The Sound - Jeopardy
For an album which came out in 1980, the album is remarkably far advanced. Although on first listen you can clearly hear elements of Wire, Magazine or the Gang of Four in the Sound, looking forward, you can see where bands like Bloc Party got their impetus from. Yet unlike all those outfits, there was no tentative first album from the Sound. Jeopardy sees a band, fully-formed and ready to go. From the Lion's Mouth took this and made it even more refined.
The first thing which strikes you, right from the opening track, "I Can't Escape Myself", is the force which goes with Adrian Borland's voice. Here is a voice which doesn't require power or volume to get its message across - it is pure emotion and angst right from the start. By the time you get to "Missiles", you realise that Borland is truly singing these songs from a sense of his own persona. He has put everything into the lyrics and it is audible.
Each of the songs on this album stands on its own merit. They fluctuate between moody, atmospheric pieces, to up-tempo rockers. If "I Can't Escape Myself" may seem a little tentative, this is just the Sound's way of edging you into the album before they hit you with everything they have. The songs cover themes as diverse as lack of faith ("Jeopardy"), breaking down of communication ("Words Fail Me") and anxiety and depression ("Hour of Need"). And if you haven't got it by now, then you should have, for Adrian Borland was another depressive introspective personality in the mold of Ian Curtis. Borland himself committed suicide in 1999.
Yet, like their slightly later contemporaries, the Chameleons, the Sound infused their music with the occasional quasi-political reference, apparent on tracks like "Heartland" and "Missiles". And yet, while these tracks may be said to focus on the externalities of what is wrong (in the sense that the tracks mentioned in the previous paragraph focus on the internalities of the same), they are still delivered with emotion and rawness, as Borland's almost futile repetition of "Who the hell made those missiles" on the track of that name demonstrates. Even the sinister errie quality of tracks like "Unwritten Law", while sung in a quieter voice, still carry that strength.
By contrast, the music is sparse and to the point. The guitar frequently revolves around a sequence of two or three notes before sliding into a provider of textured rhythm. The depth and atmosphere is provided by the synthesiser, while the drums and bass establish a solid foundation on which the rest of the band build their edifice. The result is stark, often jagged, but never atonal or fragmented. While the Gang of Four may have set your teeth on edge, and Joy Division occasionally falter due to the limitations of the competence of the band members, the Sound do neither.
What is sad about all this is that it is over thirty years since Jeopardy was released and a dozen after Borland's death. It has taken this long for the Sound to begin to be recognised as a truly innovative and creative band. Perhaps the most overlooked of all overlooked post-punk bands, the Sound never got anywhere near the commercial accaim of bands like the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen, or achieve the cult status of the Chameleons or Fischer-Z. Quite why that should have bene is beyond me for in Jeopardy the Sound have made a fine debut album, one which should have established their reputation had the world been a kinder, fairer place.
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