The Dentists – Powdered Lobster Fiasco

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

There is a period of British indie, roughly post-Smiths and pre-Oasis, that I really enjoy. The House of Love, the Wedding Present, the Auteurs, Catherine Wheel, Heavenly, Teenage Fanclub, Spacemen 3, the Weather Prophets, Close Lobsters, the Housemartins, the Stone Rose, Ride, the Boo Radleys, Kingmaker, and, obviously, the Dentists. The Dentist released four albums between 1985 and 1995; during that time they had three different drummers, but the core was singer/guitarist Mick Murphy, guitarist Bob Collins, and bassist Mark Matthews. They had a fitful recording career, perhaps explaining both the number of random-ass compilation albums out there and the band’s lack of sustained success. I used to own the final album, Deep Six, which is a dispiriting atrocity, and the earlier comp Dressed, which for some reason I did not like enough to keep. I do believe that the comp I did retain and the excellent Behind the Door I Keep the Universe represent the best of the Dentists.

What I Think of This Album

It’s difficult to believe this is a collection and not a proper studio album, as there seems to be unity of purpose and a consistency of sound that belies the fact that six of the songs are from singles released on three different labels; the rest are apparently songs from the years immediately past (plus one live radio session of a tune released several years before). Actually, the singles – titled Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, and See No Evil – were thematically linked, insofar as each contained a contained a poem by John Hegley.

What stands out most on the album is Mick Murphy’s clear, boyish voice and Collins’s excellent guitar work; the songs are melodic, energetic, and retain a hint of the psychedelic leanings from the Dentists’ earlier efforts. So too the band’s good nature, which is evident on several tracks.

The lead guitar line in “Leave Me Alive” is phenomenal, the song culminating in Murphy’s anthemic cry of the title lyric, backed by some grouped harmonies. Murphy shines again with the anthemic, forceful declaration “You can be king again!” on the tuneful, crystalline “Beautiful Day,” with another excellent guitar part from Collins. “Charms and the Girl” is a propulsive piece with a soaring vocal and an aggressive guitar attack, as well as some interesting melodic shifts.

There is a moody, reflective quality to the acoustic-based “Outside Your Inside,” which reminds me much of the Frank and Walters. The winding “Pocket of Silver,” with a thick bass line, is a fine, fun song. Coming across like a less dour Church, the band delivers on “Box of Sun,” which is at once chiming, serpentine, and driving (and the harmonies are again a nice touch). Even the tracks I don’t care for as much aren’t bad – they just fall short of the quality of the others.

The band thanks “the workers, the writers, and the worriers” in the liner notes, and how can you not love that?

The Best Thing About This Album

“Leave Me Alive” is one of the band’s best songs.

Release Date

1993

The Cover Art

This is fantastic. In the liner notes, bassist Mark Matthews explains the origins of some of the objects pictured on the cover (e.g. “the safety pin has no significance though it was the only thing I couldn’t glue down”; “the stamp just had to be Belgian”; “the crisps were salt and vinegar. I threw them away”).

Close Lobsters – Foxheads Stalk This Land

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I only learned of Scottish band Close Lobsters in recent years. The Wedding Present covered them, and both acts were on the legendary C86 compilation. I finally decided to take the plunge and am very happy that I did. Close Lobsters are considerably more than just another indie pop band, capable of many moods and tones, while sticking with a consistent, core sound. The five-piece emerged around 1985 and ended up releasing three albums, though the third came out in 2020, over 30 years after the second. The story is that the band couldn’t decide between naming themselves the Close or the Lobsters, and decided not to choose at all.

What I Think of This Album

A mere ten songs is not enough to do justice to the skill and artistry of Close Lobsters. Perhaps due to the democratic tack they took as to songwriting (four different combinations of band members composed the songs), the tracks can’t be pigeonholed. Mixed in with the caffeinated bass and the bright guitars is an adventurous sense of melody and a not-insignificant penchant for psychedelia. It may be my imagination, but sometimes I think vocalist Andrew Burnett sounds a bit like the Church’s Steve Kilbey – certainly both bands share an ability to incorporate multiple ‘60s influences.

The excellently-titled “Just Too Bloody Stupid” quickly breaks free from its indie pop shackles, with the song developing in unexpected ways. Clever “Sewer Pipe Dream” doesn’t need its surprising fuzzy chorded solo in order to be great, but it certainly helps. The paisley sound of “I Kiss the Flower In Bloom” is as unmistakable as it is irresistible.

The chiming, intertwined guitars of propulsive “Pathetique” are a highlight, and their lyrical interplay on the shape-shifting “A Prophecy” is majestic. There is a cinematic quality to the enthusiastic “In Spite of These Times,” which could otherwise be an Aztec Camera song. I have no idea what a foxhead is, but the title track elides explanation and simply but sunnily offers its declaration against a bed of jangly guitars. If you don’t sing along to the “yeah yeah yeah”s on “I Take Bribes,” you need to see an audiologist right away.

The band throws one final curveball when it gets anthemic on the almost-eight minute “Mother of God,” which kicks up some hellacious noise. The drumming by Stewart McFayden is first-rate throughout, and bassist Robert Burnett (sibling to Andrew) handily leaps over questions of nepotism. The guitars of Tom Donnelly and Graeme Wilmington readily should be better known.

The album was produced by John Rivers, who has worked with Talulah Gosh, Love and Rockets, the Pastels, the Jazz Butcher, Yatsura, and the Loft.

The Best Thing About This Album

I want the spiky, crystalized rush of “Pathetique” injected into my veins right now.

Release Date

1987

The Cover Art

I dig the pink, but that’s about it. I don’t hate the other elements, but I don’t think they work very well.

Cinerama – This Is Cinerama

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

Well, I said elsewhere that I wasn’t going to keep both this album and Va Va Voom, but fuck it. Call it indulgence. It is typically perverse that roughly two years after the release of debut Va Va Voom, but just weeks after second album Disco Volante, Cinerama released this collection of early singles. The title is a clever joke, btw. Cinerama was a pre-IMAX immersive process (three projectors used simultaneously on one giant screen); This Is Cinerama was a documentary from 1952 intended to promote the new system.

What I Think of This Album

Even discounting the overlap with Va Va Voom, this is a very strong collection. The songs “Kerry Kerry,” “Au Pair,” “Love” and “Dance, Girl, Dance” are all repeats. There is also a remixed version of “Ears,” cheekily jejune and retro.

The vaguely flamenco guitar strum of “7x” is what you first notice, but then Gedge’s lyrics take center stage:  “And I don’t want to seem unreasonable / But I’d just like to know when / You are going to speak to me again” and “Because now / I’m feeling totally perplexed / What did I do wrong? / Well, how do I work out what comes next? / Do I play along?” “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has a sort of spy guitar sound, which plays nicely with the orchestration. Meanwhile, “Model Spy” relies on a wah wah effect, with spy keyboards instead.

“Crusoe” is goddamn gorgeous, with timpani and strings, and full of devastating lines like “You can’t get a phone call like that and not tell me / You can’t lie with him in our bed and not smell me.” There is a sad ruefulness to weepy “King’s Cross”:  “I thought that you and me / Were never meant to be /  Now why would I think that?” with some great harmonies from Sally Murrell at the end. The cover of the Smiths’ “London” I can take or leave.

Given the timing of these singles, it is not surprising that the list of supporting players overlaps considerably with that of the debut:  Marty Willson-Piper (the Church); Dare Mason (producer of the Church and Animals That Swim); Derek Crabtree and Anthony Coote (Animals That Swim), as well as Julia Palmer (Billy Bragg) and Rachel Davies (Animals That Swim). Emma Pollock (Delgados) guests on “Love” and “Ears.”

This time, former Weddoes guitarist Simon Cleave is also around, and he co-wrote a couple of the songs. Gedge co-wrote two of the other songs with different people, neither of whom is properly identified in the credits.

The Best Thing About This Album

“The silence when you hold me is deafening.”

Release Date

October, 2000

The Cover Art

Another winner from Cinerama – bold color and font/graphics, with a whiff of romance to the blurry photos.

Cinerama – Va Va Voom

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Cinerama represented a rebirth for David Gedge, who by 1996’s tired Saturnalia, had put the Wedding Present through all the reasonable (and some unreasonable) twists and turns he could. Teaming up with girlfriend Sally Murrell, Gedge launched Cinerama, the aptly named chamber pop project. Gedge fortunately stuck to his comfortable themes of love, lust, betrayal, romance, infidelity, and heartbreak, but the new setting seemed to invigorate him, and Murrell’s voice was a warm, welcome (sometimes counterbalancing) presence.

What I Think of This Album

David Gedge and Sally Murrell offer up eleven orchestral pop nuggets that explore all aspects of interpersonal romantic relationships. The credits don’t seem to tell the full story of how this all came to be, however. Gedge and Murrell get a “performed by” credit right underneath the track listing, which seems generous. Meanwhile, the dozen plus contributing musicians receive a tepid “additional playing” nod. No word on who exactly arranged these intricate pieces, which would seem to be critical – otherwise, Gedge and Murrell could’ve just played these songs on guitars. In fact, the music is magnificent and Gedge comes up with lyrics to match.

“Comedienne” is almost straightforward jangle pop, propulsive and exciting, with some strings behind it and Murrell’s lovely backing vocals. “Maniac” is packed with dark, deadpan humor as it explores toxic masculinity (hence the title). “Hate” has some delightfully delicate percussion as well as a gentle organ, and Gedge half-convincingly declares his hatred for his lover’s “style,” “smile,” “country,” and “continent.”

The cinematic strings on “Kerry Kerry” are heart-stirring, and Murrell’s background coos are to die for; the percussion touches here are also noteworthy. The pop confection of “You Turn Me On” is perfectly composed. Emma Pollock of the Delgados sings on the lush “Ears,” an exploration of disloyalty. Pollock’s vocals were always the best thing about the Delgados. Gedge gets downright romantic on the sweet and carnal “Dance, Girl, Dance,” which glides by on heavenly strings.

My disc adds two bonus tracks:  the swoon-worthy “Love” (with a starring role for Pollock) and “Au Pair,” equally ridiculous and sad (“He fell in love with the au pair / When she ran her fingers through his hair”).

Marty Willson-Piper of the Church contributes guitar to the album, as does Animals That Swim and the Church producer Dare Mason. Speaking of Animals That Swim, their drummer and trumpeter – Anthony Coote and Derek Crabtree – also lend a hand. The connections continue with guest violinist Rachel Davies, who also played on the Animals That Swim album I Was the King, I Really Was the King. Cellist Julia Palmer had played with Billy Bragg.

The band thanks former Wedding Present drummers Simon Smith and Shaun Charman in the liner notes.

The Best Thing About This Album

The arrangements, whoever the fuck dreamt them up.

Release Date

October, 1998

The Cover Art

This is a good cover. I dig the colors, the composition, and the vaguely ‘60’s imagery. I don’t love the font for the band name, but I can forgive it.

The Church – El Momento Descuidado

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 7)

I suppose this is the time to apologize to Peter Koppes. I am prone to assuming all the exciting guitar work on Church albums is attributable to Marty Willson-Piper, but obviously that can’t be true. Willson-Piper has his own blog, and he goes into detail about the band’s recordings and tours; needless to say, he gives Koppes ample credit. Here’s to you, Peter Koppes. You are the Church member I treat way too unfairly.

What I Think of This Album

This is basically the Church unplugged. That’s a great idea; the problem is that it’s poorly executed. The band sounds excellent, of course, but the song selection is criminal.

Fewer than half of the fourteen songs are from the classic period. Also, one of those is “A New Season,” which is a good song, but pales in comparison to many others from that time. There is nothing from Seance and only one song from Heyday. Three more songs are from 2000s era albums, and five are brand new songs. Of those eight songs, I like just two. This should have been an alternate Best of collection, shepherding in new fans. Instead, it is a charming but confounding novelty for devoted fans.

Hearing “The Unguarded Moment” in this setting is eye-opening, and “Metropolis” also benefits from the stripped down arrangement. There is a delicate mandolin on “Tristesse,” and “Under the Milky Way” becomes spooky and sinister, with some high lonesome harmonica in the shadows and a stellar bongo pattern from newish drummer Tim Powles. “Almost WIth You” gets some sweet vibes thrown in towards the end.

There does seem to be some minor studio involvement, with effects on the cymbals (most noticeable on “Unguarded Moment”) and other gilding touches. On the best songs, the band gives an intimate, revealing performance – particularly Steve Kilbey, who adopts the ideal vocal tone throughout and the subtle contributions of Powles. Someone plays the piano on a lot of these tracks, but it is unclear who. New track “0408” is pretty good, and 2002’s “Invisible” is a decent addition.

The Best Thing About This Album

When I say what I like most about this album is the Spanish translation of “The Unguarded Moment” for the title, I am not taking a swipe at the collection.

Release Date

November, 2004

The Cover Art

These portraits from Steve Kilbey don’t add anything to this release, further frustrating what should have been a Church essential purchase.

The Church – Priest = Aura

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

The Church seemed like they could have done anything after the success of Starfish, and what resulted was the disaster of Gold Afternoon Fix. This album is a course correction but by then it was too late, and things soon fell apart for the Church – Richard Ploog had already left, then Peter Koppes said he was out, too, and Steve Kilbey was using heroin at this point. Record label woes and other issues compounded the difficulties. Whatever random good song might have resulted after Priest = Aura, the Church’s early years are their best.

What I Think of This Album

Arguably, the last great Church album. I say this having given up on the Church in the early 2000s – maybe they recaptured the old magic later, but I tend to doubt it. I don’t know if this was the album that should have followed Starfish, but it absolutely was the album that needed to follow Gold Afternoon Fix (though the salvation it offered was fleeting, in the end).

There is a strong sense of retrenchment and insularity on Priest; the album is a miasma of atmospherics and texture, vaguely Eastern in tone (but not sound). The Church display zero interest in writing radio friendly songs. Four of the fourteen tracks are over six minutes long, and even the shorter pieces mostly eschew a pop sound (“Ripple” is the closest thing to a nod to commercialism, with a charming chorus, and maybe “Feel” could’ve gained some traction). Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper dominate, stretching out to explore every whim but without overindulging.

“Chaos,” in particular, is an aptly-titled showcase for the two guitarists, who single-mindedly slice everyone’s Achilles’ tendons over a near-ten minute spree (parts of this song remind me of Crocodiles-era Echo and the Bunnymen). “Aura” kicks things off with a bizarre existential exploration of wartime PTSD.

There are moments of tranquility, like “Paradox,” “Kings”, and “Dome,” but overall the album remains a somewhat unsettling journey into the darkness of someone’s soul. “The Disillusionist” wins for most bewildering, disorienting song of the year. “Mistress” stumbles with the line “And that halo you wear on your head / I haven’t seen one of those in years”; that should only be used once, as the repetition starts to sound like affectation. If getting high and listening to an album is your thing . . . you could do worse than this.

The drums were played by Jay Dee Daugherty (Patti Smith Group, Tom Verlaine). This was recorded and co-produced by Gavin McKillop (Chills, Goo Goo Dolls).

The album title comes from a misreading by Kilbey of a fan’s Spanish:English vocabulary notes, which of course was “Priest = Cura.”

The Best Thing About This Album

The fact that it was a comeback.

Release Date

March, 1992

The Cover Art

This art pretty much perfectly captures the feel of the music. Stark, mysterious, threatening, arid, and timeless.

The Church – Starfish

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

I’d like to know about the decisions behind the recording of this album. The Church were still a relatively unknown band at this time, and had a poor history with US record labels, but nonetheless someone paid good money to have the band record with L.A. veterans Waddy Wachtel (Warren Zevon) and Greg Ladanyi (Fleetwood Mac, Jackson Browne). I suppose it paid off, as the album was the breakthrough the band deserved, though apparently they chafed at Wachtel and Ladanyi’s approach. This is the album most people are familiar with, and that’s fine, but there is so much more great Church out there.

What I Think of This Album

It’s understandable why “Under the Milky Way” was a hit – the bagpipe sound (apparently composed with an ebow but recorded with a synthesizer – played by the inimitably named Awesome Welles) has a particular novelty value – but the truth is it is not even remotely the best song on this album. That honor goes to the insidious “Reptile” with its, yes, snakey, guitar line and its vibraslap (admittedly more of a novelty than the bagpipe sound). And “North, South, East and West” also tops it, with an impressive descending guitar line and lots of chiming guitars throughout, though I will entertain argument about this one; Steve Kilbey’s deadpan vocal on the chorus is slyly wonderful.

I swear to god that the tough, riffy, emphatic “Spark” (also way better than “Milky Way”) sounds a *lot* like Dramarama – A LOT, motherfucker – if they had been a Paisley Underground band. Marty Willson-Piper and John Easdale’s voices sit in the same pocket. The bridge alone is worth the price of admission. “Destination” is a stellar moody piece, with a nice piano part and excellent atmospherics – the swells at the end are supercool.

For what it’s worth, I think “Milky Way” is great, with a precise mix of twelve-string melody and keyboard support, as well as a sturdy bass line for a backbone, and Kilbey’s downcast vocals. Session veteran Ross Kunkel (Dylan, Stevie Nicks, Linda Rondstadt, Carole King) drums on this track, as Richard Ploog couldn’t nail the feel. Karin Jansson co-wrote the song with Kilbey.

The massed vocals on “Blood Money” are a nice touch, the drums are very boomy, and the solo is electrifying. For reasons I can’t really explain, the intro reminds me of Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home)” even though the two don’t really sound anything alike. It’s just how my brain works. I have to admit that “Antenna” grows on me – I don’t care for the beginning but then it develops nicely. “A New Season” brings more of the psychedelic element than the earlier tracks, with some fine drumming. And it must be said that “Hotel Womb” (those wacky Australians) is very strong.

Greg Kuehn of TSOL (!) played keyboards on this album, and David Lindley (Warren Zevon, Curtis Mayfield, Leonard Cohen) plays the mandolin on “Antenna.” 

The Best Thing About This Album

“Reptile” is the under-the-radar winner, though “Spark” is outstanding, too.

Release Date

April, 1988

The Cover Art

I like the font, but the band portrait format is boring as fuck.

The Church – Heyday

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

This was my real introduction to the Church. Or maybe I should say, the true starting point of my fandom. I had heard – and loved – “Under the Milky Way” – but my best friend in high school, Meetul, raved about Heyday, so that is where I went first (his track record was spotty, I should note, as he was also a big A-ha fan). Easily the artistic high point of the Church’s career, Heyday is the work all other Church albums are measured against.

What I Think of This Album

If you don’t think this is the best Church album, then you don’t know anything about music. The only possible negative is that the production is maybe a tad glossy and bloodless, but this is a minor quibble. Would I be interested in a rawer sounding version of this album? Sure, but that’s not a reason to complain about Heyday.

The album is characterized by horns, strings, Steve Kilbey’s multi-tracked vocals, and fantastic guitar collaboration between Marty Willson-Piper and Peter Koppes. One thing the production does have going for it is that Kilbey’s voice is much more out front, and he sings with greater confidence and poise. There is a vaguely old-world, mystical, almost runic, aura to the album, probably due to a combination of the psychedelic guitars, the song titles (e.g., “Myrrh,” “Roman,” “Tristesse,” “Columbus,” “Night of Light”), the paisley explosion on the cover, and the choral and string touches. This album exists outside of time – nothing here pins it to the mid-’80s but it also doesn’t sound like it belongs squarely to any other era.

With all that out of the way, the songs are superb. Not enough can be said about the blast that is “Tantalized,” whose horns add just the right amount of majesty and the xylophone (vibes?) on the chorus are perfect; the guitars, of course, are outstanding and Kilbey turns in a nice bass part, too. Lead track “Myrrh” is a guitar masterpiece, with a spooky, low-key delivery from Kilbey. The lyrics about a “gunfight in Dodge City” are unusual but everything else about the lush, intricate “Tristesse” is amazing. “

Already Yesterday” rolls along gently, with fine guitar work supporting it. “Columbus” and “Night of Light” are both dramatic and thrilling, while jangly “Disenchanted” is knowing and cutting. Karin Jansson (Pink Champagne) co-wrote the vivid “Youth Worshipper” with Kilbey. “Roman” appears to end the album on a funereal note, but the band takes a left turn and delights with more psychedelic mastery. That the Church decided to throw in a five-and-a-half minute instrumental (“Happy Hunting Ground”) tells you how confident they felt on this album – they knew they could do no wrong.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Tantalized” is the easy choice, but that seems unfair. I will instead say the arrangements are the highlight of the album.

Release Date

November, 1985 (Australia); January, 1986 (US)

The Cover Art

Yes. This is an iconic Church image and album cover. The shirts are ‘60s, the hair and earrings are ‘80s, the tapestry is, I don’t know, 15th century. It is a little disorienting, yet it coheres nicely. The text is understated and clean.

The Church – Seance

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I am pretty sure this was the last of the classic era Church albums I bought, just because it was so difficult to find. I know this in part because my copy has a horrifying rip through the booklet, which pains me every time I see it. I would never have bought something in that condition unless I had to. As with any sort of collecting, there are fetishistic and obsessive elements to the enterprise of building and curating one’s music library. I like having the physical copies, enjoy seeing them even without listening to them, and would like them to be in the best condition possible.

What I Think of This Album

I would never accuse the Church of being a fun band. They are serious; not dour, but focused. Nonetheless, Seance feels like their most fun album. It’s almost as consistent as The Blurred Crusade and adds the high points that made Of Skins and Heart so exciting.

Notably, “One Day” is a fantastic piece, with a guitar figure that latches on to your brain, and a vocal take that borders on winking, as well as forceful tom-pounding and a bit of guitar showiness in the bridge. I wish this song didn’t have to end. Too, “Electric Lash” is wondrous. The intro sounds like something from Tommy James and the Shondells, and then quickly becomes something different (better, yes, but that’s not because Tommy James and the Shondells aren’t pretty great). The song features the chorused vocals that would play a larger role on later albums, typically impressive jangle, and some very cool strings. But, the drums sound awful on this song.

Speaking of drums, “It Doesn’t Change” starts out with drums that were borrowed from Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” and then adds stately synths that would’ve been welcomed by New Order; this is a chilly, textured piece that’s a testament to the Church’s understated versatility. The Hammond organ that introduces moody “It’s No Reason (with guest vocals from Michelle Parker, spouse (at some point) of Steve Kilbey) gives way to Kilbey’s voice, an unassuming guitar, and some perhaps too-loud drums (which, again, don’t sound great); this holds sway until the keyboards and strings blindside you with their beauty. There is a lot to like on “Disappear?” (minus the drum sound), which gets more complex and interesting as it progresses.

“Dropping Names” is, well, fun. There. It’s a fun goddamned song – intense and dark and muscular (the drum pattern is cool, but the sound is typically awful). “Travel By Thought” is a post-punk exercise that sounds like a carryover from the debut. The bass is oddly emphasized on “Now I Wonder Why,” which also highlights a harmonica from presumed Kilbey family member Russell Kilbey. “Electric” is okay without being anything special, and opener “Fly” is also decent, with some nice production touches and . . . uh, bongos.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Electric Lash” is amazing, though I still feel bad not choosing “One Day.”

Release Date

May, 1983

The Cover Art

The pink and black is okay. The image, coupled with the title, is misleadingly goth. The font is atrocious (though the image here has different font and sizes from my version – terrible in either incarnation, anyway). Is she a nun? Is that a metal flower?

The Church – The Blurred Crusade

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

The Church are my second-favorite Australian band. The Go-Betweens take the top spot, but the Church sit very close behind. After that, it gets a little scant. I guess the Hoodoo Gurus, and then . . . the Easybeats? I don’t know. There is not a lot out of Australia that I like – the Living End made some good records. I never really listened to Radio Birdman, the Saints, the Celibate Rifles, or Nick Cave but I suppose I should make some efforts in those directions. I hated INXS, and was not impressed by Midnight Oil or Crowded House; don’t even bother mentioning AC/DC. Odd that nearby and smaller New Zealand has so many bands I like.

What I Think of This Album

This is the overlooked Church album in my collection. Undeniably stronger than Of Skins and Hearts, it nonetheless lacks any tracks that standout like the ones on the debut (which is not to say there are no high points). So while it has no low points – this album is a paragon of consistency – its evenness is its downfall. “Almost With You” is plainly a classic Church song – the chimey jangle, easy melody, and mysterious vocals are necessary ingredients in the band’s recipes. The almost classical guitar solo is unexpected and beautiful – it’s as if Roddy Frame dropped by and they just let him do whatever he wanted on the track and then he flapped his fringed, suede-jacketed arms and flew back to Scotland. The introduction to “When You Were Mine” is a study in tension and atmospherics; there is a hint of the post-punk sounds from the band’s earlier days, but this time combined with a more psychedelic element. A gnarly little solo appears towards the end of the song, and the band sounds like they are having a lot of fun, showing off on the almost six minutes this track spans. Guitar hero Marty Willson-Piper sings lead on the dramatic and dreamy “Fields of Mars.” There is a Joy Division element to the drumming on this song; and yet, fast-forward seven years and this would fit in comfortably on a shoegazing compilation. “An Interlude” likewise has a hazy narcotic quality, until the very rawk guitar solo that develops toward the conclusion. The gentle balladry of “Secret Corners” is stunning, but disappears in under two minutes; also . . . tubular bells! The intro to “Just For You” is silly but the song is top-notch moody jangle. Steve Kilbey cops an attitude on the snappy “A Fire Burns,” which could easily be a glam-rock song, with its stomping drums, chunky riffing, and epic weeping guitar figures. “To Be In Your Eyes” is a morose plea, and absolutely wonderful, with keyboards adding a layer of lushness to the sad proceedings. The band spends eight minutes on “You Took,” the closest thing to a pointless track on this album – there is a[n electric] spark to Kilbey’s vocal that isn’t normally there, but the guitar work is sort of predictable and uninspiring, and the songwriting isn’t really up to par (though it does provide the album with its title). The closer, “Don’t Look Back,” is very short but with a driving kick drum, some seductive slide guitar, and tambourine (and sleigh bells?). Bob Clearmountain produced, again. Upon hearing this album, the band’s U.S. label refused to release it, and dropped them completely shortly thereafter.

The Best Thing About This Album

My sleeper choice is “To Be In Your Eyes.”   

Release Date

March, 1982

The Cover Art

Ummmm. Fail. The contrast of colors is cool. The suits of armor don’t play well with the “Crusade” of the title. Also, why is that one knight so short? The spacing on the title is poorly done, making it difficult to read, and the same is true for the band name, though not as egregiously.

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