What does it sound like?:
The final release in the Cherry Red reissue series of the Be Bop Deluxe studio albums, this is the band’s fifth and last album. Available as a 4cd, 2dvd box set or a more pocket friendly 2cd set. Both sets contain the original stereo mix, a new stereo mix and contemporary bonus tracks. The box set contains a cd of Bill Nelson’s demos for the album, another containing BBC performances, a Peel session and an In Concert performance from Jan 1978, and a dvd with a BBC Sight and Sound In Concert set (all these performances were previously released on the 2013 Be Bop Deluxe at the BBC 1974-1978 set), and a film by Bill Nelson of the band at the album sessions in France, which is readily available on YouTube. The second DVD features a 5.1 surround mix of the album and the bonus single and EP tracks.
What does it all *mean*?
After the band’s previous album, Modern Music, Bill Nelson was feeling restless, wanting to move on from the ‘guitar hero’ tag and open the sound out a little more. He decided to split the band, but of course the band’s management were less than happy with that idea. Bill was eventually persuaded to make one more album with the band and then move on, Drastic Plastic being the result. Having extracted an increased budget from EMI, the band decamped in May 1977 to an old villa in Juan-les-Pins on the Cote d’Azur with producer John Leckie, engineer Haydn Bendall, their families and the Rolling Stones mobile studio.
The songs were clearly a bridge from Be Bop Deluxe to Bill’s next project, Red Noise, which was a huge change in direction. The album opens with Electrical Language, a vaguely Kraftwerk-ish synth led song with a simple one verse lyric, followed by the portentious New Precision. No clear theme runs through the songs, which vary from whimsical piano led Surreal Estate to the sort-of punkish thrash of Love In Flames, bluesy Dangerous Stranger to new wavey Superenigmatix (the only Be Bop song that appeared in the live set on the Red Noise tour in 1979). Some excellent material was recorded but left off the album, not fitting the direction that Bill wanted to move in. This meant that one of his best songs, the ballad Blue As A Jewel, appeared only as the B-side of the Panic In The World single.
Drastic Plastic has always been a favourite album of mine, and I was looking forward to the new mix, done by Stephen W Tayler, as with the previous reissues in this series. It is a rather more radical re-imagining than before. Not merely a move to a clearer, brighter sound, the new mix is a much deeper, fuller sound with the bottom end much further forward. It was something of a shock on first hearing, but having lived with it for a couple of weeks I’ve decided I rather like it. I don’t think I’ll use it exclusively as a replacement for the original mix, but it will certainly get plenty of plays.
Goes well with…
The rest of the Be Bop re-release series. A worthwhile addition to any collection of Bill Nelson’s vast catalogue. The box set is certainly for the absolute completist with deep pockets and a surround sound system, as much of it is available elsewhere. Reader, I bought the 2 disc version.
Might suit people who like…
Oddly enough, Bill Nelson.