The SOUND – ” The Albums ” A Buyers Guide

Posted: July 1, 2022 in CLASSIC ALBUMS, MUSIC
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It’s a body of work way too impressive to just dip into half-heartedly. All five albums and three EP’s provide essential listening. 1981’s “From The Lion’s Mouth” and the following year’s response to their record label, “All Fall Down“, a kind of Kid A of the early 80s, are their absolute best, but all of them are beautiful pieces of work, devoid of deserving attention, but totally essential. There’s a lot of music here. You should go and listen to it yourself, the band were massively under-rated but totally essential, The Sound are one of the most important UK rock bands of the 1980s with an almost perfect back catalogue waiting to tell you its story.

Their real debut was the album “Propaganda” released so late to honour Borland’s tragic death in 1999. It has seeds of classic punk, which they had later encapsulated in “Jeopardy” very juvenile, but at the same time incredibly moving and sincere release, a simple’s man “Joy Division” of sorts, which is a good thing, because unpretentiousness & fragile honesty is what made The Sound so relatable. Suffice to say, it’s indicative of all the post-punk aesthetics – fear of oneself amidst social insensitivity.

Though it doesn’t mean, that Borland hasn’t ever tried something epic and monumental, akin to Ian Curtis universal mindset. Bootleg “The Korova Demos” contained the yet not officially released song “Falling Boy”, showcasing Adrian’s endeavors at goth rock. He tried something similar with “Skeletons” with some of the most stylish song’s bridges and bass lines in all of the post-punk and surprisingly grandiose “The New Dark Age”, especially considering that the album “From The Lion’s Mouth” has fruits of Curtis approach to symbolism: similar to Joy Division’s “Closer” cover art uses ancient imagery, namely “Daniel in the Lions’ den” painting, to underline hope as a main theme of this release.

There’s also a documentary on Borland’s life currently in production.


Jeopardy” is a gloomy, skeletal post-punk album that’s frequently compared to Joy Division, but it’s really so much more than that and it’s too unique to live in Joy Division’s shadow. It’s kind of somewhere between a catchier Joy Division and rawer, punkier Cure, but even that undersells it. One listen to “I Can’t Escape Myself” is all it takes to hear how special The Sound really were. The song is in a constant state of nervous tension — the perfect musical backdrop to the inner demons that inspired the lyrics — and when Adrian finally erupts for the “I-aaaaayeee” on the titular line, it’s like the earth shakes beneath you. The Sound was truly post-punk in that Adrian brought over all that punk energy from The Outsiders, and it really came through when he let himself belt it. (And The Sound were still pretty much a punk band when they first formed, as heard on their three-song debut 1979 EP Physical World and their scrapped 1979 album Propaganda, which was released in 1999.)

As with The Outsiders’ “Close Up“, the best song on Jeopardy is the first song, but it’s full of other great moments, like the punk-ish “Heartland” and “Words Fail Me,” the super catchy “Heyday” (which was released as a single), the glistening title track, the brooding album closer “Desire,” and much more.

Originally recorded by Borland’s previous group The Outsiders and included on The Sound’s debut album “Jeopardy“, “Missiles” was his dramatic highlight was also the showpiece of their live set. The version included on their live album “In The Hot House” shows off what an incendiary live act The Sound were. Borland’s protest about missiles “Who the hell makes those missiles / when you know what they can do?” is accompanied by slashes of post punk guitar doom and a bullet sharp rhythm section. Live, they extended to the track to around the ten minute mark allowing Borland’s impassioned protests against the weapons of destruction to spiral thrillingly out of control.

The album got a perfect score from NME, Sounds, and Melody Maker upon its release, and it’s not hard to hear why it was praised so highly at the time. (It is hard to figure out how it was praised that highly yet feels so obscure today, though.) This was genuinely ground breaking music in 1980, and even today, it sounds refreshing. Especially with yet another post-punk revival happening at the moment, “Jeopardy” feels like an album that could come out right now and win plenty of people over.

From the Lions Mouth

After the well-received “Jeopardy”, The Sound’s label Korova (which was also home to Echo & the Bunnymen, who The Sound also opened for at the time) gave them a bigger budget for their sophomore album, 1981’s “From the Lions Mouth“, and keyboardist Belinda Marshall was replaced by former Cardiacs member Colvin “Max” Mayers. Max brought a fuller, new wavier style to The Sound, which paired with the clearer production resulted in an all-around more accessible album than “Jeopardy“.

The Sound released their second album, ‘From The Lion’s Mouth’, on Korova Records; critical wisdom suggests it should have shot them directly into the sweet spot between the likes of Joy Division & Echo & The Bunnymen as successful British post-punk legends; sadly, the quartet instead took their place alongside touring-mates The Comsat Angels in the category of “Cult favorites

I’m kind of partial to the bare-bones sound of “Jeopardy“, but “From the Lions Mouth” which was once again met with rave reviews is an overall stronger record. There’s no single song as show-stopping as “I Can’t Escape Myself” but it’s a more consistent album with potential hit after potential hit. “Jeopardy” was built to be a cult classic, but “From the Lions Mouth” really sounds like it could’ve made The Sound as big as the Bunnymen, The Cure or even U2.

On opener “Winning,” Adrian rivals Robert Smith at his most desperate, while the driving goth rock of “Skeletons” gave the New Order singles from that same year a run for their money. Those are just two of the many highlights — this album seriously does not let up.

This should’ve been the crossover hit. Urgent, slightly threatening and with the right amount of bombast, U2 – arguably listening pretty closely at the time – should have been sued for their blatant pilferage of it on their 1983 album War. Their track “Two Hearts Beat As One” in particular is the work of Borland in all but name, but it’s without the emotional lyrical poetry of this number – could Bono ever come up with something as hopelessly desolate as “I’ll take my life into my own hands / I’m the one that I will blame / I’m the one who understands” and make it as catchy as this?.

All Fall Down

For their third album, The Sound moved up to Korova’s parent label WEA, and as legend has it, the label gave them an even bigger budget and was really wanting them to make something even more accessible than “From the Lions Mouth” (in the documentary, Duran Duran is frequently brought up as an example of what the label wanted The Sound to sound like). Adrian wasn’t having it, and he took that budget and came out with 1982’s “All Fall Down“, which was apparently a blatant attempt to make something anti-commercial. The label wasn’t happy and they dropped the band, and apparently the album didn’t get such great reviews either, but it really isn’t the total misstep that it’s often made out to be.

It’s darker than From the Lions Mouth and certainly nothing like Duran Duran, but it’s still structured and accessible and just a great gothy post-punk record. Its brooding, opening title track is the weirdest it gets, and if you want to hear The Sound at their gothiest, that’s a great place to start. The rest of the record is classic The Sound, and pretty on par with either of their first two LPs.

Shock Of Daylight

Whilst The Sound may never have matched the commercial success of their peers, the group are frequently hailed as one of the greatest bands of the 1980s and have a cult following to this day.

After the uncommercial sound of their “All Fall Down” album, 1984’s “Shock Of Daylight” was seen by many as a triumphant comeback for the band and a return to form. It includes some of the Sound’s best recordings including the singles “Counting The Days” and “Golden Soldiers“.

Perhaps their best track, and certainly their funkiest. Released on the EP Shock of Daylight, it contains some of Borland’s bleakest lyrics, cleverly masked behind a feiry punk-pop tune, the kind absent mindly hummed by the masses without knowing the kind of artistic despair that gave birth to it (“Looks like an open road / what’s up ahead / with opened arms, I’m frightened too / looks like a new way of life, takes me away from you”). The surging synths and transcendent guitar solo that follows evokes images of a lost soul trying desperately to find a glimmer of light within the oppressive darkness of reality, but ultimately failing.

Probably the most anxious thing they recorded with Borland at his most tormented: “I’ve arrived at the point somewhere in between / the person that I wanted to be and the person I’ve been”. It’s backed with one of the best performances of the band as a whole. The furious pianos and chiming guitars which predate the shoegaze sound by at least five years, are underpinned by some of the greatest rock drumming of all time (Listen to the clanking percussion of Radiohead’s “Reckoner”, then head to this track – there’s severe lineage).

Again, “All Fall Down” is not a misstep, but there was an undeniable feeling that The Sound had something to “come back” from, given WEA dropping them and the lukewarm reviews, and they did just that with 1984’s “Shock of Daylight” EP. It was the tightest, most confident, and most energized that The Sound had ever sounded. It had the punk power of “Jeopardy“, the bigger and more accessible sound of “From the Lions Mouth“, and some of the most immediate songs in the band’s catalogue (“Golden Soldiers,” “Counting the Days”). It’s just a brief six songs, but it’s among the band’s finest work and is as essential as any of their full-lengths. It also set the stage for what would become The Sound’s only real-time live album, 1985’s essential “In the Hothouse“.

The Sound were a fantastic live band from the start; while some gloomy post-punk bands were known for giving the cold shoulder to the audience on stage, The Sound rocked the fuck out. “Regardless of what was happening [in his personal life], he went on stage and became a different person,” said a member of Adrian’s solo band the Citizens in Walking in the Opposite Direction. He battled so many demons and his lyrics could be highly introverted, but on stage he was a magnetic performer who always played to the people in the cheap seats. “In the Hothouse” and videos from the band’s mid ’80s era capture this perfectly.

The Sound – Live in Madrid 1984

1985 also brought a new full-length studio album, “Heads and Hearts“, and unfortunately, this was around the time Adrian’s mental health started to take a big hit. One more album came after that (1987’s “Thunder Up“), and The Sound ended up calling it quits the following year. The last two albums are good, as almost everything Adrian touched was, but you get the sense that the band kind of knew they were falling apart, and the untamed urgency of the earlier records isn’t quite there.

In The Hothouse

Whilst The Sound may never have matched the commercial success of their peers, the group are frequently hailed as one of the greatest bands of the 1980s and have a cult following to this day.

Recorded at the Marquee Club across two August nights in 1985, “In The Hothouse” is the only live album released whilst the band were still active. The set draws on highlights from the group’s back catalogue as well as material from “Heads And Hearts” which had been released a few months earlier.

Pressed on two 140 gram clear vinyl and housed in a deluxe replica gatefold sleeve and printed inner sleeves.

Counting The Days

Formed in south London in 1979, the Sound fronted by singer-songwriter Adrian Borland. Whilst the Sound may never have matched the commercial success of their peers, the group are frequently hailed as one of the greatest bands of the 1980s and have a cult following to this day. Issued in 1986, ‘Counting The Days’ was the sole compilation released during the band’s years together and gathers together tracks from their acclaimed releases “Shock Of Daylight”, “Heads And Hearts” and “In The Hothouse“. The complete collection is now issued on vinyl for the very first time, pressed on two 180g clear vinyl.

Thunder Up

The final testament of the tragically underrated (at least in their own time) The Sound, whose best albums (the first three) would make any admirer of moody-broody Mancunian pop blush with shame for missing out on this band’s dark treasures during their short existence.
Regarded as their masterpiece by several of the band members, “Thunder Up” is the rawest account of Borland’s inner turmoil in terms of lyrical content while also being the band’s most conventional sounding. It is hard to ignore the gauzy, reverb-drenched late 80s overproduction. The Sound really benefited from a more minimalist approach when capturing their unique sense of ennui, a feeling of unrest that never fully boils into rage but simmers at a pitch of melancholic contempt. The most obvious detail that distracts the ears, particularly in terms of production, is the use of pre-set synth sounds.

Thunder Up” was the fifth and final studio album by the post-punk band, released in 1987 on Belgian record label Play It Again Sam.

Two singles were released from the album: “Hand of Love” and “Iron Years”. The album and its subsequent tour precipitated the band’s breakup in early 1988. Like the Sound’s previous records, the album was not commercially successful, but the band largely considered it to be their best work.

Thunder Up” was a favourite among Sound band members. Drummer Michael Dudley named it as one of his favourite Sound albums (along with “Propaganda“), while Graham Bailey called it the band’s “crowning glory”. In a 1988 interview, frontman Adrian Borland said, “Ultimately I find “Thunder Up” the very best album, because it sounds like the band ‘live’ in the studio and, in a way, it actually was”

Back in the 80s, tiny indie rock acts having one off Top 20 hits were a regular occurrence. The likes of The Railway Children, Lotus Eaters, Brilliant and Dream Academy all managed to have genuine crossover hits, only to disappear as quickly as they appeared. These were bands who were quietly going about their business, but once success struck, they were all derailed by record label demand.  “Kinetic” of course wasn’t a hit, but if it was released as a single, then maybe the subsequent future of the band after the failure of the parent album of this track may have panned out differently. It’s shiny, bright and almost optimistic.

Whereas in earlier Sound albums, they always managed to develop evocatively chilly synth sounds to match the specific mood of each song (the best example being the palette used in their existential masterpiece “Silent Air” from The Lion’s Mouth), most of the keyboard tones used here sound like they were shaped in a Casio factory. Of course, it should be noted that this album is a contemporary of late 80’s Cure, a discography replete with ridiculous but effective synthetic horn sections (thinking of “Why Can’t I Be You” in particular). Robert Smith’s manic whimsy somehow makes up for those embarrassing synth pre-sets. But if there is one topic that The Sound is not known for exploring, it is manic whimsy. Borland does not take on different characters or experiment with irony; he can only express his own misery from his own point of view, which is why this band is so great, but it also means that their sound can come of as brittle when drenched with glossy production.

On the 26th of April 1999, Adrian Borland, a man who had spent a significant part of his adult life dealing with manic depression, took the decision to end his own life.

The signs had been there for the best part of two decades, be they behavioural or lyrical. The lyrics Adrian Borland composed for his bands The Outsiders, Second Layer, or with his greatest artistic achievement, the South London 80’s post-punk pop outfit The Sound, were a glimpse into a troubled mind set to music. One of the first lines to “I Can’t Escape Myself”, the opening track on their debut LP “Jeopardy“, lays it out there for all to see: “Left all alone, I’m with the one I most fear / I’m sick and tired of reasoning / Just want to break out, shake off this skin”.


Around the same time as The Sound’s demise, Adrian played guitar (under the pseudonym Joachim Piment) for the experimental rock band Honolulu Mountain Daffodils, he did some production work (including on Felt’s 1989 album Me and a Monkey on the Moon), and then he began his solo career as Adrian Borland & the Citizens with 1989’s “Alexandria“. It marked a fairly major departure from The Sound and went into brighter jangle pop and alternative rock territory, both of which suited Adrian’s song writing style just fine. As ever, when he opened his mouth to sing, you felt it. “Alexandria” is a little more light hearted on the surface than The Sound, but Adrian’s distinct style makes it more than that. It’s joyful on the surface, but haunted at its core. It’s an album that couldn’t have come from anyone else.

Adrian’s solo career continued into the ’90s, first with the even more joyous (and polished) 1992 album “Brittle Heaven“, and then with the more ethereal, dream pop-leaning “Beautiful Ammunition” (1994), the folkier “Cinematic” (1995), and the little-bit-of-everything “5:00 AM” (1997).

It’s all good and all very worth hearing, but perhaps the most stunning album he made in the ’90s was the one that was cut short when he took his own life, “Harmony and Destruction“. He was working on it in 1999 and it found him diving a little deeper into psychedelic rock than he ever really had before, and he had to have known it’d be the last thing he ever did. Apparently he felt like his medication was hindering his performance in the studio and he stopped taking it, despite his bandmates and producer telling him otherwise, and ultimately Adrian decided it was time for him to leave us, before the album was done.

Thankfully, he had done vocals for all 14 songs on the album and his bandmates and producer were able to finish it, and it came out posthumously as “Harmony and Destruction (The Unfinished Journey)” in 2002. From the jammy psychedelia of “Forever From Here” to the melancholic folk of “Startime,” it covers so much musical ground, and it features some of the most powerful material in Adrian’s rich catalogue. The song that’ll really stop you in your tracks, though, is the hidden track, “Death Of A Star.” “How do you feel when a star dies?” Adrian asks in the lyrics, and maybe he wasn’t talking about himself, but it’s hard to hear it any other way.

You can really spend a lifetime digging into Adrian’s work (I can’t even claim to have heard every single thing he’s released, and more stuff keeps coming out — 2019 saw another posthumous release, Lovefield), and once you get sucked into his world, every new thing you hear by him starts to hit immediately. Maybe those mid ’90s solo albums aren’t as essential for casual fans as The Sound’s classic early ’80s material, but once you get deep into his work, you just can’t stop exploring, and his catalogue is almost always rewarding. It’s that voice. As soon as you hear it, even when it’s a song you had never heard before, it feels comfortingly familiar. Adrian was the kind of talent you only get a few times in each generation.

Despite releasing six albums in their lifetime, The Sound remain one of the great unheard bands of the 80s. This goes with the underground territory, of course, but what exactly is the sound of The Sound? There was much in common with Korova label-mates, Echo and the Bunnymen, with Adrian Borland’s vocals falling somewhere between Ian McCulloch and The Comsat Angels’ Steve Fellows. And if you need further comparisons, it’s broadly similar to other early 80s alternative acts like the Teardrop Explodes and Mancunian underground doomsters, The Chameleons.

The Walking in the Opposite Direction documentary features interviews with Adrian’s family members, bandmates, producers, and significant others, and it really does a great job of showing what a fascinating and troubled life Adrian lived. It’s full of fantastic live footage and all kinds of intriguing insight into Adrian’s music and personal life. Interviewees describe some of Adrian’s scariest episodes, but the documentary is full of fond memories as well. It’s clear that the people who were closest to him thought so highly of Adrian as an artist, and that music was truly so important to him. “His music was more important to him than his health,” his father said.

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