SUB-STANCE Original recording remastered
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Would it be:
1) One great song and eleven fillers (excluding bonus tracks), or
2) The 9/10 album I was hoping for?
Well, the opening song 'Of All The Lost Followers' sets the mood perfectly with it's menacing opening; this continues with the impressive (slightly goth-sounding) Romany Blood. I Want is great and with Is Vic There completes a top-quality first half.
The second half starts well with the driving Going Left Right but then struggles a bit (Somewhere Between Heaven and Tesco's is the alternative version of the Are You Being Served theme tune!) before getting back on track with Clap Now. The live tracks and b-sides are impressive too, especially Tell Me About It.
So, for me, the result wasn't 1), or 2) for that mattter, but they had a damn good try. (7.5/10)
Big fan? OK, let me qualify that... I was a pimply 13-14yr old living out in the sticks. Getting my hands on a single (a 45rpm single) involved cycling to a town and to local record shop `Discotrak', about 10 miles overall. I bought both Is Vic There? and Going Left Right in this way, so in my book I was a big fan... oh and I read about them in Smash Hits too. I read that they were producing an album called Substance... so I waited... and waited. Nada.
Scroll on 27 years, me surfing the web. What's this, Sub-stance released at last? I'll have that! Click. Download.
So - was the album worth the wait? Is it another of those classic lost albums? That's a difficult one.
My perception of the Dept S was based on two singles, two fab New Wave offerings with lashings of guitar and synth that nestle in with other New Wave stuff of the time - the Vapors, Teardrop Explodes, etc., plus two OK b-sides. It is difficult to say that these songs are representative of the sound of the overall album, cos I don't think they are.
There is, however, one priceless track - I Want - apparently their third single. (They certainly didn't stock that at Discotrak!) Seemingly this single didn't dent the charts in a big way, and it's a crying shame that it didn't cos to me it's fabulous. Better than Is Vic There? Better than Going Left Right. An absolute gem. It's a multi-layered piece that just builds and builds over a menacing bass / guitar line. Great lyrics, great piano, great brass at the end. Proof that a song can be greater than the sum of its parts. Give the producer a cigar.
Other than the three singles (I now know) what else hits the mark?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I already had all of Department-S' UK 7" singles (as well as the French release of "Is Vic There?") and I was upset that I had never been able to get hold of a copy of the... Read morePublished on 12 Aug. 2012 by Mr. N. P. House
The story of the group Department S is really sad. They really had a high potential.....A nice name ,unforgettable and immediate singles (is Vic There, going left right, monte... Read morePublished on 4 Jun. 2011 by as