|The Teardrop Explodes
THE SECRET gig that everyone knew about. A substantial number of students coughed-up the 70-bob askance while dozens of scoop-hungry hacks arrived incognito, murmuring "guest list" and barely concealing their notebooks and biros under their pac-a-macs.
This was part of a series of low-key unadvertised university gigs to test out new material and a three-piece line-up. The big Brunel basketball hall (the gents toilet doubled as a changing room for the sporting fraternity) rang with anticipation as the lights dimmed.
Significantly, perhaps, the (presumably specially prepared) intro music was of a very OMD-ish electro-melodic nature. Tonight, the Teardrop Explodes place their faith in tapes. That Cope fellah first appears attired head to foot in leather. He points an arm to the ceiling, clicks his fingers and then hammers his hand through the air as though bringing a hammer down on an imaginary test-your-strength machine.
The Musicians Union can burn me on the fiery cross but the Teardrop Explodes, with the aid of a solitary tape recorder, were quite phenomenal.
Free from the sometimes shuffling burden of the most recent of the regular line-ups the group now display a grasp of power and tension fused with the kind of pioneering spirit not witnessed since the days of 'Treason'. They execute this new crispness with a carefree, unhindered aplomb.
The handful of older tunes that sprinkle the set seem merely nostalgic glances back to days gone by. Towards the end 'Culture Bunker', closely pursued by 'Great Dominions' highlight that dodgy tendency of the past to inject basically okay songs with well-over-the-limit doses of pomp and ceremony. This tendency has been eradicated.
All of the 'hits' have be ditched. There is no 'Reward' or 'Passionate Friend' or 'Treason'. There is Julian on his own with a 12-string delivering "the song that was gonna be a single but wasn't" followed by 'Read It In Books' which terminated with a curt "that's it".
Typically of the evening though, these once-faves were blown away by a glorious, brass flavoured bounce and hop number… a swift colourful stab of acid-Stax Merseybeat!
Well away from the megabiz hyperbullshit rock show routine, expanding on the lessons learned in the confines of Club Zoo, this band are now ultra-impressive on their own terms.
There are no more lyrics about being "stuck in pickle jars". Julian Cope has tossed tweeness to the wind. Nowadays he's more deserving of a handshake than a pat the head. Teardrop Explodes have grown up.
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