Album Review: Virgins and Philistines by The Colourfield (1985) (Label: Chrysalis Records)

 

Colur

Terry Hall was a cultural icon in the late 70’s to early 80’s. As the front man of The Specials, he helped popularize the 2Tone movement  and replace the ridiculous long hair/flares of 70’s fashion with a crisper look revolving around the clean lines of brands such as Fred Perry and Sta-prest trousers.

Thereafter, his sartorial elegance changed with his next band The Fun Boy Three. This ‘new fashion start’ would have been fine if it was not that his chosen style centred around an oversize jersey that a drunken grandma had obviously knitted, french style baggy pantaloons and Kung Fu Slippers, all of which he wore without any hint of irony as he informed the viewing public, that the lunatics had taken over the asylum in the only real hit single the band released.

It was all a fashion departure too far for the conservative British music public and for a very brief interlude Hall became something of a clown shoe fun figure. As such upon releasing this album with his immediate post-pantaloons band, few were prepared to listen anymore and the album flirted around just outside the top 40.

More recently this lack of critical acclaim has been addressed. This album is possibly one of Hall’s greatest moments from a lyrical perspective with tales of apathetic skepticism about ideals that have been clawed apart by the all too frequent deviants in life (as seen in tracks such as Armchair Theatre and Faint Hearts) and expressing a similar world weariness towards relationships in tracks such as Take and Sorry.

However, for me it is not the lyricism that truly makes this album, it is the delivery. The sound reminds me of sitting in front of my first teacher as a 5/6 year old waiting eagerly for his stories about snaking munching mongooses or fat honey obsessed bears. It did not matter what he said it was just the brilliant way he said it. We absorbed every word either aurally or through atmosphere.

This album has that feel for me. Hall never gets above mid-range in both tempo or notes as he narrates his stories. This ernest approach is accentuated by beautiful acoustic jangling melodies and string arrangements in tracks such the Hammond Song (a cover of The Roches original effort – see below) that never threaten to override the story whilst being a superb addition to the accompanying soundtrack.

Hammond Song

Surprisingly for an album consistently tagged as sophisti-pop or New Wave, it is full of such superbly muted jangle inspired moments. It is not the energetic jangle-pop that we may love the most, but tracks such as Armchair Theatre, Thinking of You (see below) and Yours Sincerely all have a wonderful acoustic strum as an accompaniment and still manage to shine through despite the gloss of the sophisti-pop production.

Thinking of You


Album Credits

Design – T+CP*
Drums – Paul Burgess (tracks: A1 to A3, B1 to B5), Pete De Freitas (tracks: A4, A5)
Engineer [Strawberry Studio] – Chris Jones
Engineer [The Gardens Studio] – Corinne Simcock
Instruments, Voice – Karl Shale, Terry Hall, Toby Lyons
Percussion – Preston Heyman (tracks: A2 to B4)
Photography By – Ashworth*
Producer – Hugh Jones
Written-By – Hall*, Lyons*

 

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