Bad Medicine Waltz’ are not merely hypnotic but “Only connect.” (EM Forster) strangely uplifting and reassuring. Instinctively coveted but Try it, dumbo. words still unclear. So it is with The Stones, eh? Hmm. The The Cult. Something magnificent trouble is that people are no longer glows within these songs, ideas inclined to be shaken awake, and lyrics as emotions swirl, crash particularly since the introduction and dance… of those spectacular video …and connect of course, while nightgowns. But The Cult are on a the over-the-top press release precipice. Not since the Ants have makes much, with tongue piercing there been clandestine guards cheek, of their Rolling Stones meeting commercial success, similarities (in terms of “the future”). without excess. The Ants, of course, It’s not far from the truth. The made that unexpected shift into Cult, almost accidentally, could pantomime, so the crown is there be the last great rock band. With if The Cult want it. They could really their rhythmic ferocity, their guitar do something. predominance and purely unique Musically they are spruce and vocals, membership is open to that hard-hitting. Nigel Preston, man club of U2, Big Country, The Clash of a thousand arms, is a rhythmical and Simple Minds, but there is an lynch-pin of some important difference: versatility. The Cult don’t come His partner, Jamie out of a packet. Stewart (retired from There’s an ethereal acting), is a shade less fire burning in their assertive, although the songs (although the live album (given away title track seems rather free with the first crass), which could have 10,000 copies) shows quite an effect when him in ruthless form. they bite deep into the Billy Duffy (currently charts, as they clearly will. keeping clear of swimming pools) And the beneficiaries of that will exhibits true mastery, the notes are us. Hooked and pampered by falling in viscous ringlets. And of course there’s Ian Astbury. A telescopic voice, rearing up in front and then nipping round the back for a bit of wellgroomed gargling. And this live album, where Ian harangues the sleeping characters at the back, catches them in explosive form: “We played our fucking hearts out for your tonight. The least you could do is show some appreciation!” Get stuck in. All of you. And before I go lads, a piece of The Cult: (l to r) advice in case, on your travels, Billy Duffy, you should come to a town Jamie Stewart, called Altamont. Ian Astbury, Nigel Preston Keep driving. Mick Mercer MM, 25 August 1984, p29




MM, 10 November 1984, p34


Trust true brilliance to arrive by accident. With ‘Treasure’ echoing all around my head, it all seems so obvious. Only something this naive could shake the shame from all categories we worry about. Relax. ‘Treasure’ sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard and everything you’ve ever wished for. Most people change; The Cocteau Twins blossom. The break from the hellish Gothic shackles of the awkward ‘Garlands’ to the heavenly scorpion cocktail jazz of ‘Head Over Heels’ was a metamorphosis beyond the imagining. But how were we to know that the chrysalis had only just cracked, that the colours we were devouring were just a dazzling secretion? Without meaning to, without caring, ‘Treasure’ is what so many strive for – a new pop music. Anyone can listen to this and feel enriched. It’s stirring, sensual, stately, subtle. It’s bubblegum spiked with acid. It’s candy-coloured, it’s timeless. Crack its sugary shell and you read the name right through. Pin its plump, squirming body to a

board and examine its translucent wings and it’s an anatomical marvel. Simon Raymonde’s sturdy, haunting bass forms a vertebrae, the drum machine drops heartbeats like bombs and Robin Guthrie’s guitar congeals into a pale, perfect skin. The creature thus far is grubbing in the dark, begging for sight. It’s the voice that leads it from sweet ambience to poignant emotion. Liz Fraser must be schizophrenic, she speaks in so many tongues. During ‘Lorelei’ she’s a panting orgasm, a celestial turn-on. As ‘Pandora’ she’s The Angel From Ipanema; as ‘Otterly’ she’s the spectral confessor; as ‘Amelia’, the lady with the lamp. It would be easy to point out that The Cocteau Twins use Liz’s voice as an instrument rather than a narrative, but that’s like reducing flight to the motion of muscles. Liz isn’t accomplished, she’s inspired. It’s weird. The Cocteaus barely seem to exist off record. They work like receivers; something plays itself through them and reaches us untainted and pure. There are dimensions to ‘Treasure’ which strike me as spiritual – it invades the body, intoxicates the imagination and succours the soul. Surely this band is the voice of God. Steve Sutherland


Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser: the voice of God





fi ms fi il s from the f k c a r t t a rsese e r ★ 16 g of martin sco


Hooked On Classics

pretentious, three traps which most previous classical/rock experimenters have fallen into headfirst. In fact, the power of a classical orchestra is the perfect foil for the band’s grindingly insistent sounds and there’s something about Siouxsie’s voice which benefits from such a combination of chaos and formality. ‘Overground’ is the undoubted highlight, with the orchestra churning away at a sort of spaghetti western backing full of castanets and snare drums while the guitars snarl angrily between them. A little reminiscent of Deep Purple’s ‘Concerto For Group And Orchestra’… but let’s not go into that. Mark Jenkins

NME, 17 March 1984, p21 Singles

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Swimming Horses (Polydor)

Siouxsie! Listen to me! It is obvious by now that your career will be at its most pungent if it is composed solely of covers, the Cilla Black of the Blackheart Set – nothing wrong with that, someone’s got to do it – so may I recommend ‘Martha My Dear’, the crooner Paul McCartney’s love song to his late sheepdog – it is a Beatles song from ‘The White Album’ (ring a bell?), a song about an animal (you go for our furry friends, don’t you?) and ripe for reproduction. So may I recommend it to you as a wise career move? Oh, sod you, then. Julie Burchill

MM, 12 May 1984, p30

MM, 25 August 1984, p30




Go West (Crazy Spinning Circles)

(Situation 2)

If they keep this up, The Cult soon won’t have a name at all. Still, they can be relied on to deliver a bit of clout, and this bristles with hostile voice and scorchedearth guitar. Not much of a song, unfortunately. Adam Sweeting

(Beggars Banquet)

Exuberant youths become strapping lads, the rebel yell controlled but not calm. There is smooth cloud cover, but you can’t hide the lightning storm within. Mick Mercer

Sioux: the Cilla Black of the Blackheart Set NME, 21 April 1984, p21

Pearly Dewdrops’ Drops



Body And Soul

In The Cocteau Twins scheme of things, putting on a black dress and looked pained = a cosmic Piaf! A plodding tortuous dirge = a mark of sensitivity! Screeching like a doolally fishwife = passion! These precious little people are one of the finest arguments I have ever heard for bringing back National Service. Tony Parsons

(Merciful Release/WEA)




NME, 4 August 1984, p16


Here’s a nugget to start with. As I write, ‘Body And Soul’ has crashed into the Hot 100 at – let’s see, now – number 100. Oh well, it’s magnificent all the same: a gorgeous swell of sensurrounding warmth. Where will the indie charts be without them? … Paul Du Noyer

NME, 25 October 1984, p20


Remixed and remodelled with strings, choirs and all the production of a ‘Hooked On Classics’ effort, ‘Overground’, ‘Voices’, ‘Placebo Effect’ and ‘Red Over White’ do The Banshees credit – it doesn’t sound in the least bit silly, clichéd or

Chapter 7



Amphetamine Logic

MM, 16 March 1985, p30





Steve Sutherland swaps badinage with Andy Eldritch of The Sisters Of Mercy. Eldritch reveals little about his new LP, but we learn that he intends to eat lemons on tour


he self-styled Mr Eldritch drags on his fag and takes another of those long, practised, meditative pauses. I’ve just asked him how come he wasn’t asked to sing on the Band Aid single. Almost a minute elapses. He exhales audibly: “That’s a tough one, isn’t it?” This self-same Mr Eldritch, stubble-chinned and bone-dry behind shades in a Leeds living room, is explaining why The Sisters Of Mercy’s debut album, ‘First And Last And Always’, has taken so damn long to crawl into the light of day. He confirms the rumours of illness, revelling in revealing just what he wants and no more. Just like his songs. “I’ve got the scars to prove it. I think I just started working too hard and, at the end of last summer, my body said, ‘No thank you. This has gone far enough. It’ll end in tears.’ So I’ve calmed down a bit… I enjoy it so much, being strung out for a very long time… I’m told you can’t do it for that long.” This is, of course, the only possible reaction from a man associated with the doomier side of existence. “Doomy is a housewives’ word for realistic. It’s a dangerous world.” Now this Mr Eldritch is a man of starchy intelligence, the sort of fellow you can say words like “art” to and not feel



1985 “You have to laugh at it because you have to like a dickhead. And so it was that I asked him see it for what it might do to the nation’s youth whether his art informed his life or vice versa. and, God forbid, to the nation’s housewives to And, naturally enough, this was exactly the sort hear ‘Amphetamine Logic’.” of question he loves. This Mr Eldritch, as you’ll have doubtless “After so much practice, it’s very difficult not surmised, is one wry customer, a bit of a master to live it so, yeah, the lifestyle informs the art. when it comes to a wind-up and I, too, have had I keep putting myself in this godawful position my moments so we joust a bit and I ask him what quite deliberately. It’s possible to get out of it but he’d say to somebody who considered his antics I’ve chosen not to. pathetic because some people really are ill while “The next question is, ‘Will there come a point his maladies are generally self-induced? where you can’t? And then what will you do?’ “I’d probably tell them to fuck off.” He rasps And the answer is, ‘I don’t know’. I shall probably and I take it to be laughter. “Telling people to just keel over.” fuck off, that sense of glorious vindication, is a I tell this Mr Eldritch that I think he’s a damn primary, motivating factor, I think.” good actor, creating for himself the classic role Rock’n’roll of romantic victim. outlaws, eh? He rather likes this “Aren’t we just! No! notion too. We have appetites! “I’ve spent so long We’re human! We doing this that I can’t have needs! It’s distance the two. And about time we were it’s more interesting pandered to.” than what I was Such as? before. I was so shot “Such as the 12 fresh lemons I have to have when I wrote the lyrics on the album that there’s every night on the next tour.” no distancing of persons at all. It’s not a problem This is exactly the stuff of which legends are to live up to it, it’s just a problem to live, period. made and, of course, Mr Eldritch forever keeps The way I seem to end up living these days, I’m an eye on legend. But I wonder, can someone very aware of how fast the blood’s going round so cryptic with such an advanced, nay, chronic, and how high the sugar level is because I’ve been sense of irony ever attain that status? forced to be aware of it.” “No, because I always let people know just that I now decide it’s time Mr Eldritch and I bit too much. It disturbs them.” stopped beating around the bush and started Mr Eldritch’s favourite word is “oblique” and talking serious drugs so I inform him that, in my yet his followers tend to be the new Goths, the humble opinion, the second side of ‘First And ersatz Siouxsies. Strange. Mr Eldritch’s fantasy Last And Always’ is about being wasted, finding it is much more subversive. He likes to flirt with hard to cope and relishing every agonised second. clichés. He likes twisting his He smirks: “It would be sources. Goddamn, he even dishonest to write anything acknowledges his sources! more homely. I don’t think The Sisters once recorded the band’s particular ‘Gimme Shelter’. pleasures are destructive. “Everybody’s doing It’s horses for courses. At exactly the same thing to our age, you generally know a greater or lesser degree. what’s good for you and We’re just rather shameless what isn’t and, most of the about it. People don’t like to time, you stick to what’s 1. His favourite film is The Blues be reminded of it. They’d good for you. None of the Brothers much rather we went out songs on the album are 2. He supports Manchester there like messiahs from about being a victim of one’s United another planet who’d never own pleasures except in the 3`. He is currently courting Josie heard of Chuck Berry case of getting emotionally from Vicious Pink or…” – he whispers this bit involved with people who 4. He owns a spiffing collection – “…Led Zeppelin.” aren’t very good for you.” of Likely Lads videos If it’s only rock’n’roll, is So what sort of 5. He idolises Jake Thackeray this Mr Eldritch really happy irresponsible hero is this 6. He’s currently launching a being a Sister? man in black who stalks campaign to get Reg Varney as “Smug might be a better the streets of Leeds 4 in a the next Dr Who and, failing that, word. We’re in a good battered cowboy hat? Eleanor Bron position. We can step in “The sort of irresponsible 7. He studied French and German and out of the mainstream hero who makes it very at St Johns, Oxford and then and the band decide what’s clear that certain things Chinese at Leeds University required, not someone else.” are irresponsible. There’s 8. His black coat/cloak was given Is there anyone else, I ask, no actual propagation of to him by The Gun Club who Mr Eldritch reckons is irresponsibility on the 9. He owns the 12-inch of doing anything worthwhile? records and that’s why you ‘Careless Whisper’ although he He pauses that pause: need detachment, irony with doesn’t own a record player. “It’s “Roy Kinnear, always.” a capital I. You have to be important to have the artefact if My, he is a smug bastard clinical about certain aspects the record’s that good.” isn’t he? of portraying any persona, 10. There’s a picture of Jimmy “Well, yeah. Why not?” even if it’s your genuine self. White above his fireplace

“Telling people to fuck off, that glorious vindication, is a primary motivating factor”


Ten things you didn’t want to know about Mr Eldritch

MM, 16 March 1985, p28

THE SISTERS OF MERCY First And Last And Always (Merciful Release/WEA)

James Dean is alive! He’s living in a flat in Leeds disguised as Andrew Eldritch – a 24-hours-a-day enigma, complete with permanently affixed shades. Last year it seemed that success had eluded the Sisters once and for all. But their new album is packed with glistening gems, and just as Andy’s beat-up crow hat appears to be riveted to his head, so his lugubrious baritone-drone rivets the attention – in turns commanding, then inviting, following a path wrought with morbid depression and reeking of misery. “I have heard a million conversations going where they’ve been before/I don’t care for words that don’t belong”. Ah, music to hum over the three-minute warning. Yet the doom-ridden, gloom-trodden world of the Sisters is but half their appeal. Delicacy showers the spheres of ‘Black Planet’ as Wayne’s infectious guitaring slopes and spirals around words cradled with dark innuendo, rhymes invested with sparks of aggression, and a chorus that once heard, is never to be forgotten. The Sisters supplement the intensity of ‘Walk Away’ with the bittersweet tang of ‘No Time to Cry’, while ‘A Rock And A Hard Place’ breathes life into the ossified remains of post-punk using Eldritch’s dulcet tones to bind together the ornaments of instrumentation as they dance on the grave of circumstance. The second side unveils Celtic guitars that career through arid wastelands until they’re swept up by the blistering chorus of ‘First And Last And Always’. The surge of drums finally yields to a sustaining piano note that stretches suspense to a point only dreamt of by Hitchcock. God forbid, but these songs are almost explosive enough to launch a goth revival (the third this year?). Have Mercy! And pass the razor blades. Andrew’s sense of humour rattles with such ominous overtones that laughter takes fright and takes flight. His prowling voice veers dangerously close to pastiche, but the songs are so striped with splinters of power and pain, his words remain dangerous. Here, all past promises have been fulfilled: the Sisters have successfully accumulated a startling array of timeless jewels. It can only be a matter of time before they accumulate success. Ted Mico NME ORIGINALS


MM, 8 June 1985, p34

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS The Firstborn Is Dead (Mute)

Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds continue their excursion into a nightmare world where perdition will never lead to salvation, and pain and horror are not fleeting agonies, but the only true religion. Despite the obvious drawbacks of coming from Australia (and not the Deep South), being white (and not black), and looking like a cadaver (and not having a dead grandfather who was a slave) Cave has achieved

a startling grasp on the John Lee Hooker and Screaming Jay Hawkins world of blues. Thunderclaps and the acid rain of futility drench the sparse Bo Diddleystyle guitar of opener ‘Tupelo’, which quickly sets this album far above the standard post-junkie blues epics that are dampened by crass sentiment and self-pity. ‘Knocking On Joe’ chimes to the

beat of a ritual drum at a sacrifice as Barry Adamson’s bass hauls the lumbering beast across landscapes of mock hell. Cave’s voice aches with persecution, but his stories of woe are tinted with the blackest humour. It’s not clear if ‘Say Goodbye To The Little Girl Tree’ is a joke pretending to be funny, or a man pretending to be a joke, but either way it succeeds! ‘Black Crow King’: Blixa’s lone sixstring scrapes the crypt floor while Nick recounts the tale of a King who is set up for worship only to find his former authority turns to parody. Sound familiar? Nothing like as familiar as ‘Wanted Man’ – which sounds remarkably like Dr Feelgood! The album’s lugubrious chain-gang beat marches on – arid and remorseless, punctuating Nick’s hollow and morbid chant. Halfway through the murderous ‘Train Long Suffering’ you wish someone would hand Nick a razorblade and put us all out of our misery. It’s sordid, it’s predictable, it’s sickening, and it’s quite indispensable! Ted Mico

MM, 31 August 1985, p27

THE CURE The Head On The Door Fiction

Black crow king: Nick Cave in his Berlin bolthole



No more Mad Bob? Maybe. Maybe not. Robert Smith has wormed himself into an enviable but precarious position over the past 18 months. We don’t know what to expect any more. But, then again, we know to expect nothing. He’s slipped the straitjacket of brooding depression that shaped ‘Faith’, cleaved through the

claustrophobia of ‘Pornography’, checked himself out of the funny farm where he turned out ‘The Top’, and now roams among us, a harmless eccentric. I can’t help wondering if the magnificent liberty that fashioned ‘The Head On The Door’ won’t cement into another image, comfortably digested and easily dismissed. Certainly, this album is as wilfully enigmatic as ever. The only difference is it’s determinedly languorous, nowhere near as tortured or tense as its predecessor. So ‘The Head…’ is a collection of pop songs, it’s as simple(?) as that. Bursting with potential hits, it staggers under its influences, rescued from dilettantism solely by Smith’s steady presence. Some stuff, like ‘The Baby Screams’ – a classic Cure concoction of mixed metaphors and creeping guitar – will satisfy the Faithful. Others, like ‘Close To Me’ – a squirming, sobbing, pleading disco thing complete with handclaps – will seduce just about any Tom, Dick or Vanessa. ‘The Head…’ makes a mockery not only of the accepted parameters of what the radio will play and the public accept, but also of what The Cure are supposed to be about. There’s nothing obscure or sinister about ‘A Night Like This’ – it deals with love and despair in desperate balance, toys with a joyously incongruous singalong and accommodates a sax break more at home with Hall & Oates. It’s a neat ragbag of the arbitrary, each song a separate piece from a different jigsaw. Some shapes bear the imprint of exotic scenes – ‘Kyoto Song’ sounds Japanese while ‘The Blood’ stamps through its paces to a flamenco guitar. Others suggest there are more strident, less fickle things ahead. ‘Push’, for example, is stronger, less whimsical than anything on ‘The Top’, and ‘Sinking’ is more majestic, more honest perhaps than anything Smith’s done since ‘All Cats Are Grey’. As a compilation of possibilities, ‘The Head On The Door’ is perfection of sorts – a romp more than a rage through the closet, trying things on, not tearing them up. This Cure is boisterous but relaxed and reliably unreliable. I’m used to it now and I use it with pleasure. So, no more Mad Bob. Next time, something else. Again. Steve Sutherland


Southern No More Mad DeAth BobCult

1985 MM, 17 August 1985, p24

Has Robert Smith taken the cure? He says yes. Steve Sutherland isn’t convinced. Now read on…



A Suitable CaseFor Treatment


o more Mad Bob.” Pardon? “No more Mad Bob.” Oh, I see. Robert Smith is happy. Deliriously happy. Think about that for a moment. Doctor Doom. Mr Miserable. The Prince Of Paranoia. Happy. Happy with life. Happy with death. Happy to wind us up. Happy to let us down. And happy to talk his head off about ‘The Head On The Door’, the new Cure album and another departure from what we might expect. So what’s he got to tell us, this smudge of lipstick in a lion’s mane? Will he spin us a yarn to match the one he foisted on Smash Hits – you know, the one about the album title referring to a nightmare childhood vision engendered by a chicken-pox fever? “Oh, did I tell him about that one?” Robert grins sheepishly as he attacks an onion bhaji. “Well… it’s sort of true. Do you want me to give you a different version?” Oh, yes please. “Alright then.” (Are you sitting comfortably?) “When I was little, I used to sleep in the same room as my little sister and we used to have one of those Noddyland scenes, quite a big event, made out of felt.” Oh really. “Look, this is deadly serious. I couldn’t make something up like this, now could I? Right. You had all these particular characters who existed in Noddy’s particular brand of reality, which is basically Big Ears and his family – hundreds of ’em – oh, and a policeman. That was about it. “Anyway, my big sister was going to art school at the time and she used to make us toys out of felt, nice things to put in this twofoot window into Noddyland, and my brother got the idea that it would be really good fun to introduce a sort of Texas Chainsaw Massacre element. So there I was, sitting up in my bunk-bed before I went to sleep and suddenly I noticed he’d cut Noddy’s head off, and it really, really scared me. “I went really mental – Noddy had such a sweet face, he was always Mr Happy, and I remember thinking at the time that it was a really evil thing to do. Even now it seems pretty awful. Uh… d’you know, the biggest evil I could imagine then was Catwoman. Remember they used to have bubblegum cards? Well, I used to have Catwoman under my pillow. I used to think that was pretty dangerous, my first stirrings of lust. “But cutting Noddy’s head off… I was in trauma! And at the same time, Father Christmas arrived in our street on a lorry. What a pile of cack! It destroyed my faith in things like that. Still, I don’t suppose people of my generation keep that kind of thing going for their kids. I mean, how can you possibly believe in the tooth fairy with a Conservative government? You


Sick Boy 

don’t get something for nothing any more. “There are a lot of references to dreams in my songs. It seems to bother other people but it’s never really worried me that I have vivid dreams. I find it very reassuring. It’s not always nice to wake up with your whole body vibrating like an engine – it sometimes takes three minutes to get back to normal – but that’s OK.”

Does Smith

Robert Smith: doesn’t look at all mental ,does he?

“I’ve always really wanted to kill someone. You know, just a casual murder” I ever met him, I’d kill him. Every fight I’ve ever been in, I’ve thought I’m fighting that person but I’ve never met him. Not through want of trying.” What on earth did the blackguard do? “Ah, that’s the story that will remain forever secret. He once did something – not actually to me, but I always vowed to avenge it. It was quite an awful thing that I witnessed. “See, I’m still very moral, I still have the same ethics I always had but I don’t really think that, if I did kill someone casually, there would be any retribution if I didn’t get caught. I’d just like to do it as an experience. I wouldn’t like to torture somebody or anything like that.” I’ve decided this “No More Mad Bob” business might be a little premature, but I press on regardless, wondering if Smith thinks he’d feel like a different person burdened with the knowledge that he’s taken a life? “Yeah. The thing that always put me off is that it’s not really the sort of thing you can mend.” And what if you grow to like it? “Well, there is that. And if you don’t like it,


you’d probably end up confessing anyway. But it’s not that big a step, not really. We’re gonna be rotting in 50 years’ time anyway so why not rot now and give someone some pleasure from it? If someone dies naturally, everyone cries. There may as well be someone dancing round the grave – and it may as well be me.”

As I said, Robert Smith is happy, even when he’s contemplating the inevitable. Can this metamorphosis from gloom to glee be permanent or is it just another of his infamous emotional see-saws? “Well, I’m very aware of my periods of instability and I’ve tried to think, ‘If it’s going to happen to me, I may as well use it for some benefit,’ but last year all it succeeded in doing was getting in the way. I couldn’t really do anything at all whereas now I generally feel much better. I’ve cut down on my vices – I’ve only kept drinking, everything else has gone out of the window.” Everything?

“Everything.” Isn’t that hard? “No, not at all. I just decided one night. I was doing absolutely nothing, y’know? It got to the point when cleaning your teeth seemed too much bother. It’s cack when you get to that stage, so I tried to learn to water-ski and things like that – the other extreme. It actually shocked my body back into a happy status quo. I didn’t get fit but, at the same time, I didn’t keel over and spend a month in a rest home which is what everyone said I should do. “I thought that idea was bollocks – you know your own body… or you should do. The older you get, the more you know it. I’m afraid I can no longer wake up in the morning and boast that I haven’t got a hangover.” Me neither. Never. Wonder how this affects Boy Smith’s public image? “I’d be hard-pressed to imagine what my public image is, to be honest. Indifferent. It varies, actually, from place to place. Here it’s very obvious from the general media myth that’s perpetuated – character assassination, that’s the phrase I’m after. But in America I’m considered a really radical bloke, a really dangerous person, on the Wanted list, because they filter through the more sordid elements from England and


the visionary rise, I wonder, from his bed onto some imaginary psychoanalyst’s couch, combing his slumber for secrets and signs? “No! I think the whole concept of interpreting dreams is the biggest wank really. Freud’s obviously the most well-known exponent of delving into your subconscious and examining it but the idea that you can have secrets from yourself is such a paradox, it’s unreal. “I can understand it if you suppress things but you know, you’re suppressing them. The idea of tricking yourself is one of those imponderables – it’s impossible. Who are you to trick yourself? “My dreams are very straightforward, very much like my life. I murder in my dreams, much as I murder in real life. I’ve always really wanted to kill someone but it’s wearing off now. Y’know, just a casual murder.” I think I understand. I’ve always thought if I was gonna go crazy, I’d do it creatively, riding in the passenger seat of a monstrously fast car, blasting oncoming cruisers with a shotgun. That way you get the bullet impact and the crash. “No, no. Much more physical. If you use a gun, you might as well shoot a bird really. I used to murder a great deal in my dreams – people that I’ve never even met and who, no doubt, hope I never will. But I wouldn’t murder any more, I’m sure of it.” Has this Smith, lately labelled a nouveau hippy because of his beads and baggy bits and pieces, ever hated anyone enough to kill them? “Oh yeah, of course. I know there’s one that if

1985 then they also invent their own… oh, and also, when I’m in America, I misbehave more than I do in England because it’s far away from home. “In Japan, it’s teenybop hysteria. We went mega there – we were on television arriving at the station. But in New Zealand we’re still doom and gloom, so when we go there, we only smile behind closed doors.”

I think

you deserve an update on this schizophrenic Smith character, just to help you make up your own mind. He’s writing a book on The Cure in conjunction with a French lady. The book, he claims, will be far more honest than anything I could cook up. He speeds around in a four-wheel-drive jeep which his friends consider “a post-nuclear vehicle or what?” He owns a flat in Maida Vale with a soundproofed bedroom to shield him from the professional writer of musicals who lives upstairs. He’s decided to holiday in London this year to catch up on all the movies he’s missed He saw Ghostbusters three times at the Marble Arch ABC, because he enjoyed watching the 300 teenies punching the air during the theme tune – “It reminded me of a David Cassidy concert. Not that I ever went to one, you understand, but it’s the sort of thing, looking back, that I wish I had done.” He never drinks on planes – “You can’t drink on an eight-hour flight, pass out then go on stage… Well, you can, but then you’re Spandau Ballet.” His back garden is a football pitch-cum-dog’s toilet – “I haven’t plucked up the courage to play in the team yet but I think, in my current state, I’d probably play a sort of Glenn Hoddle role – fading away for 80 minutes then a killer 10 minutes towards the end.” His band, The Cure, is now a quintet, with Simon Gallup, the original bassist, welcomed back to the fold. Robert’s ecstatic about this line-up – “it’s a group again” – and the pair of them reckon they’re pretty hot at pool. In fact, Ex-Mad Bob had a table installed in his flat, a slate bed six-by-three, but he was “a bit mental” when he measured it up, so the fit was a mite cosy – no room to make shots – and the table now resides at a local youth club. Smith the sportsman warms to the subject. “Me and Simon, we’re known as The Hackers, that’s the name of our pool team – as in Computer Hackers, because we’re both Luddites and the rest of the band are very pro whatever’s new. Boris and Porl, who reckon they’re the best but we hammer them, are called The Bros, because they both have this fantasy that they’re constantly driving about on huge throbbing motorbikes.”

“I was getting a bit too close to falling into Mad Bob and people were saying that to me, jokingly – mainly inspired by what you wrote about ‘The Top’ actually. People picked up on what you wrote and decided that I was going mental. Well, for a while I was a bit unstable but I think it’s horrible when people make a career out of being something.” What, professional loonies, like professional Cockneys? “Yeah, it’s cack. The last thing I wanted to do was drive my jeep into a swimming pool. “I don’t think this record heralds us doing anything. I know I’m supposed to be selling it but I never see it like that. ‘Pornography’ or ‘Faith’ are peculiar in that quite a lot of people probably think ‘If I could only listen to one album for ever and ever, it would be this album.’ But I don’t think this one’s like that because it doesn’t inspire that kind of emotion. “It’s the same as when The Human League brought out ‘Dare’ – I thought it was a really good collection of songs. It didn’t send shivers down my spine but I’ve got drunk to it and danced to it a lot over the years. “I tried to make this album really obvious because I was aware that people thought I was getting too obscure for anyone’s good. I suppose they are still obscure in a way but they’re as plain as I can be. That’s why I find most songs in the Top 20 at the moment really boring, because they’re like ‘end of conversation’ – you don’t really need to bother.

is, though, despite all this gaiety, Robert’s beginning to act as if he’s old. He recently told some other hack that he’d always anticipated being dead by 25 but here he is, no grey hairs in sight and fitter than ever. “I feel old because of what people have been saying to me. I’ve consciously done interviews with Just 17 just because it’s pap. All these 17-year-olds are coming along saying, “Well, as an established band… As a famous…’ and eventually it gets to you. “But I defy all these people to name me someone we are comparably old to. I look at the five of us in a metaphysical mirror and we’re still 100 years younger than all these people who are physically younger because they’re so fucking worried about nothing. “I mean, when I was young I didn’t feel young but I still feel younger than any new group… except The Jesus And Mary Chain.” I feel a story coming on. “The occasion was me being more drunk than I had been all year, my one night out in London clubland. Seriously, I can’t risk more than one night out. See, we were doing Top Of The Pops, and we usually drink loads and loads of vodka in the bar beforehand, which explains our frighteningly exciting performances. “But this time we went to the bar afterwards and we stayed there until we got thrown out, by which time we were pretty hot so we decided to go to eat, but I had to go to this studio first, supposedly to do backing vocals on the new single and listen to the brass section, y’know, to give ’em the Pope’s seal of approval. “So we went to the studio and I couldn’t even make out what the song was, so I was helped out and we weaved our way mysteriously down to the Sun Luck Restaurant where I proceeded to eat a washingup bowl of prawns – heads and feet and tails, y’know – not thinking, talking rapidly and just eating. And then me and Lol staggered outside and someone grabbed hold of Lol and said, ‘Excuse me, you’re The Cure. My friend wants to meet you, we’re drinking in this bar.’ Well, the next thing I knew we were descending the steps to this really dingy place and I was thrust in from of William from The Jesus And Mary Chain. “All these people gathered around expecting a confrontation or something but actually it ended up that I did a little bit of pogoing and I ended up throwing up, I think, in the ladies’ toilet. “I was actually being sick in the sink because someone was in the toilet and someone else came in and said, ‘You can’t do that mate, you’re blocking up the sink and I want to have a wash,’ so I then proceeded to pick up all my sick in my hands and throw it on the floor. It was all perfectly formed prawns – in fact, had I picked up my meal initially and thrown it on the floor, it would have been the same but I’d have had a really good night. “As it was, Lol ended up carrying me home which is why I know it was my last night out in London. Because when you get to the stage when Lawrence puts you in a taxi and takes you home, you’re in fucking big trouble.”

“I was being sick in the ladies’ toilet. Then I proceeded to pick up my sick and throw it on the floor”

There’s more you should know about this Robert Smith and ‘The Head On The Door’. “I think it’s the most entertaining album we’ve ever done in the sense that it doesn’t require very much from the listener for it to be enjoyable, mainly because it’s very simple, intentionally simple. It’s as much a reaction against us as a reaction against anything else that’s going on because I didn’t want to get too precious again.

“Some of the songs are a bit wayward but ‘In Between Days’ is probably the simplest thing I’ve written since ‘Boys Don’t Cry’. I did it on purpose. I thought, ‘Right, I might as well prove all those bastards wrong.’ I know it’s big-headed but you couldn’t really make a record if you didn’t think it was good and there’s very few albums that I’ve listened to this year that people have recommended to me that are comparable. “Lol told me to listen to New Order’s album and I thought, ‘This is a really dull record for what they can do.’ For me, their record is 100 times safer than ours. “‘The Head On The Door’ is just me being gloriously happy, probably. After we’d finished touring, I had a sudden surge of thinking that I wouldn’t have to do anything forever and ever if I didn’t want to because we’d reached the end of our contracts and things like that. I had this sudden sense of being able to do anything.”

Smith’s new sense of freedom apparently extends to all matters concerning The Cure, a radical reversal from his involvement with the claustrophobically secretive Banshees. Why, it even extends to videoing the recording of The Head, a home movie of daft drunkenness and corny jokes which he hopes to release soon to “really take the myth apart”. The funny thing



Heavy Heavy Heavy

MM, 26 October 1985, p28

Thisain’tthesummeroflove Hippies, hippies… everywhere. Or are they punks? Or are they psychedelic hard rockers? Steve Sutherland comes face to face with The Cult and fifinds they’re all these things and less


’m a naïve, romantic kid. I’m supposed to be some middle-class drop-out who’s quite well-educated, but I’ve got me ’ead up me ass and I just walk around going, ‘Everything’s beautiful’.” I think we’d better start again… “Kids take us on a more serious level than they do a lot of other bands and a lot of journalists seem to find that very annoying. They seem to think that what we do is shrouded in a mysticism that we create in order to hide a basic lack of understanding, but we’re not that clever. We’re just two lads from the north, right? We’re doing what comes naturally – ’e makes a noise with ’is mouth and I play guitar. That’s what we do.” I think we’d better start again… Ian Astbury’s one of those people who’s embroidered his pretty uneventful youth into a diary of momentous incidents and traumatic turning points and told it to so many people so many times that he probably now believes it. “The first gig I ever done was filmed for TV, my fifth ever gig with Southern Death Cult was reviewed by the press. Anything I’ve done, people have wanted to know what it’s all about. I just find it so amusing that all these people keep slagging us off and I couldn’t give a shit about it. People have tried to pound us into the ground but they just can’t get a hold of it.” When Ian Astbury talks, he reminds me of Nick Rhodes – thick but authoritative, intoning the most commonplace truism or embarrassing drivel with such haughtiness that you’d believe he believes he’s imparting some real pearl of wisdom. Billy Duffy’s different but the same – he’s confident but sharper, he listens whereas Ian, for all the community spiel he’s about to unleash, exhibits, in his own favoured condemnation of others, “a very closed mind”. For someone so intent on learning, Ian never listens, he just stares away into a more important world of his own and sometimes deigns to descend to my level to say his peace piece. I’d say he was stoned but… “The funniest thing about the music business is that the people who are most into the rock’n’roll cliché lifestyle are the ones whose public image is the least like that. We don’t take drugs, we never have. That’s just a personal way

this band are and I suppose it’s a paradox. We’re a rock band – that wasn’t too acceptable a year and a half ago, it was like putting your head in a guillotine. The times have changed a bit now.” I think we’d better start again….

The Cult are a rock band with accoutrements. A swagger away from Black Sabbath. Something so old that they’re new. The rock of ages. “Everything in this world right now is fast, fast, fast,” Ian informs me, fiddling with his Led Zeppelin badge. “Fast food, fast TV, fast sex, fast everything. And people just skim on the surface all the time and I think a lot of journalists look at us on the surface and pick up on certain things. Like the North American Indian thing – but that didn’t just happen to me overnight, that was an experience that happened to me over five or six years. And hippies…” Ah, hippies. Glad he brought it up. The new Cult album’s called ‘Love’ and there are some out there who will tell you it’s all you need. Not me. When MM branded Ian as a spitter for Neil The Hippy, I wasn’t exactly blameless. And now here’s this man who claims he’s a boy, with hair halfway down his back, wearing a cowboy hat with an owl’s feather in it, snakeskin cowboy boots with gold points and a Cure badge, staring into middle space and asking… “What’s a hippy? A lot of kids who come


“We ’re not that clever. We ’re just lads from the north, right? We ’re doing what comes naturally”



to see us haven’t even got any conception of what a hippy is except for maybe a teacher at school with long hair and a beard. I got called a hippy by some 14-year-old kids the other day – I wonder where they got it from?” I wonder… “Look, what the fuck is a hippy? I think people see a hippy as some guy with long hair and glasses with a peace sign and flared trousers – it’s just an image, like punk.” “What does punk mean now?” asks Billy, a less bolshie Idol. Here comes the answer: “It’s a deprecating term. ‘Let’s go and laugh at the

punks down the King’s Road.’” “It’s that guy in the NatWest advert,” says Ian. “The one with the mohican haircut who spits at people and head-butts walls.” Ian’s dead proud of having missed punk. He was in Canada at that time, in the army, and when he heard the Pistols, of course, it changed his life. He picked up on the vibe after the event. “I think it’s really nice, what’s happening now, because it’s unquantifiable. Because so many things have gone in the past, I think what we do is an amalgamation of all those different influences and it’s gonna be a lot longer lasting.” “A lot of things have been in the negative,”

1985 says Billy. “Maybe now is the time for… well, the positive. That’s been a terrible word for a few years, almost frightening, but maybe what we’re involved with is the first thing that’s positive. Every other fashion – hippies, acid rock, punk – seemed to be against something. Well, we’re not necessarily ‘against’ in that obvious way.” I think we’d better start again…

The Cult, live and on record, are the most po-faced, humourless group it’s possible to contemplate. They deny the brighter side of existence for the sake of their precious image, complete with pseudo-religious trimmings. “There’s no religion in this country,” mourns poor Ian. “Christianity, the spiritual side, is a very special part of people’s lives, it gives them strength just to live and the only thing for kids to look to is the music. “Music matters. A 14-year old kid buys a Duran Duran record, grows up a little bit, and

sees that Duran Duran aren’t really saying what they feel so they go onto something else, something a little bit heavier, something that makes a statement. And then they become bored with that and they end up with us.” What Ian’s pitching for is progressive rock, the notion of something more deep and meaningful than something else. That way self-indulgence lies. And worse… “We’re skimming the surface of something quite spiritual…” See what I mean? “We don’t really want to quantify it. I find it very, very rare to bump into people who are communicating on the same level because they’re so hung up on looking cool or hanging round with the right people. It’s so hard to meet people who are tuned in to something more than the rational world. We’re called hippies because we’re into life, right? “Look, there’s certain things we just can’t talk about because there’s an incredible danger of being misinterpreted. It’s really sad and unfortunate but that’s the way it is.” I think we’d better start again…

Hippy Cult: Ian Astbury, Mark Brzezicki, Billy Duffy and Jamie Stewart

MM, 19th October 1985, p38

THE CULT Love Beggars Banquet

The only thing more deplorable than half-baked dogma is barely understood halfbaked dogma pilfered from a culture 6,000 miles and 200 years away. With ‘Love’, The Cult’s second album, they continue to propagate a half-chewed bubblegum wrapper of redskin info for people who think that a Voodoo Chile is a Mexican Hotpot. They continue to celebrate the ways of the old people with clamour and cliché – wigwams, squaws, moccasins, and ritual fire-branding. The Cult dribble a lot. If nothing else, ‘Love’ will prove that the band have done for rock tribalism what General Amherst did for the Sioux nation. The benign general offered the Indians blankets to keep them warm in winter – blankets impregnated with smallpox bacilli. The images, lyrics and titles are mainly elemental – the usual earth, fire, water piffle – but the surprise comes from the cover, which bears a striking likeness to an old Love cover after a tortuous journey through an alimentary canal. ‘Nirvana’ plunges into a barrage of metal guitars where risible pastiche masquerades as rousing chorus. The Indians believed in life after death – not before it! With each successive funereal beat and onslaught of Duffy’s unchained guitar, the Cult sound more and more like Led Zeppelin. The chords of ‘Revolution’ descend, and their songs go down faster than a lead balloon. The Cult used to offer excitement – not ashes scraped from yesterday’s joss stick. Now they simply continue to continue. ‘Hollow Man’ and ‘Brother Wolf, Sister Moon’ (oh brother!) both employ the same bluesy thump as they stomp through old hunting grounds like buffalo on Mogadon. It sounds like a 45 playing at 33. In fact it’s ’69 playing in ’85. All this may sound as if I detest The Cult … but I don’t. ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ was one of the few pinnacles of this summer’s charts but its appearance among this clutch of witless, listless and soulless twaddle serves only as a painful reminder of what The Cult could, and should, be doing. We deserve more than pathetic hippies reliving their dream and our nightmare. Forget Big Country. Forget ‘God’s Zoo’. Forget U2. And most of all forget Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. The Cult should bury their head in shame. Ted Mico NME ORIGINALS


The Cocteau Twins: Simon Raymonde, Liz Frazer and Robin Guthrie


Worlds apart The End “In the best of all possible worlds,” said Robin, “this wouldn’t be happening.” Hold it right there. I’ve read this before. “But…” No buts. I’m determined that this will not be another Cocteau Twins interview about how The Cocteau Twins hate interviews because that, after all, after hours of agonised silence and blank incomprehension, is all that anyone’s ever gleaned from this lot on paper. I won’t sit down and discuss this again. I won’t attempt to defend the rigmarole of the rock’n’roll interview, nor will I perpetrate it further. So what shall I do Robin? What shall I do? And what will I get? Will I get anything? Or is there nothing there to get? Nothing at all? “Well, we’re not divs but people make us out to be… we come over like…” Yes I understand that I don’t understand.


Some justification The Cocteau Twins make my favourite music in the whole wide world ever and, on 16 and 22 November, they release two four-track EPs. I want to talk about them but I know it’s no good. They want them well-treated because they envisage a Cocteau Twins backlash on the horizon and they don’t think it’s fair. Just because they don’t fit in, folks think they refuse to fit in, but it’s not the same thing at all. There’s nothing wilful about the Cocteaus’ refusal to play along, they just do what they do, that’s all. Hey, they live on our planet, believe it or not. They eat, they drink, they see what we see and hear what we hear. It’s just that what they create when they’re locked away somewhere has no bearing on any of this whatsoever. My task, I suppose, is to reconcile this into some sort of sense but all I can come up with is intricate babble which, even in the act of praising, seems to tarnish their pure simplicity. I’ll admit at this point that I was going to wax

all wonderfully lyrical about the new Cocteau Twins stuff. I was going to construct some elaborate review of ‘Tiny Dynamite’ (‘Pink Orange Red’, ‘Ribbed and Veined’, ‘Plain Tiger’ and ‘Sultitan Itan’), some glowing testimony to ‘Echoes In A Shallow Bay’ (‘Great Spangled Fritillary’, ‘Melonella’, ‘Pale Clouded White’ and ‘Eggs And Their Shells’) but I realised that all I’d be doing would be conjuring fantasies, evolving mythologies and warping expectations. So, at the risk of encouraging accusations of lethargy and cop-out, I say this: buy these records, I think they’re brilliant. They exist. Why am I squirming? Here’s my problem: The Cocteau Twins can’t talk about their music because there’s nothing to say and I can’t write about it because, as it’s instrumental with vocal impressions, all I can produce is mind’s-eye gibberish. And believe you me, I’ve said some pretty embarrassing stuff about this lot in the past. Stuff, incidentally, that I stick by. “The things you’re allowed to write!” Robin’s smiling. “You went and wrote something about God in one of our reviews. You said we were the voice of God or something. I hated that. It gives people the wrong impression. It gives people your impression. If I read that, I’d think, ‘No fucking way am I buying that!’ “And another time you said I hadn’t developed much further than some Banshees album and that we were too loud. That was insulting. The idea of three people totally stationary on stage with no affi liation at all to rock’n’roll making the loudest fucking noise you’ve every heard kind of appeals.” “And that thing you said to Robert Smith about his lipstick!” Liz is trembling. What? “You said Liz Frazer wants to know why you wear your lipstick like that. That was very naughty of you Steve, very, very naughty. I was so embarrassed.” Contrary to common belief, The Cocteau Twins care. A lot.

MM, 16 November 1985, p24

The unmentionable mentioned The Cocteau Twins don’t exactly scream at you to ask them about their sex lives or the colour of their socks, so it all comes down to self-justification and that nebulous area where you’ve no idea what you’re talking about or what will come out and the smallest detail assumes the stature of enigma. Or… Robin: “I’m still completely at a loss to understand what people want to know. I’ll tell all. We do tell all, that’s the thing I can’t understand. What more can I say?”

The big question Why? Why do you sound like The Cocteau Twins?

Robin’s big answer “Why not?”

They confess Robin: “It almost gets to the stage where you just want to turn round to somebody and say, ‘Yeah, I’m really magical and mysterious, that’s what I think about myself. I’m weird and obscure and it rubs off on the music…” Simon: “Yeah, we’re religious, spiritual…” Liz: “Would you like some tea or coffee just now?” Robin: “There’s some tins aren’t there? I’ll have another beer.” Liz: “You’ll want a fuckin’ straw with it next – get you pissed quicker.” Robin: “Got any gin?” Liz: “Um… er… NO! I distinctly remember you finishing it off last night. Don’t drink…” Robin: “But I’m getting my hair cut tonight.” Liz: “Yes, I know. You’ll fall asleep and wake up with a skinhead – that’ll fuckin’ sort you out. You’ll never drink again.”

How do you interview The Cocteau Twins? Steve Sutherland, who considers them to be something like the voice of God, doesn’t know. Well, he sat down and talked to them for a bit, and this is what happened



Well, what was there left? The personality angle wasn’t paying dividends because, as the antithesis of all they are, it couldn’t. The enormous review wasn’t on either – all that verbiage trying to describe something defiantly inarticulate. No. I was left with flotsam, with various meets in various places, with circumstantial evidence. Whether it comes any closer to anything, whether it helps, I don’t know. But anyway… Meet one: Liz and Robin’s flat in Chiswick. Ground floor. Clean and bare with a Siamese kitten called Otto (after the “Can I go now?” punk in Repo Man) who bites Liz thoroughly and scratches and has never enjoys another heard of house-training. No photo session books about so no clues there. A record player. A video. Lots of videos. A photo of Lillian Gish in the toilet. The door handle comes off in your hand and you have to keep the lid down or the cat might Small, very funny and very, very shy. fall into the bowl. At the photo studio, Liz is being made up, Meet two: Riverside, for That Petrol Emotion. having her face and hair done. By her side, by Meet three: the photo session in Covent the mirror, is a note pad into which she jots Garden. A small studio and a pint or two in the every layer of foundation, every tint of eye pub. (Liz is on cider and Babycham, fact-fiends). shadow for further reference. Meet four: Simon sees the Banshees at “That’s typical,” says Robin. “Did you notice Hammersmith Odeon. at home by the record player, there’s a piece of Meet five: the 4AD night at Croydon paper with instructions on it about how the Underground – they’re very much the visiting stereo works, step by step. And by the video stars. Robin hates it. there’s another list of how to work it. And she wants to learn to drive – can you imagine that?” Oh yes, a very Liz thing to do.

Liz Frazer

Robin Guthrie Fat, funny, delightfully sarcastic, he crimps his hair to stop it looking pubic. This thin guy with glasses comes up to him in the Croydon Underground, brandishing a poster advertising the 4AD night and asking for an autograph. Robin looks him up and down, snorts his disapproval and begins to read it out. “Xymox. Is that us?” No. “Wolfgang Press. Is that us?” Uh… no. “Dif Juz. Is that us?” No. “Well then, shouldn’t you be going to get their autographs?” The bloke slinks off, bemused. Robin turns to me and says: “It’s bad enough when they want you to sign Cocteau Twins stuff.” That’s a very Robin thing to do.

Simon Raymonde Simon was “disgusted” by the Banshees at Hammersmith Odeon. He considered them “heavy metal”. Worst of all, though, he considered the encores “dishonest”. That’s a very Simon thing to say.




If anybody around pop today is enjoying the fact that language obscures as much (and as well) as it reveals its intentions, it’s Liz Frazer. Her lyrics are noise games, not nonsense but emotion liberated from cliché. When she sings, my world moves and it means something beyond and without all the blasted, blighted baggage of linguistic nostalgia. She uses words but the words never matter, their sounds carry the fullest impact, her voice – the most desolate ever recorded – cuts the crap but can’t avoid it. We can’t handle The Cocteau Twins, we don’t possess the critical apparatus to do them justice. It’s no big deal on their behalf, no deliberate setting themselves apart from the mainstream, no arrogant isolationism. It’s simply that the channels we stomp down to beat pop to a pulp and render it comfortable and comprehensible don’t lead us anywhere near The Cocteau Twins. We don’t touch them and yet still we try. In Japan, for instance, they’ve published lyric sheets with all the albums, even renaming ‘Treasure’ at whim ‘The Woman Who The Gods Loved’. Robin: “Tell me if any of these words are what Liz is singing, right? I’m not joking. ‘Let us rock you so/Rock you so good’. ‘The wave of the earth has got me all fooled now’. ‘Should have fixed it

before it floated away’.” Liz: “Oh, that’s fucking disgusting… disgusting. They must think we’re a bunch o’ perverts or something.” Robin: “‘Take this fish/Harder than roe/ Who sauntered away’.” Liz: “Jesus!” Robin: “‘Julianne was first called a genius/ Julianne a genius too/Our song is framed by a genius/Suddenly she got up and turned it on’.” Liz: “Definitely a drug-induced hysteria.” Simon: “‘I’m a prisoner of the fence’.” Robin: “‘I don’t mend no fence’. Look at the sleeve notes. It says here that The Cocteau Twins are three girls, right? And that I sing all the backing vocals on the LP and that my backing vocals are ‘psychedelic but never freaky’.” Liz: “Bloody hell!”

Mere mortal concerns Self-parody? Robin: “It happened to us about a year and a half ago. It happens to everybody. You can’t do anything about it…”

I confess If the process of this interview is to ascertain some truth, to nudge some reality, to realise there aren’t any answers then I’ve failed. If the essence of the piece is to avoid an obsessive autopsy of The Cocteau Twins’ problematic relationship to the interview, I’ve let you down badly. It’s here, it’s inescapable and I’m circling, searching for something I can’t define, struggling to discover is the big factor or the conveniently mystical cop-out. Certainly the people I met and the records I hear don’t match up too well, don’t fit. I’m speaking of what stubbornly won’t be spoken of and it’s the best I can do to tell you that of all the outfits I’ve ever met the characters of The Cocteau Twins are the least informative when applied to their music. And naturally, in saying that, I open two options, each equally inappropriate: they’re not fakers, they wear no masks, they hide nowhere, nor are they recipients for some mysterious muse. They don’t act as ciphers for some spiritual genius descending from the either. The Cocteau Twins just go and do it – and if they don’t know, why the hell should I?

In the beginning was the word “That was the shittiest interview we’ve ever done…” It’s OK. “But we said nothing, we talked about nothing…” It’s OK. “But what are you gonna write about?” Oh, I’ll make it up. I’ll write about you. I’ll think of something. “But that means we’re in your hands, we’re at your mercy…” Aha, well the hack always has the last word. This is it…


My method

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Morphine Paradise

recaptures the wondrous hypnotic pop of the Banshees’ greatest singles era, that between ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘A Kiss In the Dreamhouse’. David Quantick

MM, 16 March 1985, p27


First Killing Joke, now Andrew and his wonderful Sisters. Whether it’s a remarkable and strangely coincidental coming together of the untouchables and the pop marketplace or something a lot more contrived is hard to say, but who really gives a tinker’s diddly one way or the other? What counts now is that this is the Sisters’ best ever slice of slime, with Andrew down in his boots as always but the rest of the band delivering an edge that must make this a monster hit with the previously uncommitted housewife. Laugh if you want, but far better Crazy Andrew than 100 cuddly toys. Barry McIlheney

MM, 1 June 1985, p27

THE CULT She Sells Sanctuary (Beggars Banquet)

She sells sanctuary, but will The Cult sell any more records? Their record sleeves may be getting more graphically adventurous – and their name can’t get any shorter – but the swirling density of their pulse-beat stays locked inside the same blurred groove. Boy Duffy’s guitar is edgily set for the heart of the sun – great sitar impersonations! – but The Cult are struggling. Still, the gothic millstone might be slipping; imagine a more sprightly,



psychedelic Killing Joke shorn of the ton of bricks. By the way, this is infinitely preferable to the B-side ‘No.13’ which attempts to bring Led Zeppelin into the 1980s. Silly Cult. Martin Aston NME, 16 November 1985, p17

COCTEAU TWINS Tiny Dynamine MM, 3 August 1985, p34

NICK CAVE Tupelo (Mute)

NME, 27 July 1985, p14

THE CURE In Between Days (Fiction)

Three thoughts occur. One: how does he do it? How on earth does Smithy keep that face straight as he unloads these records? ‘The Top’ was a schoolboyishly cruel – legs torn slowly from helpless insects – companion to the Bunnymen’s contemporary and equally silly-sod-psychedelic ‘Ocean Rain’, while his butterwouldn’t-melt ‘Love Cats’ routine was sublime, media-mocking TV. The man is a comic to be rated with Keaton. Two: if I didn’t believe New Order to be as rich as Tsars, I’d advise them to grab this record and their own ‘Temptation’ and ‘Power, Corruption And Lies’ and to hotfoot it to the nearest court of law. The monstrous scale, nerve and cynicism of Smith’s plagiarism, in a world where most claim unique creative genius, has, oddly, to be admired. Three: either because of, or in spite of one and two, ‘In Between Days’ – a sneeringly off-hand debunking of all that Factory’s finest seek so assiduously to mystify, is a good 45, easily the best of the week’s pop crop. Danny Kelly

There are those who would have you believe that this decrepit scuzzball and his infrequent record releases represent the zenith of the alternative pop scene. For years I tried to convince myself that I didn’t loathe the entire catalogue of this corrupter of small goths, but I am older and less charitable now. Boppy backbeat, though. Caroline Sullivan


Inside a cover that looks like a cross between the trip sequence from 2001 and a camel’s afterbirth, those fun-loving Cocteau Twins bring you a fourtrack selection of dead clever Liz Fraser vocal gymnastics, a chorused 12-string guitar sound that’s so rich it could kill a diabetic at 40 paces and some rather indifferent lyrics. The closing ‘Sultitan Itan’ is a treat for the very tired to hallucinate to just before bedtime. Charles Shaar Murray

MM, 23 November 1985, p30 MM, 1 June 1985, p27

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Cities In Dust (Wonderland)

I rather lost interest in this lot after ‘Hyaena’ yielded one good single and little else. But ‘Cities In Dust’, a great rush of sound and a massively confident burst of pop, suggests a return to form. Perhaps a bit intense for the airwaves, and lacking the great melody of the slightly similar ‘Fireworks’, ‘Cities’ nevertheless

COCTEAU TWINS Echoes In A Shallow Bay (4AD)

‘The Great Spangled Fritillary’ takes its name from a butterfly; ‘Melonella’ is more upbeat than the Cocteaus’ usual music, noisy almost; ‘Pale Clouded White’ feels like you’re caught in a warm snowstorm; and ‘Eggs And Their Shells’ is making love on a clifftop with seabirds flying overhead. Am I alone in finding them a complete and utter turn-on? Kris Kirk

Chapter 8



Mission Accomplished the battle but we didn’t see it as a battle as such – more of a publicity stunt.” On hearing of the split and the newlynamed Mission’s intentions for the future, WEA promptly showed Wayne and co the quickest way out of the building. “WEA didn’t think I could sing. They gave us this list of singers they thought would be good for us – Andi Sex Gang, Gavin from the Virgin Prunes and Sal Solo. They just didn’t have a clue.” “We were open to constructive criticism but Sal bloody Solo is not constructive criticism,” Mick states. They seem to be playing a different game to Eldritch – taking it out on the road as opposed to sticking in the studio. Wayne: “I’m a very different person to Eldritch. First and foremost I’m more sociable. The feeling of comradeship in The Mission is very similar to the one I had when I was in Dead Or Alive. Andrew was very hard to work with. You never got any credit. I mean, he was a real headfucker.” Don’t you ever wish The Mission were starting out tomorrow just like every other band, with none of the expectations and exploits of the past hanging around your shoulders? Wayne: “No, ’cos then we’d be playing The Mission: (l to r) Mick Brown, Craig the fucking dives of the world. In some Adams, Wayne ways it’s a bit of an albatross but it does Hussey and Simon guarantee us an audience. Initially, Hinkler it’ll probably be very similar to that of the Sisters, but, in time, I think it MM, 10 May 1986, p14 will widen. Our songs are a lot more accessible than the Sisters’ ever were.” Would you say you’re writing for others now then, rather than yourself? “I never used to write for myself. It was always for Andrew. The criteria we use in The Mission is that if it sounds good when we play it on an acoustic guitar in my living room then it’s a good Do you feel more comfortable in The Mission? song. That’s how our single ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ was “Nah,” he sighs. “Some people can feel written. The majority of the songs we’ve been comfortable in a five-star hotel but I can’t. I’d doing in the set so far are my songs that Andrew rather be in a hovel ’cos you can trash it and not rejected for the second Sisters album. It’s ironic do much damage. It’s the same thing with The ’cos he actually saw us in Birmingham and told Mission. I can trash it and not do much damage us how good he thought the songs were.” whereas, with the Sisters, there was a certain Was he being sarcastic? Or was it from the reverence even when I joined the group.” bottom of his heart? Wayne: “I don’t think he has a bottom of his Presleys From Hell took shape towards heart. Bottom of his hat perhaps.” the end of the Sisters’ reign – Wayne and Craig

Snake charmers

Rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the Sisters, The Mission watch the dawn come up with a wide-eyed Mat Smith


hey don’t make songs like that any more.” Wayne Hussey lurches towards the stereo, pulls off ‘Roll Away The Stone’ and replaces it with ‘Like A Hurricane’. Next door the neighbours pull the bedsheets over their heads. In an hour their alarm clocks will ring, signalling the end to another long night. “They came round with an axe the other night,” Wayne chuckles wide-eyed. “But I think we should be safe now.” Before The Mission there were the Sisters, and there are still a lot of puzzled Sisters fans. What went wrong? “It was going wrong even when I joined. I mean, we did the album hardly talking to each other. We were rehearsing the new stuff – his new stuff, he wouldn’t touch any of my songs – and it was just crap. Craig had had enough and walked out. As the studio door slammed Eldritch clapped his hands together and said ‘Ha! We’ve got rid of the driftwood.’ I thought, ‘You bastard’ and left the next day. “It’s sad but we really had no choice. I still respect him. He probably thinks I’m a bastard – well I hope he does anyway, but I know he respects me as a musician.”

The Elvis

“It was going wrong in the Sisters even when I joined. Eldritch was very hard to work with. You never got any credit. He was a real headfucker”



playing various benefit gigs in their native Leeds with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry drummer Mick Brown. However, it wasn’t until they added ex-Artery guitarist Simon Hinkler and changed their name to The Sisterhood that the fun and games really began. Wayne: “It was a brilliant trick. I knew it would antagonise Andrew and WEA and we also got a lot of press out of it. I always knew we’d lose

The cat comes down from his

perch. The sun flickers in and TV-am’s Gyles seems even more irritating with the sound turned down. Jumbled thoughts and jumbled talk. How can you face your mother Wayne? “My mum knows what I get up to. I had a really bad relationship with my parents for a while. They’re both devout Mormons. Seriously! It’s stood me in good stead but it doesn’t stop me doing drugs. I like speed – my mother knows that. She knows I like girls and she knows about my homosexuality. She knows all about it.” Understanding lady, that Mrs Hussey. But then she’d have to be wouldn’t she?



MM, 26 July 1986, p28

THE SISTERHOOD Gift (Merciful Release) It all looked so obvious. Minimalist packaging and one of those glossy black sleeves that’s covered with

thumbprints before you’ve even got the record out. It all looked like an attempt to carry on precisely where The Sisters Of Mercy left off. So we’re barely into the first track, ‘Jihad’, when I think I hear a Mantronix-style handclap. Surely not. Must’ve put the wrong record on. No, there it is again, and over a stomping Eurobeat that would make the boys from DAF proud. Things, I think, could be looking up. None of that silly

singing-into-my-boots from Andrew Eldritch that always made the Sisters slightly comical. And when he does sing, on the version of the single ‘Giving Ground’, it sounds like Peter Murphy having a dark moment. Eventually I’m ground under by a relentless synth beat that crushes all colour in its path.

What the hell is this? Check the credits. Ah, Alan Vega from Suicide. It fits. It’s the kind of music you’d call industrial if there was any industry left in this country. The kind of music you’ll hear on a train travelling through the Frankfurt conurbation. Phil DC NME ORIGINALS


Southern A SensitiveDeAth Guy Cult

If you prick me, do I not bleed? “I believe you have a song about the British music press entitled ‘Scum’.” “I didn’t write it about the press; I wrote it about you.” Nick Cave does not take kindly to criticism, as Mat Snow discovered when he went along to discuss Cave’s new album, ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’


mong Nick Cave’s most prized possessions is a hard-cover green book stuffed with press cuttings and private observations written in his painstakingly spidery hand. “Rather than living out the extremes of our particular fantasies, most of us rid ourselves of these desires in other ways – beating the wife, the normal day-to day things. In this particular book I indulge myself to the limits. I don’t have to show this to anyone; I don’t have to worry about whether my mother’s going to read it…” I believe it includes a song about the British music press entitled ‘Scum’. “I didn’t write it about the press; I wrote it about you…” He flicks through the pages, his pink-rimmed eyes not looking up once to meet mine. “I write hate lyrics really well. It’s not every day you can use them really…” This interview is not turning out at all as I’d hoped. I had hoped for an interview which would amplify how Nick Cave’s preoccupations have been revealingly side-lit by his new album of cover versions. Called ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’, its very title alludes not only to the verse from the Acts of the Apostles but perhaps also to Samuel Beckett’s borrowing of the phrase; certainly, a pun of Cave’s own devising is intended. And I suspect I might be one of the pricks. As he explains in his measured, dictationspeed sigh of a voice, “There’s not a great deal of intellectualisation of the reasons why we did these particular songs. We’re musicians and feel music more from the heart than the head. I’m not sure whether you can understand that.” Ouch. “When I listen to a song, it strikes my heart whether it’s worthwhile or not. There’s something so basic and so simple it shouldn’t even need to be said.”

What, however, constitutes that instinctive recognition of a song’s worth is not so simple. On his new album there are self-confessed tributes, like his version of ‘The Hammer Song’, originally by his schoolboy hero Alex Harvey, the piratical Glaswegian rocker whose Jacques Brelderived theatricality anticipated punk. Missing from ‘Pricks’, however, are songs Cave loves which have already been fully realised elsewhere, offering no avenues for further exploration. Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ LP is a case in point, though Cave reviles all his other records. Likewise damned is Jimi Hendrix, whose rendition of ‘Hey Joe’ Cave regards as an easily surpassable high point in an unappealing career. Nick Cave’s ‘Hey Joe’ invokes a brooding cosmic wrath surrounding Joe’s crime passionel which echoes the heavenly portents which attended the birth of the Presley twins in ‘Tupelo’. ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ is a richly exciting

whose thoughts in abandoned desolation turn from regret to grief to vengeance. That the end of his relationship with his girlfriend of seven years, Anita Lane, in 1983 has inspired so much of his subsequent work has never been denied. From that point, Cave has turned his life’s big wound into art, and he has also plunged into that art as a safety-valve. Not for a long time has a more poignantly tragic figure – one whose downfall springs from an unbalancing ruling passion – starred in rock’s obsessively scrutinised zone where private life and public image overlap. His gravity of demeanour and much-trailed affinity with serious literary endeavour not only mark him out from the frivolities of the pop industry, but also bestow on him a tradition in which his torment may find a home. Not for Nick Cave the battlements of Elsinore – he stalks instead America’s deep South, a larger-than-life corrupted Eden of hot blood, primitive religion, swamplands, scarlet women, quack sawbones, whisky preachers, riverboat gamblers, white trash, slaves and the lynch-mob. This mythical deep South serves not only as the landscape for some of Cave’s favourite music, but also as a backdrop sufficiently wild to project his tragic image onto – an Oedipus wreck in winklepickers.

“I’m inconsistent, illogical, irrational. So fuckin’ what? ”



record, not only for the choice of songs and their singing, but also for the revitalising aplomb and, where needs be, restraint of their performance by the Bad Seeds, whose highly talented maestro Mick Harvey is too little recognised. ‘Pricks’ is, in addition, a further instalment in the remoulding of Nick Cave into one of rock’s most striking and multi-levelled leading players. For a start, Nick Cave hates the ‘rock world’. He is highly literate about rock and its many sources, but inclines towards its most earthy poets of passion, the balladeers and story-tellers. Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison – like him, men in black – figure large in his taste, as do Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Cave has sought among this canon those themes which most closely resemble his preoccupation – that of a jilted lover

“I just think Mat Snow is an arsehole who said this, and it’s not true. I find it hard to sit down and talk to someone who gave us a bad review.” Tragic figures are usually proud – it goes with the territory. Petty-mindedness, however, tends to be comic. So why are neither of us laughing? What had I done to poison this whole encounter? In March last year I wrote of an Einstürzende Neubauten single that it “musters the psychological edge disappointingly absent from Nick Cave’s forthcoming LP…” That I have also heaped extravagant praise upon his work cuts no ice at all.


Nick Cave: declined to appear in the new series of How Clean Is Your House

“If someone says something good about me, they’re doing their job; I have no complaints. They get no medal, they get their wage. That’s all. But if they say something bad, then that really gets on my tits. “I’m inconsistent, I’m illogical, I’m irrational about it. So fuckin’ what?” Cave’s voice barely rises. He’s as laboriously patient as an iceberg. “Everything that’s said against me offends me, whether it’s true or not. I can’t fathom these people who flunked their arts courses and became rock journalists and are too ignorant about music or academic about their thoughts or have so many hang-ups that they can’t bring themselves to perform. Yet it is these people whose opinions are lauded as being gospel.”

If, with few exceptions, Cave has scant regard for we back-stabbing scribblers, he “doesn’t give a flying fuck” for the other four-fifths of his audience, most of whom by my reckoning are full-time goths, part-time slummers, wallowers and weirdoes who are there to be fucked up the dirt-track, metaphorically speaking. “I’ve got less and less inclined towards being some sort of colourful food for a lot of other people to consume. Writing allows me to be myself and not have to perform this filthy function which, no matter what I do, is inherent in being lead singer for some freak group. “I don’t know what the people who come and see me are like. I don’t know what their reasons for doing anything are. I don’t know the reason for the boy down the front who comes to each

of our shows and screams out, ‘You’re a fucking arsehole!’ Pays every night to scream that at the group, and, if he gets a chance, to punch me. He’s not there to pick up a girl, that’s for sure.” Sometimes during this supremely painful interview Nick Cave forgets himself and speaks eloquently and animatedly about something outside his immediate concerns; the prison system, for instance, which he’s been researching for a film project in Australia. When I ask about God and the afterlife, he becomes more guarded. All he’ll say is that he believes evil will not go unpunished, even if it’s rewarded on earth. But soon he reverts to being the sod with a grudge and thin veneer of forced politeness. “I’m just a sensitive guy,” he smiles inwardly. Very inwardly. NME ORIGINALS


Purple Prose

MM, 12 April 1986, p27

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS Kicking Against The Pricks (Mute)

This record is a kind of essay about pop. By covering these obscure pop, country and blues songs, Nick Cave admits them to his canon and, in effect, claims that they’re inhabited by the same extremes of obsession, possession and abjection that characterise his own work. Cave is writing out a lineage in which he is the sole heir, the only one who still remains close to the heart of rock’n’roll. ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ is critical in another sense too, marking a key shift in his career. Cave’s sense of his own stature has swollen to the point where he feels he can reduce his own creative role to choosing other people’s material and arranging it: such is the corrosive originality of his style that he need only sing a song to make it his own, to catalyse its latent tragic qualities. So there’s a shift from poet-visionary of sex and death to interpreter, from Jim Morrison to Scott Walker, from bayou howl to a kind of croon, from self-immolation to fatigue. When Cave addresses his own ‘legend’ in song the result is some of his most hilarious work. Like ‘Avalanche’ and ‘A Box For Black Paul’, ‘The Folksinger’ is a fantastical dramatisation of Cave’s contempt for his audience of goths and rock critics; a Johnny Cash song about a singer abandoned by his fickle public, who muses, “All the truths I tried to tell you were as distant to you as the moon/Born 200 years too late and 200 years too soon”. A masterstroke that induces real shame for my having forgotten about Nick Cave, filed him away. Not withstanding the ethnomusicological sleevenotes on ‘The Firstborn Is Dead’, a pastiche of the kind you’d find on a boxed Harry Belafonte record, this music isn’t really modern folk music. It’s art rock masquerading as folk’s tradition, using folk’s textures of bitter, broken lives and ghost town desolation as a contemporary metaphor for our rootless, faithless existence. Like many others, Cave has



been drawn to the melodrama of country love songs, their imagery of religious, absolute passion. These songs – stories of calamity, betrayal, guilt and revenge – are fuel for dissent against the current mainstream representation of love as health and fulfilment. Cave has always seen love as problematic and mysterious, an affliction. The music here is absolutely brilliant – an unhinged, eerie simulation of bygone pop on ‘Sleeping Anleah’ and ‘Long Black Veil’, a swollen tide of clangorous, corrugated sound on ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’, almost perfect pop on ‘Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart’, with only Cave’s burnt-out husk of a voice giving away that this is really 1986 and the ‘alternative scene’. There’s enough almost casual brilliance on ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ to totally justify Nick Cave’s bloated sense of his own importance. Simon Reynolds

MM, 16 August 1986, p27


limbo – playing in the isolated peace and secret splendour of ‘Victorialand’. Nothing is as it seems. The cover’s weathered and slightly distressed style conceals the haunting umbrella of perfection that lies within. This time the Cocteaus’ quest for that perfect ethereal serenade has even meant the album must be played at 45rpm. The slower the speed, the coarser the quality, and the twins’ flawless production has no room for mistakes – only mystery. Though ‘Victorialand’ is not as immediate as ‘Treasure’, nor

as ornate as ‘Tiny Dynamine’, its jewels glisten in a sensual languor of intrigue that outstrips its predecessors. Spikes of Robin Guthrie’s crystalline guitar stake out a fecund landscape where Liz Fraser’s beatific voice is free to swirl and entwine stroking chords before all dissolve in the cascading chant of ‘Lazy Calm’. As usual, the Cocteaus’ titles swing between the abstract and the absurd with songs such as ‘Fluffy Tufts’ heralding the nursery rhyme stroll of ‘Oomangmak’. The songs chime with innocence not incense and it all almost makes sense. Almost. But what does it all mean? What does it matter – the guiding hand of true genius is at work here. No clatter of percussion, no Simon Raymonde, no clutter, and gargoyles of replica. It’s so simple, and simply unique. From the first breathless and elemental touch of ‘Throughout The Dark Months Of April And May’ the duo conjure wistful spectres of serenity and submission that cast no shadow. The balalaika-like refrains of ‘Little Spacey’ – wings spread wide, eyes alert, scything thought the depths of dreamtime, the vocal hieroglyphics of ‘Whales Tails’ – triggering a stampede of a heart that beats in unison with the very stirrings of the soul. For a full half-hour, the lush and the barren thread through the amorous caress of ‘How To Bring A Blush To The Snow’ and the brittle cataracts of ‘Feel Like Fins’ before culminating in the wavering cries of ‘The Thinner Air’.

Victorialand (4AD)

How time flies when time is time and again. Another Cocteau Twins album, another gilded pillar of excellence, another review of waxing lyrical ballads. Nothing is new, but the news is good – the progression is complete. Time marches on, and passes by the elusive Twins whose work is neither updated, nor outdated, but sieves through another calendar in another place. Once more they are left out on a limb – playing in

Nick Cave: the thinking goth’s Cliff Richard


How time flies in the face of beauty. And the music stops, the clock starts, and all that remains are fragments of beauty torn from the paradise of the Gods. Nothing is new. All good is renewal. Ted Mico MM, 15 November 1986, p29

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS Your Funeral… My Trial



There is no land, there is no hope, there is no glory. There is only the sight of helpless and hapless people being dragged screaming into the cave of perdition to experience the thrill of horror. Nick Cave, the patron saint of burials, is there to make sure there is no escape from the quicksand. Once more he is heard suffering for his art and displaying the art of suffering – twitching with pain and scratching his arts. Many have tried to facsimile St Nicholas’ infernal inferno but only a man who is reputed to have spent half his life unconscious, face down in a public urinal, could convince people that hell on earth is real. Only a man sustained by a wincing self-mutilation could make this skeleton-strewn underworld a tantalising sauna. The funeral procession crackles, stumbles and ruptures as if led by the three blind mice pretending to be the three wise men carrying smouldering gifts of rampant paranoia. Throughout ‘The Trial’, Cave’s vision of women as either the chaste or the chased – the Virgin Mary, or a lascivious whore (the two inner sleeve illustrations) is antiquated, facile and repellent. Only a man whose heart and mind have been severely jilted would devote so many tortured words to Beatrice, the unapproachable dream of womanhood, or Doreen, a cheap and moist gap to fill up the time. Yet in Cave’s purgatory everything is black and white – without the white. Unlike ‘The Firstborn…’ and ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’, the Bad Seeds have stretched and scattered their lugubrious hacksaw shrapnel so far it no longer resembles the blues,

Bargeld’s barbed-wire strings wrapping around wood blocks and the galleon drum. In darkness the sinister chimes of the fantasy mannequins of desolation strut and clutch at the outrages of ‘Stranger Than Kindness’, with the same mesmeric chain-gang beat that binds the entrails of ‘Sad Waters’ to Cave’s ferris wheel of fire. The daylight finally fractures the cortege of ‘Jack’s Shadow’, but the upbeat joy and relief is short-lived. The sun blinds love, casts a haunting shadow and emasculates truth. It also causes skin cancer but Cave is not concerned with such mundane matters – not when there’s dead women to sing about. He is probably the only man more openly religious than Cliff Richard, demanding and demeaning belief by hollering savage psalms, empty words from Leviticus and dismembered sermons from the OT gone OTT. Nick Cave, hallowed be thy name. In this gospel love can only exist in the solstice of self-deprivation, the ritual of self-sacrifice, and the accidents of self-indulgence. It’s a small wonder he found the borrowed time to make his ‘Funeral’. It’s nothing short of a miracle that this barren and polluted underworld is so enticing, forcing a parody of beauty from the grotesque. There is no salvation, there is no redemption, there is only delirium – a mirage that mistakes hell for paradise. Yet this paradise in one hell of a place. Ted Mico

MM, 15 November 1986, p29

THE MISSION God’s Own Medicine (Mercury)

“I still believe in God, but God no longer believes in me.” Frankly I’m not surprised. Wayne Hussey is invariably to be found

The Cocteau Twins: making journalists swoon since 1982

in the midst of the most ungodly activities, revelling, quaffing and throwing up all around town as he rampages ever onwards in search of the next likely boiler. Wayne, it must be said, is not a man to hide his libido under a bushel, and one can only admire the recklessness of his lyrical enthusiasm for sex, even if he does, now and then, get a trifle too affectionate. I mean, if anybody ever dared call me “my blossom” or “my precious”, I’d break their neck. But Wayne is nothing if not impulsive, and this, coupled with the sprightly musical imagination of The Mission, makes for a remarkably entertaining LP. I hadn’t expected this. In my previous ignorance, I’d think The Mission, and I’d think goth – dark and broody and boring, boring, boring. In reality, this is a predominantly dynamic album which comes to grief on only two counts – the tedious ‘Dance On Glass’, all pattering drums and nonevents, and the infuriating ‘Stay

With Me’, a nursery rhyme which insists on masquerading as a song. Elsewhere the material is riveting, colourful and extraordinarily varied. The bright pop-rock of ‘Severina’ and the infectious up-tempos of ‘Sacrilege’ and ‘And The Dance Goes On’ contrast satisfyingly with the string-laden, lascivious ‘Garden Of Delight (Hereafter)’ or the smoky ‘Love Me To Death’. But The Mission are at their most brilliant when they’re at their most over-the-top. ‘Bridges Burning’, with its shrieks and screams and wails, is the masterpiece of the album, and the slower ‘Let Sleeping Dogs Die’ is not far behind in terms of dramatic impact. The first time I was really impressed with The Mission was the night they became the only Top 30 band in the universe to be turned away from the Limelight for not being famous enough. The second time I was really impressed by The Mission was last week, when I finally started to listen to their music. So Wayne, my blossom – do I qualify for a free pint now? Carol Clerk NME ORIGINALS


Sweet Nothings

MM, 1 February 1986, p26

THE SISTERHOOD Giving Ground (Merciful Releases)

Can’t quite understand what’s going on here. ‘Giving Ground’ was apparently written and produced by Sister Of Mercy Andrew Eldritch along with the hideously old Lucas Fox, whom hairier readers may remember from the original 1902 Motorhead line-up. The great man doesn’t actually appear on the track, however, and it’s up to someone called James Ray to inflict terror via the tonsils. It doesn’t quite work and sounds at times a little like the tune to Lytton’s Diary – that is until those Banshees baselines creep in, then it sounds like something you get pissed to in dodgy German discos. The instrumental version on the B-side fares a little better and is probably nice background music for those nights you have to stay in and wash the blood off the walls. Mat Smith

of their wailings have driven me to drink, and I never once fancied that I heard through their albums the veritable Voice Of God. This single, however, is thrilling, my favourite since ‘Playground Twist’. Big and brash and clashing, its many parts combine to form one spirited, unpredictable yet wholly co-ordinated outburst while Siouxsie’s voice, in confident control, bounces up and down and around the repeating motifs and unexpected twists of arrangement. Carol Clerk

NME, 11 October 1986, p12

THE COCTEAU TWINS Love’s Easy Tears (4AD)

Prickly music delivered in a coolly assured manner. On the one hand, the simple, dreamlike title track, on the other a purple ‘End Of The Day’ built along satellite principles, intermingling classy phases that keep you indoors for hours. There are pop hernias aching to burst in All About Eve, this is only the swelling. Mick Mercer

NME, 18 October 1986, p17


MM, 24 May 1986, p31

Stay With Me (Mercury)

THE MISSION Serpent’s Kiss (Chapter 22)

MM, 1 March 1986, p31


Born from the jetsam of The Sisters Of Mercy, The Mission’s signature is all too familiar – a spider’s scrawl on the tabernacle wall. Cosy guitar arpeggios coil around Wayne Hussey’s lowslung drone, until suddenly the darkness shatters and the spectre of Andrew Eldritch’s shades rises out of the black. The ghost smiles, shakes his head and slopes off into oblivion, muttering, “The horror… the horror.” Ted Mico





If I had a penny for every would-be Siouxsie I’ve ever seen on a stage, I’d have enough money to write to you all personally and tell you to buy this record. Not that I’ve ever been much of a Banshees fan: a lot


A blood-curdling 50 seconds of whip-cracking, saddlesore Tex Mexabilly. This bucking bronco of a single shows itself no mercy and finally runs itself into the ground with a sparkling accordion solo in the final furlong. There are many ways to describe The Cocteau Twins, aren’t there, kids? Cath Carroll

NME, 31 May 1986, p30

ALL ABOUT EVE In The Clouds (Eden)

Goosebumps a go-go on the 12inch version – from the fruit cellar to the crow’s nest and back again.

MM, 26 July 1986, p26

Pomp rock for night people in which Wayne Hussey croons seductive sweet nothings to the virgin of his choice. I’d sooner cuddle up to a bag of chisels. Mat Snow

THE MISSION Garden Of Delight (Chapter 22)

Predictable stuff from these exSisters Of Mercy, though entirely lacking in the humour that set the originals apart, and full of enough jangly guitar and doomladen vocals to build upon their recent ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ success. Far more interesting though is their cover of Neil Young’s ‘Like A Hurricane’, also included here, with Hussey and co taking the old redneck’s classic and camping it up to a quite outrageous degree. I can hardly wait to see Adam Sweeting’s face. Barry McIlheney

The Mission: lacking in humour apparently. Apart from their hats of course

Chapter 9



Wayne’s WorlD






Metal Machine Music But rather than try for the high-wire tension of the original, they’ve reheated it in a supper-lounge suit, and it’s charming enough. ‘You’re Lost Little Girl’ needs its Morrison to convince but John Cale’s ‘Gun’ stomps along righteously and the horns puff it up for a welcome reincarnation. Even allowing for the flat ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ and the token of their glam adolescence (Roxy’s ‘Sea Breezes’), the Banshees have here made their first good LP in five years. Whatever that’s worth today. David Swift NME, 11 April 1987, p35

THE CULT Electric

NME, 11 July 1987, p33

THE MISSION The First Chapter (Phonogram)

Just how serious can The Mission possibly be? Anyone who can name songs ‘Naked And Savage’ and ‘Serpent’s Kiss’ has either got a severe cliché problem or they’re laughing all the way to the bank. This bunch quite clearly derive from a post-punk culture, and yet take a perverse delight in flirting with that bête noir of their generation, mid-’70s rock. The Mission quite self-consciously break all the rules. Deciding to cover a Neil Young song, for instance, The Mission have to choose his single example of that great dodo, the ‘rock anthem’ – ‘Like A Hurricane’, delivered with a pofaced, blustering sincerity. The problem is that if it’s intended to be a joke, it’s not really very funny. The clichés they use rarely aspire to being anything other than clichés, and at their best they’re like consolation prize winners in a Jim Morrison soundalike competition. At their worst, they can be a veritable vomitbag full of bilious pretension. A version of Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’ misses the point altogether, sounding like little boys playing with naughty drug references, where the original sounds like a scarecrow playing with fire.



By far the most entertaining aspect of this pompously titled collection is the sleeve notes, which refer to “blowing brains out”, “searing white-hot guitar noise”, “various illegal states of mind”, and, best of all, “a gorgeous happening rock’n’roll relationship”, whatever that may be. After reading that lot, the most amusing thought came to mind. Hey! What if they mean it, man? John Munro NME, 7 March 1987, p26

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Through The Looking Glass (Polydor)

Look deep into my eyes, little one… trussssssssst me! Yesss, trussst me when I say – this is OK, actually. Who wouldn’t love that sssublime sssnake from The Jungle Book? Even he gets a chance on this, the Banshees’ ‘collection of favourites from Ten Years In A Tour Bus’. Siouxsie croons ‘Trust In Me’ from

the Disney soundtrack but fares badly when compared with that python’s creepy delivery. It’s been a long time since the Banshees have been hypnotic, but this has its moments. Sadly it’s not half the LP that Nick Cave produced with ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’, because here the Banshees are mostly too respectful – except on ‘Strange Fruit’, which is a wobbling disaster. Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’ is one of the few rock records that could start a barndance anywhere in the world. It’s a legend, and at least Siouxsie knows that if you’re gonna mess with this one, mess with it or leave well alone. So as all concerned take a ride to see what’s theirs, the horns swoop and it swings along famously. On ‘Hall of Mirrors’, the Banshees and Kraftwerk are well-matched because each has a trademark pulse, and the tune is made to measure. Anyone attempting to play out Television’s seldom-heard debut ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ is asking for it.

(Beggars Banquet)

One of the most fascinating things about the development of music over the last two years has been the myriad ways in which heavy metal, once an idiot in-breed feeding off its own faeces, has reinvented itself. Most spectacular is Run DMC’s achievement in selling re-usable Aerosmith riffs to the hipsters of the soul patrol, messing up all the ten-year old cultural boundaries. But on the traditional side there’s been a swing towards a New York Dolls-ish sense of glam, while on the punk, tribal side bands like The Cult have slipped into the biker/killing machine imagery of traditional heavy metal. No one knows the marketing potential of the various strains of new rock better than Rick Rubin – the man who turned the Beastie Boys from brash punk to brat metal, the man behind Slayer’s speed metal thrash, producer of Run DMC and now producer of The Cult. Yes, it is a conspiracy. Rubin seems to have a perfect grasp on what the masses of middle America want, which is, in fact, not very much, just something very noisy and unpretentious. And if mid-America wants it, it wants it in large enough numbers to allow you to forget about the rest of the world. The question is whether they will want The Cult, and the answer is almost certainly yes. ‘Electric’ is a perfectly accomplished heavy metal record, from the bladed lettering of the cover right down to the version of ‘Born To Be Wild’, while the tawdry glamour displayed in the inner sleeve shots is perfectly designed to meet Bon Jovi halfway.


The Mish: billowing hair and bilious pretension

1987 Musically it sounds like a trip through the styles of the ’70s, from sub-T.Rex catchphrasing through acid-scrambled nonsense (“Sitting on a mountain looking at the sun/ Plastic fantastic lobster telephone”) to full blown Led Zeppelin bombast. We might wonder just how serious this can be when we hear lines like: “Zany antics of a beat generation/In their wild search for kicks”. But the kids with the dollars in their pockets and the college radio station on their portables won’t . There’s gold in this here swill. Don Watson

The Neph’s Carl McCoy: sponsored by Homepride

MM, 30 May 1987, p30

THE CURE Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me (Fiction)

Kiss kiss bang bang! Just as Rodin’s lovers will forever hold palms to thighs and the only good lips will be red lips, this is a perfect objective blur, a subjective sublime. You find yourself swaying, instinctively, to most of it: echoes of the known. “All I want is to hold you like a dog”: too furry to be rock, too tearful to be pop, too reliant on ice-skating strings to be soul,

The Cure’s intangibility fades into flesh here and bloodletting is rife. We have 17 songs, we have two themes – ‘if only’ and ‘come over here’ – we have tortured memories and, believe it or not, we have some current fun. When Warhol made The Kiss – another great arrogant accident – the beauty of each rendezvous could’ve been spoiled by saturation. Just as on The Cure’s magnetic magnum opus, the pert flirtations or self-flagellations of each mini-masterpiece should negate each other till it’s just all too much. But somehow, somewhere, there’s a place in your heart for each. When Marilyn coos “simply elegant” in The Seven Year Itch, that’s fine too, because she has no name. Robert Smith is only called Robert Smith, but perhaps this is why we let him get away with it. We sympathise, because he’s clever enough not to get too clever. “I wish you were dead” and “You want to know why I hate you?” he groans. This is creative visualisation, for Smith is undoubtedly enjoying life. So not only can we mope along, if we wish, we can boogie with reverential and self-referential delight to such exquisite squeals as, “That girl was always falling/Again and again/ And I used to sometimes try to catch her/But I never even caught her name”. So it’s won, it’s won from the extended lung twirling intro to ‘The Kiss’ – such anticipation! Like unwrapping chocolate! The consistent death and pain imagery keeps us brewing coyly till ‘How Beautiful You Are’ sends everything Venus-wards. ‘The Snakepit’ slithers with atmosphere but is usurped by the strings which underline ‘Like Cockatoos’. And if ‘Hot Hot Hot’ is flimsy funk, ‘Just Like Heaven’ is ribald pop, as delicious as a fling behind a screen. This record lacks the punch of ‘The Head On The Door’ but has twice the suction. Still, the search goes on for ‘The Perfect Girl’, and the conclusion of it all is a

staggeringly original “never give in”. Not until several minutes’ silence after the event (for that’s what this subversive saintly saccharine is, really) do we realise that the answers have all been romanced. We take one more quick glance at the clothing strewn on the floor. Crimson lips. If that was a picture of entrails, we’d find it revolting. But it isn’t. It’s lips, so we think it’s chic. The eye of the beholder is yet again the sole arbiter. They’ll be howling this into the wind 10 years from now, and if it wasn’t a double album I’d have no hesitation in calling it album of the year. But I’m hesitating. Which leaves me no more or less lost than anyone who irrationally loves the nebulous aspirations, camp angst and lack of definition of The Cure. A panacea or Pantheism? Think ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’ and be damned. Chris Roberts MM, 30 May 1987, p34

FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM Dawnrazor (Situation 2)

Detractors of the Nephilim are often more inclined towards artier shite and thereby choose to spare three seconds peering at the hats and six months ignoring the music. This is how people come to miss out on the rumbling sprees we call ‘Slowkill’ or ‘Volcane’, ominous preludes to power both, gnashing teeth hard enough to desecrate gums, but with an undeniable grace. Epiglottal rumpus aside, it is the guitars which arrest attention most, sneering and snapping their way through torrential mixtures of ridiculously sublime multi-textured sounds and song. Nephilim stride out of a gloom of their own setting, to throttle your record deck. You want whipcord choruses, tensile passages of anti-inertia? All here. This band have constructed something quite magnificent in a dismal time, when everyone tends to ape things of indescribable putrescence. Unlike hip slop like Swans or Young Gods, some rattlesnakes wag their tails ’cos they’re pleased to see you. Mick Mercer NME ORIGINALS



ello? “Thin White Duck here.” Who? “Andy.”

Andy? “Eldritch.” Oh… uh… hi, Eldritch. “Come for drinks.” When? “Now.” I can’t, I’m asleep. It’s seven in the morning. “Is it? Oh, coffee then.” Later. “Sure. Kensington. My hotel. At 10.” OK… Uh, you haven’t been to sleep yet have you? “When… this week? This month?” After the gig. “Uh… no. Went to Dingwalls with Lemmy and these Hell’s Angels and…” Save it, Eldritch. Save it. See you later.

Ah, those were the days. Cryptic phone calls at all hours. The Sisters Of Mercy at The Albert Hall, a heavy dark nectar of irony that looked

certain to choke goth on its own bittersweet excesses. ‘First And Last And Always’, the album out on Merciful Release through Warners, and nights sat up in hotels with Eldritch in his manky leather cowboy hat doing wilful bodily harm to our fragile metabolisms and rattling on at mutual cross-purposes; me about love ’n’ life ’n’ that; Eldritch, of course, about fencing and self-defence and the iron bar he carried up the sleeve of his coat for dextrous use in the eventuality of attack. The world was spinning at Eldritch’s pace and it was spinning very, very fast. There were great conspiracies and greater paranoia. He even offered to take someone out of my life by giving them a job on the Sisters’ road crew for a US tour – a job he could hardly refuse and which he might well not survive. Some friend. Some hero. And then… well, those postcards. One from Mexico which read: “ELVIS IS DEAD. I know because he told me. Sorry to break it to you so bluntly, but you had it coming, hippie. Feed your head – when you can find it. Von Eldritch X.” There was a PS: “Peyote girls go round the outside, round the outside.”


VOICE Andrew Eldritch, the godfather of goth, is back to lead his children form the hippy wilderness and to prove The Sisters of Mercy are first and last and always. Steve Sutherland gets the message MM, 5 september 1987, p14


1987 There were others from Hamburg, the last of which was written in Chinese, and I wasn’t the only one who feared for the great man’s sanity. Rumour had it a combination of devastated health, legal binds and sheer disappointment that his ex-henchmen had made a go of The Mission had laid Eldritch near-fatally low. We presumed the world and Eldritch, to all extents and purposes, had parted company. Such miserable unbelievers!


is in a photographic studio, glistening with baby-oil and draped all over Patricia, formerly of The Gun Club and now his “right-hand man”. He’s here to pose with cigarettes and prove The Sisters Of Mercy are still a force to get wrecked with. He doesn’t talk of resurrection, but of continuation and, as if to insist megalomania is alive and well and ready to pistol-whip pop, his new single is called ‘This Corrosion’, lasts 11 minutes, features a 40-piece choir multi-tracked 10 times and was produced by Meat Loaf’s old buddy and master of the Wagnerian, Jim Steinman. I’m about to ask him why but I’m laughing too much. The Bad News mondo-metal version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ has just come on the radio and Patricia thinks it’s The Cult!

Where have you been since you last appeared in the hallowed pages of the Maker? “Well, we went through the corporate wars in my familiar Jonathan E type role and we did OK. A lot of untruths have been bandied about, but unfortunately, the way we won makes it tricky for us to explain how we won and, therefore, prove that we did. It was basically over the name – the people that are now The Mission and myself had an agreement no one would use the name when the band went its separate ways. But, after they’d been touting their demos round getting nowhere under all sorts of other names,

Was it frustrating to see The Mission become successful in the mean time? “No… I mean, they took the interest and capitalised on that but, musically, not. It was noticeable for about a year that they couldn’t get press unless they mentioned my name. I saw interviews with myself so many times by proxy – that got irritating because… well, Wayne has a REMARKABLE way with the truth.” Is there bitterness between you then? “Yeah. Yeah, there is.” Personal or corporate? “Personal.” You suggest there’s a fundamental difference in ATTITUDE between The Sisters Of Mercy and The Mission. “Yeah, their ability to bend over forwards in order to make progress appals me. The way they’ve bent over contracts and been appropriately assaulted for it which, again, is something they’ve not really been prepared to let on about. “Musically, too. I never sang a lyric of Wayne’s. I never found one I COULD sing.” History has proved that, when The Sisters disappeared from public view, was EXACTLY the time you should have been reaping your greatest rewards. What, other than legalities, prompted your inaction? “Well, I wasn’t well. I’d done three tours that year and I thought we’d come to the end of a logical course. I titled that Albert Hall gig ‘Wake’ about four months before it actually happened, and the band are probably still wondering why. I mean, I thought it should still have gone on but I knew it wasn’t going to. “The last time we actually spent any time together, at the end of the tour before the Albert Hall, we had some time playing in America and then we had a week off in Los Angeles. “I went to Mexico for the day and the other two couldn’t think of anything better to do than go to Disneyland. And when I came back from Mexico a WEEK later, having got somewhat… uh… distracted, I just thought, ‘God, what are those people whinging about, really?’ They just got so feeble. “Then they said, ‘Well, OK, what are we gonna do for new songs?’ And I said, ‘How about this, this and this,’ and unfortunately, the first ‘this’ I cited had too many chords per minute and Craig said, ‘If that’s the guitar line, I’m not playing it,’ and walked out. That was really that. “But Wayne had already become a problem because he wanted to do more of his songs and I thought they were particularly vacuous. “I used to have to fight with him to get the songs to make any sort of grammatical sense, let alone be sharp with it. I mean, you’ve gotta know grammar before you can work away from it. The guy didn’t have a clue – he’d just string buzzwords together.” Strangely enough, someone from the Maker was around Wayne while he was writing recently and he had a book of aphorisms with all the mystical-type ones underlined in red. “That’s how most people do it. I can’t bring myself to work that way. That’s what passes

“Oh, anywhere but Indian.” Really? I thought you’d be a man for a ruby. “No, I refuse to eat anywhere they beat us at cricket.” Italian then? “Italian.”

Let’s talk over eats Eldritch. Where d’you fancy?

they began to claim rights to it, which patently had to be stopped. And, when they wanted to be called The Sisterhood, there was nothing I could do but be The Sisterhood before them – the only way to kill that name was to use it, then kill it. I think that reflected rather badly on the name The Sisters Of Mercy and it’s probably due for reinstatement for that reason if no other. “Then there was a little disagreement with the publishers, RCA Music, over what would happen to the money. Effectively it all kept us out of action.”



Rumour had it that devastated health, legal binds and sheer disappointment had laid Eldritch near-fatally low. Such miserable unbelievers!


A New Era Of Cynicism 

for revolution these days. I’m glad I wasn’t around in ’86 because it wasn’t just The Mission, it was a bad year all over and anybody who broke then will be tainted with it for a long time.” But surely you’re responsible. You introduced a generation of synth-pop fashion fops to the thrill of anti-fashion, ‘When The Levee Breaks’, outlaw biker chic and drug innuendo and guitars and ripped jeans and dry ice. Without the Sisters and the vacuum you created when you went to ground, there could scarcely have been grebo and Zodiac Mindwarp. “I dispute that. That’s like saying Christ is responsible for the Mormons – it’s really not on. I don’t know what you lot were left with. “So what’s grebo rock?” You really haven’t heard of it? “No, is it like Led Zeppelin?” Well… yeah… fake… fantasy stuff. “Oh, without the grunge. Maybe I SHOULD have taught them outrageousness.” You sound like The Godfather of Goth. “Ha! When we were trying to sell ‘This Corrosion’ to Steinman, we said it was like the high point of a Borgia disco evening and he went for it. Nobody makes gloriously stupid records any more.” Queen? “No, they’re embarrassing. Steinman and I are the only two who share this glorious stupidity. Don’t tell him though. He just thinks ‘Corrosion’ is perfectly normal. Other bands have no perspective on the stupidity of it at all. They say things like, ‘Oh well, we never claimed we were original,’ or, ‘Well, of course rock’s stupid,’ but it’s just spiel, just Eldritch lines misunderstood.” This is where the attitude comes in. The difference between the Sisters and the pretenders to the throne is an irony-in-overdrive that takes the piss out of AND celebrates its role models.

In a sense, your attitude was a precursor to sampling. You were acknowledging Led Zeppelin before The Beastie Boys USED them. Is their literal approach even more honest than yours? “I think that’s a lower level, a very vulgar interpretation. The Beastie Boys aren’t familiar territory to me. In about two years, I’ll cover ‘When The Levee Breaks’ and wipe the floor with The Beastie Boys and wipe the floor with The Cult because they haven’t got a grip on what is great about Led Zeppelin. It’s like The Mission going out and covering Sisters music – they make it sound like bad Echo & The Bunnymen. “I remember I went to see The Alarm when they were knee-high to Big Country and I thought, ‘These people have COMPLETELY misunderstood Mott The Hoople,’ and it’s been happening ever since. I’m now used to people misunderstanding me, though it’s weird when you get all these Eldritch clones out there treading the boards.” You’ve never seen Fields Of The Nephilim? “No, I’m told we played with them once in San Francisco but I wasn’t actually there when they played.” Patricia: “They knew I was there and, afterwards, they came up and started talking to people next to me. I just left. I wasn’t even going to speak to them. I mean, for a moment when they were on, I turned and thought, ‘This is familiar, what’s THIS?’” “The only reason that people like that embarrass me so much is that, if they’re really that hooked on me, they must be tasteless. It gets to the stage where you think, ‘I’m not THAT good and anybody who thinks I am

I hope history proves you right. “I hope so too because I don’t think this irony compounds itself properly unless you do add an extra layer on the top, unless you do stick something worthwhile in.” Don’t we need a new era of innocence? Don’t we need to UNLEARN progress? “No, we need a new era of cynicism. The reason the NME, for instance, can’t comprehend this sort of thinking is that they don’t have that cynicism. They still believe that rock’n’roll is supposed to be naive and wonderful and, if

“I always go away thinking I haven’t said enough about post-war dramatic theory, fencing or Chinese philology, which are the things I really care about” “If you do it right, it compounds itself at every level. ‘Corrosion’ is an indictment of bombast – there was no other way to do it.” A lot of old Sisters fans are gonna say, “He’s taking the piss.” “Of course I’m taking the piss – it’s the only way to be serious about it. Same as it ever was.” So this is crap AND fantastic. It’s time we redefined the difference between man and beast. It’s nothing to do with how many legs you walk on; it’s everything to do with the possession of irony. I know people who are animals. “And I had a cat that had a very highly developed sense of irony.” ‘Corrosion’ is already being compared to some pretty God-like things. One of them is the Stones’ ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’. “That’s cool.” So it’s pop about pop. “That’s a very important element, yeah. You have to acknowledge the medium in the message, I think, otherwise you’re stupid… dishonest… or just very naive.”



must be an idiot’. “There’s an inner integrity and authority in ‘Corrosion’ which comes of pain, grief and suffering. I couldn’t do what The Cult are singing, I couldn’t do what The Beastie Boys are doing, I couldn’t do what Madonna is doing. I could do what Alice Cooper did but then I’m not extrovert enough. I would have no scruples about doing it if I were able to. “And if it takes a year fighting corporate wars in order to be able to do it with integrity, then I’ll do it… or not at all. I don’t HAVE to do this.”

Don’t you have a touching belief that the role of a recording artist is to be intelligent and communicative, and isn’t that belief extraordinarily old-fashioned? “Yeah, and self-destructive.” So you’re fighting a rearguard action. “Or vanguard, depending on how you look at it.”

Well-oiled sisters: Andrew Eldritch and Patricia Morrison

1987 the expectations. It’s a long war but ‘Corrosion’ might win one battle and, after all, it’s the only war worth fighting.” How much is revenge the motive? “‘The Gift’ was the revenge, a weapon very specifically pointed. This is the gloating, much more widespread, more general.” Why did you go to live in Hamburg? “It’s the largest city in the Federal Republic which is the most powerful country in Europe. It’s just such a wonderfully cool place because it’s not populated by cool people like Berlin.” Do you feel badly done by in Britain then? “Yeah. Not so much these days because I’ve got a reasonable amount of goodwill stored up but one knows it’s only goodwill as long as you don’t start talking about aesthetics when they ask you what your favourite colour is.”

Have you, in your time away, seen anything encouraging? “What, to do with music?” To do with anything. Twenty seconds silence. Then: “No.

Nixon and asked him how to survive it.” Eldritch is supposed to be a pretty ruthless character himself. “Not really, I’m a counter-attacker by nature. I’m not a pre-emptive strike man.” Most people in your position, if they’re interested in maintaining control, tend to make a point of confounding (Robert Smith) or confirming (John Lydon) their public image. You do neither. “That’s where the hardship comes in. It’s a lot of extra work and a lot of extra worry. Anecdotes? I just don’t have them.” Will ‘Corrosion’ chart? “I’m told it will. I don’t care. It’s a good record now, it’ll be a good record in five years. I don’t care when people buy it though I think it’s more accessible to people, it has a more accessible top layer than the records we’ve had out in the past. That’s just a function of the way it’s recorded, I don’t think it’s a function of the song.” So the song’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or… uh… a wolf in what? Brontosaurus’s clothing? I dunno, I’ll cheat and put in something really

But nothing discouraging either. Life went on and I expect it to go on. I’d find it pretty weird, in fact, if I had seen any light… or darkness.” Control seems important to you while, all around, others are relinquishing theirs. “Yeah. But although I put my sole existence into making records, I don’t need to make records. I mean, if I hadn’t gone off and been a little degenerate in the mean time, I dare say I’d have joined the Diplomatic Corps – that’s what I’m trained for. Or MI6.” So what d’you think of Spycatcher? “That’s pretty damn irrelevant – that’s really all to do with the Home Office isn’t it? I haven’t read it but I can’t see what the surprise is all about. Like Nixon – what the hell did they expect? It’s just politics.” So was Nixon hard done by or was he just dumb to get caught? “I thought Nixon was a great president. He got the Americans out of Vietnam, he made friends, to some extent, with the Russians and he certainly made friends with the Chinese. He was the best president in terms of foreign policy that nation had in a long time and I thought they were very stupid to get rid of him. He was very stupid to make a mess of covering up Watergate up – I mean Reagan survived Irangate.” Patricia: “I was over there when that happened and, you know, Reagan called

witty and apposite when I write this. “Ha! I think it’s a shark in wolf’s clothing. That was a pretty duff metaphor to start with though. Forget about that one…” But it’s devious. “Not deceitfully so. It’s just crafty. I hope it makes sense. I mean, I’d like people to go for everything they can get out of it and all at once – that’s what symbolism and obscurism are all about – but I don’t expect that. It’s the only thing I get off on though. It’s the only thing that would make me wanna sing the same song two nights running. It’s gotta have that overwhelming panoply of effects.” What do you read now? “Der Spiegel and The Times – I’ve started doing the crossword again. Last month I read Pilgrim’s Progress and Beowulf.” Films? “I don’t have a television in Hamburg. That’s one of the reasons for not writing in Leeds because there I’d spend 24 hours – well, 25 hours a day by the time I’d taken some medicine – watching TV. I was very pleased to be forced to catch the Rutger Hauer season while we were in the studio. Patricia was renting anything with Rutger Hauer in it. Some of them are real stinkers but he’s so funny in The Hitcher – it’s a brilliant comic performance. You’ll love it. “It really makes you wanna go out and do it. There’s not a lot of films where the character is so obviously deranged but, at the same time, makes it look like such fun that even the sanest person could imagine doing it. I mean, to go out and wanna be The Terminator, you’ve gotta be a moron basically – it’s great to watch but you’d never do it yourself. This is different.” So what makes you happy Eldritch? “Cats still make me ludicrously happy.” What makes you sad? “Nothing makes me sad because I think NME ORIGINALS


“Of course I’m taking the piss. It’s the only way to be serious about it. Same as it ever was”

you give them irony, they say, ‘Oh dear, that’s distasteful. Let’s forget about it. Let’s pretend it’s not humorous.’ That’s very primitive cynicism born out of a very vulgar and naive ideology.” Has pop music let you down? “No. I know what it’s capable of because, when I grew up, it was blatantly capable of it and it was delivering. Expectations have been lowered since and deliveries have been faltering. It’s just a question of raising people’s expectations again. We can do it. I’ll make the records if you raise


 MM, 21 November 1987, p31

THE SISTERS OF MERCY Floodland (Merciful Release)

Facing up to the fact that nothing is new tends to separate the mice from the men. Some, like George Michael, plagiarise. Others, Like The Cult, feign ignorance. Eldritch mocks, uses choirs and Coleridge, taunts pop with its elders and betters. ‘Floodland” is more and less the same album as ‘First And Last And Always’. It’s more in that Eldritch’s awareness of mortality has spread from the knowledge that nothing is new to the opinion that nothing is worthwhile; and it’s less in that being incapable of contemplating nothing, it reacts to time running out by amputating all the curlicues of guitar and replacing them with stark, essential foundations. ‘Floodland’ is an edifice to decay in which Eldritch unleashes all his paranoia and obsession. The gargantuan ‘Dominion/ Mother Russia’ finds our hero forsaking that job in the diplomatic corps and pleading with Mother Russia to “rain down”, while the magnificently minimal ‘This Corrosion’ cleaves through its own pompous austerity to admit “I got nothing to say I ain’t said before”, a revelation which, far from suggesting a lack of imagination, indicates a surfeit of it. That admission, alongside the metallic Luftwaffe slap of ‘Lucretia My Reflection’, the breakdown of language during ‘Floodland II’ or the (surely) sampled nuclear depth charge drums from Led Zeppelin’s ‘When The Levee Breaks’ on ‘Neverland’, is a mark of shocking honesty. When Eldritch sings “Seconds to the drop but it feels like hours…” the red light starts winking on the dashboard and we realise that ‘Driven Like The Snow’ is ‘Nine While Nine’ revisited because he can do nothing else –we’re all waiting. Dying on record’s a dicey business, especially when it’s world destruction that nags your every waking minute because there’s nowhere to go artistically. Facing up to that, ‘Floodland’ is a triumph of sorts, neither optimistic enough to suggest there’s a Noah’s Ark nor pessimistic enough to accuse us all of navigating a ship of fools. It simply says rust never sleeps and this is what it sounds like. Great. Steve Sutherland



there has to be some element of surprise in order to feel sad.” What else? “Well, I’m thinking of learning to drive. The thing is, whenever I go abroad, I invariably end up driving and I don’t have a licence or anything which is probably not the thing to do. Then, you see, what happens after that is I buy a car. I don’t particularly like cars for their own sake and I don’t particularly like driving. I get these urges. I see these things and I think, ‘What if…?’ That’s why I don’t really enjoy it; because I’m responsible enough not to do what I feel the urge to do. I don’t get the urge to drive fast, I just get the urge to drive off the road, especially when there’s nothing on either side of me. “It’s got nothing to do with suicide; it’s just about driving a car off the edge of a cliff.”

How would you kill someone? “It would depend whether it was someone I liked or someone I didn’t like.” OK, someone you like. “It depends whether I think they’d appreciate something spectacular or something just very sedate. I think if it was someone I really, really liked and they’d appreciate the spectacular, it would have to involve an expanse of scenery and an extraordinarily fast car.” And those you don’t like? “I’d always want it take longer. It’s best to kill someone they really like, I think.” You suggest in what you just said that you like and dislike but not love and hate. “I’m very wary of it. I have to be very careful because I think I’m probably a bit obsessive by nature. I had to TOTALLY stop drinking in order to be able to maintain any business whatever. I don’t gamble. I don’t do smack.” And love? “Absolutely not. I only ever really did it once and I don’t think I’m likely to do it again.” Because you don’t like losing your personality in someone else or because you don’t like inflicting it? “Both. We were just dreadful for each other. It didn’t stop it being brilliant but it’s marginally better that it doesn’t happen any more. That’s tough. It still hangs over to the extent that I couldn’t do it again.” What would induce you to lose your self control, to endanger yourself in passion? “I’ve only ever done that when I wasn’t quite… on stage I’ve done things that afterwards I’ve thought, ‘No! That was just beyond the pale.’” Because you were out of it? “Because I could, because I was out of it and because I had to. If you’re in front of a crowd, you’re in a position of responsibility and, if they’re waiting for you to sort out one moron, you have to do it. I mean, the last time it happened, I spent half an hour trying to talk the crowd into sorting out their own problem and then, eventually, I just dived. It was really sad. I felt very ashamed on their behalf that they let me do it.” OK, that’s it. Was it good for you?

“I never know. I always go away thinking, ‘Well, I haven’t said enough about postwar dramatic theory or fencing, or Chinese philology,’ which are the things that I really care about. And then someone says, ‘Well? Did you tell them how great the record is?’ And I go, ‘Oh, actually that never occurred to me.’ “The only conversations I quite get off on these days are the ones where we discuss how crap conversation is. I’m not socially honed and I don’t feel the need to be. Once you convince yourself you’re the all-time best at it, where d’you go from there?” How enigmatic. “I don’t feel enigmatic. Enigmatic is being deliberately obscure and I’m not. I might be oblique but that’s only because, to me, obliqueness is a clearer way of expressing something in its entirety.” Could this be the Oxford University training – the art of leaving oneself least open to attack – or are we talking about truth here? “Truth. I can do the other as well but I’m too out of training – and when I was really good at it, I began to despise myself for it.” So you’re talking about a search for communication? “I really don’t know but, apart from the bit about Roy Kinnear, I stand by everything I’ve ever said to you.” Even the stuff about Norman Wisdom? “Yeah.” Gods will be gods.


Four Minute WArnings


Hippy hippy shake: Julianne Regan of All About Eve and The Mission’s Wayne Hussey

All About Eve/ The Mission The Marquee, London MM, 5 September 1987, p19



ith no rock giants, such as Tommy Steele or Charlie Drake, to kiss, poor Painey Wayney turns to his band for his kicks and everyone goes CRAZY, except for the beleagured reviewer and his girlfriend, anxiously timing the guards’ patrols around the perimeter fence. (Any moment now…) Then, bugger me, it isn’t as bad as I’d feared. The new songs may simply be the old songs (‘Sacrilege’?), may simply be jovial noise without much in the way of tungsten tunes, but this tiny tussle was enjoyable! Standards are slipping, ‘1969’ is slipped in and the trivial pursuit is over. The Mish. In one era and out the other. The Igloos love it. Then they bay for the band who can currently charm anyone. To protect the innocent I can even reveal that one of the Stud Brothers recently confessed a liking for All About

Eve. “I don’t know why. Must be the wanker in me coming to the surface.” The alcoholics. The HippyHippy Shake! Glorious pop songs, bloody pop songs. All About Eve. “Imagine you’re around a campfire, my friends,” Julianne suggests, dodging my flaming arrows, “because this is ‘Gipsy Love’!” And unfortunately it is. But never mind, there was still a

Sweetness and light. Peace and love. With a crowd scrap thrown in for good measure. Some people have no manners prickly ‘What Kind Of Fool’, plus rampant versions of ‘Our Summer’ and ‘Flowers In Our Hair’, with the real live human drummer a torrential pulsebeat, the guitars

cutting in and out of the commercial splendour. For ‘Shelter From The Rain’, Wayney accidently stumbles onto the stage, discovers it isn’t the toilet so has a sing-song. Moving.

Sweetness and light. Peace and love, with a crowd scrap thrown in for good measure. Some people have no manners. Warmed up for Reading Festival, sweating in their delirium, sordid and sentimental, All About Eve wet themselves tonight. The crowd soak it up. “I don’t know about you,” Julianne gasps, rebellious banter flying, “but this is all a bit too exciting for me!” Mick Mercer NME ORIGINALS


Kissing To Be Clever


This week, The Cure complete a triumphant European tour by playing three nights at Wembley. Chris Roberts caught up with them on the eve of their homecoming to discuss lips, hands, legs and boomps-a-daisy MM, 5 December 1987, p25


he kiss originated when the first male reptile licked the first female reptile, implying in a subtle, complimentary way that she was as succulent as the small reptile he had for dinner the night before.” – F Scott Fitzgerald: The Crack-Up

HE KISSES VARIOUS PEOPLE, HE SUPPOSES! “The only person I really kiss is Mary,” says Robert Smith. “I kiss Simon from time to time. Oh, I kiss various people, I suppose. It’s just spontaneous. But there’s a history of treacherous kisses. And lecherous kisses are vile. A drunken kiss can be one of the worst things in the world. I used to say my hobbies were drinking and kissing, in that order, but it wasn’t true. I don’t know. I dislike kissing as much as I like it. Seeing other people kissing is… ugh… “At one point I almost got phobic about the mouth being an orifice, about actually travelling into someone’s mouth. I just liked putting the mouth on the cover ’cos it’s so close-up it’s kind of obscene and lewd. It was a reaction to the way we’re often interpreted – I’m seen as being really cuddly, and my mouth and lipstick are supposed to be so nice. This isn’t true; I’m as horrible as anyone. Probably more so than most. “What comes out of people’s mouths is pretty vile most of the time. “And breath. Breath is revolting. Especially in Germany.”

and “Hello, I’m a plank” (if you are Simon). Asking the manager to reveal his wedding tackle. Requesting ‘Thinking Of You’ by Sister Sledge from a disc jockey who looks like Roscoe Tanner. Being staggered that Roberts knows ‘Born To Be Alive’ and ‘Let’s All Chant’ were by Patrick Hernandez and The Michael Zager Band respectively. Not going out of the hotel because that would mean instant lethal mobbing. Getting up late. Going back to bed. Feeling a bit awkward when little girls burst into tears upon touching their hair. Drinking. Lol-baiting. Talking about gore movies. Being chuffed that Barry Gibb is a Cure fan. Having chewing-gum on the rider. Drinking some more. Mercilessly, relentlessly, savagely, baiting Lol. Not dancing. Tittering. Not having some grand idea about themselves. Watching shirts shrink. Miming to Status Quo records. Being gods in France. Why are The Cure so big, Robert? “I think a lot of it is songs, I really do. Just having the right song at the right time.” Why are The Cure so big, Simon? “I think it’s probably… Robert.”

HE NEVER HAS AN ORIGINAL THOUGHT! The words to ‘How Beautiful You Are’ are of interest to me… “The lyric-sheet’s wrong, innit?” Who proof-read it? “Me.” It suggests that “no one ever knows or loves another”. That’s a bit of a rum do, isn’t it? “Ah, that’s literary theft, from a Baudelaire short story. I wrote a song round the time of the ‘Faith’ album with the idea that, even if you thought you were very close to someone, you never really were. That you’d always be disappointed in people. Then someone gave me a book of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Rimbaud. “I read this story and his narrative idea put it so much better. Just goes to show – I never have an original thought!” But is your view of communication between people really that bleak? “Mmm. Still is. I wish it wasn’t. But I expect less of fewer people now. There’s just one or two people who I rely on not to change. Maybe three. It’s very difficult writing songs which people say help them and not feeling like you’re the centre of the universe. It’s nice to read something that stirs you to think you’re on the periphery. Or that you don’t even exist. “I once met somebody who’d interviewed Patrick White and I felt very peripheral then. I wished I’d met him. But then I was invited to lunch with Ray Bradbury and I didn’t go: at the last minute I got scared I’d be so useless in the conversation.” Recommended reading for incurable Curophiles? “Patrick White’s autobiography, which tells me how an old person feels when he’s old. And gay. I’m terrified of old people. And in Ireland I set myself this reading course to try and re-educate myself, ’cos I felt I was becoming very dull. So I read Beyond Good And Evil again, and The Myth Of Sisyphus. And Sartre’s Road To Freedom trilogy, which I’d never read before. That was brilliant. Really good. And Confucius…” Isn’t this all a little naively heavy-going? “No, surprisingly enough – you know most of what’s in them. You find you just know.”

“I’m seen as being cuddly. This isn’t true; I’m as horrible as anyone ”


We, however, are in Brussels, the capital of Europe. It is the capital of Europe because nobody – not Rome, not Madrid, not Liverpool, not nobody – could possibly be jealous of Brussels. Thus peace is assured. Being jealous of Brussels would be like being jealous of a watering-can with scaffolding around it. “We’re sitting here and it’s Sunday. But it could be Tuesday as much as anything. That’s what’s so good about doing this. I’d be at the pub if I was at home anyway, so going on stage is a bonus.” The Cure on tour is a fascinating phenomenon – it goes through all the rock’n’roll motions while somehow maintaining a slight filmy forcefield between amusing itself and plummeting into all those Spinal Tap clichés. Drinking. Saying someone “has never touched a drink in his life”. Watching old videos of Dr Who. Lol-baiting. Arguing about the merits of compact discs, and how the Luddites would smash them up. Crimping. Lol-baiting. Drinking. Phoning home. Anyone-baiting. Signing autographs. Trying to avoid Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison. Lolbaiting. Saying, “Come on, just one more drink”

“I worry about our attitude because I have to live with it. I’m sure a lot of people don’t care at all what attitude we have, but I have to keep thinking it’s important because, if I let that go, I may as well become a member of Spandau Ballet or something. “You have to keep a sense of… just being human. I’m wearing black for the first time in years today. We wear white on stage. We look like angels.” We talk about mouths, then I suggest that Robert might feel his audience is too young to appreciate the complex mesh of love and hate in the songs… “I never feel patronising towards anyone of 15; I remember still how I experienced things then. I could never write them down as well as I could at 25, I didn’t have the same grasp of language, but I felt the same emotions, just as strong, in a much rougher form. Between 15 and 18 is when you develop your personality. You go out with people. You make contact with jealousy and all the other horrible emotions which I no longer suffer from. “The songs aren’t that complicated; only one or two. And they’re probably so convoluted that they only really refer to me. Most of the recent songs have been fairly obvious.” “Get it out get it out get it out/Get your fucking voice out of my head/I never wanted any of this/I wish you were dead/Dead dead dead” – ‘The Kiss’.

HE ALWAYS FEELS LIKE THEY’RE NOT HIS HANDS! If Robert wasn’t a compulsive liar, I’d ask him if he was a compulsive liar. What hypnotises you? Mesmerises you? “Koyaanisqatsi. The rain on bus journeys. Through the window. And snow, snow’s the best thing in the world. When you’re driving through snow at night and the headlights are on and it looks like you’re going through star tunnels… Oh, lots of things mesmerise me. Good dancers. I suppose that’s the opposite to how I feel – seeing people who are really fluid, who look like they don’t exist.” Do you wish you could disown the physical? Lose your body? “Yeah, a trade-in would be quite good. Actually no – a lot of my experience derived from how uncomfortable I feel within my own body anyway, so if I was a disembodied mind,





Messiah Of Angst

HE’S LOSING HIS CYNICISM! That’s devils and angels you’ve mentioned… “Most people’s devil is far more pronounced than their angel. I think the angel probably visits, while he devil lives there. Although I’m turning around a bit. I used to only be surprised if people were nice. Now I’m surprised if people are horrible. I’m losing my cynicism as I get older! It’s generally easier to be affable and noncommittal than it is to be aggressive and angry. Although I’m very argumentative. I never think I’m wrong. I have a very strong sense of morality and a well-defined code of ethics I’ve adhered to through the years. This derives from my survival instincts.” Robert has in his time been described as “walking a thin line between agitation and boredom”, and, among many less abstractly complimentary things, “The Messiah Of Angst”. “I never thought those descriptions referred to me; so I didn’t have to live with it. I didn’t go home and find my mum saying, ‘Hello, Messiah



Of Angst, welcome home Messiah, we’ve killed the fatted calf.’ I’ve never spent much time with people who look up at me, or think I’m somehow different. So when I read these things I either laugh or just go, ‘Oh, nutty bastards.’ How could I have stayed one thing for years anyway? That’d be ludicrous. I’m not aware of being the ‘me’ that does this – it’s weird – I can’t really grasp hold of it. Ah, I suppose I’ll have to now, won’t I?” Does he ever tap himself and find the hollow resonance alarming? And is this emptiness, this still life in mobile homes (thank you, Sylvian), sadder than any angst?

Ah. Yes. No. “That’s what touring does to me as well. It’s television, tapes, reading, thinking, sitting. And I know at the start of the chain of actions that I’m gonna feel nothing for, like, the next five hours. I’m resigned to it till I go to sleep. “‘Close To Me’ was about that. Some days you just know nothing’s gonna happen. Nothing’s to be felt. It’s another day gone.” Is it worth being alive on those days? “No…” He looks up with a puzzled expression. “Not really.” As for that ‘Fight’ song, all that “never give up”

“I stare into a mirror… I hypnotise myself to see the devil in my face and skull” HE ACTUALLY FELT… REALLY… DEAD! “Yes I do – in fact I feel it to a worrying degree now. When I went to the South Dublin coast for two weeks, just before we came on this tour, I’d go out by the sea each morning, and sit down by the rocks. When I was younger it used to feel really… I don’t know, I used to feel… inspired. And this time I actually felt… really… dead. “Back then, I’d feel a sense of infinity, I’d feel really small, and helpless, but a part of something. I’d be filled with overwhelming despair or I’d feel deliriously happy, just sitting looking at the sea. But this time, I didn’t feel anything. I’d just sit. And it’d just be the sea. There’s be no communion… oh, this isn’t sounding how I mean it…” It’s sounding like the old grey man on the ‘Standing On A Beach’ photographs. Uh… ain’t that something? “It’s just… knowing how much I can feel something – no more than anyone else, but I can be so overwhelmed by things – I find this worrying. Not to feel anything when I know I ought to. I’m not shocked any more. I just look.” When? “When someone gets knocked over. Or Christmas. Because you remember how you used to get excited and you no longer do, and it’s worrying because it’s like you’re losing yourself somehow. You’re becoming thinner. Or maybe hollower.” And this upsets you? “It doesn’t make me feel anything, does it?”

tosh… in the light of what you’ve just said, why bother? “It’s about trying to force yourself into some kind of action, which could lead to experience. Because there isn’t really anything else but experience. Whether it’s passive or active. “I used to be able to rely passively on my environment and the people around me. Now I think I have got to – not necessarily manufacture experience, but… look for things. I’m addicted to feeling extremes.” Taking risks? “Yeah, mental ones.”


What’s this penchant you’ve got for “stupidly gorgeous” girls? “Ah yes, I have got a weird composite girl in mind sometimes, when I’m struggling for ways to eulogise femininity. It’s a kind of cross between Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Betty Boop.” Must there be a dumbness? “Naivete. A naive, trusting quality, I suppose. And innocence that isn’t really innocence, because they usually end up getting their own way. And obviously there’s a lot of Mary in there as well. That’s what I like about her.” Does she ever get jealous? “No! Why should she? There’s no room for jealousy in the relationship: it’d be very tiring. She may be jealous of the time other people get from me, with the group existing. I’ve known her since before the group started, so she’s always seen it as an obstacle, whereas usually ‘being in a group’ takes on a much more romantic aspect. “She probably does get jealous from time to time but just doesn’t tell me ’cos she knows I’d hit her.” Apart from QPR finishing (at best) eighth in the league, what does the future hold? “Sometimes I see myself staring at the sea, writing music for Stanley Kubrick’s next film or something. Other times I think I’ll just be surrounded by books, reading. Other times I see myself in… a blank space. Enjoying blankness. Doing nothing.” The Cure: myrmidons of Mmm, sounds good. miserablism


it’d take all that away from me. “I always feel like they’re not my hands. I’ve always felt like it – my body – is a third person. If I cut my hand – I think the band has been cut, not me. I suppose it’s an irrational desire to escape from it – to feel that, even if my heart stopped, I would still be here.” Surely you forget yourself sometimes? “Yeah, after about the seventeenth pint of Guinness.” Oh, boring – what about the “sexual act”? “Yeah I suppose. That’s pretty mental as well though. Um… late night swimming in dark waters is a good way. And sleep! And waking up in the morning when you don’t have to get up immediately – I feel comfortable with my body then, it’s just a big lump. “This is why I find it strange that I can go on stage in front of people and jump about. People say, ‘Why do you always look down?’ I’m looking at my feet. They don’t do what I want. I don’t know how it is I can play football, really.” What frightens you? “Flying, now. I’ve suddenly decided against it; I’ve realised how silly it is. Willingly agreeing to subject yourself to that torture of throwing yourself on the mercy of a machine and another person. Also, I can always see through the floor on planes. Lack of control I don’t like; that makes me angry. And I’m scared of growing old. And I’m scared at my continuing lack of faith in anything. And I’m scared of going blind, ’cos my eyesight’s failing rapidly.” What sights would you miss most? “Everything. Except the colour brown – I could live without that. Most, I’d miss the reflection of my own eyes. Y’know when you stare really close into a mirror?” Is that how you check you’re still there? “Yeah. I hypnotise myself to see the devil in my face and skull. I try not to do that so much now. It affects my mental stability.”


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Too Many Truffles

mellow. ‘Flowers’ is Glastonbury 1967 and I hate it. Sam King

NME, 3 January 1987, p30

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES This Wheel’s On Fire (Wonderland)

As one whose pre-pubescent ardour was first aroused by The Trinity’s kohl-eyed and feather-cut Julie Driscoll and whose fashion sense was first alerted by Brian Auger’s Regency cuffs as they flounced over his Hammond organ on Top Of The Pops, I can only applaud Siouxsie’s latest excavation of the 1968 songbook. Far more liberty-taking though less crystal-ball mysterious than their reverential ‘Dear Prudence’, I’ll be disappointed if this terrific record doesn’t blast Siouxsie and co up the chart pronto. Mat Snow

NME, 18 April 1987, p23

THE CURE Why Can’t I Be You? (Fiction)

Still sounding like a haunted hippie singing through a helium bubble, Robert Smith’s voice is the only facet of The Cure which doesn’t shout “Teen FUN”. Of course Robert’s trying determinedly to sound skittish and frivolous but, because he can’t even cut it as a bathroom singer, his voice is still little more than a reedy, angst-ridden whine. Otherwise, The Cure are as frothy as white pop gets these days. Shameless and cheap enough to steal Wham’s ‘Young Guns’ riff, this ditty will soon be another Top Of The Pops cracker. Donald McRae

question then turns up sheathed in some revolting medieval spectacular! Oh God… Consequently the only thing to do is get your doublet and hose in a speedy twist over the luscious malignance within, containing as it does that greatest of all reliefs, a chorus. It’s a circular temptation with a smooth guitar sliding shyly up against the coolest vocals. Produced by those awfully nice Mission people it has just enough thumping power and glistening strength to fill a nation’s jaded ears, syringing out all that Curiosity Killed The Cat and Erasure bilge. A well-delineated giant of a song. The heat is on… Mick Mercer

Flowers In Our Hair (Eden)

Wasteland (Phonogram)

Preposterous mysticism and loopy obsession I can just about take if accompanied by sufficient bombastic power – I’m thinking of Black Sabbath, Killing Joke, Earth, Wind & Fire. The Mission, however, sound thin as mist. There’s too much wisp, not enough bottom to their sound. This record is embarrassingly similar to ‘Porcupine’ – something which does not make me think more highly of the Mission, but rubs off to the detriment of the Bunnymen. Funny that. Simon Reynolds



MM, 18 April 1987, p26

ALL ABOUT EVE Our Summer (Eden)

When I saw the sleeve of this single I almost wept. You button down people’s ears with tales of glorious contemporary beauty and the glowing disc of delight in

This Corrosion (Merciful Release)

Yes, the King of Goth is back! Heeeeeeere’s SPIGGY!!!! Andy ‘Drac’ Eldritch (real name – Stan Sunshine) has made a record and it’s the lamest thing to crawl out of Leeds since Norman Hunter’s last sparring partner quit town. Steven Wells




MM, 10 October 1987, p33

MM, 11 July 1987, p26 MM, 10 January 1987, p27

NME, 26 September 1987, p19

“Where have all the glowers gone, Sun Children?” cries Julianne. Sun Children! What planet did she escape from? Us deprived city types haven’t seen the sun for many a long year. And, in the depths of our subterranean pleasure palaces, strapped to our typewriters, the very last thing we need is sanctimonious hippy children fouling up the carefully controlled atmosphere of unpalatable nastiness brought on by too much Swans, Young Gods and hip hop. ‘Flowers’ brings to mind days of contented zitherplaying and complacent middle class twats sitting in fields being

Just Like Heaven (Fiction)

I’m at a loss as how to greet and chronicle this important event, knowing full well that one facetious crack out of line could see my Assistant Editor taking a sudden interest in The Edgar Broughton Band and dispatching me with strange zeal to review their gig at the Crewe Corn Exchange on Saturday night. What can I say? Well, at least it doesn’t sound like Dexy’s Midnight Runners like the one before last did. It’s a colourful, fluffy, fluttery, fussy thing, a mere transcription of the Down With Skool! graphic on the front cover. Unimpeachable, really, but turns my face green, as if having consumed too many truffles. David Stubbs

Chapter 10



Fields Of The Nephilim: our in the desert


A Fistful Of

DYNAMITE They rode into town from the wastelands of Stevenage, ffi ive mean hombres with a burning thirst, preaching the prairie gospel of Goth. They called themselves Fields Of The Nephilim and the folks locked up their wives and daughters and got on down. Steve Sutherland joined the posse in Spain to discover why these dudes are wanted, dead or alive


through it. Their debut album, ‘Dawnrazor’, topped the 1987 indie chart and yet everything you or I have ever read about Fields Of The Nephilim has found them on the defensive, denying preconceptions, defying their many critics with a dull resolution. This will not do. Consequently we took a red-eye to the sleepy onehorse town of Zaragoza, Spain, caught them on the job in Spaghetti Western country and approached with caution on our bellies bearing gifts. We decided it was time to unburden ourselves of pretty prejudice and attempt to get close enough to brand this critter through trust and affection rather than bludgeoning brute force.

NME, 28 May 1988, p3

It’s three in the morning and everyone’s pissed. “We lie nowhere,” says Tony Pettit, the big-boned, cheerful bass player with the gormless, friendly grin who wishes they hadn’t once joked to a journo that what they play is Spaghetti Metal. “We don’t fit in with any of your things. I think we are just Fields Of The Nephilim, I really do.” The Nephs reckon they do what they do primarily because they enjoy it – that’s the top and bottom of the whole damn thing. What we want to know, then, is whether or not

the joy is qualitative and discriminating? Does enjoying what they’re doing imply a critique of their contemporaries? “I dunno,” says Carl McCoy, the bellowthroated singer who wears translucent lenses, once took a pig’s head on tour until it started to sweat and stink in the carrier bag under the seat in the van and who has just had his bullets confiscated at the airport. “Since we’ve been in this band we’ve not been in touch with any


ight, in 1988 there’s “that chart crap”, there’s MM’s hip alternatives to “that chart crap” and now, out of nowhere, out of the wastelands, unheralded, uncelebrated in print or occasionally ridiculed, there’s alternatives to alternatives. These people’s champions, these great unwashed have become popular, even adored, without hype or help from any aspect of the industry. These outsiders have entered our awareness uninvited; they’ve gained access the hard way, the old-fashioned way. They’ve played to people and people have repaid them with astonishing allegiance. Where have they come from, why have they come, these hillbillies, these embarrassments, these blights on the great pop plots and plans? We writers don’t know. We shrink and shudder at our own unimportance in the whole damn thing. But you, the readers, you know. You voted for All About Eve in our Readers’ Poll and most of us hacks looked at each other aghast. And you voted for Fields Of The Nephilim too and we hid our fright behind our snobbery and one or two scoffed and a few said, “Fields Of Who?” So term came to an end and we broke up for Christmas and, when we came back, the clever ones had arrived at a theory to explain away this troublesome phenomenon. They said the Eves and the Nephs were mere security blankets, something for the mascara hairies to suck while the true monsters/masters of Goth indulged themselves. They said Eldritch won’t tour and The Cult have sold their souls to the States, so it’s little wonder the deserted masses have flocked to these substitutes. The Neph… Sisters clones, Midnight Cowboys, surely comedians. Dung-punchers from Stevenage with shaded eyes on the main chance. See that gap and stampede straight



Spaghetti Metal 

other new music at all so it must fulfil something in our lives which is needed.” Commitment and work is readily used as an excuse for their lack of inclination to assess their surroundings. Perhaps these blinkers are purely instinctive. Perhaps, though, their insularity runs deeper. We should investigate the live phenomenon. Why, in an era when live music is patently dying, are the Nephs such a live attraction? What is it about the live situation which suits them? “You can get a feeling off Baking with the one live gig which you’ll never Nephs: they supply the flour while the ever get again. And it’s the critics throw eggs same being in a band as being in the audience,” says Pete Wright, the skinny guitarist with a bad bout of flu. Earlier I gave him my bottle of cough medicine, good and speedy Do Dos, and he poured it into a jug of Sangria and quaffed the lot. Good stuff. “I’ve so often heard a good record and then been disappointed because the band couldn’t pull it off live,” says Paul Wright, and cement mixers. I think we have quite an the other guitarist who likes the drink, has original sound, but one that’s natural.” cultivated a sort of Bobby Charlton over-sweep “I think it’s honest,” says Tony. “It’s an honest without the bald bit and apparently has a mole sound because everyone’s playing exactly what on his ass like a hairy map of Australia. we wanna play.” “And that’s only been recently. Going back a The Nephs’ insistence on naturalness leads us few years, bands used to play live,” says Carl. into an elephant’s graveyard of opinion – it’s too flip, too easy. Surely they must have some verbal notion of what makes a good record? in the day, the band are supposed to be “An atmosphere,” says Tony. Another big, soundchecking at the En Bruto Club, Zaragoza meaningless, all-encompassing word. – a neat little mini-Marquee that holds about 500 We’ve tried empiricism and failed. Time to (80 eventually turn up) where the bands have to get stupid. The Nephs are goths, or they appeal be off stage by 10pm because an old couple live in to goths. Given 10 minutes with a new song to the flat upstairs – but the equipment, such as it is, write, they veer towards the darkness rather isn’t ready, so we drive out to the hills in search than the light. of some desert photo locations. Winding up a “I don’t find our music particularly dreary,” precarious track we discover an ancient mission says Paul. “We can see we appeal to a gothic church and a ruin. The sun makes a bid to sink audience…” says Carl. Yes, but I’m here talking behind the horizon before the photographer to five funny geezers who adore Steve Martin gets snapping and… where are the boys? I peer and tell some dodgy jokes and yet on record, up around the other side of the van and there they there on stage, they become something other, are, covering each other in flour. something else. How? Why? “You didn’t see that,” says Tony. “It’s a different language,” says Carl. “It’s I didn’t see that. fluent to us and, between us all, we create this sound and this atmosphere.” from Stevenage and dressing as cowboys Yes, but is it important that pop is something must surely detract from any attempt on their other? Is that what it’s for ? part to be taken seriously. “I don’t think Joe Public wants to come and “It makes us easy targets, yeah,” says Nod. see Joe Public on stage, if that’s what you mean,” “People probably look at us and think straight says Tony. “They want a bit of escapism.” away that we’re just another indie band with Yes, but the Nephs go beyond this – with their an image,” says Carl. “And, to be honest, bands Morricone worship and their sound symbolic with images have always put me off. But, looking of wide open spaces, they surely suggest pop at us, I can see we’ve got this image and yet we can attain the heroic and that, through pop, the feel like it’s different. Every band will probably human can become superhuman. tell you the same – that they feel comfortable in “Yeah, it’s approaching epic,” says Nod. those clothes and that’s why they wear them. Why do they aspire to that? I really do though.” “Once Upon A Time In The West is epic,” Is it important for the Nephs to be different, says Paul. to sound original? Indeed, with their deliberately “Epic, to me, is like a feeling,” says Pete. “It’s traditional rock line-up, is it even possible? not something you can put into words.” “We don’t go out of our way to be original,” Cheers. says Carl, “because if we did we’d play chainsaws

“I imagine it wide and saturated with atmosphere,” says Carl. “When I think of epic, I think of something really massive…” “Like the pyramids of Egypt,” says Paul. “Something aweinspiring,” says Carl. Aha, attaining something beyond what you’d imagine could attain. “Yeah,” says Carl. “It’s gotta have some mystery behind it.” So, instead of being greasemonkeys or dole-boys, the Nephs, through music, can be anything they want to be. And they have chosen their certain type of music. Why? “That makes it sound deliberate, but it’s not really like that,” says Nod, to our unbounded surprise. “It’s just evolved, we haven’t aimed at it.” So what do the Nephs write about? “Everyone’s got different ideas in this band,” says Carl. “I write the lyrics and a lot of them are my feelings towards my life. It’s a hard thing to talk about.” Try. “Well, I don’t sit around for ages with my thinking cap on. The songs just come really fast.” Where from? “My underpants!” This is Paul. Witty bastard. “I dunno… I don’t write love songs as such. I sing about things that really fascinate me,” says Carl. “Some of them are really odd and bizarre. If people saw it written down, they’d probably think, ‘Shit, the geezer’s on acid,’ or something. “I don’t really want people to know what they mean to me. A lot of our songs are written so that people can get their own picture in their mind. It doesn’t bother me whether people know what I’m singing about or not, really, but I’m sure they can sense the feeling of the song. “There’s quite a lot of rebellion in our music,” Carl continues. “We’ve always been against the grain. We’ve never been accepted, we’ve never been hip, we’ve never fitted in.” So what are the Nephs’ ambitions? Carl: “I’d like us to go sown in history, to be put on a level with some of the older bands that I admire, like Roxy Music and the Doors. Them bands are lasting, they still create a feeling.” Paul: “On my 34th birthday, I’d like to dress up as a nun.” Tony: “Success on our own terms.” Pete: “We all want success but I don’t think we’ll cop out for it. We don’t do the fucking crappy Cult syndrome.” What would be the worst thing that could happen to the Nephs? Paul: “To know exactly what the LP’s gonna be in another year’s time, because that wouldn’t be inspired, it would be thought out.” Carl: “I think if one person left the band, that would be it. I don’t think we could play with any other musicians.” Paul: “The second worst would be meeting you again, I reckon. Want some of this vodka?”

“There’s a lot of rebellion in our music. We’ve never been accepted, we’ve never been hip, we’ve never fitted in”





MM, 13 February 1988, p27




Like modern Pre-Raphaelites, All About Eve get history wonderfully wrong, ingenuously ignoring the cause and effect of past recordings and accepting the song as an isolated artefact, unblighted by any of its author’s while ye may, you’ll stylistic or political surely recognise a misdemeanours. They great chorus when are reclaiming pop for you hear one and the young through ‘All About Eve’ is rose-coloured specs blooming with them. rather than cynicism, Personal favourites blissful ignorance are ‘Martha’s Harbour’, rather than hip where Julianne is a knowledge. galley slave to her Consequently lover’s wave crashing All About Eve’s debut album on the bow, and ‘Never Promise’, sometimes gets it almost too wrong where the real world for once chafes to bear. ‘Every Angel’, for instance, against their fantasy and threatens tarnishes epic echoes of ‘Stairway to expose their hopes as lies. To Heaven’ and Ennio Morricone With so many alternatives and with the melodramatic lilt from alternatives to alternatives bustling ‘Knights In White Satin’; ‘Gypsy for predominance, All About Eve Dance’ fiddles around its picaresque have achieved the impossible and folly like a blissed-out Barbara wedded attitude to accessibility. Fall Dickson; and the latest single, ‘Wild into their dream and you’ll awaken Hearted Woman’, is twee enough convinced that your innocence can to sidle unnoticed onto any recent be retrieved after all. Fleetwood Mac LP. Steve Sutherland But, miraculously, these are the only errors of judgement on an otherwise exemplary album. Wayne Hussey It would do the Eves discredit of the Mish: the to persist in source-spotting Dr Feelgood of goth – suffice to say they’ve listened a lot to the Cocteaus and the winnowing version of ‘She Moves Through The Fair’, a spooky old Fairport Convention ballad, boldly resembles This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song To The Siren’. Julianne’s vocals are a triumph throughout, so touching that we accept, without irony, the wide-eyed sentiments of ‘Flowers In Our Hair’. It’s possible, I suppose, to view All About Eve as a symptom rather than a cure, to consider the emotional journey from the “just a kiss away” of ’70s Stones to the “just a breath away” of ‘In The Clouds’ as a Pavlovian reaction to AIDS. And it’s true that there’s plenty of yearning here but no consummation. But it’s a measure of their achievement that we’re wholly spellbound by the Eves’ longing for a return to life the way it was “before the fall”. And even if you’re the type who finds it difficult getting into the swing gathering rosebuds

MM, 5 March 1988, p41

THE MISSION Children (Phonogram)

It’s so easy to laugh at The Mission. The mere mention of ‘Wasteland’ is enough to send depressives into raging guffaws. They are the Dr Feelgood of goth, a poor man’s Sisters, a rich man’s Cult, a blind man’s Nephilim. At their best, The Mission are laughable buffoons, playful rogues. At worst, the band are the seismic belch emitted after pop’s banquet. At all times, however, they are museum curators, restoring the dilapidated foundations of rock, preserving its heritage,

embroidering its myth. It’s therefore no surprise that ‘Children’ is produced by John Paul Jones and happens to be buoyed around the Led Zeppelin myth – a legend only revered by those who can’t remember just how excruciatingly tedious Page and co could be. It’s even less surprising that ‘Tower Of Strength’ is a sketchy facsimile of ‘Kashmir’, that ‘Heat’ stomps around the hemline of Heart, while the bilious ‘Child’s Play’ sounds like an Anglicised, lobotomised Toto. In short, the album is every Eskimo’s wet dream. The concept behind ‘Children’ is the usual guff about a quest for instinct and innocence – hence snatches of playground screams and nursery rhymes. Footsteps echo in the memory as Wayne and his merry men plough safe pastures with the usual flourishing arpeggios on the melodramatic ‘Beyond The Pale’. From here, the full, glutinous sound oscillates between the pomp and glory of ‘Kingdom Come’ and the tranquil 30-second harpsichord lullaby of ‘Breath’. The Mission create an insulated community, immune to the feckless whims of pop. They may make the occasional stab at relevance – the accelerated tumbling chord slam of ‘Hymn For America’ is The Mission’s answer to U2’s ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ – but the band are at their most effective when at their most meaningless. Despite all the dungeons and dragons imagery, the only real mystery is how Wayne can sing this po-faced, pompous bilge with a straight face. Their epic vision is limited to myopic gestures pilfered from the archives – those halcyon days when people judged the stature of a band by the length of the drum solo. Only once on the whole album (the astonishingly affecting ‘Heaven On Earth’) do the grandiose sweeps of guitar actually sound heroic. Using relics to create new relics, The Mission have probably made the finest Zeppelin record Led Zeppelin never made, but one man’s memory lane is another man’s blind alley. It’s surely time to detonate the ruins. Ted Mico NNMMEE OORRI IGGI INNAALLSS

119 ??

The Garden With a debut album and a national tour about to explode, dream lovers All About Eve teach Chris Roberts about Liz Cocteau, Cilla Black, Pandora’s Box, feminism and anything connected with clouds “


eauty And The Beast, definitely. If it didn’t have such bad implications – which one’s which? – that could easily have been the name of the band. I love… the feel of it, yes. It can still move me to tears if I’m in a certain frame of mind. It encapsulates everything that matters in life. I’m a sucker for romance, so I want the beauty to love the beast. Then when he turns into a handsome prince at the end I’m very disappointed. I prefer him as the beast because he’s more hopeless. It’s too much of a happy ending.” “That Melody Maker cartoon about me sitting outside my house while it was burning down and I was looking at the clouds – it’s not a representation of the way I run my life but I do get phases of it. And they are what keeps me sane. It’s not insanity. You need those moments and I won’t apologise for them. And I know it makes for fruitcake accusations, but they can only be from people who don’t know what it’s like. I recommend it! “It is the kind of thing you can switch on and off. You don’t have to be through the gates of madness and trapped in Fairyland and never come out. You can step in and out of that little world, and I enjoy being there. It’s just that I used to live there, and now it’s an occasional holiday. “I’m capable of depth and shallowness, and recently I’ve been living on a shallow, pleasure-seeking level. My last stint of shallow has lasted a long time. It never seeps into the music, that is deep. So I stress I’m going to go through a hermit-hood for a while soon, and come out renewed. Tim always worries when I say this: he thinks I’m going to get the blanket out and read Nietzsche again. That doesn’t work, that’s too much. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be one of those grey ones again. Really.”

All About Eve took their name from the sharp, epigrammatic film, dominated by Bette Davis,

about a scheming starlet who lusts for fame. “No, it doesn’t fit at all. We should’ve chosen Camille, perhaps.” All About Eve are a contemporary pop-folkrock group, all the more contemporary for having rejected all the consumerist trappings of “nowness”. Their apparently reactionary passivity is proving to be the most effective resistance imaginable to the Reich-like stomp (not flood, not surge, not sweep) of hip hop, technology, computers, word processors (what are they writing? Ready-cooked chickens?) Eddie Murphy, Oliver Stone, Linda Lusardi, and Lady Di of The Grinning Walkman. The Primitives go timeless, The Sugarcubes go left-handed, while All About Eve go dream dreamy dream, and suddenly we have a viable new pop vanguard which isn’t exactly what any of us had in mind, but for which I at least am very grateful because I’m sure as hell going to pretend it was. I won’t waste time now debating about Eve as a sub-cultural phenomenon. Innovative they’re not, disarmingly incongruous they are. Besides, when The Stud Brothers wrote after Thomas Wolfe that the group strive not to escape from life but to prevent life escaping them, they netted, shall we say, a big one, the pre-emptive bastards. The only thing that’s disappointed me about All About Eve’s rise to prominence since the days I would see them churning out ‘White Horses’ down the 100 Club (not so long ago really, but then a minute is a century in pop, of course), has been the restraint of their innate mysticism (for want of a less devalued word). For All About Eve to really be All About Eve there must be more haze, enigma, and poeticism, less Missionstyle high jinks, less “rock lives ’n’ how’s your father”, less jovial deflation of the beguiling and the bedazzling. Julianne, a friend with aesthetic gumption, used to send me roses and pictures of angels and birthday cards with Andrew Marvell poems on (usually because I’d asked her to) and that’s the kind of star we need in these charismashunning days. “I never said I was Liz Cocteau. I’m not Cilla Black either. Perhaps I should blush and look at the floor more to please reviewers. But a fault of mine is that is nine people say you’re great and


Of Eden one says it’s shit, and it’s the one who says it’s shit that I focus on and try to convert. I think, ‘I’ve got the nine, I want the tenth.’” This is determination, old-fashioned conviction, rather than greed. Faith. “I never thought it wouldn’t happen. It wasn’t ego, it was that I never let it cross my mind for fear of what on earth I would think about then. Now things are a lot easier thanks to the good fairy Phonogram, but we’ll never become complacent. We’re staying firmly in obsessive perfectionist mode.”



that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless: peacocks and lilies, for instance.” So said John Ruskin, in The Stones Of Venice in 1851. Given a choice between a peacock, a lily, and a digital synchronised oscillator, I’d have no need for batteries. Unless the peacock wanted to carry a torch. What about Eve? What sort of person do you think she was? “Not this scheming temptress she was supposed to be; I think she probably offered Adam the apple just out of kindness, as a nice gesture, and she’s been slagged off for it for centuries. I don’t think she’s evil, nor do I hold to the idea that all women are intrinsically evil. Maybe I’m biased because I am one! I know what I’m like; I’ve got an evil streak just like anybody else, regardless of sex.” You always wanted it to sound more “beautiful”. That’s the word. “Yes, so we found the courage to do things

“Frustrated Vikings” All About Eve recover from another bout of burning, shooting, raping and looting

MM, 20 February 1988, p28

which would either be received as beautiful or namby-pamby. Without vanity, I think some of the things we do now are so beautiful I feel in awe of them. Sometimes I just smile to myself. If you do believe that any creativity comes from within, it surprised us that that was what we were like inside. “You know you’re ordinary, but you’re doing something that’s out of the ordinary,” adds Julianne. “I can stand our music being worshipped, but not us. It’s a scary responsibility. You often feel you’re letting people down if you’re not quite as goddess-like as they expect you to be.” Are you a “tough” woman? “I suppose so. No. No I don’t like the idea of being thought of as a hard person.” Where do feminism and you meet? “I don’t like it. I really surprised myself when I ‘fell in love’ – sorry about this, but this is important. I surprised myself because I thought I was quite a strong-minded individual – but, erm, I became ‘the girl’. I could’ve quite easily sat with a posy in my hand for the entirety of the relationship. Somebody once said something to this effect: a man falls in love with a woman because of the strange mysteries about her, and then the very fact that he has got her means she loses those things. I’m not talking about the chase and the kill; she actually becomes quite in awe of the person just because he’s a man. “I haven’t though this out well enough to relate it, but I think I only discovered a while ago that I was a woman! And as to a Woman In Rock, er, no. When I think of Women In Rock

I think of the ‘gutsy’ ones like Madonna, who seem to use and abuse men with all the abandon of a packet of tissues. Er, that isn’t me at all. The kind of woman I like is one of the lads without being butch. Like Sandy Denny. Keeping her femininity, but not a barrier. Using it in the songwriting rather than the press shots. Which is using it in a pure way, not a manipulative one.”

All About Eve

have taken more risks than their critics tend to realise. What could’ve been more perverse than ‘Flowers In Our Hair’ (although it included 1987’s prime piece of pungent philosophy in pop: “We only dare to say please love me/At the seventh glass of wine”)? What could’ve been more quietly confident than revamping ‘In The Clouds’ (still their finest cascade of moments) as their first “major” release? And what in the name of Lorraine Ellison is ‘Wild Hearted Woman’ doing in between Johnny Hates Jazz and Was Not Was? I take great delight in their trembly pauses and sensurround choruses, emotion recollected in tranquillity, in Julianne’s unerringly silver and blue voice, in the way they make Triffids and LL Cool J fans snort belligerently, in the astral connection between the tantalising halt in ‘In The Clouds’ and the way my right leg itches every time I cross the road ever since it was bashed by a car, and in seeing a nuance of dawn, and of dusk, breathe over the hastily arranged lunchtime of our popular charts. I also grasp a link between All About Eve’s evocations of childhood and nostalgia and the works of Proust, a stodgily styled but ultimately wildly romantic visionary. (Though this is possibly just me going a bit daft.) And isn’t there something gloriously bizarre happening when Julianne waffles on about “positive magic” and Carl Jung on Blue Peter, like the mad Lorelei of Cherbourg or something? Isn’t that just fine? “And for our next guest, Dante Gabriel Rosetti…” Isn’t that great? Well? I hope All About Eve don’t become just another commodity. Fleetwood Mac are already booked into the top shelf for another few decades; you know how the tune goes. (“Futility: playing the harp before the buffalo” – old Burmese proverb.) What I hope, as ever, is that All About Eve will be all about mermaids and emeralds and autumn and bleeding hearts and sunflowers and Pegasus and ghosts and falling for the wicked witch instead of Snow White and arms that come through walls holding candlesticks. Plus the peacocks and the lilies. The subliminal wants the sublime. Fables, please. “They’re attractive to me, as I’m not very keen on reality or confrontation. My favourites are the romantic ones where the prince does get the girl with the very long hair out of the tower. But also less girlish ones – I do like stories about enormous great Vikings raping and pillaging and murdering. Perhaps I’m a frustrated Viking! “And even the totally unfeasible – Pandora’s Box. You know, you’re attracted to myths because you role-play them subconsciously in your life. The spiky hedgehog thing, that’s one. That can keep it all wrapped up in a nice little box that gets so full up that when the link comes open one day it’s just going to be too devastating for words.” NME ORIGINALS


Pop Valhalla

NME, 3 September 1988, p31

FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM The Nephilim (Situation Two)

Bob Harris, The Mission, Tottenham Hotspur – surely there is more to ridicule than Fields Of The Nephilim. Yet the consensus reaction to this treasure chest will doubtless be the same as preceding Neph records: “You must be mad!” I am, in fact, horribly inflamed. Gladly accepting a Fields record is looked upon, in many circles, as the equivalent of asking for a contagious disease. But this from dolts too soft to listen to their bloody records first. I’ve been guilty of it myself, but strangely my ears have been bleeding all night to this. If this LP’s not at least good, then my body is malfunctioning more than I feared. You have to appreciate how far this murky bunch of desperadoes have come in the past four years. From rags to more rags, from supporting Chelsea to headlining tours. The Neph have grafted without complaint. They’ve won their spurs and now here they sit rubbing them clean, polishing their gritty melodies into a perversely haunting collection of songs. It is less Spaghetti Western and more ‘movie mystery’, shivering and spine-tingling with some tricky guitar that fiddles round while Carl McCoy’s throat burns. The gruff vocals, rather than grating, have a haunting and eerie edge. They’ve maintained a brooding power, but dispensed with gratuitous ‘gothy’ anthems. Only ‘Phobia’, like Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ in drag, sees their elbows flying into a frenetic dance routine. Elsewhere the rumbling rhythms have an almost sublime style. ‘Endemoniada’ has a lightly atmospheric build-up before branching out into an excitable climax while ‘The Watchman’ – possibly the best track on the album – simmers with tiny explosions going off in the form of fire-cracking guitar and heated vocals. Side Two has a mere three songs on it, but they’re epic in length. Trampling on incessantly, ‘Celebrate’ leads into ‘Love Under Will’ with its scything beauty, which in turn opens the door for ‘Last Exit



Of The Lost’, the colossal climax. It swirls, creating a melodramatic haze, the real McCoy being replaced by the Sinatra version, a mixture of growling and crooning. A shock, but more reassuringly ‘The Nephilim’ is their assertion that beneath the muck and the dust there are aspirations to beauty. Steve Lamacq

MM, 10 September 1988, p37

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES Peepshow (Polydor)

It’s still pretty vague. Pretty and vague. It’s not about love or annihilation. Siouxsie & The Banshees avoid meaning like the plague, and this feline wisdom has always served them well. Grace, they understand. If ‘Peek-A-Boo’ is hip hop, I’m LL Cool J. The Banshees are strolling further away than ever from force, from brutality. Their eleventh album doesn’t set fire to my palms, but is quivers with psalms and it knows how to breathe while kissing. As voyeurs, they are more discreet. They’ve recognised which floorboards creak and don’t condemn idiosyncrasy. Still the words are nursery rhymes (nursery rhymes always involve insidious violence and strategic cruelty), but sonically, the blue angels of punk are sending out splendid sonorous rafts, touching new glittering banisters with soluble fingernails. There’s a kind of gentlemen’s agreement to gloss over the nest of difficulties any careful reflections might unearth. The imaginative sophistry and romanticism of The Banshees can therefore mean all things to anybody, embarrassing the gospel of rationality and

clarifying chaos by paying it lip service with that gloss. The Banshees remain coolly dependent on the slyest of feminine touches. ‘Peepshow’ is hesitantly hypnotic. It seduces you back. They’ve not come up with any smashing new tunes, but the click and tut of Siouxsie’s tongue is more intimate, forsaking aloofness for sincerity. More than ever, the composition credits go to Sioux or Severin individually. Sioux’s ‘Turn To Stone’ and ‘Rawhead And Bloodybones’ are simply disquieting, ‘Burn-Up’ is flushed with Eros. Severin’s ‘Rhapsody’ allows some stirring melodrama but the infinite pinnacle is their one joint effort, the bravura hymn ‘The Last Beat Of My Heart’. As Martin McCarrick’s accordion and Budgie’s directly intelligent rhythms underline its pathos, this elegy is translated by Sioux with capital beatitude. It’s the Banshees’ most courageous arabesque in some time. If they have enough majesty in their guts to put it out as a single we really will be witnessing a renaissance. The lady is too vaporous to vanish. In this Valhalla, her valour derides prattle and subtly strives for scintillation. You can see the woods because Siouxsie: of a warm breeze. The ice doesn’t do field is melting. hip hop Chris Roberts

NME, 17 September 1988, p37

COCTEAU TWINS Blue Bell Knoll (4AD)

There’s a bit in Trains, Planes And Automobiles where Steve Martin and John Candy, thwarted on their tortuous journey home for Thanksgiving, are holed up together in yet another seedy motel. They have reached a kind of truce, formed a warm affection for one another bred from mutual adversity and they’re slobbering around in their room, the mini bar open, travelling the world via miniatures – rum takes them to Jamaica, vodka to Russia, that sort of thing. They’re transported from their crisis by these little nips of intoxication. Momentarily, they’re gone. ‘Blue Bell Knoll’ reminds me of this bit over and over. Each sip takes you someplace utterly else. It was two and a half years in the making, two and a half years in which Robin, Liz and Simon have made their peace with pop, listened to a lot of Prince and Madonna and let themselves go a little. And they’ve inadvertently rediscovered a path that leads them back into our consciousness. All of a sudden they count. Again. With ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, without wishing to suggest anything so stupid as the Cocteaus adopting anything as gauche as a strategy, they have, to use the modern terminology, arrived right in our face. Not since the exalted ‘Head Over Heels’ have they so brazenly toyed with our affections, delighting in astonishing us by touching pop base every so often, only to soar immediately and coquettishly into earth, air, fire, water, any element they choose, achieving the giddy heights of pop Valhalla most of us had given up dreaming about. Oh, the places it takes us to! It’s like a brochure of ecstasies, a travelogue of possibilities. ‘AtholBrose’ is French, a baby doll bruised nursery rhyme with a cutting edge that climbs a stair, wobbles on a diving board, and launches itself, beautifully, into the ozone above the Riviera. Suddenly we’re tripping at the cinema, experiencing one of those lush early ’70s Martini ads, our heartbeats thrumming in our ears. ‘Cico Buff’ is like surfing over Herculean orchestration, ‘Carolyn’s Fingers’ is a Benidorm

Nick Cave at his most lovable

beauty with a cr-r-risp, cherubic twitter and an unintentional nod to Brotherhood Of Man’s ‘Angelo’. ‘Ella Megalast Burls Forever’ (please don’t let the titles put you off) is like praying in Bermuda shorts and the chorus goes “Tear tear tear tear tear tear tear tear”. Sheer bliss. There is nothing cold on ‘Blue Bell Knoll’, nothing stark or dark, save, perhaps, the start of ‘The Itchy Glowbo Blow’, which whisks us into a labyrinth of potholes but pretty swiftly hurls us, breathless, up over the downs like a kite caught up by the wind. This is a holiday record, a promise of pleasures unknown. ‘Suckling The Mender’ sends me shrieking to Spain where Liz, fully adorned in black lace, is performing a clicking flamenco with the most sensual speech impediment in the world. It’s as if her tongue is glued to the roof of her mouth with honey while she spins, ankle deep in a shallow pool, her toes and lace caressed by Robin’s tiger-fish until he unleashes mosquitoes and she scampers ashore. And ‘A Kissed Out Red Floatboat’ has me on a hill over a beach, Robin’s jets scoring the sky with sonic vapour trails. If we weren’t already aware of the Cocteaus’ brilliance, we would proclaim ‘Blue Bell Knoll’ one of the greatest records we’ve ever heard. Well, we shouldn’t let their unearthly standards blind us or deafen us to how utterly unique they are. This is a triumphant return. As I think Liz sings over the coconut shuffle of ‘Spooning Good Singing Gum’, “Happy Again!”

Surely this band is the voice of Cliff Michelmore. (Is that better Robin, huh?) Steve Sutherland MM, 24 September 1988, p41

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS Tender Prey (Mute)

As Nick Cave goes further and further out, his music comes more confidently in. Nothing on ‘Tender Prey’ is especially esoteric or inaccessible, but most of it bristles with vain beauty and power and pride. Singing from a comfortable position halfway down the lion’s throat (ah, home at last!), Cave has created easily his most lovable record to date. It boasts an astonishing diversity and spits in the face of most known deities. Profane, passionate, poignant, the masochistic leper has given us one of the landmark albums of the decade. Nick Cave’s abused muse is beginning to sprinkle something important on his 100 per cent proof breakfast… Those of you divorced from your spirit for so long that you haven’t yet absorbed Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire will not be aware of the expression that overtakes Solveig Sommartin’s supernaturally pale face as she listens to ‘The Carny’. It would be hackneyed if she was shivering by any other torch, but Cave’s voice is somehow bitter enough to match the homage to the

void that goes on here. Cave sounds lonelier than a dodo. Nowhere is this more effective than on the fractious stateliness of ‘The Mercy Seat’, a matrix so unbelievably staggering that when it first came out I had to allocate certain times of night at which it could be played. I mean, you can’t have a peak experience between getting out of the shower and running for the bus, it’s just not on. ‘The Mercy Seat’ is both hypnotic and jarring, rhythmic and loose, demonic and devout. It’s as near to humming the executioner’s song as anyone will ever get. I love the blind joy and accidental beauty of cheap pop jamborees because Staring Death In The Eye is so very rarely done with any true courage. ‘Tender Prey’ finds Cave in arrogantly romantic top form. By Harry if he doesn’t force the grim reaper to extra time – and then penalties! ‘Up Jumped The Devil’ begins like a Gaelic pub singalong but rises through smoke then flames – “O My O My what a wretched life /I was born on the day that my poor mother died/I was cut from her belly with Stanley knife/While my daddy did a jig with the drunk midwife” – to a transcendent eddying. New single ‘Deanna’ cracks the whip, The Bad Seeds giving it that extra jolt. ‘Watching Alice’ is a more restrained piano sigh, Cave eulogising his voyeurism as the lady in question dons fetish gear. He sing this with uncharacteristic compassion. Now we’re running through gutters of blood to the ‘City Of Refuge’, hooks like claws and imaginations riotous; this is another barnstormer. ‘Slowly Goes The Night’ shuffles in on a mock vaudeville vamp; if you’re not sold on this remarkable record’s bloodshot commitment by now you’re an accountant in Telford. As I’ve just used my two-hundredth superlative adjective of the night I’ll simply wave you towards ‘Sunday’s Slave’, ‘Sugar Sugar Sugar’ and ‘New Morning’ with a note saying they’re an esplanade after a maze of eschatological escalators… If you or I retained any doubts about Nick Cave’s artistry, they should be banished forthwith. ‘Tender Prey’ is a classic, a tour de force. Canonise this resolute mortal now. Chris Roberts NME ORIGINALS




Black Eyes And Bruises

beginnings or ends, with truth, Jesus, death, all eventually up each others’ arses. Neither behind nor ahead of the times, ‘The Mercy Seat’ is a magnificent, disgusted, imaginative leap outside the times. You need this. David Stubbs

NME, 6 February 1988, p9

THE MISSION Tower Of Strength

tragedy of trench foot; soggy old boots exercising to a hoof-like jauntiness. Even I know he’s better stuff hidden in that mop of his. Steve Lamacq


Poor Wayne Hussey. All that time spent waiting his turn in the Looks Dept and all they gave him was a mouth like a monkey’s bum. Let’s face it, fellow beautiful people, nobody looks uglier than Wayne Hussey. On good days he resembles an unhappy walnut. At other, sadder, more poignant moments, Wayne stands accused of indecent exposure every time the wind blows his hair off his face. The Mish are bland, loud, as old and friendly as your dad; and unable to count past five. Needless to say ‘Tower Of Strength’ is as pompous and facile as everything else The Mission have produced since having their fingers prised away from Eldritch’s infinitely more stylish skirts. Mind you, Wayne’s tribe of blind groupies will LUUURRRVE it. Barbara Ellen

NME, 13 February 1988, p15

THE CURE Hot Hot Hot (Fiction)

Ye olde Smith’s antics are reminiscent in many ways to the curious ramblings of Adam Ant. He treads some desperate, lone path through inspiration and mire alike, but occasionally sticks his head out of a pothole to proclaim the discovery of gold. The dance mix of ‘Hot Hot Hot’ is spuriously welcoming, but basically a



NME, 23 July 1988, p12

NME, 20 February 1988, p19


Eldritch and his reflection essay the bare bones of a furious, curious passion. Torment, terror, tears; black eyes, bruises, some blood; reckless driving, one way or another. Isn’t it all about this? I’ll never stop listening. Carmen Keats

Dominion (WEA)

And from the eagle has landed to the ego has landed and here we go with Andrew Eldritch and Patricia Morrison and The Sisters Of Mercy, who are probably the most enigmatic post-goth group in Britain. It’s not mere accident that Eldritch has shifted his base to Hamburg. It’s a move that taps into a vein so deep we could even suggest that the thin white spook is to contemporary pop what Wagner was to the composers of his day. Such a claim would at least be within the same boundaries of camp satire that flit in and out of the ‘Floodlands’ LP and indeed most of the Sisters’ work. Throughout ‘Dominion’, Eldritch’s vocals and music roar with enough confident pomp to silence any critic’s whinge in seconds. If Alvin Stardust had ever read Byron then he would have cut it to this day like the Sisters do. James Brown MM, 4 June 1988, p32

SISTERS OF MERCY Lucretia, My Reflection (WEA)

Like a shrouded owl and a tattered pussycat sitting claw in paw in a barge made of weeds, Andrew

ALL ABOUT EVE Martha’s Harbour (Phonogram)

Dogshit. This drivel was done better the first time around, and it wasn’t worth listening to then either. How a goth band can become sentimental MOR is no mystery; a rootless and brainless music is bound to float about like a homeless leech until it finds something to clamp onto. The fraudulent fag-end of the hippy era is therefore a perfect resting place for the equally brainless All About Eve. David Quantick

MM, 11 June 1988, p32

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS The Mercy Seat (Mute)

A timeless, watery swirl of organs, a guitar chasing its own tail and Nick Cave presenting us not with a moral dilemma, but with a moral maelstrom. ‘The Mercy Seat’ is the electric chair, and Cave’s protagonist is caught in that mortal coil that links the base with God, by which spiralling logic every condemned man is a martyr, nailed up alongside Christ. This song rotates in your head, especially as it moves towards its crescendo as the moment of truth arrives, heralded by Blixa Bargeld’s shock electric bolt of guitar. This cyclical construction is a masterstroke as Cave’s own value-system is a circuit, without

NME, 23 July 1988, p12


Oriental marching band hip hop with farting horns and catchy accordion. If we were served by a decent pop radio station, ‘PeekA-Boo’ would be a huge hit. This record was made by people with a sense of humour. It was not made by Goths: phew. David Quantick

Chapter 11



Bad Medicine By the end of 1987 The Cult had achieved enormous success but were on the verge of splitting up. Two years on, they return with a new single, ‘Fire Woman’, and a new album, ‘Sonic Temple’. Carol Clerk reports on how Ian Astbury and co survived alcoholism and nervous breakdowns and rediscovered rock’n’roll religion MM, 18 March 1989, p28

1989 “


o you know the one about the bulls?” asked Billy Duffy, stretching out along the sofa, cigarette hand trailing on the carpet beside the ashtray. The bulls? “There are two bulls sitting on top of a hill, one old wizened bison and a young bull full of exuberance. The young bull says, ‘Let’s run down that hill and fuck a couple of those cows.’ And the old bison says, ‘Oh no, let’s walk down the hill and fuck all of them.’” He smiled significantly. The Cult, of course, are the old wizened bison, walking down that hill with a confidence born of sometimes bitter experience, sure at last of their place in the present and future, proud to have learned from the mistakes and traumatic upsets which accompanied the international success of their last album, ‘Electric’. While the world may well assume that The Cult have spent the last couple of years basking in the glory of the sudden upturn in their fortunes, soaking up the adulation of audiences on the world tour that followed ‘Electric’, the reality was rather different. The gigs were great, by all accounts, but The Cult, as individuals, were going right off the rails. For the whole of ’87 there were drink problems, money matters, line-up difficulties, business worries and trouble with the police. And there was a cloud around the whole sorry set-up, an all-encompassing numbness induced by tour-lag. When they finally woke up sober in 1988, The Cult were faced with a damned fine mess to sort out. That they did so to their own satisfaction and went on to record the LP they describe as “the definitive Cult album” is the source of their newfound self-assurance. “We lost our virginity,” announced Ian Astbury. “We really got broken. We got fucked by an elephant. That ’87 tour was like our exorcism. If you can go through that and still be together and strong as a group and as a songwriting team, you can go through everything.”

‘Sonic Temple’, the album title, is intended to tell us something about its entire musical content, namely that The Cult have effected a marriage of their two favourite qualities. From their collaborations with Rick Rubin on ‘Electric’, they’ve adopted the policy that it’s no sin for a rock band to be heard to be a rock band. At the same time, they’ve built on the bare bones of Rubin’s direct approach, rediscovering the idea of texture and layering, subtlety and yes, even mysticism, things which date back to their earlier ‘Love’ era. “‘Sonic’ represents the blatant rock side and ‘Temple’ the more cerebral, spiritual overtones,” agreed Astbury. ‘Sonic Temple’ also stands for one of his wider notions. “It comes from the second line of one of the tracks, ‘Medicine Train’. It goes, “All fired up, a desolation angel shootin’ from the hip in the sonic temple”. I just had this vision in my mind’s eye of the way, especially in the States, the venue has become more like a temple. “I don’t think a lot of young people have got focused religious beliefs. A rock concert is one place where people go to relate to other people, to relate to a band. It’s a kind of spiritual experience. We’re not setting ourselves up, saying we’re some sort of deity to be revered. But there’s a certain point in the show where everybody forgets, the rational barriers go down and it’s total communication. That religious aspect is there. “It’s flattering when people use me and The

tambourines, percussion and a bit of help on the lyrical arrangements. “Steve Jones went to the States and people said, ‘What a sell-out’,” said Ian. “They wanted him to rot in England so they could pick pieces off the corpse. Build ’em up and knock ’em down. But why? It’s kinda sad.” Britain has been something of a culture shock for The Cult, who are horrified anew by its emphasis on all things hip, on its eagerness to follow, its snobbery towards rock music, its charts, its “amorphous Euro-pop diarrhoea”, its cynicism and its “old boy network” – the Claptons, Collins, Dire Straits and Stings. “It’s bringing out the worst in us already,” said Astbury. “We come home and we slag things off and people get really up in arms – ‘You’re bloody living over there, and you come back here and you slag it all off.’ I’m just in a position to be able to travel. One of my concerns is that the general public of Britain do not get peeved at The Cult. I’m trying desperately hard to fly the flag in the States, defending British music.” “All we did was go where we felt we could do our thing,” said Billy. “We’re the only ones that are looking out for us. It’s self-preservation.” The Cult are equally enamoured of New York, immortalised on ‘Sonic Temple’ with ‘New York City’, brash and up-tempo as befits its subject. This is one of Astbury’s more straightforward documentaries, an account of his first memorable visit to the Apple. “It was incredible,” he enthused. “I was totally flabbergasted. I was an English kid, 22 years of age, and I got out of the cab, dumped my things at the hotel, ran down the street and banged into this guy and knocked him flying. As I helped him up, his sunglasses fell off and it was Tony Curtis. The first American guy I met in America, Tony Curtis, and I knocked him flying. “I went into this delicatessen round the corner and Alan Whicker was in there. I met several celebrities in the first 10 minutes. “There was nothing I could really focus on in that town. I remember I got into a cab and the fare was $3.75. I gave him four dollars. I said, ‘It’s alright, don’t worry about the change.’ He took the quarter and threw it at me – ‘I don’t need your fucking charity, asshole.’ I didn’t realise you have to tip them well. “I remember seeing a New York cop with a New York Yankees baseball cap on, with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, and his police uniform on. I remember when I first saw the size of the buildings, Times Square…” America, as the band’s adopted home, is a recurring theme in the lyrical content of the new album. ‘Sweet Soul Sister’, a steady, insistent headbanger laced with a mutation of the ‘Paranoid’ riff, explores the Americanisation of the French in particular and Europe in general. “It’s kinda strange,” mused Astbury. “We gave America more kind of spiritual things like depth, experience, culture. And they’re giving back a hamburger. A hamburger, Guns N’Roses, Budweiser, American football, skateboards and baseball caps turned backwards.”

“A rock concert is the place people go to relate to other people. It’s a kind of spiritual experience. The rational barriers go down”


The band

are now based full-time in LA. Despite their disregard for its superficiality – “Los Angeles could be put in a plastic bag and taken away” – The Cult are inspired by its cosmopolitan character, its relaxation, its openmindedness towards all forms of rock music. They also enjoy the “like-minded people” they meet there, people like Steve Jones, who recently invited Astbury to be an “odd-job man” on his new album, contributing harmonies,

Jamie Stewart

, Duffy and Astbury – wearing a disconcerting amount of hair on his face – were in a suite at the Swiss Cottage Holiday Inn discussing their latest recordings. First release is the new single, the wild and bouncy ‘Fire Woman’, which is the bearer of all sorts of glad tidings, very typically The Cult but, at the same time, a handsome stride onwards from the deliberately simple aggression of ‘Electric’. The Beggars Banquet press release informs us that it’s all about Ian’s “’67 crazed firehorse lady”. It is? “It’s about my girlfriend and her fiery spirit and our relationship,” he explained. “’67 is when she was born. Also, in the oriental Japanese/ Chinese astrological calendar, she’s a horse. Firehorse only comes up every 30 years or so, and when it comes up, the orientals go and kill all their children. There are a lot of abortions in firehorse year. It’s kinda weird…”

Cult as a backdrop for a lifestyle. I went through a period when every experience I had each day could be related to a Rolling Stones song. That’s kinda cool for The Cult to become that now. It’s really exciting we’re in the situation to be ambassadors. “I live my life and I have experiences and write about them, not just ‘boy-meets-girl’ but more undefined things that people don’t talk about every day – sensitive, spiritual subjects. I see sensitivity as a strength. Other people see it as a weakness. “People are so much more concerned with superficial values these days, rather than experiencing life and talking about it and sharing it. I like to conjure up images that provoke people to use their imagination.”



Creepies From Crawley

THE CULT Sonic Temple (Beggars Banquet)

Sonic temple: The Cult as sensitive all-seeing rock legends. No, Gods. ‘Stairway To Heaven’ without a niff of devil worship or hint of demonic inspiration. But The Cult’s triangle of souls – Duffy, Astbury, Stewart – wouldn’t illuminate Jimmy Page’s left eye. ‘Sonic Temple’ is the way they’d like to see themselves, but the music in reality is little more than a pastiche. Still, ‘Sonic Temple’ is a noble attempt to pair the ‘cerebral’ side of the ‘Love’ album, its feminine nature and haunting spirituality, with the parched, fleshless bones of ‘Electric’. Like Mary Shelley they’re attempting to recharge an emaciated corpse. The spirited ‘Fire Woman’ has already burnt a hole in the Top 40, Astbury’s neighing vocals calling out in tribute to his girlfriend, born in the Chinese year of the firehorse. A love song that’s as aggressive as you can get before you run towards the battered wives’ home. ‘American Horse’ is the nearest they’ve come to perfection since ‘Sanctuary’. The song stands, slides and slithers to the conclusion that the subtle, sensitive spirit which possesses Astbury’s lyrics has to overspill into the music, before the nectar can become as spellbinding as this. The Cult at their most haunted. On ‘Edie (Ciao Baby)’, Astbury sings to an angel with broken wings with a gothic reverberance that carries her from freedom to drug abuse without glorifying her selfdestructive traits. It’s as fragile as life itself. HM compromise leers through the lacy underskirts of ‘Sweet Soul Sister’ and reveals a twisted version of the ‘Paranoid’ riff. It’s still beautiful though. A spacey pulsing heartbeat hangs on a single ethereal note, until pierced by Duffy’s guitar and drawn out of its body like the blood of a vampire’s victim. Perfect. The focus of ‘Sonic Temple’ is summed up in a line from ‘Medicine Train’, with the image of a worshipped artist performing in a venue, a latter day temple: “All fired up, a desolation angel shootin’ from the hip in the sonic temple”. In The Cult’s sonic temple they sing of angels, Gods and fire, purifying images of goodness. All the little ol’ devils that inhabited ‘Electric’ have been exorcised. Now the only thing that is haunting and holding them back is a lack of self-confidence in some of their older wisdoms. Why continue plagiarising when they can do so much better on their own? Helen Mead



angel, but she gradually lost her power to fly. She lost her freedom through drugs and the abuse and people using her like a fucking fashion accessory. She fell from grace. She died. “I felt there was a parallel between her life and my life. I was a victim. From the day I decided I wanted to be a punk rocker until I got my band together, I was having things consistently thrown in my face. I was very self-destructive ’cos I couldn’t deal with rejection. I was nearly murdered in Glasgow. Kids who decided to dress and express themselves that way had a lot of guts, ’cos they had to confront violence every day. There were people always waiting outside of concerts to beat other people up.”

The Cult are watching the progress of British artists in America and Yankee reaction to them. “In America, they’re mildly bemused by the names that are springing forth out of Britain into popular American consciousness,” said Billy Duffy. “The Pet Shop Boys, Rick Astley, Samantha Fox – and these from the country that produced the greatest rock music ever.” “And then you’ve got bands who are regarded as almost gods in Britain,” said Ian. “The Sugarcubes, The Mission, The Nephilim, who come to LA and realise they’re only starting off.” “You get the feeling that all of those bands think that all they’ve gotta do it is put a record out and they’re gonna be megastars in America,” said Duffy. “And the reality hits them like a ton of bricks. If they had a struggle in Britain, it’s 10-fold in America.” “You have to go on the road,” said Ian. “We’ve been on the road since 1984. We’ve had guns pointed at us, all the way to playing Long Beach Arena in front of 12,000 people.” “We’ve just got our foot in the door,” said Duffy. “It’s a big mountain to climb, and we’re just beginning to need oxygen at the moment.”

“I was a victim from the day I became a punk”

The bang on the door

was an interruption, a hint, a nuisance. “Do you know,” said Jamie as we vacated the suite, “my dad was a violinist with the London Symphony Orchestra? He played on a whole series of ‘Classic Rock’ albums, and the first one included ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’. At the time I was thrashing around in a garage trying to be a punk rocker. I didn’t have the connection then. Punk rock was a rebellion against everything including Led Zeppelin and classical music. Now I can see the relevance of all rock music, from when it started to now.”


NME, 8 APRIL 1989, P32


Bon Jovi/Aerosmith engineer Bob Rock was called in to produce the new Cult album, his brief was to “take a sonic photograph of the group”. And the photograph he took is memorable for its lights, its shades, its colours and its space, enough to accommodate Billy Duffy’s increasingly accomplished guitar and some occasionally extravagant arrangements. There’s the dramatic sweep of the big slow number, ‘Edie’, with its eight cellists; the powerful, emphatic ‘Soul Asylum’, complete with its shades of ‘Kashmir’. “Everything with that kind of excellent drum sound and beat is going to be accused of sounding like Led Zeppelin,” huffed Duffy, clearly anticipating the reference, but still not too willing to like it. “The tempo was dictated by the way we’d already written the song, the chords and the melody. I’m perfectly willing to defend it as long as necessary. Is it in the same key? No. Same chords? Very few. The song itself is so good that if it’s gonna get compared to one of Led Zeppelin’s best tunes, I can’t really complain.” “It was completely uncontrived,” added Astbury. “It’s probably the most romantic song on the record, even though we took the opening line from a piece in The Times. The editor wrote this article about the Stones when they got arrested in ’67. He was saying, ‘How dare the establishment use the Stones as the focal point for the drug problems of the country?’ And the headline was ‘Who Would Break A Butterfly On A Wheel?’” The conversation drifted around fragile things which are easily destroyed, “un-macho” things, “spiritual” things, and rested on the topic of the vulnerable artist. “It’s amazing how a lot of beautifully creative people at some point confront the flak,” remarked Ian. “A lot of them falter by the wayside and die in really horrible circumstances, used up and spat out so the machine can continue. That’s what ‘Edie’ is about – and that’s Edie Sedgwick, the definitive poor little rich girl. “She was one of Andy Warhol’s things, and she was a victim. She was extremely naïve and she went along with it. I perceived her as a desolation



Lock up your lipstick, The Cure are back. With a brilliant new single ‘Lullaby’ and an LP ‘Disintegration’ to follow, they’re on their best form in years. In James Brown’s interview, Robert Smith reveals why he sacked Lol and why The Cure will never play live again after the next tour



tension and fear and dread and treats them to a coat of musical finery. Cloaked in Eastern string arrangements and rattlesnake percussion, ‘Lullaby’ will do for bedtime stories what ‘Close To Me’ did for furniture care. The creepies from Crawley are well and truly back.

The ’80s

have been a memorable lifetime for The Cure, one of the few interesting bands to start and finish the decade. They’ve had more line-up

changes than the England squad, but who hasn’t? The Banshees, The Fall and Joy Division/New Order all have. And as our interview came to an end Smith told me he had recently asked Lol Tolhurst, the only other original Cure member remaining, not to bother being involved any more – but more of that later. With the release of ‘Disintegration’, their eleventh LP, next month, you’ll discover that The Cure are being as regal and chilling as ever.

he Spiderman is recounting his favourite tale of horror and woe. It’s a long and strange and infamous story, and I have heard it many times before, but never like tonight, and never from the Spiderman himself. It begins in Blackpool three decades ago and ends in Baker Street in three hours’ time, and that’s as much truth as you need to know. A bizarre stew of lies and dreams, and as compelling as hypnosis, it has the most fantastic soundtrack you could want. And the plot? That’s up to you. Robert James Smith of The Cure stretches his eight long great black arms around me and we begin. “I wanted something like the really bad Marvel characters with really stupid powers. Like The Candy Striped Man, who could turn everything into candy stripes.” Smith is describing The Spiderman and The Spiderman is describing Smith. Both appear, as monster and victim, in The Cure’s haunting new single ‘Lullaby’. Whispered from the depths of Smith’s most tortured memories and set in the heart of nightmare land, ‘Lullaby’, like all The Cure’s best works, takes nervous

The Cure (l to r): Boris Williams, Robert Smith, Roger O’Donnell, Porl Thomson, Simon Gallup



Shambling Monster 

Developing their ability to demolish people’s expectations, The Cure have spent the last decade changing from a dark and intense underground band into a glam but imaginative Top Of The Pops accessory. Their singles have been as unpredictable as their LPs are solid, and Smith himself has become the thinking man’s Sixth Former’s crumpet. Strangely this metamorphosis happened while Britain experienced the biggest teeny-bop explosion since the early ’70s. The band’s web of success has spread throughout the world. There have been over eight million album sales, tours that have stretched from Australasia to the Middle East to South America and back, and there’s an evergrowing mass of US support that was built almost entirely on the

popularity of the videos on the fledgling MTV. The United States have fallen for The Cure in such a way that of the two million sales of their last LP ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’, half of them were American, and Spin magazine recently included them twice in their Hundred Best Singles of All Time. “We met a girl in America who was at college doing her thesis on us,” says Smith. “She did things like counted all the references to drowning in our songs and said, ‘Did you know you’ve died 74 times in your songs?’”

Strangely Smith is just as likely to discuss the end of The Cure as an actuality. “Each time I think it’s the last time we’ll do something it’s obviously closer to the last time I will do something. Also things that bother me seem to crystallise rather than go away. “I think I’m back where I started from – very normal,” he says. “And that’s why I think the group will stop. This tour has become a huge tour because I wanted to go to places like Hungary and Bulgaria before we stop. I know we’ll never do another tour again, I’m not even sure if we’ll play live again. If I even leave it as an opening we would turn into The Troggs. I don’t want to turn into a shambling monster. “From an observer’s point of view I can understand why this will look like an ‘end’ because I’m so intrinsically linked to The Cure, but in real life I’m not. I don’t carry it round with me during the months away. I don’t think, ‘I’d better get The Cure out of the cupboard it’ll be getting lonely or rusty.’ “I resent people who have a patronising attitude to their audience, keep feeding the same old shit. I resent people you grow up admiring who turn out to be the biggest tossers, like David Bowie. I just wish he’d been killed in a car accident after he’d finished ‘Low’. No, I shouldn’t say that about anyone.”

“I resent people you grew up admiring turning out to be tossers – like David Bowie. I just wish he’d been killed in a car accident after ‘Low’”

Maybe Smith

Smith is jubilant as he plays ‘A Forest’ on stage for the 14,763rd time


has a thing about motorway fatalities: the day before we spoke he had told a Japanese magazine that Lawrence Tolhurst had died in a road accident. Robert Smith has never been one to worry about changing his line-up but he had also been heard to say that without Lawrence The Cure wouldn’t be The Cure. Obviously it came as a shock all round when Smith told the one musician that had stood by him all the way that it was time to sling his hook. “His position as the victim had become ludicrous,” confesses Smith. “He had always been the safety valve of the group, whenever rows broke out we’d pick on Lol, but it had become really depressing that the focal point had become this constant harassment. “I said to him at the start of the recording that if he didn’t assert himself and get involved then there was no way I could carry on seeing everyone using him. Also, he was drinking so much, he was the only one who couldn’t moderate it to any degree. He was out of step with everything. It had just become detrimental to everything we’d do. “I don’t know if you’d call it amicable. I think he was shocked by it, everyone was shocked that I actually meant it. When we go away he’s not coming with us because it’s just become so predictable and detrimental. It would be stupid to be all jokey two minutes before going on stage and then go on and try to manufacture that kind of emotion. “It will be a different tour, more draining I should think. There’ll probably be a lot of rowing going on; I’m looking forward to it. He’ll probably be back by Christmas. He’s getting married, maybe that’s his comeback. I don’t know what he’s doing now – he’s gone all quiet.”


Smith’s relationship

with his wife Mary is clearly the most important thing in his life. No matter how diverse a topic it might be, be it Hendrix, or Rushdie, or JD Salinger or Midweek Sports Special, Smith inevitably steers the conversation around to his marriage. “No one knew the venue,” he tells me of his wedding in a Benedictine monastery. “Everyone had to get on a coach and be taken there in secret. Some people thought we’d gone a bit over the top but the wedding had nothing to do with the group and I wanted it emphasised that it was just about me and Mary. If just one journalist or one bunch of fans had been there it would have ruined it for both of us and both sets of parents.” Unsurprisingly, when the wedding photos were released The Cure looked like Honey Monsters in suits – all collars, creases and enormous white training shoes. “We had to wait until marriage wouldn’t change anything before we would wed. It was an old-fashioned romantic thing really. I’d always promised Mary that one day we’d get married properly. She hasn’t changed her name and we don’t intend to have any children, in fact I often still think of her as my girlfriend rather than wife. “The choice about children,” he continues, “is more up to the girl, I think. I’m glad we haven’t had children. I couldn’t face up to the responsibility. You lose that freedom of being able to say, ‘C’mon, we’re going away for a week tomorrow.’ You can’t even do that with a pet. It’s hard enough having to think about two people, never mind three. The songs are my children and the group are my pets.”

but before then? From high-waisters to jumpsuits to lipsticks to kimonos, Leigh Bowery must have been groaning with jealousy. Today, with his hair teased vertically and scrawled lipstick, the man has a settled and identifiable image. Stability within insanity, if such is possible. And the appeal of The Cure is balanced between their musical originality and Smith’s mystique. Initially inspired, according to one of the old press releases, by “punk and Penguin Modern Classics” Smith created a sort of English Literature for Music Lovers and has never looked back. Nowadays he has few worries about the role of his band. “The group is there to escape the oppressiveness, it’s a way of screaming,” he says. “The reason we formed the group wasn’t for all those usual reasons like ‘being bored’. It was so we didn’t have to get up at nine in the morning. So we didn’t have to work for other people. Whereas now I try hard for The Cure never to be seen to be involved with banality. “I don’t give a shit if Bros sell 20 million LPs next year; I know that I won’t be buying them so why should I care? I don’t really listen to us, I find it too difficult. I’m still inside ‘Disintegration’. There are songs that I really like by the group, but it’s like a diary. It makes me upset to think it’s gone.” Despite seeing The Cure as part of “the coloured zone where people go to escape”, Smith has regularly used the group to help raise money for political and socially concerned organisations but has never attempted to fuse the two creatively. The band have performed benefits for Greenpeace, mental health, victimised homosexuals and CND, yet such causes have never screamed from the lyric sheets of their LPs. “I like music that has a lack of reality to its musical content,” he admits. “The Cure’s music doesn’t reflect the material world in a very obvious way, which I think is its strength. I almost feel embarrassed by music that has a social and political edge because it always seems so diluted that it’s utterly pointless. “I suppose it is of some worth if you decided a certain percentage of your audience are complete morons and they need to be told certain elementary things about the world. I don’t really meet that many people that I could illuminate on certain key issues. I’ve never been in touch with a lot of the normal world. “I still know a lot of the people I used to know before The Cure and they’re doctors and bank officials and they like Dire Straits and I think they feel sorry for me.”

Smith was

born in Blackpool, which explains the more recent lust for day-glo glamour and tack,

Even though

he’s about to roll The Cure out around the world – “Going to Budapest might be a really liberating event” – Smith discusses it with a finality. He is also currently pondering what to do with the solo LP he has recorded, ready to release. “Each time I do another LP I wonder


“The group is there to escape the oppressiveness – so we don’t have to work for other people”

MM, 6 May 1989, p34

THE CURE Disintegration (Fiction)

Robert Smith reckons ‘Disintegration’ isn’t a miserable record at all. Right. Meanwhile Van Gogh says Starry Night was a cartoon, Francis Bacon claims he’s a disco king and Joan of Arc announces she was only cutting down on heating costs. ‘Disintegration’ is about as much fun as losing a limb. How can a group this distressing and disturbing be so popular? Surely it’s not allowed! ‘Lullaby’ is much too intricate and interesting to loll about in the Top Five. Yet there it is. Inexplicable. Robert’s not that steamily erotic, is he? Is he? Oh. You’ll be lucky to find a tune on here. Or a gag. But when you think about it, that last one, that one about snogging, that was bloody long and mostly forlorn too. The Cure have almost invisibly stopped making pop records. This is exactly what Smith denies it is – a return to the bleak inner landscapes of ‘Pornography’ and ‘Faith’. The first line? “I think it’s dark and looks like rain”. The last line? “I’ll never lose this pain”. Here comes summer. The words which lumber to mind as you hear The Cure bottling out of topping themselves are all the words now devalued and used only to mock goths: doom, gloom, barren, despair. It’s an utter refusal to fight, to take the bull by the horns. They have nothing to say except: please help me I don’t understand a thing about the world oh actually it’s not important don’t trouble yourself go back to sleep. Most of the tracks float sorrowfully into each other. ‘Pictures Of You’ is as jaunty as it ever gets, ‘Prayers For Rain’ as aggressive, the title track as witty. Listless rhythms and rhymes abound, glissando guitars whisper, Robert mumbles and wonders whether he can be bothered to plead. The closer, ‘Untitled’, decides: “And now the time has gone, another time undone/Hopelessly fighting the devil futility/Feeling the monster climb deeper inside of me gnawing my heart away…” Pluck it out boy! Smith mopes. He’ll never send a letterbomb when his wounds are easier to lick than an envelope. He’s a touchstone for millions. It’s decent of him to share all this with us. It’s challenging and claustrophobic, often poignant, often tedious. It’s nearly surprising. You’ve heard of the cowardly lion. Meet the hesitant dinosaurs. Chris Roberts NME ORIGINALS


whether it’s worth releasing it because I could just do it at home and keep it for myself. I have the tapes of the material I was going to do as a solo record that I’ve had for two and a half years now. It becomes more and more ridiculous as to why I should go out and do it for other people to listen to. “Mind you, when I am singing in my own studio I invent people listening, an audience. “They’re not a set list of characters – some of them are real – and when I’m singing I have them in mind. For certain types of song I always have the same person in mind.

always find out what they think and quite often they don’t like the songs.”

A solitary

character who claims to have made few real friends since he’s been in the band, Robert Smith’s past slide into alcohol-orientated decadence has been well charted. His “I’m almost an alcoholic now. I haven’t had one night this year when I haven’t been drunk” has become legendary. Describing that time as “hollow” and “unmemorable”, Smith still drinks but his excesses are kept “more normal now. More celebratory than a lifestyle.” “I wanted to get away from myself as this morose and deeply tortured person, I found that really stressful. I was never really very bothered with that image. What’s frightening is that I find it so unimportant and yet people are writing virtual suicide notes to me. That’s something I’ve never been able to grasp and I think it would

“I wanted to get away from myself as a morose and deeply tortured person” “I know that they eventually listen to the records, but they don’t know I’m thinking about them listening to it when I’m recording it. I

have upset me if I had come to terms with it. “I think a lot of people around me at the time of ‘Pornography’ seemed to enjoy seeing me in that state. It’s so much easier and more enjoyable now than it was five years ago. I know now that I could turn round and tell them all to fuck off. I could do that before but I used to worry about what we’d do next.”

If you’re

going to be a pop star and wear lipstick and tarantula crops then it’s important for the public image to be seen to be deep, mystical and attractive. Whether or not he will admit to having cultivated The Robert Smith Persona and all the deadly nightshade, suicide notes and butterfly wings that go with it, that image is there and Robert Smith of The Cure appears to now cope with it very well. Detached but addicted, “becoming more sponge-like as I grow older”, he’s just as ready to live within a warm and stable set-up as he used to be ready to live within a wine bottle. For the future, Robert Smith suggests, like every other bored musician, that film scores might lie ahead. More interestingly he also claims he would like to divorce himself from music and go and work in a mental hospital. For the moment he sees no new bands jamming a spur up his backside, attempting to replace The Cure. This he finds both remarkable and disappointing. “My stuff has always come from lack of faith in anything,” he reckons, yet he takes pleasure in cooking, the works of Denton Welsh and Dylan Thomas and his ever-increasing catalogue of old records. Is it really possible to be both a pop star and normal? Or do we have to presume a basic lack of sanity is required for both? Robert Smith of The Cure – one of the few remaining everyday nutters capable of crooning a decent tune.

MM, 19 August 1989, p15

AndThe Ass SawThe Angel



out. Eucrow survives to tell us the tale of the swamp, a dark and menacing parable that screams from the page. Cave’s anti-hero believes in angels but his soul is “one big fuckin’ black twisty knot planted in the backest backwoods”. He lies on his deathbed and documents the grim atrocities of his life with an unfailing eye. Every last abominable act is recorded, and relished. Cave is no Cormac McCarthy, but his pose has a raw-boned quality to it that’s surprisingly effective.

“Could you sign it: ‘To Yummy Bunnikins, love from Nicky-Poo’? Er, it’s for my sister”

His characters are vile and misshapen. They cannot win our sympathy. Yet, somehow, one suspects that compassion lurks among these grim phantoms. And The Ass… returns to haunt his most remarkable album, 1985’s ‘The Firstborn Is Dead’. There’s a similar sense of desolation, and, like the album, at times it gets so insufferable you want to howl with laughter. Then, all of a sudden, you are drawn back to the awful

spectacle and, once again this becomes a disturbing experience Once more, it seems Cave has taken his obsessions as far as they will go. This reads like four years of madness. Every last thought is thrown down to shrivel and perish. Cave’s dissenters will dismiss it as a grand folly. But if you take a morose pleasure in seeing this edge-ofthe-frame man scribbling his own prescription for the blues, you’ll find some delight in here somewhere. Jonh Wilde



nd The Ass Saw The Angel, Nick Cave’s debut novel, has consumed a large part of his last four years. He drags us feet-first into a dimly-lit ghost town in the American South, territory previously excavated by William Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor. Here, amid the festering swamps, grim phantoms and rolling thunder, we find Euchrid Eucrow relating his tale of murder, incest, betrayal, vengeance and love in stark jumbled burst of recall. At the beginning we find Eucrow being ripped from his mother’s womb with a broken liquor bottle, watching his twin brother die. His brother is the lucky one, as it turns


All About Eve: tra-la-la and fol-de-rol

MM, 21 October 1989, p38

ALL ABOUT EVE Scarlet And Other Stories



Twelve months ago All About Eve seemed happy to travel the hippy road to salvation, but they’ve consulted the map since then and aborted the journey. It’s almost impossible to dream your way out of trouble these days and Julianne’s discovered that the twin foundations of the Aquarian ethic – mindexpanding drugs and the rural retreat from Mammon – are hopelessly nostalgic means to a peaceful end. In recording this album, All About Eve found they had no way forward and no way back. The Kate Greenaway/Laura Ashley idyll they seemed to inhabit is ravaged during ‘Tuesday’s Child’, which reveals the darker side of nursery rhymes and the hidden threat of fairy tales. Julianne appears to have found the notion of maturity as fallible as retracing the umbilical cord, and the sprightly ‘More Than The Blues’ concludes: “Are we getting wiser/Or just getting older/ When we know the shoulder/We’d most like to cry on”. Love offers little hope – the gorgeously tender rock ballad ‘December’ pictures a woman

romancing her memories but can’t bring itself to chide her as so many people end up alone. ‘Scarlet’ declares with poignant purity that lust is an unsatisfying exercise in self-deception while ‘Hard Spaniard’ is an embarrassingly frank catalogue of the events that befall a girl so desperate for company she submits to the abuse of the one-night-stand. Musically, though, the band are content to rummage among the roots of rock. ‘Scarlet…’ sounds standard, gently melancholy and occasionally twee (there’s a cute fiddle folde-rol in ‘More Than The Blues’) when it’s really a very harsh album indeed. It’s ironic that their coltish beauty betrays their darker, deeper intent. Steve Sutherland

MM, 11 November 1989, p40

THE CREATURES Boomerang (Polydor)

When an established group takes time off for extra-curricular activity, it’s usually an attempt to flee the creative inertia that sets in mid-career. So when Siouxsie and Budgie chose to revive an earlier alter ego/escape route, The Creatures, you could be forgiven for taking it as a sign that the Banshees had succumbed to an irreversible enervation. But listening to ‘Boomerang’, my yawn turned quickly to a jaw dropping in astonishment. This is Siouxsie’s most inventive and invigorated music since ‘A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’. What’s interesting about ‘Boomerang’ is how Siouxsie has incorporated her

new holistic, health-conscious, “gyn-ecological” concerns within her established, predatory persona. ‘Standing There’ is a feminist tirade against the ghoulish males who voyeuristically revel in the carnage of the bullfight; Budgie’s stampeding rhythms gloss over some rather ungainly phrased polemic (“How funny to see/How path-et-ic/Some grown men/Can be”). ‘Fruitman’ tries to imagine a nurturing, kindly, Green-fingered masculinity that’s in touch with “the rhythms of nature’s ticking”. Even ‘Pluto Drive’ conceals, within its asteroid-funk swirl and images of “oceans of methane and petrified grass”, a distinctly Green sentiment (Pluto is “an unleaded dream”). Musically, Budgie is the star. ‘Manchild’ has Siouxsie’s voice swooping through canopies of chimes and tintinnabulation. ‘You’ churns and seethes like the lowriding funk undercarriage of ‘Pull Up To The Bumper’, and ‘Pity’ even sees Budgie reinventing the Jamaican steel drums. But sometimes the duo veer dangerously close to camp. I can do without the Porgy And Bess pastiche of ‘Killing Time’ and ‘Willow’. But happily, ‘Boomerang’ ends with two songs as lulling and lovely as ‘Pity’. ‘Venus Sands’ describes itself perfectly, Siouxsie’s voice abandoned and unhinged in vast empty space. And ‘Morrina’ is a shimmering carpet of dew, a Milky Way awning for Siouxsie’s reveries. It’s the most serene she’s ever sounded. ‘Boomerang’ abounds with scarcely anticipated brilliance. Simon Reynolds

Siouxsie and Budgie: “gyn-ecologists” NME ORIGINALS


Merrie England

THE CULT Fire Woman (Beggar’s Banquet)

Ian Astbury reckons that ‘Fire Woman’ is about his “67 crazed firehorse lady”. Just what the fuck that means is anybody’s guess, but there are references to

his lil’ honey, his lil’ sister, his lil’ baby and a cat on a hot tin shack. Take your pick. The words are howled, growled and barked, each gullible syllable given the full wolverine works; the beat is bullheaded and Billy Duffy’s guitar playing is typically opulent if not intricate, ever on the brink of FXexaggerated extravagances. Despite being The Cult’s first release for 18 months, ‘Fire Woman’ does not mark anything of a departure in approach or execution and it slips neatly into the pattern initiated with the ‘Love’ LP. The fact that the producer, Bob Rock, has previously worked with Aerosmith and Bon Jovi is the best indication of their overriding caution, but this, however, is not to suggest that it lacks numerous strengths. It’s certainly their finest effort since ‘She Sells Sanctuary’. It’s also worth noting that while ‘Automatic Blues’, the seven-inch B-side, sounds exactly like Led Zep’s archaic interpretation of the blues, ‘Messing The Blues’, the additional track on the 12-inch, is somewhat refreshing. The music is entirely acoustic – double bass, slide guitar, harmonica and the swipe of brushes against the snare – and Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Big Joe Turner and even Billy Idol are given supposedly improvised namechecks. If they’d been so bold as to select this song for the A-side, they’d have made Single Of The Week. Of course I’m lying. Push

NME, 15 April 1989, 19

THE CURE Lullaby (Fiction)

BE: At the first play of ‘Lullaby’ Guy’s suspicion visibly withers. It’s a terrific single. Sexy, scary, fascinating, murky and just casual enough to enjoy its own sense of ridiculousness. Is Guy a Love-Cat? GC: “When they first started they were my favourite group. I’ve always like The Cure, I’ve always like the idea of them. And listening to ‘Lullaby’ is brilliant. The strings are exquisite. Just beautiful. Utterly beautiful. Success has affected their music in the best possible way…” Barbara Ellen & Guy Chadwick (The House Of Love)

NME, 1 July 1989, p10

THE CULT Edie (Ciao Baby) (Beggars Banquet)

BE: First it was American Indians, then Led Zep, now Ian Astbury has read a Ladybird book on Edie Sedgwick and this – bless him – is the surprisingly tender result. MMc: “It’s an amalgam of

MM, 9 December 1989, p32

ALL ABOUT EVE December (Mercury)

Cast splendidly adrift in their ambivalent emotional hayloft, the Eves, abrim with mordant passion, ridicule all other festive filth, and, as usual, the listener immediately feels at home in the song, even if miffed by the décor, knowing the video has to be a treat. Andy in the workhouse, hanging up his stocking, Mark in the outhouse (luxury), kissing Santa under the mistletoe, Julianne beaming inside her speeding sleigh, and the wretched Tiny Tim, getting it all horribly wrong, earnestly setting off to complete his boba-job errands. “Remem-BURR, DecemBURR”. A brilliant, almost oafish chorus, flowers on Julianne’s strident trellis-work, deep bass thumbprints abound on the crisp drum slabs, and the song ends abruptly after the sort of gratuitously violent guitar solo you’d expect from a man who habitually crosses the Astoria threshold, accompanied by an “18-stone friend”, specifically to make rude remarks to security staff. Rude, Tim?? He has to go confessional after reading one page of Viz. Merrie England everybody! Mick Mercer


MM, 18 March 1989, p32

everything else I’ve heard in this genre of music over the past 15 years so I’m afraid I don’t quite understand it. The Cult have never been dangerous enough to cross my path, except I remember once when I was compering The Tube and they were desperately pleading for wine back at the hotel. I thought it was odd how such big, blustering rock’n’rollers should want wine. How poetic – as is, I suppose, this idea of writing a song about Edie, whose entire life was a romantic tragedy. Barbara Ellen & Malcolm McLaren

Chapter 12



Love Missiles

NME, 3 February 1990, p31

THE MISSION Carved In Sand (Phonogram )



Tony James and Andrew Eldritch: 21st Century boys

Sister Sputnik MM, 3 February 1990, p3

he Sisters Of Mercy have recruited a new bass player: Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s Tony James. And the announcement of a full Sisters line-up has fuelled speculation this week that a long-awaited tour may be in the offing. The surprise news came in a statement from the Sisters’ management. It stated simply: “Andreas Bruhn has joined The Sisters Of Mercy. Andreas Bruhn plays electric guitar. Tony James has joined The Sisters Of Mercy. Tony James plays bass guitar.” Any further enquiries were met with a tightlipped silence, and no one will discuss bass player Patricia Morrison’s role within the new band. Extraordinary though the collaboration between Andrew Eldritch and Tony James may appear, the pair have been friends for a long time and Eldritch was once asked to front Sigue Sigue Sputnik. They are now believed to be in Norway working on material for the next Sisters LP. Ever since the success of ‘This Corrosion’, the


Sisters’ record company, WEA, have been trying to persuade the band to tour. Eldritch has consistently refused, with the excuse that too much touring is bad for your health! There have been no live dates since the original Sisters line-up split, leaving Eldritch and Morrison as the nucleus of the band. Eldritch spent most of last year writing material in Hamburg and The Only Ones’ John Perry played guitar on the demos. The recruitment of Tony James would apparently spell the end of Sigue Sigue Sputnik, although their spokesperson this week responded with a curt, “No comment.” Except for Ray Matthews’ recent appearance in the national press, where he complained of being broke and working on a building site, the rest of Sigue Sigue Sputnik have been lying low lately. Vocalist Martin Degville said this week: “I’ve been so busy on a solo project that I cannot comment on Tony James’ latest activities.” Watch this space…

Eldritch has consistently refused to tour, with the excuse that it’s bad for his health


‘Carved In Sand’ catches The Mish on the crest of another wave of phenomenal ordinariness. Hung with all the usual accessories – junk shop mysticism, Sesame Street metaphor and finger-dancing chintziness – this ten-strong mountain-mover is a prime cut indeed. For all the glib criticism flung gaily (and daily) at The Mish, their noise remains both graceful and rugged; a well-worn, in-bred hybrid of pomp rock and Avalon nursery rhyme. Divorced from Hussey’s parabolic prose, yer average Mish song has a tea-andslippers familiarity to it. ‘Butterfly On A Wheel’ is a superior love song – true, its title is nicked from an old editorial in The Times, and yes, the idea of love being as fragile as a butterfly wing is nothing if not shite – but Wayne sings it with such an unflinching honesty only a professional whinge merchant could fail to be touched by it. Elsewhere, ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ pushes its luck a bit, with its lyric about toiling on the land and reaping the harvest, but a modest pearl like ‘Sea Of Love’ ultimately wins you over with its beautiful ‘Dear Prudence’ guitar upholstery. ‘Deliverance’ is the album’s obvious keystone – a purpose-built epic that starts like a John Carpenter soundtrack and ends up delivering the stuff that nationwide Mish-understanding is based on: “Give me/Give me/ Give me/Deliverance”. But ‘Amelia’ ought to make even the most ardent Mish-fit choke. Attacking the delicate subject of child abuse with a mallet, Wayne sings, quite clearly, “Daddy says come and sit on my knee/Daddy loves his little girl”. Now it is obviously a passionate diatribe against ‘Daddy’, but it is also the most ham-fisted attempt at writing a wrong I’ve ever heard. Stick to the farmyard noises in future. The final track, ‘Lovely’, is an acoustic ramble recorded in a field (true!) in which we learn that Wayne believes in colours, sunshine, laughter, crying, magic and dreams. That’s more like it! ‘Carved In Sand’ then, is a vast oasis with a little desert in the middle of it, if you’ll forgive the duff metaphor. And if you’re a top Mish fan, you will. Andrew Collins


NME, 14 April 1990, p33




So this is the new, narcotic-free Nick Cave. Novelist, poet, film star, all cleaned up with somewhere to go. In a sense, this is his very own tribute album, a nod and a wink towards that great chemical dump in the sky. Where Hendrix and Joplin so miserably failed, Cave somehow succeeded, although ‘The Good Son’ is predictably devoid of selfcongratulatory adulation. This is where Cave anoints the sleeve, glaring at a grand piano with an audience of four enraptured young girls in a perverse translation of the Abbey National advert. This is where the Bad Seeds succumb to strings and Cave’s desire for tradition over idiosyncratic experimentation. And where ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’ was a timeless covers paradise, this is where Cave turns the tables and creates his own potential hand-medown classics. In ‘Lament’, he has created quite possibly the finest pop song of the year, wherein false jaunts swing into a quite gorgeous chorus: “So dry your eyes/And turn your head away”, croons Cave, wandering over Scott Walker’s memory and losing himself in his own massive, magnificent melody. ‘The Ship Song’ is similarly dramatic, one breath away from being overblown. Cave, unembarrassed by his frankness, is floating proudly on the swelling sophistication. And tragedy taints every tear: the family-aimed fury of the title track is wracked and sneering; ‘The Weeping Song’ is noise torture, an unforced document of a dispirited community; while ‘The Hammer

Song’ allows the Seeds a rare opportunity to let loose, Cave sprawled across distant twangs while discord takes a hair-raising hold. The orchestration is lush and the songs are immaculately crafted. There is hardly a single bow tie askew throughout the entire performance. And yes, ‘The Good Son’ does threaten self-parody, but if this is showbiz, Cave is still lurking in the shadowlands. It’s still more gritty than glitzy – smooth surfaces have a sandpaper underlay. And the likes of ‘Lucy’ are too floored by honesty to fall victim to contrived campness. Memories fade, but Cave’s scars still linger. Rest (un)easy – the good son is still the black sheep. Simon Williams

NME, 15 September 1990, p39

THE COCTEAU TWINS Heaven Or Las Vegas (4AD) Let’s get one thing straight. I am not a ‘fan’ of The Cocteau Twins. Music can be a passionate, terrifying, mysterious thing and still feel cold to the touch but The Cocteau Twins have always struck me as being the very antithesis of musical truehearts. Like vinyl Marie Antoinettes, they have spent their entire career believing – rather stupidly – that your sweet tooth houses your entire digestive system and that the fat, squashy cakes they bake, flavoured with rich, dark chocolate to hide the taste of bromide, are enough to keep you going. Furthermore, after trivialising life’s absolutes – pain, fear, the death of love – into sprays of Frazer’s hieroglyphic warblebaubles, the Twins’ next step is always to stand back from the pretty wreckage, refusing to clear up or explain the mess they’ve made. Our minds are supposed to do all the talking, and while it is right and good that music should be left open to interpretation, let’s not fool ourselves that anything other than our own sense of melodramatic self-importance is connecting with the selfimportant melodrama in them. Worse, it’s all quite intentional. Exactly the opposite of their affectedly queer, ethereal media ‘image’, The Cocteau Twins Liz Frazer: hieroglyphic are actually warble-baubles

Nick Cave: still the black sheep

experimentally minded pop scientists who make white mice of their listeners, forcing them into The Subjective Corner when communication, not inscrutability, has always been the axis for true genius. I cannot be so presumptuous as to tell you what ‘Heaven Or Las Vegas’ is like, but I can tell you what I think. Definitely their best since ‘Treasure’, occasionally a hairy (outsider’s?) fist does try to thump long-overdue clarity into the lyrics. But these moments are few and far between – the rest is standard Cocteaus fare. Giant steps forward, fairy steps back, cruelty and passion homogenised for consumption inside plastic bubble psyches, and of course, Frazer dribbling party streamers, fog and razor-blades out of her ever-versatile facial orifice. The title track, ‘Cherry Coloured Funk’, ‘Frou Frou Foxes In The Midsummer Fires’ and the single ‘Iceblink Luck’ benefit hugely from having rock hearts with pop arteries, and ‘Heaven Or Las Vegas’ is a beautiful sounding album. But it’s spoilt for me by what I interpret as a stench of pomp and dishonesty. So, listen and enjoy by all means, but play the naughty twins at their own game. Remain detached, do not be duped into believing their music means anything. At the end of the day The Cocteau Twins are little more than cold-eyed midwives who make music for people who wish they’d never been born. This mortal coil is not a cosmic contraceptive device. It is life itself. When The Cocteau Twins realise this, they will scream their first honest breath. Then the birth rate – for which some already hold them partly responsible – will really soar. Barbara Ellen NME ORIGINALS


Southern DeAth Existential Elvis Cult ‘


he Sisters Of Mercy, Mark Three I guess, are back, and facing up to reality like goth always did. The highly confusing new line-up is Andrew Eldritch, Tony James (formerly of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Tim Bricheno (formerly of All About Eve), and Andreas Bruhn. There’s a new single called ‘More’, co-written by Eldritch and Jim Steinman, and an imminent album, ‘Vision Thing’. And a tour. The previous ones have been legendary; one recalls the “farewell” fog-fest at the Royal Albert Hall in 1985. And anyone that covers Hot Chocolate’s ‘Emma’ deadpan is cool as fuck, let’s face it. The records are pretty much what you’d expect, ‘More’ being a shameless rewrite of Bowie’s ‘Cat People’, and the album setting streets of suitably dark and decadent imagery to every Bowie/Iggy trick in the book. The Sisters’ vinyl return is not bad at all – in fact it’s probably about one-twentieth as good as Eldritch thinks it is.

His attitudes

and motives are wholly commendable. Eldritch plays The Star from dusk to dawn. To interview he’s a dream – smart, wry, laconic, erudite, deluded but not deluded, and just a little bit nasty. He may, however, have underestimated popular antipathy towards his new collaborator Mr James. To most, he’s that bloke from the Sputniks who hung out with Janet Street-Porter. It’s difficult to picture Tony James ascending enigmatically on a black cloud above Hades, a veritable horseman of the apocalypse. The forthcoming shows will require large quantities of dry ice to make that one wash – enough smoke to hide the portable phone, anyway. As if to hang himself, Tony James starts on at me about my review of the last Sputnik album, tells me Martin Degville is after my blood, all that sort of stuff. I gaze at him in disbelief – how could any grown man defend that tosh? – so after a 20-minute lecture on the life-affirming

merits of Sigue Sigue (“the first to do this, the first to do that, we invented sampling, Prince said hello to me”), he comes round to today. I tell him I came here as a Sisters person. I thought that was the game. He agrees to agree. He reckons the difference between him and Eldritch is that he reads GQ magazine and Eldritch doesn’t, though they both respect the erotic potential of gas masks. James’ guest list for the Wembley show was so big that another night was added. This may or may not be a joke. Tony is actually quite funny. He makes us all laugh. I just worry that laughing is not entirely what The Sisters Of Mercy are all about. “What do I do in this band?” James asks. “I’m in charge of going out. You see, you can have the misery and the pain – that’s him – and the fun too. That’s my side; the two co-exist. We’ve known each other years. It can work.”

1959 (a vintage year) and adores cats, women, drugs, and old Bowie records, we get along like a fairly warm house. After a few minutes he even takes his shades off. Eldo is fantastically, magnificently, withered, and talks like Michael Caine. So, where’s he been since the ‘Floodland’ album? “Hamburg. I like the people. I like the cigarette machines that work. Where I live everything’s open all night, but not dangerously so, just civilised. With a little bit of an edge.” Would you get bored if there wasn’t an edge?” “Yeah, I would. I couldn’t live in Holland or Sweden or any of those places where everybody’s

Tim Bricheno reckons he was always leaning towards the rockier side of All About Eve, used to be a Sisters fan, and “never dreamed I’d end up being one of them”. Tim is sweet and ingenuous. Or maybe he’s just as jet-lagged as everyone else, their plane back from an LA video shoot for ‘More’ having landed this same day. Eldritch doesn’t know the meaning of fatigue. Or rather he possesses such an abundance of willpower that he can conquer it with ease. He soon relaxes his innate superiority complex. As the man was born in

EXCESS ALL It’s been two years since ‘Floodland’ reinstated Eldritch as the Godfather of Goth. Now he’s back with a new single, a new band and a new album. Chris Roberts discovers why he’s the last great rock’n’roll star MM, 6 October 1990, p32



1990-1992 sensible and knows what they’re doing.” What preoccupies you? “Same as everybody else really. Women. Drugs. Newspapers. My attitudes have shifted a little. I’m drinking again now. I spent a long time not drinking as a reaction. By the time we finished touring last time I was doing almost a litre of gin a day. I’m keeping an eye on it this time ’cos alcohol’s not very good for me. It doesn’t turn me into a better person; it just makes me fall asleep in public more. Or fall over.”

Are you giving the punters what they want? “Oh, I hadn’t really thought about that. I’ve Sisters Mark Three: (l to r) Tony James, Andreas Bruhn, Andrew Eldritch, Tim Bricheno

always taken the view that what I want to give them is what they need. What they want is neither here nor there. I know what’s best. That’s my job. And my brief. To do what I want.” Is that the role of ‘the rock star’? “It’s the role of a great one. That’s not to say that anybody that does it is great.” Do you set out to enlighten, or pervert? “I’ve never taken the view that any form of art is really to tell anybody anything they didn’t know. Particularly in a medium as wonderfully ludicrous as rock’n’roll, I don’t think you can convince anybody of anything they didn’t think or know already.”

When did you first think it was ludicrous? “When they first put me at the front. When I was the drummer I thought, ‘This is all right’. And then I found myself at the front, probably because I was one of the world’s worst drummers, and I thought, ‘Oh dear, this is pretty uncool’. And, er, it’s still pretty uncool.” You seem to have taken to it like a duck to water. “No, it terrifies me. And the more people turn up the more terrified I get. I still go out there terrified. And preferably out of my skull.” But you seem… immobile in your calm. “It’s like a rabbit in the headlights. Well…

“Last time we toured I was doing almost a litre of gin a day. Alcohol doesn’t make me a better person, it just makes me fall asleep in public more” rabbits probably move, don’t they? I don’t know much about nature…” Rabbits do freeze in headlights, apparently. “Yeah? OK, like a rabbit in the headlights. Only thing is, I’ve got a steel core and when the car hits it comes off worse. “This sounds outrageous, but I truly believe that you can tell how intelligent a woman is by the ways she moves her hips. I really do think you can. And I hope there’s something about my hips that screams intelligence at 10,000 people every time I take the stage.” Like an end of the millennium Elvis? “Uh-huh. Elvis meets Kierkegaard.”


“Do you know, the record company is still keeping me apart from Ofra Haza. I suspect Ofra Haza is probably it, Joanna Lumley having made it past her sell-by date.” Aren’t women the most beautiful things on this earth? “No.” Oh. Then what is? (Thinks: if he says cats, I’ll say the album’s great.) “I find cats the most beautiful thing.” The album’s great. “You can tell the intelligence of a cat also by the way it moves. It’s the same kind of flowing grace when it’s just right, but with a kind of slyness in the great cats.” So does beauty fade with age for you? “Yes but you can still tell it in the eyes. Beauty changes. It gets rechannelled. I mean if Joanna Lumley walked through the door now, you’d be outta here in a flash, I can tell you.” I ask the by now immensely likeable Eldritch if he realises he’s missing a Manchester United game on telly as we speak and he grumbles, “Yeah, thanks to you.” His is an innovative and charming way of winning one over. Can you have a good time without drugs? “Oh yeah. I have to.” What’s perfect contentment for you? “A quiet room, four blank walls, and a cat. I could sit happily in that room for a very long time.” NME ORIGINALS


What’s your ideal of beauty?


Dogs On Heat

NME, 27 OCTOBER 1990, p40

THE SISTERS OF MERCY Vision Thing (Merciful Release)

There was nowhere to go after ‘Floodland’. Eldritch stood on the brink of the void, posing an ever more crushing question: what to do when you’ve grasped the glory of the global death kick and the holocaust just don’t come? ‘ So Eldritch did a whole lot of nothing. He hung around Hamburg and laughed his hollow self hoarse at the black joke he’d played upon himself until, well, finally he had to do something. So he did what the rest of us do. He plunged headlong into life’s little pleasures – sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – all the sideshows that, whether we care to admit it or not, we employ to distract us from our inevitable end. And guess what? When the smoke cleared and the sweat dried and Eldritch stood there blasted and brazen and sore to his soul, he realised something that raised a pulse in his dead creativity. He realised that all our little pleasures fuck us up too. At last Eldritch had stumbled upon the rudimentary impulses of rock, something his intelligence had shielded him from before – betrayal and revenge in all their devious guises. So ‘Vision Thing’ is a beauty of vindictive bile, a self-inflicted bruise. It’s a paradigm of self-delusion, Eldritch apparently under the impression that, if he adopts a cruel, devil-may-care attitude, that bitter power will serve as a temporary salvation, a vacation from the doubts that gnaw at his vanity. It’s probably the best he could hope for. I think it is quite magnificent. With a truly epic petulance, Eldritch has cast himself in a series of imaginary movies so audacious, one can do nothing but crack a grin and salute him. “Twenty-five whores in the room next door” – that’s the way it starts! The Sisters’ characteristic brooding is blasted to shreds by a riff ransacked from Eldritch’s favourite comic book heroes, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, and kamikaze driven into a collision of sweet ass and brutal assassination by ex-Only One John Perry.



Cut to the perv parlour game – ‘Ribbons’, in which Eldritch, a victim of his own desires, is taunted for his weakness by the god of his disgust. “Love is a many splintered thing”, he puns, smug bastard, and men with more sin than sense nod knowingly. If ‘Detonation Boulevard’ is more Billy Idol napalm thrill than Iggy Pop art nihilism, ‘When You Don’t See Me’ is a wicked conceit. “Get real”, he advises the babe he’s using, “Get another”. This macho Eldritch is one wounded beast and, when he makes emotional demands in ‘More’, the single Steinman spiced up with wailing chicks, it’s as if his spite is leading some poor stray into committed suffering. If I can’t escape the pain, he seems to be saying, it amuses me to pass it on. My favourite fantasy Mr E is ‘Doctor Jeep’, where, across a riff like an accelerating Harley, our wretched matinee idol St Vitus dances through a rush of TVOD, the inanity, the corruption, the hypocrisy, the lies all embraced as evidence amassed in his case against the world. It’s ridiculously petulant, of course, puerile even, but what great rock’n’roll ain’t? Eldritch wants us to think he’s beyond worrying – it’s his greatest con yet. He’s calling the trials and tribulations down upon his head because it makes him feel alive. That’s why he’s hauled out Tony James, a figure unfairly but hopelessly ridiculed by many. It’s Andy’s big ‘Fuck you’. Even when he gets vulnerable in ‘I Was Wrong’ and ushers us into a bar-room confessional, he draws us in just close enough to slip a metaphoric blade down his sleeve and deliver devastation. “I can love my fellow man”, he says in an awful whisper, “But I’m damned if I’ll love yours”. His quick wit even betrays the crisis of heartbreak and ‘Something Fast’, a melancholy anthem to the elixir of hedonism, is

a fragile masterpiece of staged suffering. “I’ve seen the best of men go past”, he sings in a pained contradiction of resignation and melodrama, “I don’t wanna be the last”. It’s harrowing and hilarious and, behind the theatricality, more honest than he ever hopes we’ll know. Steve Sutherland

NME, 27 OCTOBER 1990, p36

THE MISSION Grains Of Sand (Mercury)

Much as I love Wayne Hussey because he is perhaps the very last great rock’n’roll romantic, it’s only fair to advise the discerning consumer that ‘Grains Of Sand’ is neither a fluent nor cohesive Mission release.

The album is mid-priced, and made up of outtakes from the original ‘Carved In Sand’ sessions. Several of its tracks have already been released as B-sides. ‘Grains Of Sand’ really does expose The Mission’s most hopeless and hilarious moments that the band have been quite careful to sift from all previous album releases. It is, however, worth a bluey simply on the strength of Track Five, Side One – written in brass and ivory for a music hall chorus line, ‘Mr Pleasant’ is the Mission’s most magnificently ludicrous moment ever. Another priceless track is ‘Heaven Sends You’ in which we find Wayne pontificating over the female orgasm: “I’ll run my tongue between your legs/I’ll kiss you, kiss you, kiss you on your sex/And I’ll take, take, take you in my mouth/I’ll kiss you until heaven sends you”. Phew! Erm, shuddering stuff, readers, honestly! The lows are Wayne’s crap acoustic Lennonism ‘Love’ and the dour, pompous ‘Sweet Smile Of A Mystery’, featuring what appears to be a London Philharmonic wheelthrough. Both tracks should never have been allowed any form of public access. Mary Anne Hobbs

The Cult: Ian Astbury rocks the gay Native American Nazi ‘look’. Again


NME, 21 September 1991, p32

THE CULT Ceremony


(Beggars Banquet)

It’s comforting to know that here we are, it’s 1991 and The Cult still aren’t afraid to rock. There are no shifting sands of ambiguity with these guys – you know where you stand with Duffy and Astbury, and it’s on very solid ground. They’re very, very good indeed at being a rock’n’roll band (and hey – don’t forget, it’s just a job). Unlike Guns N’Roses, they don’t let it get out of control. The Cult play it straight by the rules. “Ceremony/Rock’n’roll music got you good now people” just about says it all. And that’s Track One, Side One. Cue Astbury giving it plenty of “yaayah” and “baybee”, Duffy carving up the fretboard, and you can rest assured that you ain’t gonna get lumbered with any dodgy covers of old Wings tunes here. You get all the Red Indian vibe of course – but we can live with that, eh, me braves? Because this might seem piss-easy, but it’s a craft, this Cult thing. Astbury’s impossible dreamer on the wild plains where the eagle flies is tethered to Planet Earth by Duffy’s driving riffs, harnessing him to the rock beast that earns them a living before he floats into Navajo heaven. Non-rock fans like The Cult because their noise is what they imagine rock should sound like – bad motor-scooter guitar frenzy tempered with nifty picking, fullthroated wails, alternating with touches of melodic delicacy and quasi-mystical lyrical tosh. Just like in ‘Wild Hearted Son’, in fact. The best rawk doesn’t experiment or venture into self-indulgence. It constantly reinvents itself, even if it dances on the knife-edge of pastiche. It’s a gut centred, visceral thing. And Billy and Ian know that. The endless bleak vistas of the epic ‘White’ lend themselves immediately to extended workouts, false endings, tempo changes and all, Astbury (almost) rapping his holistic message, “We have lost touch with our spiritual nature/ ‘Cos we are wrapped up in too much shit”. No macho strutting here – these are positivity fops in corduroy kecks. ‘Full Tilt’ kicks in Stones-style just so we don’t forget why we’re here, and proceeds to go metal

bonkers. The light and shade is provided by Ian’s autobiographical ‘Heart Of Soul’, and ‘Indian’ even has a cello part, preparing the way for the unexpectedly gossamer territory of ‘Sweet Salvation’ (Ian’s tribute to his latest flame) and the restrained finale, ‘Wonderland’. Despite the fact that Astbury does sound unnervingly like Freddie Mercury in his more ridiculous moments, ‘Ceremony’ delivers what it promises – riffs, noise, hollering, but also deftness, delicacy, a haunting quality. The important thing is that it is not bombastic or portentous – it has a sense of humour without spilling over into parody, and they are pleased to be haunted by the ghost of Led Zep. The Cult are a very, very good rock band indeed. They are also very, very funny. Cue Ian: “This hip young dude stood passionately/ Succumbing to the he-dog sound of the mystifying beat combo/That breaks down your door” (‘Wonderland’). Hilarious yes, but this dog, he is on heat. Betty Page

NME, 13 June 1992, p31

THE MISSION Masque (Phonogram)

Ah, The Mission. The goth’s goths. What in the name of God are The Mission for? Like, in a world where the bands who are supposed to be good at pomp rock – step up to the mic, U2 – are shite at it, what hope is there for The Mish, who have never been good at anything other than operating dry ice machines and wearing hats? The middle ground below the Bono space station of loud but mysterious toss and somewhere above Fields Of The Nephilim is a financially profitable but artistically glum place. Still, The Mission forge on, caring less than one jot about the critics and making records

The Mish: keep the masks on in future, if you don’t mind

which unite whole tribes of people into a happy mass of sweating apathy. This time around, they’ve released ‘Masque’, their alleged “dance” album. The Mission’s idea of a dance album is not like yours or mine, largely because you can’t dance to half of it at all and the other half consists of stomping goth anthems with drums, which you can dance to, but not in the popular techno sense of the word. Which is fine, but strange. ‘Masque’ opens with ‘Never Again’ and ‘Shades Of Green’, both thumping dance-rock things that sound a little like an elephantine EMF. It goes on to crash through horror Cure goth waltzes like ‘The Spider And The Fly’ and classy Wayne-isms like ‘From One Jesus To Another’, which asks the question: “Jesus walked on the water/But did he walk on the air?” There’s a barmy crooning song with a Kinks-style beat called ‘She Conjures Me Wings’, which

is The Mish at an OAP’s tea dance, attempting the goff cha-cha. It is cute and very frightening. Which is different, but many small things are different about ‘Masque’. Everything may be infused with the patent Hussey screaming passion about anything that comes into his head, but ‘Masque’ is imaginative in a Mish kind of way. And at least one song is cracking; the charming ‘Like A Child Again’, in which Wayne loses his fear of the dark and gambols like a spring lamb through fields of melody. So perhaps ‘Masque’ is the sound of The Mission lightening up and throwing open the curtains in the dusty ballrooms of their soul. In three albums’ time, The Mission will be dressed as clowns, fighting a beaming war against the sore-encrusted leviathan of PompBono as U2 suck the living brains out of small children. For now, however, they are still The Mission as we know and sort of love them, only with a few new ideas and a sequencer. Hurrah for that. David Quantick NME ORIGINALS



Mansion Family NME, 18 April 1992, p24

Between thinking of buying small Cornish villages and uncharted Islands, The Cure have recorded their ninth album in all its sticky-up-haired glory. Reformed goth Andrew Collins is granted an audience with the world’s most lucrative pantomime



he embers of six months crackle in the fireplace. A fine old chessboard sits unattended. The tang of freshly percolated coffee mingles with the comforting funk of Irish wolfhound and oak. The grandfather clock is stuck permanently at 12. The ghostly sound of piano keys being jabbed filters through into the empty snooker room. On the sideboard sits a bottle of Sandeman’s port, a single daffodil, a discarded archery arrow and a garish tube of Living Nightmare Glow-InThe-Dark Make-Up. Someone upstairs is playing ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine. We are in the heart of verdant Oxfordshire. The clock might, if it was working, strike four. So, who lives in a house like this? It’s The Cure – or, as Roger Daltrey had it on last year’s Brits, when he presented their Best British Group award – “The Kyoo-aarhh!” The Manor studio, at Shipton-on-Cherwell, owned by Richard Branson (as hinted at by the embarrassing hippy mural of Phil Collins, Mike Oldfield, Feargal Sharkey and Peter Gabriel halfway up the stairs) costs around £6,000 a week to rent. But The Kyoo-aarrhh can weather that. They are, after all, the most popular and successful cult band in the world. And this, for the time being, is their house. There is a rumour going about the place that a) Branson is thinking of selling up; and b) The Cure are thinking of buying. This would be good. Robert Smith and his quaintly dishevelled, forever-adolescent thirtysomething pals should live together in the same elegant country mansion with tons of wolfhounds and chess and grouse-shooting. You wish.

The 1980s: now there was a funny decade for

actually seen the world; teen angst gone mad. But goth music was filling the Albert Hall by 1986, in the stark, skeletal form of The Sisters Of Mercy. Many of the goth bands gave the genre a bad name, though some of them extracted high drama, cut-price kicks and even some humour from the goth manifesto of unforgiving railroad rhythms, guitar histrionics, Hammer imagery and lost chords. But it was The Cure, from Crawley in Sussex, who took it out of the belfry and into the front room. It was Robert Smith whose own particular brand of back-combed foppishness found a place in the glossy pop papers. The Cure grew into a goth hit machine (19 to date), an international phenomenon and, yep, the most successful alternative band that ever shuffled disconsolately about the earth. Their only contender in the profit-margin stakes at record company Polydor is James Last. And he makes two albums a year. To deftly write goth off as a peculiarly ’80s phenomenon is to deny the existence of hundreds of black-clad, aromatic, asexual gormtroopers who huddle in coffee shops and refectories and branches of the Body Shop up and down the land to this day. The goth is (despite appearances) alive and unwell. All About Eve are not a goth band. Nor are The Sisters of Mercy. At least, that’s what they say. Being a goth means, well, never having to say you’re a goth. Goths think ‘lazy’ music journalists invented the term. They did. The question is, will The Cure admit to being a goth band? Are they embarrassed that they invented – or at the very least popularised, legitimised, patented – goth? Robert: “Do you think we did really? When we were making ‘Pornography’ there wasn’t any such a thing as goth, we were just miserable, not like goth with the flour and the hats, all that. I’ve never actually liked goth bands. I’ve always despised The Sisters Of Mercy.” Why? “’Cos the music’s shit.” “I always use gel, not hairspray. It’s called KMS

our old pal pop music. The Smiths, Madness, New Order, The Human League, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC, Public Enemy, The Stone Roses, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Margaret Thatcher, acid house. You were there. But something else happened between the years 1980 and 1989, and it was somewhere between a fashion movement and a creeping mould on the underside of post-punk Britain. It was gothic rock, or goth, so called because it investigated the grandiose and the macabre, the dark and the doomy. From out of the disenfranchised sneer of punk it came, a more verbose, decorative incarnation which borrowed its greasepaint and finery from glam rock, and its morose indulgence from European metal machine music. David Bowie, Edgar Allen Poe, Morticia Addams and Frank-N-Furter went to the carnival and someone turned the lights out. Your goth was an apolitical animal, nocturnal, introspective, tribal, almost “Hey, great hair! hermaphrodite. The goth The job’s yours”: was also about 19, worldPerry Bamonte (second right) joins weary without having

and it comes with hexagons on. I backcomb it a lot too. I did use mousse for a while, but it used to drip onto my nose when I was on stage.” – Robert Smith, Just 17, August 1985

Face it,

The Cure’s ludicrous look has been their fortune. Robert Smith, in his over-generous fluffy sweater, wrinkled black drainpipes and the undone trainers of a much larger man, crowned with that award-winning ha-ha-ha-have-youhad-an-electric-shock hairdo, is, whether he likes it or not, a modern-day icon. On the day I meet up with The Cure at Chez Dick, they look very much like The Cure. Smith may have trimmed his head-topiary recently, and the blind man’s lipstick is absent, but he is still a satisfying caricature of himself. Large, bird-like bassist Simon Gallup claims that all five of them happened to wear black because, “It’s the most practical colour, you don’t have to wash it till you smell,” but this is clearly a reflex cover-up (and a typical dose of laddish hygiene bravado to boot). If The Cure changed, thousands of sprayed teenagers the world over would feel cheated and betrayed. The Cure are loved and invested in and stuck onto walls because – since their commercial watershed in 1984 – they NEVER CHANGE. ‘Wish’ – despite the band’s protestations – is another Cure record. This is no put-down. Another Cure record is a good thing. If ‘Wish’ were a film, it wouldn’t win any individual Oscars, but would probably scoop one of those Lifetime Achievement Awards. That’s the sort of album it is. In short, masterful slowie ‘Trust’ on Side Two made me want to weep in an underpass, and the single ‘High’ miraculously cured my flu when they put it in the office. ‘Disintegration’, The Cure’s last LP in 1989, sold in excess of three million copies worldwide. So why make another record? “Why did we make the last one?” asks Robert, rhetorically. Is there any thing else you can get? Any more fame, any more satisfaction, any more cash? “It’s not about continual gain. We don’t think, ‘It’s about time The Cure made another album, if we make one more the bank balance gets a bit bigger.’ I look forward to our new records. There are very few things that you genuinely look forward to hearing.” The Cure are still going because they tend not to shed their audience. You can always spot an older Cure fan – they’ve grown out of having the funny sticky-up hair. The band themselves pull it off because they are The Cure. It’s harder to have funny, sticky-up hair when you’re 30 and living in the real world. Robert: “I haven’t got funny sticky-up hair.” It’s quite funny. “There’s a lot weirder-looking people – older than us – walking around in Oxford. They shout

Bob’s happy band


“I’ve never actually liked goth bands, ’cos the music’s shit”



Let’s Get Happy

NME, 18 April 1992, p26

THE CURE Wish (Fiction)



things out to you!” Simon: “But they are social misfits.” Robert: “On the whole, yes.”

The Cure look healthy. Why? Robert: “You should’ve seen us in all our cycling kit round September time, that would’ve blown all the myths.” Yep. The Cure have been mountain-biking around Oxfordshire while at The Manor, a regular six-mile circuit to their fave pub and back. How, exactly, did they get back from the pub? “Slowly.” Ha ha. The Cure are funny. Prone to lucrative miserablism, sure, and we love them for that, but as five people, they can be summed up by the scraps of paper stuck to the studio wall. There are snippets of Emily Dickinson, true, but these are very much outnumbered by childish cartoons of The Cure’s driver and odd-job man, Bruno, drawn by the band and usually portraying him as a balloon-like perv with a ten-foot knob. That’s the duality of The Cure. A colleague of mine who wouldn’t piss on The Cure’s music during a water-shortage admits that we need them because they are stars and artists (ie flamboyant, visual, pretentious, enigmatic, all that good and forgotten stuff that pop stars used to be contractually obliged to bring along). Meanwhile, the new breed of indie ‘star’ is utterly bereft of the pizazz and danger and mystery which The Cure old-fashionedly prescribe to. “Ah, but we were like that when we first started,” reasons Robert. “I can see why a lot of groups do it – we actually did it ourselves, that non-image. By the time of the ‘Kiss Me’ album, it’d reached the other extreme, we’d become a pantomime act. But we don’t look like this now and then, and like something else when we’re not doing this. Unlike you, I would go shopping with my hair up, and I could have my hair like that at home. “Anyway, we had some quite bright cycling outfits! See and be seen!” Was your hair up when you went cycling? “That’s actually the reason why I cut it all off. We used to come home from the pub on this tow path, and there was a low hanging bit, and I came

off twice, because it went into my hair. So I cut it off. I’ve cut it off three times in the last five years, each time for a different reason. Cycling is the most absurd so far.”

The Cure

have a licence to print money. They could stick out any old toss at this stage, put a squiggly drawing on the front and call it ‘Spiders In My Eyes’ and the cash would roll in. Surely there is a fiscal reason for them being here… Robert: “The only thing I’ve wanted to buy on any grand scale in the last few years was an island in the middle of the Channel which came up for sale. There was a big concrete fortress on it, built during the war, it was fucking excellent. But it was four and a half million pounds or something. It’s not on the maps or anything, ’cos it was a secret. “A village once went up for sale in Cornwall for a pitiful amount of money, and we toyed with the idea of buying that. That would take the unreality to an extreme. We’d put road blocks up and diversion signs.”

“I would love it if everyone was forced to listen to at least one Cure record,” says Robert. Which one? “It depends whether it was to upset them or not.” One of each. “‘Disintegration’, and ‘Friday I’m In Love’.” The clock, were it working, would strike five. My 60 minutes of The Cure are up. I pack The Cure interview away into my little black army surplus bag (a legacy, I dare say), and ask Robert why they should go on the cover of New Gothic Express. “Sometimes I think, ‘Why should we be on the cover when there’s other groups who are getting their first chance, or their only chance to be on the cover?’ But then I think, ‘Why shouldn’t we be on the cover? We make a fucking sight better records than at least 40 of the groups who are on the cover.” Hurrah! The next journo in line is wearing a suit, I inform them. “That means we’ll all stand up when he leaves. Unlike you. Ha ha ha ha!” Cheers.

“ By the time of ‘Kiss Me’ , we were a pantomime act ”


In some ways, The Cure embody everything appalling about rock music. They make sulky, selfish singles about how great it is being a kitten and then follow them with maudlin albums about how everything is dark and the crows are pecking at one’s gangrenous eyes. But here is ‘Wish’ and once again The Cure are forgiven, the bastards. ‘Wish’ makes you talk about how Smith is a master of rock writing and an eclectic pop talent. The 12 songs here are, almost without exception, bold displays of genius. Every kind of Cure music is in here, done better than ever. We get: cute songs about kittens! Raving death and gloom rock anthems! Noodling dance pop! New Order ripoffs! Beatle rip-offs! Jovial optimism! Major glumathons! And lots more. We begin with the astonishing ‘Open’, which has a guitar part that sounds like the “Hello, hello” bit off ‘Teen Spirit’ and rocks like six tons of iron, and we end with, erm, ‘End’, which actually sounds like Nirvana themselves attempting to play ‘Are Friends Electric?’ backwards. Along the way, Bob goes for jangle pop with ‘Friday I’m In Love’, vomitously sings “sticky as lips and licky as chips” on ‘High’ and even says “Fuck” on the nearly twee ‘Wendytime’. The charming ‘Doing The Unstuck’ is full of such jaunty aphorisms as “It’s a perfect day for making out” and “It’s never too late to get up and go” and Bob even feels compelled to sing “LET’S GET HAPPY!” occasionally. Conversely, the slow and haunting ‘Trust’ is a dignified plea for love wherein Smith solemnly sings, “There is no one left in the world who I can turn to/You are the only one”. ‘Wish’ is an album in the old-fashioned sense of loads of songs that don’t sound much like each other, but do sound like they’ve all got some kind of sensibility in common. It has an enormous amount of quite justified faith in itself, and best of all, where it has no tunes, it has a monstrous amount of noise. Once again we have to conclude that there is no one like The Cure. And ‘Wish’ may even be their best album. David Quantick


NME, 13 January 1990, p15

THE MISSION Butterfly On A Wheel (Myth)

Puke universe! The “butterfly on a wheel” reference is taken from a ‘60s Times editorial which asked whether it was worth using the full force of law every time a pop star was caught taking drugs. Of course it is! Wipe out the drug supply and you wipe out the ‘music.’ The Mish, however, demand more direct action. I want you all to put on balaclavas tonight, sneak into your local record shop and smash with hammers every copy of this record you can find. Steven Wells

MM, 22 September 1990, p35

THE CURE Never Enough (Fiction)

Profoundly baggacious, ‘Never Enough’ trips and flops around the room like an army of wazzy rejects gone AWOL. Fuzztone Roses guitar and lobotomised Mondays bass, topped off with Robert Smith’s overripe hiccups, stutters and whoops. Arguments about who’s ripping who off end here,as do questions about the extent to which Smith’s tongue is penetrating his cheek. Because ‘Enough’ is enough. A hit. Paul Lester

needs protecting from the strain of spontaneous effusions, like a heart weakened by too much smoking. It’s as if Nick Cave is no longer up to being direct with us. Hence the formalities, the archaic restraint of ‘The Weeping Song’ Over a trolling, downcast shanty backbeat, Cave and Bargeld engage in a ‘There’s A Hole In My Bucket’-type dialogue in which all the world weeps for our sad lot. Touching if you’re willing to go along with the courtly rituals that lead you to the heart of the song. Unfortunately the word that springs to mind when considering listening to new Nick Cave records is “should” rather than “want”. Nick Cave sounds like a man who will never scream again. David Stubbs

MM, 13 October 1990, p40

SISTERS OF MERCY More (Merciful Release)

I don’t mean to be a killjoy. I do realise that Andrew Eldritch is the funniest cartoon character this side of Bart Simpson and Bart’s big brother Billy Idol. But I have a horrible suspicion that there are people over the age of 12 who take this laughable nonsense seriously, and that’s truly sad. ‘More’ is the usual dull, gruff, absurdly pompous rumble punctuated with plastic soul wails about needing love – as if Eldritch didn’t adore himself with more than enough torrid passion to make any other lover redundant. Dave Jennings

NME, 1 September 1990, p16


NME, 20 October 1990, p22

Iceblink Luck (4AD)

Thankfully the Cocteaus have discarded the “Noddy and Tinkerbell indulge in sensual massage” approach that so exasperated semi-fans like me who always wanted Liz Frazer to kick vocal ass a little. JC: “That’s quite good for them.” BD: “The Cocteau Twins have never given a fuck about what’s happening around them. They just get on and do what they do and they seem to the getting better at it. Attitude matters just as much as the music in most cases.” Barbara Ellen with Bill Drummond & Jimmy Cauty (KLF)

MM, 15 September 1990, p34

NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS The Weeping Song (Mute)

“This is a weeping song/A song in which to weep”. These days, Nick Cave songs are epic, stagey, deliberately contrived – as if, after all those years of filthy, shrieking catharsis his battered spirit

NME, 23 May 1992, p17



Close To Me

Friday I’m In Love



From the heavy metal brain surgery of ‘Never Enough’ we flop back in time to ’85’s ‘Close To Me’, a preview for Bob and co’s ‘Mixed Up’ album, with that Paul Oakenfold doing the remixing here. The panting, snuffling, claustrophobic original remains pretty much intact (although I don’t remember the daffy, jazz sax solo) and Oakenfold wodges on a fairly standard shuffle dance rhythm. Not one of the triumphs of dance/rock interbreeding. Roger Morton

Another Cure single. Usual Cure tune, always liked it. It is remarkable only in that Robert makes no reference to either cats or Japanese babies, but Cure fans will be reassured by the fact that Robert goes “Dooby dooby doo” at least four times and sings at one point about spinning around “like a sheep”. And he doesn’t take drugs like the crappy Mancy Shite Wankers and those other rubbish bands. He also goes “Owy owy ooooh!” That’s my favourite bit. Steven Wells



Let Sleeping Dogs Die?

Queens of noise: Originals Editor Steve Sutherland with Wayne Hussey of The Mission at the Metal Gurus’ video shoot, London, 1990

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