Review Summary: Galvanized by statik..’80-’85 Part V
Even in the overwhelming glut of English post-punkers that had swept over airwaves and clubs in the 80’s, The Sound stood out as an eminent presence. Started by Adrian Borland, right as his maiden band, lean punks The Outsiders dissolved, The Sound carved a cult poise on the scene; a hard-working, highly prolific collective, who deployed their temperament and poetry where it mattered – in their arrangements and bombastic shows. Propaganda
, their unofficial debut, recorded in 1979 and released for the first time in 1999, during their brief and unpretentious return to vogue, is a small combustible collection, standing for an unnoticed first step in Borland’s ascent up the critical ranks of one of post-punk's most noteworthy dignitaries.
’s writing and recording overlapped with the disbandment of The Outsiders, and that conjunction is felt in the record’s wiry nature. Sharp, gaunt and inexhaustibly eager, Propaganda
is more skeletal than The Sound’s proper debut Jeopardy
, let alone the lush body of work that followed, and feels exactly as it should – a young theorist finding his voice.
The time Borland and The Outsiders had spent touring with Iggy Pop and some other garage-built American outfits, just as their split bulked large, is also apparent. Songs like “Deep Breath” and “Cost of Living” kick off on crazed riffing, but where similarly euphoric Jeopardy
cuts like “Heyday” would parse that momentum into synth breaks and brass shrieks, here Borland allows the tunes to stay the punk path, soloing himself blind and letting the songs cruise on nothing else except that electric extravagance. It lends Propaganda
a divisive quality. A tidy part of why The Sound managed to continue recording, despite never breaking from the underground, was due to Borland keeping a keen eye on post-punk’s unfolding and adjusting the band’s aesthetics accordingly. In that sense, Propaganda
clashes with the rest of The Sound’s catalog, particularly with the richly textured, romantically gothic slants of Lion’s Mouth
and beyond. In a mere two years, Borland’s musical ambitions had burgeoned rapidly, and by the time the 80’s came knocking, his arrangements all but abandoned their punk origins in favour of fractured grace.
That’s not to stay that Propaganda
exists in a complete vacuum. Songs like “Missiles,” later to be reworked for Jeopardy
, rhythm-drunk, sax-studded “One More Escape,” and the gorgeously patient, reverb-soaked “Statik” were the earliest signs of the sort of defiantly beatific melancholy that was flourishing in Borland’s mind.
Dissentious or not, it’s hard to deny Propaganda
raw charm. Short, daring and unabashedly fiery, it sticks out its jaw and pushes forth with the kind of insolent, myopic snottiness that always made for great punk.
To those who fell in love with The Sound’s dysphoric exuberance, Propaganda
likely represents little more than a modest beginning, an undercooked blip of etiology. But for this humble reviewer, it stands for something much more – atmosphere and mood that don’t hijack youthful impulsion, but rather prop it up; make it exquisite without snagging its rude heart. Post-punk in its perfect formation.