ARRAY(0xabc82ccc)
 
Customer Review

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post punk renegades come out fighting, 17 Jan 2003
This review is from: SUB-STANCE (Audio CD)
As we all know, the road to pop stardom is littered with also-rans and chancers, many who can easily and deservedly be dismissed as 'One-Hit Wonders.'

But fate can also be equally cruel to artists who show true potential and fall by the wayside due to a combination of bad luck, circumstances and - often - a gross lack of faith from the self same record company that initially welcomed the unfortunate band to their collective bosom.

DEPATMENT S sadly fell into this latter category. Those of you out there who can still recall them will no doubt remember their one (actually bloody great) brush with stardom, the punchily atmospheric "Is Vic There?" that hit the Top 30 in April 1981 and brought Top Of The Pops appearances, unstoppable hype and - perhaps inevitably - the band's premature crash and burn barely 12 months later.

Over (crikey) two decades later on, "...Vic" still sounds as potent and smart as ever, led by Mike Herbage's scorching guitar, mysterioso keyboards and Vaughan Toulouse's charismatic baritone. It's as impressive an introduction as any band could wish for, but it's by no means the whole story, as "Sub-Stance" proves, proffering 22 tracks in all; ransacking the band's entire (and unfortunately slim) archive.

The first 12 tracks are DEPARTMENT S's criminally unreleased album (Stiff rejected it, refusing to release the master tapes for less than 50,000, thus causing the band to splinter) and listening to it now you wonder why they invested such little faith in this fine quintet as these songs drip with charisma and distinctiveness. Indeed, while DEPARTMENT S may have been spawned by two disparate movements (Mod and New Romantic respectively), by the time they got to record these songs - with BLONDIE engineer David Tickle at the controls - they were a powerhouse.

For starters, it's hard to see why "...Vic"s follow-up singles failed, as the manic "Going Left Right" and the dark and challenging "I Want" are within hailing distance of similar genius, but there are loads of other fine tunes here: indeed "Ode To Koln," the strident opener "Of All The Lost Followers" and the band's under-exposed secret weapon "Clap Now" are the equal of any of the singles.

Musically, too, DEPARTMENT S seemed to have it cracked. In Mike Herbage they had a ceaselessly powerful and inventive guitarist; in Vaughan Toulouse thay had a nicely arrogant frontman with a great line in acerbic wordplay (check "Clap Now" and the sarcastic, but sinister ego overload of "I Want" and you'll see what I mean) and the meatily effective Tony Lordan/ Stuart Mizon rhythm section had a propensity for bastardised disco beats good enough to challenge Blondie or the Gang Of Four respectively.

The remainder of the collection hardly lets the side down, either. Tracks 13-17 represent DEPT S at their best live, running through the singles, "Clap Now" and the unrecorded "Tell Me About It" with verve, consistency and power to spare. "Tell Me..." is considerably more commercial than most of the band's material, but even when they gave it up to the funk like so many white boy outfits at the time they retained their integrity.

Intriguingly, the final clutch of B-sides and out-takes maintain the standard. OK, the daft cover of T-REX'S "Solid Gold Easy Action" could be happily jettisoned, but the brilliant "She's Expecting You", "Monte Carlo Or Bust" and Toulouse's ironic suicide scenario "Put All The Crosses In The Right Boxes" suggest that DEPARTMENT S - like all great bands - had established their own special identity with their B-sides alone.

Pressure, circumstances and ego tragically curtailed DEPARTMENT S'S obviously enormous potential and the terrible premature death of Vaughan Toulouse from an AIDS-related illness in 1991 places an incredibly sad post-script at the end of the story. Nonetheless, "Sub-Stance" is a more than welcome release that should ensure Toulouse and co's work gains at least real posthumous attention. However belated, respect is unquestionably due here. (9/10)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

Be the first person to comment on this review.

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 


Review Details

Item

4.2 out of 5 stars (6 customer reviews)
5 star:
 (2)
4 star:
 (3)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Reviewer


Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,270,222