Review Summary: The Eighties continue their war on Jethro Tull, and, surprisingly, lose the second battle.
One can easily draw parallels between the opening notes of A
, played by a futuristic synthesizer, and the first gunshot that begins a long, costly war. From the moment that these notes were played, Jethro Tull was attacked by a powerful, indomitable adversary: the 1980’s. After spending the seventies playing blues, progressive rock, and even folk, the band stepped into the new decade, and found themselves immersed in a new world of advanced technology. Fascinated by the new music trends of the time, Anderson began to play around with synths and electronic instruments. Two years after the release of A
, the band released Broadsword And The Beast
, which mixed this more electronic approach with the band’s folky aesthetic. Surprisingly, this blend of styles worked rather well, and one can safely say that Jethro Tull won their second battle with the 1980’s, even though this victory didn’t come with ease.
Anderson’s arsenal is now larger than before, with vocoders and synthesizers joining the conventional flute and guitar. And yet, beneath these modernistic influences, a majority of the album really consists of folk tunes, not dissimilar to those found on Songs From The Wood
and Heavy Horses
, albeit injected with contemporary touches. No matter how well the computer-altered vocals of Clasp
and the synths in the title track try to conceal it, once stripped of the eighties bombast and pomp, the actual melodies really do resemble what the band’s been writing for the past few years.
In truth, the electronic touches are usually quite modest, and, with the exception of the excruciating Watching Me Never You
, never become particularly obtrusive; indeed, they frequently end up improving the songs. One must admit that the heroic, adventurous title track, for example, wouldn’t even be half as interesting or stirring without the valiant, trumpet-like keyboards.
The synths themselves, while arguably not very much more than a cheap gimmick, don’t end up damaging the album, or at least don’t end up damaging the album very much. Rather, the eighties attitude
is what harms Broadsword And The Beast
. The incessant chants of BEASTIE!
on the track of the same name almost entirely ruin the otherwise-delightful song, and Watching Me Watching You
has, from the pointless chants of STAIRS!
to the trite, James Bond-inspired lyrics, not an ounce of either originality or quality. Likewise, the hackneyed piano accompaniment makes portions of the warm, sympathetic Slow Marching Band
seem like a generic eighty’s ballad (a shame really, as this is one of the prettier tracks).
Still, Broadsword And The Beast
contains plenty of strong material, and tunes such as the gentle, loving Pussy Willow
and the bouncy, folky Clasp
should find their way into the libraries of any fans of the band. The album is usually entertaining, and Anderson's experiments with electronic elements end up being mainly successful. The band would continue further down the road into synth-pop, but never would they do it again with this success. Soon, the band would lose significance and become a shadow of their past self, and Broadsword And The Beast
shows a thriving, prosperous band about to descend into mediocrity. As they say, you may have won the battle, but not the war.
Fallen On Hard Times
Postscript: Once again, I would recommend the remastered version. It contains eight additional songs and significantly increases the run time. The first three songs, Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow
, and Mayhem, Maybe
, are as good as anything from the original album, and I really can’t see why drivel such as Watching Me Watching You
was chosen over these pleasant tunes. The rest of the bonus material is not particularly interesting, but these three songs definitely justify a purchase.
The remaster earns an impressive 3.7/5.
Remastered Edition Recommended Songs
Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow
Fallen On Hard Times