Regard 1984 / Angel Air 2015
Caravan romanticism from London lads who put the old-time warmth into a new wave cold.
Gypsy image wasn’t all the rage in the fashion-obsessed early ‘80s, but this lot didn’t care. Paying slight sonic homage to the trends of their day in terms of guitar ring, the quartet tapped into the English rock tradition not only sartorially but also composition-wise, and here’s the evidence. Bent on cynical confections such as the scintillating “(O No,) You’re Not The Same” or the folk-peddling “Junkie For Love” hymn, the band’s debut LP is an almost perfect suite of songs that hold a lot of cinematic danger – augmented now with bonus cuts including the titular rocker which didn’t make it to the album.
Kickstarted by a short invitation of “Enjoy Yourself” and rounded off with an orchestral reprise of the booming “Damage Is Done,” the record gets playful, if threatening, in the riffs and cries of “Mr Wolf” whose mariachi funk is taken to dance in “Django’s Coming,” yet there’s a violin-enhanced spirituality to the singalong “Blind Old Senator,” where Rokko’s yelp and acoustic strum ride Lin Minchin’s twang. But it’s “Barnaby” – propelled with Lushi’s bass and Steve Nichol’s drums and lifted by a string section – that shows the full, symphonic scope of the ensemble’s artful creativity. Bowie an obvious influence, a vague concept lurks behind the scenes, too, while “It Hurts” opens up for emotional flood and other single B-sides, like the slide-caressed “Lovit Go” and the rockabilly of “Rip The Cat,” reveal the band’s ability to let their hair down.
A mixed bag this disc might be but that’s what it takes to make a juggle riveting.