Brian James – Ain’t That A Shame 12” single (1979)
After he left the Damned but before he formed the outstanding Lords of the New Church, Brian James released a couple of solo singles. Always loved the Russian propaganda looking cover art to this. The A-side is OK, if a little restrained. The B-sides, however, are magnificent. When I heard the first b-side, ‘Living In Sin’, with it’s manic energy and blistering drum track, I was taken aback at the absolute tightness of the performance. Then I checked who was supplying the drum track; friggen Stuart Copeland! That bloke is a machine and he really elevates the song to another level. Second b-side, ‘I Can Make You Cry’ is also great with a bit of an early 80s Iggy Pop feel, which makes sense because Brian was playing in Iggy’s touring band around this time. Not as good as the Lords of the New Church stuff he would later do, this is still pretty cool.
Tygers of Pan Tang – The Cage (1982)
Produced by Peter Collins. I find this album frustrating as hell. I’ve had it since I was a teenager and by all accounts I should love it; a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band trying to go commercial – sounds right up my alley. I guess the songs just aren’t there. There’s a few OK ones, but there’s something about singer Jon Deverill’s delivery that just doesn’t sell them. At least on the previous year’s ‘Spellbound’ he had some aggression to his vocals, but two albums later and he just seems to be in cabaret mode – he did later perform onstage in musicals, so maybe he was already gearing up for that. To be honest, even though previous singer Jess Cox didn’t have much melody to his singing, I preferred the actual tone of his voice to Deverill. Best song is the opening track, ‘Rendezvous’, but it’s a cover of an RPM song and the RPM version is way better. I guess something should be mentioned about Fred Purser from punk band Penetration stepping in on guitar to replace the recently departed John Sykes for this album – talk about big shoes to fill! Ha ha, Fred must’ve been shitting himself! That being said, I liked at least half of the Penetration album ‘Coming Up For Air’ that Fred was involved in and I don’t mind nearly half of this, so maybe I should be happy that I got almost a whole good album from Fred in the end, ha ha.
The Professionals – I Didn’t See It Coming (1981)
Produced by Nigel Gray. Steve Jones – I love that guy. I loved him when he was doing punk (Sex Pistols); I loved him when he was doing Arena Rock (Chequered Past); I loved him when he was doing soft(ish) L.A. Rock (Mercy album); sunset strip rock (Fire & Gasoline album) – I even like him as the loveable old geezer he is now on his radio show ‘Jonesy’s Jukebox’. He’s just a cool bastard. Did you know he was in consideration to be guitarist with Siouxsie and the Banshee’s back in 1980?! That would’ve been interesting – he ended up just recording some guitar on a few tracks from the Kaleidoscope album. Anyway, this album is ace, fitting somewhere between the punk of the Pistols and the more Arena Rock of the stuff he was doing in Chequered Past, which makes sense considering it’s chronologically in the middle of those two bands. I like this way more than the self-titled album that was recorded before this but not released until 1991 because of legal problems with the original bass player suing the record company. This album is more melodic, less thuggish but still with Steve Jones’s unpretentious delivery. Should also mention that Paul Cook is a bloody solid drummer and he sounds great on this and also features bassist Paul Myers, ex-Subway Sect – class of ’76 kicking on in the 80s!
Vain – No Respect (1989)
Back in ’89 a lot of people thought this band were going to be massive, including me. I read all the pre-release promo stuff in Kerrang magazine and eagerly waited for the debut album to be released. Had to get it on import, of course, through Metal For Melbourne. With more hair than anyone this side of Skid Row, the band absolutely rips. Speaking of Skid Row, I guess Vain are kind of like a more punkish, darker version of that band. This record is way less produced than Skid Row’s debut, but in retrospect, even if it had as much money thrown at it, I don’t think Vain would’ve resonated with the mainstream like Skid Row did – there was just something more, dare I say it, ‘dangerous’ about them. Both bands’ debut albums rule, but this one is an undiscovered gem. The lead guitar playing on this is friggen phenomenal – it puts most of the 80s glam bands to shame. Check out their 1989 music video to ‘Who’s Watching You’ and marvel at how the hell this band didn’t go stratospheric (ignoring the forementioned ‘too dangerous for mainstream’ comment here!). And another interesting fact: singer Davy Vain was a producer before he formed the band – he produced Death Angel’s first two albums…stick that in your fuse box!
The Cure – Boys Don’t Cry (1978)
I’ve never been a huge fan of The Cure, but I do like most of their earlier singles and even ‘Why Can’t I Be You’ from ’87 (don’t talk to me about ‘Friday I’m In Love’ – friggen nauseating). But good singles don’t always make for good albums and most of The Cure’s albums I find pretty boring, except their debut. This is actually their US debut, which is a repackaging of their UK debut, ‘Three Imaginary Boys’ (love the cover art for that one), but with their first three singles included. The singles are ace and elevate this from a little bit too much art-school wank to something of a minor minimalist pop gem. The sound is sparse and almost incompetent in execution, but the quirkiness and quality – even in it’s simplicity – of the songwriting, allow this to be overlooked and in some ways adds to the atmosphere of the album overall. Unrelated to this album, but I saw a live video of the Cure covering Thin Lizzy’s ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ awhile back. It’s not as bad as you might think and Robert Smith does a pretty good job of tackling Brian Robertson’s guitar solo – surprising to say the least!
Written by Karl Mautner.
Read more of Karl’s entertaining and insightful thoughts on classic albums at the Rise of the Rat Facebook page, and Karl’s own Instagram page.