It’s Immaterial was the Liverpool duo of John Campbell and Jarvis Whitehead plus myriad friends (including the Christians, whose Henry Priestman was an Itsy in the group’s early days). On Life’s Hard, It’s Immaterial cooks up a fascinating musical hybrid that touches variously on synth-pop, atmospheric art-rock, recitation and a unique brand of English country music. It may remind you of early OMD, Pete Townshend, Talking Heads, even Ronnie Lane’s late-’70s gypsy-rock aggregation Slim Chance — which is to say there’s a lot going on in this mix. The only thing missing is an identity.
That identity turned up four years later on Song, an ironic title for an album that’s more a collection of stories put to music than actual songs. (There’s not a chorus anywhere to be found.) Whitehead’s tracks — flowing, repetitive patterns, mainly based around piano — function as a soundtrack for Campbell’s lyrics, which he both sings and speaks in a pleasant but limited voice. The effect is often hypnotic — something like Philip Glass meets Marc Almond — but unless you’re drawn in by the words, you may find the going a bit tedious. This is music best listened to when distractions are at a minimum; don’t expect to hear it in dance clubs.