It’s hard to understand why this London quartet never found commercial success. At their best, the Sound’s excellent neo-pop bears favorable comparison to the Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen. Jeopardy has a stark, beautiful quality, with the material given direct exposure rather than a production bath. Adrian Borland’s vocals are sincere and gripping; the musical attack is both subtle and aggressive.
The inconsequential Live Instinct contains four songs recorded onstage in London, including renditions of the band’s 1979 debut single (“Cold Beat”) and a few Jeopardy songs. The recorded performances add little to the studio versions.
From the Lions Mouth builds on Jeopardy‘s firm foundation with a fuller sound that faintly recalls U2. Produced by Hugh Jones (around the same time he did Echo’s Heaven Up Here), it’s bright, dramatic and sometimes (“Fire,” “Sense of Purpose,” “Winning”) powerful. A riveting LP — the group’s best.
Pushed by their label to sound more commercial, All Fall Down is the defiant reply — a stark, barren landscape of harsh tones and dark passages. The black, clashing music makes the challenging LP an acquired taste, an ambitious, admirable exploration of the downside; not surprisingly, the record company sent the band packing.
Shock of Daylight — a six-song mini-album produced by Pat Collier — is a strong return, building melodic, dramatic songs on a gutsy bass/drums drive, overlaying guitar, keyboards and even brass to create an attractively textured and varied sound. Heads and Hearts is even better, a quilt of bright colors woven with simple care. Though it lacks the knockout punch they’d shown in the past (“Winning” or Shock of Daylight‘s “Golden Soldiers,” for example), the record’s modesty and continuous flow make it a thoroughly engaging listen, a memorable LP whose sum is greater than its parts.
In the Hothouse is a double live thriller from London’s Marquee, with all the claustrophobic ambience of the club’s packed space coming through on the recording. Live records this immediate sounding are hard to find. With the bulk of the material chosen from Heads and Hearts and Lions Mouth, this is a superb introduction for the curious.
Thunder Up is a middle ground between All Fall Down‘s emotional warfare and the later, more sensuous pop. Punching right in with one of their most exciting tracks (“Acceleration Group”), the LP is a rollercoaster ride through desolation (“Shot Up and Shut Down”), titillation (“Kinetic”), cynicism (“Prove Me Wrong”) and profound beauty (“You’ve Got a Way”). Though the contrast can be jarring, unpredictability is a strength, and this is a bold up/down, hot/cold, built-up/knocked-down record most bands would not attempt. It was to be their last such uncompromising work; the group finally called it quits in early ’88.
Borland’s subsequent solo career got off to a good start with Alexandria, as he brings a variety of moods to the alternately austere, sensuous and lighthearted pop, revealing a mild Velvet Underground influence. More swimming strings and tasteful background horns add to the overall warmth of this acoustic-based, romantic LP. “Light the Sky” and “Beneath the Big Wheel” pair somber detachment with graceful chord changes; elsewhere, the deeply moving, strings-to-the-fore “Rogue Beauty” shows Borland still capable of dramatic flourish.
Before forming the Sound, Adrian Borland led a first-wave UK punk outfit called the Outsiders. Sound bassist-to-be Graham Bailey joined the Outsiders shortly before the band dissolved in 1979. Second Layer was an electronic-flavored side project for Borland and Bailey early in the Sound’s career, issuing an LP and a handful of singles.
Adrian Borland, who suffered from progressively severe mental illness, committed suicide on April 26, 1999.
White Rose Transmission was a project that featured Borland as well as Dutch singer Carlo van Putten. Ex-Chameleon Mark Burgess, who contributed bass to 700 Miles of Desert, stood in for Borland at the band’s tribute performances following the singer/guitarist’s suicide.