ASSIGNED BY THE HOST: Great Compilation Albums
Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
A compilation of sorts, so I’ll discuss each song shortly:
“Radio Drill Time” reminds me somewhat of Talking Heads.
“It’s Kinda Funny” has funny disco sounds in the chorus.
“Final Request” moves a bit in Madness territory, with some added distorted guitar effects.
“Heads Watch” sounds a bit like the Jam, fronted by Lou Reed in the late seventies.
“Drone” is again sung by Lou Reed over a nervous bassline.
“Sense of Guilt” sounds very English, circa 1980, when indie groups wanted to show how dependent they were on 60’s psychedelic sounds and effects.
“Citizens” is a little more funky, still basically bass, guitar and drums.
“Variation of Scene” is notably slower (someone is even walking through the music). It sounds as if the singer desperately needs a change of scene.
“Endless Soul” speeds up again. I can easily imagine this being sung by Patti Smith. Nice song.
“Sorry for Laughing” is a very simple song, with bass and rhythm guitar again “doubling up”, making it sound rather one-dimensional. The underlying melody is quite nice, but it’s a bit demo-like.
“Revelation” again features very nervous sounding guitar, but I’m finding it difficult to describe the songs in words that I have not used before.
“Chance Meeting” is a nice song, but it’s ruined by the nasally sounding vocals. Imagine this being sung by Jeff Buckley and with some rearranging…
“Pictures (Of Cindy)”, another nervous song. I must say the mood, the melodies and the instrumentation do not vary a lot over the course of this album.
“Fun ‘n’ Frenzy” gets the frenzy across in a good way, but where’s the fun? Another late 70’s, early 80’s English sounding song. This time the singer is mixed into the background a bit, and there’s another guitar.
“Crazy to Exist” is mixed the same way, and is indeed taken from the same album, The only fun in town. Just imagine that album being the only fun in town!
“Forever Drone”, similar somewhat muddy mix, not related to Drone
“Heart of Song” sounds a little more funky, but still quintessentially English.
“16 Years” is also a little funky, with an ever so slightly more prominent bass, at least in the intro. The guitar (synth?) that plays the main “melody” sounds a little like a speeded up Gary Numan.
“The Angle” is better produced than the songs off the album The only fun in town, but the song is not so good.
“Heaven Sent” is rhythmically a bit more varied (not enough to call it complex or sophisticated however), but other than that, it’s another English pop song with a nervous singer urgently suggesting you do something, or urgently telling you how he feels.
“The Missionary”, while generally a nice position, alas, as a musical statement it does not fulfil.
“Applebush” is a nice song. It may be partly due to a sense of relief that it’s over, but it’s on the whole a little happier, almost Piper at the gates of dawn-happy. The last two songs are Peel sessions, at least showing, if proof was needed, that they know how to recreate their studio sound perfectly.
What to make of it? 60’s inspired pop music as made in (mainly) England at the end of the 70’s into the 80’s is in many ways more interesting than 70’s glam rock that also got revived again in the early 80’s (by Spandau Ballet, ABC, etc). If you liked the genre in the 60’s, there’s nothing wrong as such with later artists copying that style. But it is of paramount importance that compositions are good, musicianship is good and singing is good. Here I think Josef K fails to deliver.
They may proudly wear their influences on their sleeves (seeing as these come from one of the greatest eras in modern pop music), but if there’s no substance, no individual talent and no creativity that takes it any further, there’s not much to love. Is it utterly bad? No, but if it’s not better than the original, it does not really add anything and, most importantly, it simply does not entertain so much as it’s way too repetitive. I guess some underground groups like Josef K deserve to stay there. Ultimately, this is NOT a hidden gem by a sadly overlooked, very talented artist.