Outstanding review for an outstanding box set from Bauhaus – their four studio LPs (two remastered specially) plus a CD of non-LP tracks.
It is a real shame that there is no more unreleased material (or at least very little), but the remasters alone seem to be worth the entry price.
BAUHAUS “5 ALBUMS, Beggars Banquet
When “In The Flat Field” hawked up ‘Double Dare’ as its raw but cultured opener you knew it was all going to be okay and that you were listening to something special, with all the power of a Lancaster bomber coming in, fully loaded, to crash-land. Sentinel-like bass and drums, flinty guitar and deliciously demented vocals. Sluggish, thuggish and unlike anything anyone else was doing. Well, that’s here, as is the whole album, and everything else they did that truly radiated long before the deeply regrettable “Go Away Shite.”
The usual quality from Beggars exists in the swish simplicity of the box format, apparently called ‘clamboxes’ due to any lack of similarity to a clam, with gloss slipcases containing original front covers for each album inside, a pic of each band member on four of the discs, a logo on the fifth, containing the latest re-mastered versions and so we have it all sounding as glorious as possible, and glories there be in abundance.
DISC ONE: In The Flat Field
One of the finest debuts ever, in my crapulous opinion, this starts with the power of ‘Double Dare’, moves into the drama of the huffing, puffing ‘In The Flat Field’ and then spread like gasoline across the polite post-punk scene suddenly igniting during ‘A God In An Alcove’, showing their elegance, cheek and hidden ominous twists.
‘Dive’ had brevity and itchy antics, ‘The Spy In The Cab’ retreated into a small homely cupboard and quivered heroically while the loopiest track, ‘Small Talk Stinks’, was a capricious snatch of harmonious mayhem. ‘St Vitus Dance’ was a seedy brackish mass, ‘Stigmata Martyr’ a stellar noir knuckleduster and ‘Nerves’ a form of protracted, spindly bliss.
It seems odd hearing an album on CD which is short! And so brilliant.
DISC TWO: Mask
I loved “Mask”, which I know struck some people as comparatively undemanding, but it’s stuffed full of greatness, from the measured dyspeptic romp of ‘Hair Of The Dog’, the feral flamboyance of ‘The Passion Of Lovers’ to the chintzy, chiming rickety nonchalant weirdness of ‘Of Lillies And Remains.’
‘Dancing’ was a saucy, dipping throb, just as the quietly majestic ‘Hollow Hills’ went in a totally different direction, literally subterranean. ‘Kick In The Eye 2’ flexed damaged sinews, ‘In Fear Of Fear’ was a skimpy shadow, ‘Muscle In Plastic’ droll fun, ‘The Man With The X-Ray Eyes’ engaging threshing and ‘Mask’ itself a portly spot of angst.
This was no difficult second album but a sturdy collection of songs highlighting how their shapes were becoming smoother, but the intensity remained in place.
DISC THREE: The Sky´s Gone Out
Starting with the fizzy spree of ‘Third Uncle’ this was an album of ambition, taking things to the next level. ‘Silent Hedges’ felt like a desolate, sweet follow up to ‘Hollow Hills’ and ached in lost fiery splendour. ‘In The Night’ harks back to their earlier stark threat, with ‘Swing The Heartache’ a seething, succulent morass.
‘Spirit’ was always such a gracious thing, and you won’t be surprised to learn this hasn’t changed. Then we get the three sections of the genteel, thoughtfully insane ‘The Three Shadows’ complete with those gentlemen and their fish, a line which continues to amuse. This section actually stands strangely ahead of its time, as it had more of an elliptical storytelling feel which would start to come in strong during late 90’s Goth. ‘All We Ever Wanted Was Everything’ brings nostalgic semi-nonsense and sentimental sorrows, before the fragrant jumble of ‘Exquisite Corpse’ trots off grandly.
It’s a curious album, which sounds refreshingly modern. I don’t think they did take things anywhere important, but it was important they did things differently, which also continues on the next record.
DISC FOUR: Burning From The Inside
It’s a strong start with the gorgeous sprawl of ‘She´s In Parties’, the blustery, capering ‘Antonin Artaud’ and miniscule, pointless ‘Wasp.’ ‘King Volcano’ finds them quaintly entertaining Queen Elizabeth I in a parallel dimension, Gawd bless the lead-smothered old harpie. ‘Who Killed Mr. Moonlight?’ does that beatnik gloom with great artistry, piano winding through the poetic vocal woes.
‘Slice Of Life’ is truly beautiful, muted and seeping along, acquiring vigour as it goes. ‘Honeymoon Croon’ jabbers madly, with flossy confidence.
‘Kingdom´s Coming’ is strange, loping acoustic, with ‘Burning From The Inside’ almost a bulbous distraction as there’s a great lump chorus obscured by an almost abstract derailed train of derailed thought that flickers and heaves. ‘Hope’ then does the breezy sign off thing, as though Lou Reed was found beneath the mixing desk and their cheery vocals are weird!
DISC FIVE: Singles
Housing most, if not all, non-album single a and b-side tracks this naturally promises to be a mixed bag, with a hole in it, and what a chaotic riot it is.
‘Rosegarden Funeral Of Sores’ is a subtle giant of demented grot, ‘Poison Pen’ a cantankerous cousin if Antsish glee, ‘Telegram Sam’ lustfully teasing, ‘Ziggy Stardust’ faithfully elaborate in its elegance.
‘Dark Entries’ is just special, spectacularly filthy sonic sorcery.
‘Scopes’ is skittish idiocy, ‘The Sainty Assassin’ steamily gnashing, ‘Spirit’ (7″ version) the stew of laid back lotharios, ‘Lagartija Nick’ is nicely sub-St Vitus danciness, ‘Earwax’ whiskery post-dub.
‘Watch That Grandad Go’ is fucking hilarious, frisky cobblers. ‘Third Uncle’ (single edit) flies around nimbly, ‘Terror Couple Kill Colonel’ offers delicate detonations, ‘In Fear Of Dub’ billows wheezily, ‘Kick In The Eye’ (single remix) cavorts drably, as ‘She´s In Parties’ (single edit) swirls with a commendable swell. ‘Crowds’ is pinched, deeply pained and for all the anger oddly moving, ‘Paranoia, Paranoia’ fills up some space I guess, ‘Spirit In The Sky’ is disturbing in a nice way and then we get one last track. Ooh, I wonder what that might be.
‘Bela Lugosi´s Dead’ is apparently a Tomb Raider mix. I have no idea what that means but it’s good that it’s here because no singles collection could be complete without this towering entity. The dreamlike drums, the bulging bass, insidious swarming guitar and spectacular spectral vocals. Perfect.
They were on the best bands this country ever saw, and this collection is a testament to their odd ideas, their distinct character, their bitter softness, their luxurious attack. PLEASE SHARE this review around so people know this awesome collection exists because you can currently pick this up for just £15.29 (post free) on Amazon, a sure sign the world has gone mad.