Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eurythmics "In The Garden" (1981)

Songwriters: Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (+ 1 with Roger Pomphrey)
Producer: Conrad Plank
Guest musicians: Marcus Stockhausen, Robert Gorl (of D.A.F.), Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit (of Can), Clem Burke (of Blondie)
Recorded: February - June 1981
Released: October 1981

1. English Summer
2. Belinda
3. Take Me To Your Heart
4. She's Invisible Now
5. Your Time Will Come
6. Caveman Head
7. Never Gonna Cry Again
8. All The Young (People Of Today)
9. Sing Sing
10. Revenge

Alright, I'm not going to kid on that this is an earth-shatteringly brilliant record. But is it worth your time? I think so. Having lost guitarist Pete Coombes, ex-Tourists Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart form Eurythmics and off themselves to Connie Plank's studio in Cologne to record an album that teeters perfectly on the verge between avant-garde experimentalism and New Pop. Maybe they thought they had nothing to lose, but The Tourists did have two Top 10 hits and a Top 30 album behind them. I'd say they were taking a bit of a risk. The outcome of their German sessions was the 1981 Eurythmics debut 'In The Garden' which didn't get much record company support and failed to chart. The single 'Never Gonna Cry Again' just about charted (outside the happenin' 40) and it would take a further two years for the duo to taste proper pop star success again. So, the question is: were the Eurythmics ever any use? I think so. I first became interested in this album having seen the following clip on "Sounds Of The 80s" (back in the mid 90s, I hope you're keeping up)....

It was interesting to me that a band who I thought I knew inside out, and who I found slightly boring, had this interesting history. That they'd collaborated with one of Can - who I knew to be progressive German modernist types - was intriguing. I'm into records that don't necessarily have a catchy chorus as such, but which have an intriguing mood or atmosphere about them. There's something nice and dark about 'Never Gonna Cry Again'. It's completely repetetive, it's got sort of out-of-tune brass instruments on it. That's Holger Czukay wandering into view halfway through the 'Never Gonna Cry Again' performance, like some lost, senile old age pensioner. It's just all a bit wrong, but in a good way. I went and bought 'In The Garden' off the back of it and thought it was quite good actually. Here I was enjoying a record by bloody Brit Awards perennial Annie Lennox! Not a woman who I had a lot of time for during my youth I must say.

Opener 'English Summer' is pleasant enough. Half way through the music drops away and sampled sounds of the city in summertime are heard (echoes of Lovin' Spoonful there) and then the song fades right back up again. I know it's only a little detail but it makes a difference, makes it eerie. 'Belinda' is an uptempo should-have-been-a-hit sort of song. 'Revenge' the album's closer is similar, they've got great drum tracks and slightly funky basslines, but funky in the krautrock sense. Poor old Jaki Liebezeit has his name misspelt throughout the '87 CD issue's inlay, but never mind. Another good one is 'Sing Sing', which for some reason is sung in French. Perhaps it's just part of the cosmopolitan spirit of the times; this is from a period when Simple Minds were releasing similarly krautrocky records called things like "70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall" and "Constantinople Line". Sometimes it's better to leave things untranslated, but no matter - this is a mysterious sort of album anyway. 'Take Me To Your Heart', 'She's Invisible Now' and 'All The Young (People Of The World)' are all slight enough songs, but it's all about mood here. This is an album to buy if you're into Stereolab's later poppier albums, I think. It's full of ancient synths, Farfisa and - sorry to use the cliche again - motorik rhythm. But it's still a pop album. Most odd. Is this Can copping out? Or is the sight of Holger Czukay on national TV something to celebrate? I don't know, but I like the clash of personalities going on here.

I'll post the mp3s... soon alright? No promises here!