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Friday, January 24, 2014

Bauhaus: Swing The Heartache - The BBC Sessions

BAUHAUS: SWING THE HEARTACHE: THE BBC SESSIONS (1980-1983/1989)

1) God In An Alcove; 2) Telegram Sam; 3) Double Dare; 4) The Spy In The Cab; 5) In The Flat Field; 6) St. Vitus Dance; 7) In Fear Of Fear; 8) Poison Pen; 9) Party Of The First Part; 10) Departure; 11) The Three Shadows, Pt. 2; 12) Silent Hedges; 13) Swing The Heartache; 14) Third Uncle; 15) Ziggy Stardust; 16) Terror Couple Kill Colonel; 17) Night Time; 18) She's In Parties.

As a minor bonus to all the faithful fans, Bauhaus were honored by this archival release from the BBC — originally issued as early as 1989, when this tradition was still relatively fresh and the officially released BBC recordings were still regarded as a gap-filling remedy for those artists whose live catalog left a lot to be desired. These particular sessions, mostly recorded for John Peel's and David Jensen's broadcasts, cover the chronological entirety of Bauhaus' classic career, from 1980 to 1983, and work very well as a basic introduction to the band's work and image — pleasantly concentrating on whatever was relevant for the band at the time of performing rather than just on reproducing the commercial hits.

This means that the package may not pretend at being a «comprehensive anthology» (how could one have a comprehensive anthology without ʽBela Lugosi's Deadʼ or ʽHollow Hillsʼ?), but it provides several impressive snapshots of particular moments in time — for instance, on a 1982 session they play the second (waltzing) part of ʽThe Three Shadowsʼ and the non-album oddity ʽParty Of The First Partʼ, where parts of the dialog soundtrack to the cartoon ʽThe Devil And Daniel Mouseʼ (it­self a send-up of The Devil And Daniel Webster) are backed by an eerie lounge jazz exercise, a fairly atypical achievement for Bauhaus, but with an effect that is just as comical­ly creepy as their straightforward «Goth» business.

One does, however, have to be careful, because a few of these tracks turn out to be exactly the same as already present on studio albums — ʽThird Uncleʼ, for instance, is not a real live take, as might have been hoped, but the exact studio mix of the song as first heard on The Sky's Gone Out, and the same applies to ʽZiggy Stardustʼ (the single version). A bit of a cheat there, but at least it is compensated for by featuring the only live version of ʽSwing The Heartacheʼ in official existence — no wonder they named the entire album after it, as it is clearly the major highlight of the package, with Ash doing his best to retain and, if possible, enhance the industrial sonic night­mare of the original.

Other minor surprises include ʽPoison Penʼ, a muscular dark funk workout almost completely de­pendent on bass/drum interplay as Haskins and David J box each other to death in a sweaty three-minute match; and a cover of the old garage classic ʽNight Timeʼ by The Strangeloves — neither suited too well for Bauhaus' usual image nor giving them an adequate opportunity to change it, but raising the bar on unpredictability, which is always good for any band locked into a stereo­type. As for the predictable inclusions, everything is played with the expected verve, but nothing is superior to the studio versions, for reasons already discussed previously. But at least the sound quality is better than on the «regular» live albums.

Serious fans will need to own this if only for all the «rarities» — casual ones might want to give it an uninterrupted spin or two if only to marvel at how a band, over such a short period, can sound in so many different ways, yet always remain the same at heart. We have basic rock'n'roll, funk, lounge jazz, glam rock, post-punk, industrial, even some acoustic waltzing and old-time garage, but all of these things are given the Murphy/Ash treatment of implosive vocals and ex­plosive guitars, and it neutralizes the whole package into three years from the life of an obnoxious, but impossibly smart and perversely attractive Evil Clown. The very fact that the album offers such a perspective (well, at least I've been able to formulate it somehow) leaves me no choice but to give it a thumbs up, skeptical as I usually am about all those BBC packages. But then again, the magic may not work tomorrow. It's a quantum kind of thing.

Check "Swing The Heartache" (CD) on Amazon

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