Sad Lovers & Giants - Epic Garden Music review

album cover for Sad Lovers & Giants - Epic Garden Music review
Article Date: 03-05-2011
Article Text: It is refreshing to see that Cherry Red have re-released this album, for so long out of print and virtually unobtainable. As is often the case with reissues, the album has been expanded to include extra tracks  in this case the b-sides to their singles. Like a lot of albums of its era, it never made the radar screen at the time of its release and faded into obscurity. However, with the passage of time, many of these albums, and I can include "Fiction Tales" by Modern Eon and "Dancing to restore an Eclipsed Moon" by the Red Temple Spirits in this, neither of which has (yet) been re-released, have begun to be appreciated for the little diamonds they are.

Contemporaries of bands such as the Cure, the Chameleons and the Sound, Sad Lovers and Giants debut album was the culmination of some time spent searching for the right sound. Based around arpeggiated guitar melodies, the sound combined extended synthesiser notes with the occasional burst of saxophone, an instrument unusual in post punk  I can only think of the Psychedelic Furs who used a saxophone to such an extent. Like other post punk bands, the result was a combination of dreaminess and moodiness with long passages without vocals, all underpinned by a solid rhythm section and frequently a powerful and distinctive bass line.

The arrangement of the tracks on the album appears to be a deliberate attempt to portray the development of the band up to and including their debut album release. The additional bonus tracks are located at the start, almost in chronological order. This has the slightly disconcerting result that "Imagination" kicks off the band's two album releases in their heyday, although the version on "Feeding the Flame" is slightly different and longer. Nonetheless, "Imagination" has always been one of the band's strongest tracks so this is no bad thing in itself. 

Generally speaking, the bonus tracks are as strong as the rest of the album  the only exception being "When I See You" which is an upbeat love-song and seems rather out of place with the largely miserablist collection of material elsewhere on the album. "Echoplay", the original opener, is a strong and catchy rock song  probably the most foot-tappable song on the album. Other tracks such as "Tightrope Touch", "Lope" and "Clocktower Lodge" are, in their own distinctive ways, worthy of several listens. The album ends with the fine "Far from the Sea" which almost seems to portend much more in the bands second album, almost as if it were a cliffhanger ending of some soap opera designed to ensure that you tune in to next week's episode to see how it all turned out. 

The most singular thing which struck me about this album was how fresh and contemporary it sounded. Hard indeed to believe that this was recorded twenty eight years ago! Such freshness may have contributed to the decision to reissue it. However, for any lover of post-punk of the early- to mid-eighties, this is something which will be both familiar and new at the same time. It has many of the qualities of other bands of the ear, with a distinctiveness all its own. 

However, all is not perfect with this album. There are a few problems. The first is that, unlike say the Chameleons or the Cure, the band often struggled to find a decent melody. This, coupled with lyrics which are not that great, combine to leave too many of the songs in a kind of limbo, an area where promises are unfulfilled. "Epic Garden Music" is not as good as "Feeding the Flame" although many of the things which made that latter album so special are present here. Definitely worth getting, but you may enjoy "Feeding the Flame" somewhat more.
Article Copyright: Charles Martel

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