Sad Lovers And Giants - Feeding The Flame
I have to confess, on hearing the band originated in Watford, it did not fill me with anticipation. Watford, for those who don't know, is a rather soulless commuter town on the outskirts of London which over the years has become the butt of various jokes. The Watford Gap motorway service station (not actually anywhere near Watford but never mind) is a by-word for crap; their football team is near enough extinct; to we southerners, Watford is where the north begins. Indeed, Watford's main musical claim to fame is that Reg Dwight (aka Elton John) lived there for a while.
The album was originally issued in 1983 but Cherry Red have taken the bold step of re-releasing it on CD, with a few extra tracks. "Imagination", "Cow Boys", "3 Lines", and "Close to the Sea" have been added while the version of "Man of Straw" was that contained on the EP of the same name and not the original album version, a curious change the reason for which is not given.
Feeding the Flame opens with "Imagination", as good a start as any. With the trademark post-punk twin rhythm guitars, this sets the bands stall out clearly as part of their era. The second track "Cow Boys", takes the album on from there with a sound which would be reminiscent of many north English bands of the early eighties, and brings the inevitable, but in my view somewhat misplaced, comparisons with the Chameleons. Yet while the album is clearly from the post-punk stable, the sounds on it are diverse, as demonstrated by the opening track from the original album, "Big Tracks Little Tracks" which introduces a brass section and a strong bass driven melody which soon becomes characteristic of the sound of the band as a whole. The album's highlight is the wonderfully dreamy "On Another Day", which has a superb guitar line. The second half of the album is, in some ways, less strong. The instrumental, "Burning Beaches" works less well than probably intended, though the album picks up right at the end with "In Flux" which is one of the best tracks on the album.
There will be inevitable comparisons with the Chameleons and the Sound, but it should not be overlooked that the more jagged numbers are more reminiscent of bands like Gang of Four and Joy Division. What stands out is the bass playing, which is both tight and imaginative and in places really carries along a number of the tracks. Having said that, it is not hard to see why this album, and indeed the band as a whole, never made it. Although some of the songs have a much poppier edge than their contemporaries managed to produce, the album lacks anything which would be considered suitable for the mainstream.
Yet when you compare this with what is coming out these days in the guise of the post-punk revival, this stands head and shoulders above younger, less accomplished copyists such as the White Lies. This album is edgy and thoughtful in a fashion which is lacking among later outfits. It never allows you to settle and constantly surprises you with new twists and shifts. If nothing else, Feeding the Flame demonstrates that there was considerable depth out there in early eighties post-punk land. But like almost everything else of its genre at the time, it was never destined to achieve any contemporary success and is left for succeeding generations to identify with its quality.
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