Lords of the New Church

  • Lords of the New Church
  • Lords of the New Church (IRS) 1982 
  • Is Nothing Sacred? (IRS) 1983 
  • The Method to Our Madness (IRS) 1984 
  • Killer Lords (IRS) 1985 
  • Live at the Spit (UK Illegal) 1988 
  • Wanderers
  • Only Lovers Left Alive (UK Polydor) 1981 
  • Brian James
  • Brian James (Fr. New Rose) 1990 

Following a solo turn, ex-Dead Boy singer Stiv Bator formed the short-lived Wanderers (which must be where he parked the “s” from his surname) with members of Sham 69, setting the stage for the subsequent Lords of the New Church. Although Only Lovers Left Alive was undertaken as a Sham 69 record (with Bators in place of Jimmy Pursey), contracts prevented its release as such; under the Wanderers name, it attracted almost no attention. It deserved a better fate. The record’s legible rock with a strong political bent brings together loads of influences that had never been present in either faction’s background, and synthesizes a varied, well-produced angry assault that’s more radical in stance than music. In any case, the album is noteworthy for including a courageously rockified version of Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”

From there, Bator and ex-Sham bassist Dave Tregunna united with ex-Damned/Tanz der Youth guitarist Brian James and ex-Barracudas drummer Nick Turner to form the Lords of the New Church, emerging with a fully realized debut that drew on their individual and collective strengths. Dense and powerful, with Bator’s sneering whine setting the tone and attitude, the Lords combined ’60s punk with ’80s apocalyptics to create an original sound that updated the Stooges for a post-punk world. Only a few awful, indulgent lyrics (one song attempts a tribute to the New York Dolls by merely stringing song titles together) detract from the record’s intense dark power. Highlights: “New Church,” “Russian Roulette,” “Open Your Eyes.” Cool cover: Balloon Farm’s “Question of Temperature.”

Live at the Spit is a 1982 Boston radio broadcast from the band’s first American tour. Sounding more like friendly punks than nascent goth-rockers, the quartet delivers basic live versions of nearly the entire first album, punctuated by Stiv’s crudely didactic stage patter. Introducing “Russian Roulette,” he announces, “The other day we played a really strange game. We passed around six girls and one of them had the clap.”

In place of the first album’s claustrophobic, murky production, Is Nothing Sacred? substitutes a livelier, crisper swirl; keyboards and horns contrast the band’s throaty roar. Thus armed, the Lords unfortunately ran out of material after the first song. Following the excellent “Dance With Me,” the album rolls straight down the songwriting slope, stopping off only briefly to ram through the Grass Roots’ venerable “Live for Today” to no audible end. As a soundtrack for a gothic punk horror movie, the Lords’ second album gets the ambience right, but that’s all it does.

The third outing hits a fair compromise, modulating both the volume and the velocity to lighten the mood and cut the stylishness. As a result, The Method to Our Madness resembles a cross between Iggy’s Raw Power and Idol’s Rebel Yell. It’s the band’s least distinctive—but most popular-sounding—record, with “Murder Style,” “Method to My Madness” (featuring a funny spoken interjection by IRS Records owner Miles Copeland) and a pretty ballad, “When Blood Runs Cold,” to recommend it. By sacrificing their mystery and danger, the Lords of the New Church are revealed as nice guys after all.

The Killer Lords compilation includes not only remixes of essential album tracks but a hysterically nasty mugging of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” a solid and straight reading of John Fogerty’s “Hey Tonight” and ex-Advert Tim Smith’s duff but amusing “Lord’s Prayer.”

Putting the Lords on ice in the mid-’80s, James wound up back in the Damned for a spell and then released his first (!) solo album—a pedestrian hard-rock LP (à la Steve Jones’ early post-Professionals efforts) with only occasional evidence of James’ past adventures, if not achievements. Around the same time, it was reported that Bators was forming a band with Dee Dee Ramone and ex- Godfathers guitarist Kris Dollimore. Before anything could come of that alliance, however, Bators was struck by a car in Paris in June ’90 and died of his injuries.

In 2003, James and Tregunna relaunched the Lords of the New Church with singer/guitarist Adam Becvare of the Lustkillers, touring and releasing a CD entitled Hang On.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Stiv Bators