Creative tensions are often a powerful source of energy for a band, and The Teardrop Explodes could lay claim to having no shortage of creativity, tension or energy. This had powered them through two classic albums (Kilimanjaro and Wilder), but by the time they recorded the sessions for their third (from what I read) they all hated each other with a passion. In (lead singer) Julian Cope's supremely entertaining autobiography "Head-On", he recounts his side of these sessions: LSD, weed, bizarre games of lobbing bricks at each other and 'scaring' bottles, and this passage concerning the other chief creative force, David Balfe, "'You're ****ing dead, Balfe,' I screamed. I ran to the cupboard under the stairs and grabbed the shotgun." This never happened to Snow Patrol.
The recordings that emerged about 8 years later are sort of David Balfe's side of the story: Cope effectively disowned the recordings, but the space between Balfe's synth-led new romantic tendencies and Cope's head-on manic power-pop shows that there could have been plenty of artistic mileage left in the band, if only they could tolerate each other's existence a bit longer.
There's two basic patterns here: post-punk psychedelic pop, with a Human League kind of 80's feel, peppy and sharp: eg. "You Disappear from View", "Serious Danger" and "The Challenger", but it's more woozy, experimental stuff that pushes to the fore. In "Ouch Monkeys" we're in similar territory to "Great Dominions" - apocalyptic-sounding fireside songs over spacious, atmospheric productions.
Best of all are Cope's delicate ballads - "Not my Only Friend" and "Soft Enough for You" - the latter a particularly effective combination of disorientated lyrics about loss, beautiful melody and an excellent production. Cope's delivery is usually in the mode of 'little boy lost' - if you buy it, he's a magnetic personality. If you don't, I imagine it's a bit precious and annoying. A final curiosity is "Terrorist", a fabulous instrumental vignette - Balfe channeling Eno and even anticipating the ambient music fad of the 90's.
Ignore "Strange House in the Snow" as it's a baffling inclusion: from different sessions entirely and completely out of place here.
This is fascinating document for fans of early 80's music, but fundamentally it's a decent record. If you're a fan of the Teardrops or Cope, add a star - it's entirely worth your time.