as the future.
We visited Sheffield last weekend (more about that later) and I was rather annoyed to note that my iPod has finally given up the ghost. The touch screen has been playing up for a long time, it switches off when ever the hell it feels like it, decides not to use apps on a whim and the final kicker, discovered on the journey, the battery, fully charged, has suddenly dropped from about 20 hours use to around 30 mins. It’s a 3rd generation iPod, so I’ve had it a while and it’s been a good a faithful servant. I have a 5th generation on order from Amazon.
But y’know, I actually got a few more years out of it than I expected, so I’m not sad and that’s not the bit about the future ageing quickly. I ramble, you see.
Anyway. The practical upshot of this was that in the car, I had to find other music.
My Blackberry places music although the choice is limited. This is mostly because the software it came with basically chewed up my mac and made everything stall. It had to be removed. so I’m stuck with a very odd selection of music on the phone as I had to switch the transfer off midway to be able to use my mac.
So. Flicking through the music, I found “From the Tea Rooms of Mars….to the Hell-holes of Uranus” by Landscape. I’ve not heard it for years and have very fond memories of it so….go! Lets have a listen.
It’s very much an album of two halves. The slightly cynical jumping-on-the-futurist/new-romantic-bandwagon half and the truly barking parts. The bandwagon jumping parts have aged appallingly – when will people learn that stating decades in your songs is never a good move “Face of the 80’s” just sounds twee and embarrassing now and while it was an attempt to make them selves zeitgeisty and relevant, it doesn’t give them any legs (see Yazoo’s “Goodbye ’70s”).
Tracks like “Computer Person” have a certain naive charm and would fit well alongside “Logic System”, but then there are songs like “European Man” with it’s zeitgeisty references to credit cards and information chips…just do not work 30 years on.
The decision to dress in plastic Jumpsuits and wear eyeliner was not wise, either. Especially for poor Pete Thoms who manages to look embarrassed and uncomfortable in just about every press picture from that era. That fat that he tends to look like a shaved wookie at the best of times doesn’t really help.
The thing is, prior to this album, they’d carved themselves a niche for instrumental Jazz that has aged a lot more gracefully. It genuinely seems as if they were after sales and glommed on to a scene that they simply didn’t belong to.
Kind of sad as they are musically excellent and innovative as the non-try-too-hard tracks are pretty stunning. The error, I think, is that rather than using using the technology to enhance what they did, they used it to bang us all over the head with a vision of the future that was inevitably going to age.
This is brought into sharp focus by tracks like “Einstein a go-go”, “Norman Bates”, The Doll’s House”, “Alpine Tragedy/Sisters”; tracks that are not trying to push the 80’s vision of the future in your face.
“Einstein A Go-Go” was a huge hit and featured the “lyricon” – essentially an electronic oboe that failed to set the world alight. It used modern technology well and – alongside the Simmons drum kit – gave Landscape a unique sound that promised much. “Norman Bates” is one of the few tracks that can make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. it did then, it does now although I prefer the 12″ version as they’ve excised the pointless and unnecessary precis of “Psycho” from it. But the repetition of the only lyric “My Name Is Norman Bates. I’m just a normal guy” is genuinely unsettling. The screaming and the “Mother! Oh my God!” compound it. It baffles me that something so unpleasant and visceral was ever shown on Top Of The Pops. Although the performance was pretty bloody weird consisting of two people attempting to play cymbals using a violin bow and one guy battering the shit out of a piano with a lump hammer. Timeless weirdness.
The Dolls’s House is atonal genius.
But yeah… trying to be the future is probably a bad thing. I help but feel this blog has lost steam. Much like Landscape, really. One album later, they split up. They each been successful as solo artists, writers, producers, journalists, etc. and good on them. I can’t shake the feeling, though, that the future was their end.