What does it sound like?:
Theatre of Hate. One of the most Marmity of Marmite bands. Built around the uncompromising figure of Kirk Brandon – and his startling voice – they were a hot live act in the 81/82 post-punk scene. After a run of scorching singles (IMHO) came their solitary studio album in 1982, now the subject of a 3-disc set expanded edition reissue. Full disclosure – this album or a digital stream of it at least, was provided by @bargepole.
The album proper (CD1)
If you’ve heard the track ‘Westworld’ you’ll have a pretty good idea of the TOH sonic palatte: tribal drumming, and a twin-wail attack of sax and Kirk Brandon’s sandpaper-blasting voice. These come at you quick – as in the title track, or slow (Love Is A Ghost). ‘Angular’ guitar and bass are drawn from the templates of post-punk. There really is a lot of sax from John ‘Boy’ Lennard – , so don’t go here if you don’t want that. Apart from tribal drumming (it was not just A Ant of course at the time, Bow Wow Wow, King Kurt, Tenpole Tudor, Tight Fit and many others ) the other key influence appears to be Morricone-esque Wild West soundtracks – you can practically hear the hooves and campfires on instrumental Trail of Tears. The album was perhaps not the best format far for a band who became known for the short blast of a single and incendiary live shows. For example, there’s a lot of sonic horsing around on Freaks that doesn’t need to detain anyone for long. A bit like the recently reviewed Lambchop album, this album is really about the opening and closing epics – the evergreen title track and closer The Klan, in which Brandon summons up his apocalyptic visions in songs big and strong enough to back up all the sturm and drang atmospherics. Also collected on this CD are non-album/single tracks Propaganda and Original Sin – both absolutely essential. The latter is ‘rerecorded’ though presumably not in the way that Drifters or Platters albums are on Spectrum. There’s dub and 7” versions of the title track. the dub versions are not perhaps dub in the way that U-Roy would understand it, rather being versions in which producer Mick Jones hits the reverb and delay effects like a rat in a Pavlovian experiment pressing the food button.
BBC Sessions and Rareties (CD2)
Starts with a bang – John Peel announcing it is his first TOTP in fourteen years and introducing Theatre of Hate as ‘not-Belgian’. There are then two Peel sessions – which cover most of the tracks that appear on Westworld, and ‘alternate mixes’ of four album tracks and Original Sin. I’m hard pressed to hear that much difference, perhaps the vocals are a bit more immediate and the production simpler as In Love Is A Ghost, but there’s no revelations here, and this is definitely one for the completists.
Live In Vienna I982 (CD3)
This recording offers live versions of many of the Westworld album tracks, alongside other TOH tracks such as The Hop, Africa, Americanos (another scorching and Eastworld. The recording is definitely live but the energy the band generated comes over really well, particularly on Westworld itself – perhaps giving credence to the idea that the album was a slight disappointment after the classic singles run and live reputation. Rough at times in terms of quality but gives a sense of their power live. There was of course an ‘official’ live album Who Dares Wins that was the first TOH album.
Overall: pretty much everything you need Theatre of Hate-wise. Add Nero (the full 12”mix – perhaps the ultimate expression of the bonkersness of TOH) and fellow early single Rebel Without A Brain and you’re done. If you’ve only ever heard the title track then I’d recommend the studio album – and digging out a good singles compilation. If you’re a confirmed TOH fan then the live show on this CD is well worth digging out.
What does it all *mean*?
That a band with one studio album to their name get it re-released as a triple CD. Make of that what you will.
Goes well with…
Rage, apocalyptic thoughts, the cold war.
Might suit people who like…
Post-punk, sandpaper sax,