LP
$31.00 USD

Empire was an offshoot of punk legends Generation X, very influential for the '80s Washington D.C. hardcore and UK neo-psychedelic scenes, acting somehow as the missing link between new wave and grunge. Expensive Soundwas originally released in 1981. While Expensive Sound may be better known for the bands it inspired - the neo-psychedia of The Stone Roses and the athletic fretwork of Fugazi - they deserve appreciation on its own merits: one of the finest guitar pop records of the era.

Originally released in 1981, the same year Gary Numan and Soft Cell were raking in big bucks with their noir-flecked brand of retrofuturism, Expensive Sound was out-of-step with the climate of commercial music. Their music was raw, bare, warm - distinct from the glacial, antiseptic pop that would dominate the decade. The album was neither totally forward-looking nor nostalgia embracing.

Instead, Expensive Sound does what great albums tend to: preserves a specific moment in time. There's an arid, unvarnished quality to the recordings - typified by frontman Derwood Andrews's voice and words. He sang with uncommon fragility and in a soft, almost diffident voice. There's little reverb, almost no double tracking, and absolutely no attempt to Americanize his delivery. The subject matter is rendered in a similar, disarmingly plain way. Boredom, depression, unrequited love, and existential dread are treated in equal parts -sans one song about playing the electric guitar (the aptly titled 'Electric Guitar'). While Derwood's lyrics exhibit some of the doom-and-gloom sentiment of post-punk progenitors Joy Division, they are almost Holden Caulfield-esque in their simplicity. Empire's response to adversity is delivered with a shrug and a sigh.

If Andrew's bashful vocals are part of the charm, his expressive guitar playing is the main attraction of "Expensive Sound". As the sole guitarist on the record, he demonstrates a versatility unusual for the band's punk roots - deftly maneuvering between chunky, minimalist riffing (like on 'Hot Seat'), vast swathes of dark noise ('Empire'), and lacerating, tightly coiled leads ('Safety'). While Expensive Sound may be better known for the bands it inspired - the neo-psychedelia of The Stone Roses and the athletic fretwork of Fugazi - they deserve appreciation on its own merits: one of the finest guitar pop records of the era.

Tracklisting

  • Empire
  • Hot Seat
  • Electric Guitar
  • Turn It Round
  • Today
  • Expensive Sound
  • Safety
  • Him Or Me
  • All These Things
  • New Emotion
  • Stand
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