A Popular History of Signs

  • A Popular History of Signs
  • A Popular History of Signs EP (Wax Trax!) 1984 
  • Comrades (UK Jungle) 1985 
  • Taste (UK Jungle) 1987 
  • England in the Rain EP (UK Jungle) 1988 

Led by singer/bassist/keyboardist Andrew Jarman (vocally something of a David Byrne student), this London quartet drifts between arty synth-dance and lightly played mood music. Using dinky electronic percussion rather than a drummer in the early days, the enigmatic group’s records alternately wax chilly, funky, humorless and clever.

Save for a few exceptions on Side Two, the poorly structured songs on Comrades typically work one groove for several minutes and then fade out with the vocals still going. Despite the nicely spare arrangements, provocative subject matter (“Lenin,” for instance), crystalline production and flawless playing, this is a mighty boring way to spend an afternoon.

Ministry’s Al Jourgensen remixed “Ladder Jack” and “House” for the eponymous American 12-inch, a four-song sampling of the band’s pre-Comrades 45s. Both of those remixes also appear on Taste, a 1980-’87 singles compilation that presents an absurdly bloodless trashing of Lou Reed’s “Rock &Roll” and adds two previously unreleased items, including an awfully strange cover of John Fogerty’s “Run Through the Jungle.”

Fielding a solid five-man lineup, APHOS comes out of the woods on the obviously commercial England in the Rain. Unlike its previous unpredictable self-indulgences, the band now reveals a clear-cut focus: the half-dozen peppy songs are all standard stylish modern dance rock that compares favorably to Wang Chung and that whole post-Ultravox ilk. If Jarman weren’t such a duff singer, these attractively produced tracks might be really appealing.

[Ira Robbins]