BIRTH CONTROL – Operation (1971)

Review by: Victor Guimarães
Album assigned by: Roland Bruynesteyn

Birth Control was the kind of band that simply refused to give up, always stubborn and persistent – just like a baby who comes in although all contraceptive methods you try to use. (Hahaha. Really?) And why am I saying that? Formed by the union of two other bands whose titles hail from high-society, the Earls and the Gents, the band initially had seven members who, curiously, were all out within five years. The band managed to survive due to the work of two replacement members, Bernd Noske (drums, later vocals) and Bruno Frenzel (guitars), who built the german prog band’s legacy. Frenzel died in 83, and the group disbanded afterwards, but it came back 10 years later, with only Noske remaining from the previous formation. Birth Control kept playing, recording and touring until Noske’s death in 2014. Dunno about you, but for me, that’s great tenacity.

Recorded in 1971, Operation is Birth Control’s second studio album, and it brought more of the good old progressive rock from the 70s. It originally consisted of six tracks, but when it was re-released in 1997, five more tracks from related singles were added. I’m quite honest when I say that the very first time I listened to Birth Control, I was caught completely off guard. The first song, “Stop, Little Lady”, overwhelmed me with sound, and the album kept its high-level progressive, bluesy, aggressive vibe the whole time. Sometimes it looked like something from a blues king from the past, in other moments, it looked like some lost in time, never recorded Yes song. Maybe a reinvented Led Zeppelin? Or a King Crimson from Berlin? Maybe a slower, more progressive Deep Purple? Needless to say, the instrumentals are amazing – Frenzel’s guitar is impeccable in its riffs and solos, bass and drums are taken more than seriously, giving all that prog tempo we love and add majestic keyboards as well. It’s worth mentioning the good use of synthesizers, too. Now cook it all together and serve with the great melodies they picked and we’ve got the recipe for success. The vocals don’t fall behind either, although the singer’s timbre reminds me of something punkier. Still haven’t found why.

As for themes, just when reading the tracklist, I thought it was a big concept album about some random dude who got a girl pregnant (by the first four tracks) and they went in to have an abortion (tracks 5 and 6). Adding the ‘97 release tracks, it even looked like the Operation had gone wrong (tracks 7, 8), but they somehow fixed everything (tracks 9 and 10) and in the end, the coupled started using a Birth Control method (final track). Check and see if you agree: 

Original tracks (1971):
Stop, Little Lady
Just Before the Sun Will Rise
The Work Is Done
Flesh and Blood
Let Us Do It Now

Bonus Tracks on the Repertoire release 1997:
Hope (Single A-Side 1970)
Rollin’ (Single B-Side 1970)
The Work Is Done (Single A-Side 1971)
What’s Your Name (Single A-Side 1972)
Believe in the Pill (Single B-Side 1972)

This time, I got disappointed: no concept. Was I expecting too much from a 70s progressive rock band?? Nevertheless, the lyrics are nice, covering topics like changes, hopes, confusions and problems in life, some love songs, the heavy feeling of guilt of someone who killed a child in Vietnam war and last (in both tracklist and in this enumeration) but definitely not least, a song about BIRTH CONTROL! Literally! 

For spotlights, I dare say the album as whole is a spotlight. But being a bit less (or a bit more?) partial, I’d put a star on “The Work Is Done” and “Let Us Do It Now”.

Yeah, Birth Control really caught me. A lot more than when it was introduced in sex ed classes. (Hahaha. Again?! Really?) Really. If you’re fan of progressive rock, or of 70s rock, or if you’re looking for something new or if you just like good music, Operation is your call. 

Author: tomymostalas


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