Formed in 1981, Australian band Dead Can Dance is one that saw fascinating artistic progression early on in its existence. Their self-titled debut, though an admittedly great album, lacked the imagination and experimentation displayed in their masterpiece, Within the Realm of a Dying Sun
, which was released only three years later. Spleen and Ideal
sees itself in the center of these two works, serving as a platform for the band’s creative gains and stylistic changes.
Through this progression, Spleen and Ideal
ends up being the band’s transition from gothic music to the darkwave style that would define the rest of their career. Its incorporation of ideas from both styles is perhaps the album’s greatest success, namely in that it provides Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard (the band’s core members and primary songwriters) with room for the experimentation that was previously lacking. Perry’s songs still resemble more conventional post punk, with the dominant bass lines and depressive vocals that the genre is known for, but makes heavy use of horns and strings to fill out the sound. It’s this simple fusion that makes Perry’s compositions brilliant; his heavy reliance on instrumentation lends its hand in creating a unique, engrossing atmosphere. Gerrard reciprocates the same ideas as her partner in these components, but her songs prove that she is more willing to go off the beaten path in that she wholly embraces the group’s new direction. Her songs never feel inaccessible in any way though, as her penchant for experimentation is augmented by sensational vocal performances and a knack for great melodies. Despite obvious differences, the duo’s songs fit well enough to provide for a cohesive listen; nothing ever feels out of place throughout the album.
To think this was a band just getting their feet wet makes Spleen and Ideal
all the more intriguing, as it’s not only a pivotal point for Dead Can Dance but also a fantastic album in its own right. Perry and Gerrard would dive into the more ambitious territory they hinted at, but they would never sound quite like they did here.