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This review is from: Life's Hard And Then You Die (Audio CD)
I don't often use the phrase "criminally ignored" but I am going to here. Forever dubbed with one hit wonder status (which isn't strictly true) its hard to believe that only a select few ever owned this album for it is, truly, one of the great lost masterpieces of modern music. From the opening bars of "Driving Away From Home" to the otherworldly outro of "Lullaby" (the vinyl albums original closer, this version contains three extra tracks) Life's Hard And Then You Die is one of the greatest albums ever to emerge from Liverpool.
Its Immaterial formed from the dying embers of Eric's stalwarts Yachts (who also contained Henry Priestman of The Christians) and enjoyed an erratic early career on various indie labels. The nearest they got to chart success was with "Gigantic Raft In The Philippines" before shedding several members and ending up as a duo. Somewhere along the way they also jettisoned any notions of having a conventional pop career and ended up on Virgin Records who, tragically, had no idea how to market them. In the image conscious 80's an odd looking duo penning kitchen sink dramas with a musical style that defines the term 'eclectic' must have seemed a daunting prospect to the A&R guys.
For that is the joy of this album. Veering from downbeat social commentary ("The Better Idea") to an Alan Bennett / John Osbourne inspired tale of crushed dreams ("Happy Talk") via trippy folk ("Rope") and Kerouac influenced monologues ("Space", "Driving Away From Home") - the albums second half is a kaleidoscopic mish mash of Latin American, North American and Eastern European flavours all shot through with a stark streak of Scouse observational humour (especially the energetic "Ed's Funky Diner" which deserved so much more when released as a single). The albums closer, the somnambulistic "Lullaby", points the way to the duo's follow up album "Song" which reaches even greater heights and remains tragically unavailable to this day.
Despite its diverse styles the production achieves a consistent sheen that never lets the various styles overwhelm the sound and destroy the consistency. The lyrics are truly astonishing in their ability to make you laugh, cry and dance. The more upbeat singles fared poorly in the charts, mainly I think because divorced from the overall story arc of the album they sounded truculent and quirky. Contained within a carefully sequenced song structure they make perfect sense.
By the time the follow up arrived the commercial failure of Life's Hard weighed heavily on Virgin. The second album received minimal support and sold only to a handful of die hard fans and the band were dropped. A rumoured third album never appeared and Its Immaterial were gone forever. This album is the only surviving commercial release by the band and that in itself is a tragedy. But, lets not get too down here, at least we have this album as a living artefact of Its Immaterials incandescent brilliance. As Dr Tyrell says to Roy Batty in Blade Runner - "the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long". That encapsulates Its Immaterial.
Its mid price. Just buy it.