This is a two cd compilation of all the material put out by the original line up of Fashion both as Fashion and Fashion Music between 1978-80 along with outtakes and a live set recorded at RAF Brize Norton. I was mainly familiar with the bands 12" singles as I remember often looking at the sleeves while wasting my lunch hours in The cage records store in the Great Gear Market in the Kings Road in the early 80's, I never bought the singles so just imagined they sounded like the new romantics they were grouped with.
The first disc opens with Steady Eddie Steady that on first hearing surprised me as I was expecting to sound a lot more New Romantic and not have a reggae rock feel to it, as this song about someone contemplating shooting themselves unfolds around the bassline as he tries to stop his hands shaking enough to pull that trigger.
Killing Time has loping beats and almost Gang Of Four style guitars set against the dubby beats and after the breakdown in the middle it goes very dubby with some added vocal and studio effects taking this into some interesting territory.
Citinite has squelchy synth noises then military drumming and some strained vocals from Jon Mulligan, this is weird and awkward sounding with Jon's vocals seeming the missing link between Bryan Ferry and David Sylvian.
Wastelife is far more punky as Luke Skyscraper James almost snotty vocals go on about just how they are Wasting their lives, in among the urgent drumming are stabs of dubby oddness and a good guitar line to skank and pogo to simultaneously. As he sings about lipstick kisses in a way that makes them sound rather menacing.
Silver Blades has a slight fairground feel to this song about ice skating with all manner of weird synths and militant drumming. On Silver Blades A Deeper Cut that would have been the b-side the drums are more to the fore and far more military in style as the space age synths go properly odd.
Sodium Pentathol Negative is a spiky new wave song of anger at someone who wouldn't even tell you the truth after they been shot full of Sodium Pentathol a short sharp shock of a classic.
The Innocent is sort of power pop dub punk with some cool lyrics and an almost sing along backing vocals as they cry out for the innocent.
Red Green & Gold is a cool reworking of the rasta chant into a dub heavy song for rock against racism and hope for a better day where we all get along, this sounds like a King Tubby style production with a good nod or two towards Augustus Pablo.
Fiction Factory is the first of the demo's and has a sci-fi dub feel to the music and vocals that are in the Ruts precinct, the swirling space age synth sounds against the guitar weirdness is great.
Do It In The Dark is a slow skanking tune about all sorts of things that we Do It In The Dark in this country of ours.
The second version of Steady Eddie Steady the 1980 demo version adds all sorts of weird dub effects to it making it sound like Anomy and at one point a very Nico style keyboard part as we hope Steady Eddie doesn't pull that trigger and finds another way through.
Emotional Blackmail has the sound of being recorded through an echo unit, it's dark and dank and extremely cool all at the same time as they try to escape from all the things caused by said Emotional Blackmail.
Bad Move uses several classic reggae percussion instruments and a dreamy synth to mad effect as they tell us about the Bad Move they have witnessed. I love how sparse this sounds while being in hock to the production sound of King Tubby.
Let Go isn't a Heartbreakers cover but a rather slow dubbed out synth pop song. I Don't Take Drugs, I Don't Tell Lies has a knowing wink in it's dub punk way, as the most sober straight edge band on this earth, sound like they wouldn't even drink an extra glass of Lucozade, let alone take anything else stronger before the vocals come in and sound a lot like Serious Drinking.
Next up is We're the Fashion that was recently the opening track on the magnificent Un-Scene Post Punk Birmingham 1978-1982 compilation and sounded great opening that album it sounds perfectly placed here too.
Small People is more angular angry punk with a skanking dub edge to it as they take aim at Small People who would nowadays be keyboard warriors, the more narrow minded among us.
Bike Boys has a twisted beat as they tell us what they think of those Bike Boys and it sounds like it's a violent tale with slowed down dub section to try to calm them down before a drum solo as it gets more and more furious a very curious song.
The Naff All Tango however is new wave dub for straightened times, as we all do the financial dance robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The first cd closes with the 1978 Original version of Killing Time with some nice dubby sounds and those new wave vocals as they try to kill as much time as they can.
The Second cd starts with the 10 songs they played live at RAF Brize Norton on Jan 3 1979. It doesn't say if this was a gig played for the Air force playing in the NAAFI or open to the general public.
The set opens with Steady Eddie Steady and this third version on the album is rawer and seems to make it plainer just how desperate Eddie was in looking for his way out.
Red, Green & Gold is nice an dubby with the percussion becoming sparser and the addition of a harmonica solo that seems to do battle with the ever steady bassline.
Don't Touch Me has a strained feel to the guitar and the vocals are at pains to make sure you don't dare touch them, it breaks down through a short dub section as it morphs into I Don't Take drugs with a good squiggly guitar line and super heavy bass before the a stop start vocals come in to make clear they are the straight folks at the gig, As half the audience obviously scratch their heads at this claim they go straight into Sodium Pentathol Negative as if to prove the claim of how straight laced they are.
Citinite has the synth come to the fore and has a loping feel to it as the drums do some strange things and the vocals get more strained. Killing Time features a long stretched out vocals as they prove they are just up there Killing Time and the slow down ending is cool.
Big John opens with a wobbly synth part and then the lyrics about farming seem to be a juxtaposition against the music, this is nicely odd. Before it morphs into Hanoi Annoys Me that could have been a brave choice to play at an Air Base as it takes aim at the warmongers while the synth goes all weird over the guitar so the lyrics having a go at the fascist may have not been clearly heard by any airmen in the audience especially as they have a go at the army, before it goes straight into The Innocent that has an important message about the victims of all sorts of violence and the other puppets of the state.
Die In The West is new wave dub rock pointing out that if your in the west your halfway to heaven, this gets quite urgent in places and the militant drumming works perfectly. Symiane is a slow skanking dub wave tune about a girl he simply can't get out of his head no matter what he does.
They close the live set with Bike Boys that's about the fastest paced song of the set until the dub section of course, but this is played with a grin on it's face as they sound like they are having fun even while singing about domestic violence. This speeds back up for the conclusion and some thanks to the audience.
Not sure if it was an encore or just out of sequence but the last live tune is Wastelife and although in places it sounds a bit off the way the new wave punk mixes with the dubby elements works to good effect.
The second Cd then ends with two recordings from 1978 a short sharp version of Sodium Pentathol Negative and a heavy heavy dub of Steady Eddie Steady this is the bass bin version to be played at a good blues party.
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