IT’S IMMATERIAL – Life’s Hard and Then You Die (1986)

Review by: Andreas Georgi
Album assigned by: Julien Mansencal

When I was asked to review this album, I realized that I remember seeing the cover in record stores in the late ‘80’s, but I had no recollection of the music. The first thing that struck me is the incongruity between the expectations that the title and the “evil clown” album cover create, and the actual music coming out of the speakers.  Far from the sinister first impression, what you get is very melodic fairly laid back pop rock with a highly eclectic mix of influences ranging from folk to Celtic to country meshed into a coherent whole with some dark undertones.   I’m having a hard time making comparisons to any similar groups, frankly.  It is very much of its time (mid-80’s), but does not suffer for it.

The first song “Driving Away From Home”, evidently was a hit single in the UK. I must admit that my initial reaction was not positive, but by the end of the first listening I got to appreciate what these guys are doing – kind of Kerouac in Lancashire or Yorkshire. The singer does have a propensity to “talk sing” in a way that comes off a bit corny at times. The band seems to hail from Manchester, in northern England’s industrial rustbelt, and a lot of the lyrics reflect a theme of a difficult life in struggling post-industrial towns. “Happy Talk”, “The Sweet Life” and “Rope” reflect on this theme in various ways. The mood is gentle with a melancholic touch, but not morose.  Two songs, “Space” and “Ed’s Funky Diner” don’t work for me.  The latter was also a hit of sorts.  I appreciate what they’re doing – a kind of Waits – like cast of characters – but I just don’t care for it.  The slower songs work better.  “Festival Time” starts off sounding like it’s going to turn into Talking Heads’ “Cross-eyed and Painless” and ends up sounding like the carnival it describes – good one.  “Washing the Air” is a mostly instrumental piece with a James Bond guitar, and is another highlight.  The CD version, at least, ends with remixes of “Diner” (alluding to artist Edward Keinholz in the subtitle) and “Driving..”.

This one is one album that I didn’t immediately like, but definitely grew on me over a couple of listenings. I’m glad I gave it time. This not your average mid 80’s pop. There’s a lot of substance that rewards repeated listenings. THUMBS UP
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Author: tomymostalas

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