Here is a record that had all the makings of a classic: it was essentially the solo project of Colin Lloyd Tucker (The The, The Gadgets, and solo fame), featuring kinetic and sometimes antagonizing post-punk full of guitar stabs and shrieks and Tucker's over-the-top melodrama, released in 1980 in the UK during the height of post-punk's commercial boom. But somehow the album fell by the wayside and was all but forgotten. Perhaps it was released on too small a label (Abstract Records), or maybe there's such a variety of styles on this record that it borders on unfocused, or maybe it just suffered from simple lack of promotion.
Whatever the case for its relative obscurity, I'm happy to make these songs available and reintroduce them. From garagey post-punk to atmospeheric spoken-word-space-jazz to minimal electronics to full-on dance punk, this record has quite a few gems. The two best (and two of the most different) songs are on the B-side. Menial Tasks is a frantic bass-driven danceable post-punk gem that takes it cues from Metal Box-era Public Image Limited and Entertainment-era Gang of Four, and after that song abruptly ends, its stylistic polar opposite begins: Julia, a largely electronic track, with back-and-forth synths and guitars. There is one thing that binds these two songs together, and helps retain some semblance of cohesion: the vocals. I described Tucker as being full of melodrama above, but the truth is that barely scratches the surface. His vocals range from gutteral growls to yelps to emotive squeals and completely change in speed and pacing and pitch often within the space of a single verse, sounding like David Bowie being exorcised.
This single record is a compelling example of the sheer artistic experimentation and musical genius that abounded in the early 80s, taking a huge array of styles and cramming them all into one nice, neat package with slightly mixed but thoroughly enjoyable results.
Plain Characters: Invisible Yearnings LP
1981, Abstract Records
A1 Affair 19.10.80
A3 Not for Resale - No. 2
A4 Zero Zero
A5 Fingerprint City
B2 Menial Tasks
B4 Counting Sheep
B5 The Four Lies