The Sound, From The Lions Mouth 1981, Korova Records
Sense of Purpose
Contact the Fact
New Dark Age
After covering one of the best known names in music last week, this week I’m going for a band I’ve never heard of. The Sound were loved by critics, but were never able to translate this to commercial success. I’m intrigued enough to wonder why and to forgive the deliberate grammatical flaw in this album’s title, so this will be my first listen to any of their music.
The South Londoners were active from 1979 -1988 and started from the ashes of a punk outfit called The Outsiders. After releasing a critically acclaimed EP, they signed to Korova, releasing their debut album in 1980. They toured across Europe and found most popularity in Germany and the Netherlands. From The Lions Mouth was their second album. The band felt that their label had not invested enough money in the creation of their first two albums (perhaps focusing more on successful label-mates Echo and the Bunnymen) and so deliberately tried to create a third album that wasn’t commercial before leaving Korova for an independent. The band was comprised of Adrian Borland on vocals, Michael Dudley on drums, Graham Green on bass and Max Mayers on keyboards.
Winning starts with some nice synth and drums, it’s a positive inspirational sort of song. although lead singer Adrian Borland was a Londoner, there is definitely a northern sound to his vocal. Single release Sense of Purpose has a bit of a malevolent start, there is a strong Joy Division vibe here. It seems like it should have been a successful single, it’s got a good beat and a neat chorus. Anti-love song Contact the Fact is a bit depressing, but it’s a well crafted song. Skeletons is great, it makes you move and has a strong melody, this could also have been a good single. It feels like a classic ‘90s indie track 10 years early. Judgement is slower, almost ponderous until some great guitar kicks in at about 1:30. Fatal Flaw is another sad song, but nicely made. Possession livens things up a little bit with some great twangy guitar rhythms. It’s another highlight, again with a feel of a northern band. The Fire has a wonderful intro, it’s a brilliant, upbeat guitar track, reminiscent of the Manics. Silent Air goes back to the maudlin mood and the vocal is very Bono-esque. New Dark Age is all drums to start and later has some almost hair-band level guitar action and great keyboard.
Lyrically it’s a bit of a depressing album, but musically it stands up well against its peers. It has similarities to early U2, The Smiths and The Cure. Overall, I really enjoyed it and it’s a mystery to me why they are not better known. Maybe it's because people couldn’t pin a specific sound on them and thought they were too similar to other bands or perhaps the label didn’t really know how to market them. It’s a real shame though and, if like me, you had never heard of them, I’d encourage you to listen. I’ve even added Skeletons and The Fire to my commuting to work playlist! It’s very much a product of its time, although ‘90s kids will still find plenty to enjoy here and perhaps some of the indie bands of that decade owe more to The Sound than they know.
So, if they never managed to sell many records, why have I included The Sound in this series? It’s to show that it’s not all about commercial success. Music is so subjective, this album received 5 star reviews from multiple publications, and it is a great listen, but it still couldn’t excite British record buyers. Yet nearly 40 years later, I’m able to sit at my computer, or plug my headphones into my phone and discover it as if it was new. Albums like this are still an important part of our musical heritage, after all, not everyone can be David Bowie.