Following the stormy existence of Theatre of Hate, singer/guitarist Kirk Brandon and bassist Stan Stammers launched Spear of Destiny. Grapes of Wrath, produced by Nick Launay, unveils a straightforward guitar/bass/drums quartet; Andy Mackay-like saxophone work provides the sole distinguishing tonal component. Brandon’s songs are a drag — spare, dirgey things with hopeless quasi-Scottish melodies and self-important, insignificant lyrics. Slight Nick Cave tendencies don’t add enough extremism to salvage these effortlessly ignorable tracks.
One Eyed Jacks introduces a different, larger lineup (including ex-Tom Robinson Band drummer Dolph Taylor); the superior results lean alternately towards Big Country and Adam Ant. A basically inept vocalist with nothing in the way of a natural instrument, Brandon sings everything like he’s rousing the troops for a final assault, a tactic that overpowers the flimsy tunes. Lacking a feel for full-blown majesty (like Richard Jobson), he’s too zealous for his own good.
Co-produced by SOD and Rusty Egan, World Service is again hindered by Brandon’s horrifically bad singing. He repeatedly misses notes on “Rocket Ship” and makes the lyrics on “Come Back” sound almost unpronounceable. The operatic melody of the title track exposes all of his aural inadequacies at once. With that, Brandon discharged his band, signed to Virgin and went right on doing what he’s always done.
On the occasion of the band’s departure from the label, The Epic Years — unceremoniously dumped on the market right on top of SOD’s new LP — cherry-picks the first three albums, including five songs that were minor UK hits as singles.
Outland, which unites Brandon with ex-Ant guitarist Marco Peroni [sic], the Barnacle brothers rhythm section and producer Zeus B. Held, isn’t a bad record. The advent of goth-metal groups like the Cult, Sisters of Mercy and the Mission makes marble-mouthed Brandon seem far less offensive in context; perhaps he’s also improved a bit. (Naaah.) While nowhere near a desert island disc, Outland is a reasonable current example of rough’n’ready semi-political rock by a sincere, if limited, individual. (The UK CD and cassette add five bonus tracks, most of them alternate mixes of LP tracks.)
Brandon maintains his never-say-die romantic punk ethos on The Price You Pay, an album that brought him a UK Top 40 with “So in Love with You.” (The CD adds two.) Radio Radio — a 3-inch CD produced by Alan Shacklock and packaged in a black matte tin — consists of the titular album track and three soundalike B-sides.
Following his departure from SOD, bassist Stan Stammers formed Crazy Pink Revolvers.