Youth & Ben Watkins

  • Youth & Ben Watkins
  • The Empty Quarter (UK Illuminated) 1984 
  • Brilliant
  • Kiss the Lips of Life (Atlantic) 1986 
  • Blue Pearl
  • Blue Pearl (Big Life/PolyGram) 1990 

Three years after opting out of Killing Joke, dreadlocked bassist Youth teamed up with former Hitmen vocalist Ben Watkins (now also versed in keyboards, drums and guitar) to record The Empty Quarter, the soundtrack to a play. Forceful and musically intelligent, with layers of disembodied sound lunging and pulsing in and out, it’s a striking collection of dramatic, largely electronic instrumentals that bear some of Killing Joke’s fury, mixed with subtlety and artsiness. Surprising.

Equally unexpected is the sound of the trio Youth subsequently formed with vocalist June Montana (ex-Dream Academy backing singer) and guitarist/keyboardist Jim Cauty (who played with Zodiac Mindwarp and was a leading album/poster designer in the ’70s). The Stock-Aitken-Waterman team produced the dismal Kiss the Lips of Life, revealing the cynical Brilliant to be into high-tech dance-rock and neo-soul that could just as easily be by the Thompson Twins, Swing Out Sister or Bananarama. And what this bunch does to James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is sad.

After Cauty had gone on to fame and fortune as Bill Drummond’s partner in KLF, Youth teamed up with unpleasantly deep-voiced American singer Durga McBroom, and produced, played on and programmed Blue Pearl, a muscular but mediocre dance record.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Killing Joke, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction