Led by singer/songwriter Edward Ball (original co-conspirator in the Television Personalities and numerous related endeavors under such names as O Level, Teenage Filmstars, etc.), these psychedelic poseurs set out to recapture the lightweight pop sounds of swinging England (circa 1967). If you don’t mind that the Times are totally derivative and enjoy the style they lift, the group’s early records are a seamlessly integrated genre heist, superb examples of successful nostalgia.
The low-budget Pop Goes Art! includes the marvelously kitsch “I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape” (a song the group has repeatedly re-recorded) as well as appropriately devised creations like “Biff! Bang! Pow!” and the title track. (Despite its belated German-only release, Go! With the Times was actually recorded in 1980, prior to Pop Goes Art!.)
With tunes like “Goodbye Piccadilly” and “The Chimes of Big Ben,” This Is London offers convincing evidence that the paisley-colored ’60s are back. But the Times aren’t totally unconnected to the present: the pointed lyrics of “Whatever Happened to Thamesbeat” offer lucid insight into the neo-mod revival.
After reading British playwright Joe Orton’s work, Ball wrote a song based on (and titled after) Up Against It, a screenplay commissioned and discarded by the Beatles. That song turned up on the six-song Patrick McGoohan EP, along with a new version of the title track and the “Danger Man Theme.”
The following year, Ball and Tony Conway of Mood Six wrote and attempted to mount a one-act theatrical condensation of Up Against It; in 1985, they co-directed a complete stage production of Orton’s script, incorporating original songs Ball had written for it. Those were then issued as Up Against It, a studio LP of discrete power pop tunes that sound very noticeably like various well-known artists, including the Jam, Beatles and Bowie. As the songs are linked in a narrative logic that wants for an explanatory script, it’s an okay album but not one of the Times’ best. (Other than Ball’s claim that Joseph Papp’s people pinched the idea from him, this project is musically and practically unrelated to the subsequent off-Broadway musical of the same name, scored by Todd Rundgren.)
On the Times’ first Creation LP, Ball is joined by Jowe Head (ex-Swell Map/occasional TVP) and two members of Biff Bang Pow!, including Creation boss Alan McGee. (Ball also plays in that group on occasion.) No longer beholden to any specific era and a lot less innocent-sounding than the group’s old records, Beat Torture is an uneven mixture of light pop, moderate rock and heavy psychedelia. While “Department Store,” the old-fashioned “It Had to Happen” and the strange “How to Start Your Own Country” are notable, too much of the record is halfbaked and disposable.
E for Edward is a Ball solo album in all but name. Although the set-up encourages too many wispy acoustic numbers of little effect, solitude seems to agree with him. Highlights of this simple but skillfully produced LP include the contemporary scene tableau of “Manchester,” the witty T. Rex pisstake of “Catherine Wheel” and the wry cinematic parody of “French Film Blurred.” In keeping with the album’s drug-oriented title, the record closes with “Acid Angel of Ecstasy,” a character study hissed over oscillating tremolo guitar. From there, it was only a drop, trip and a thump to the Love Corporation, a nom-de-dance under which Ball released a 1990 acid-house EP.