Between Joy Division & The Horrors… Autobahn – The Moral Crossing

Autobahn - The Moral CrossingSomewhere on an A road equidistant between the contemporary gothic pop of The Horrors and the intensity and mood of Joy Division there is a band driving on a journey of love.

There are elements of Tubeway Army, too.  The gothic pop of UK Decay, Bauhaus and Danse Society; and the caged angst and noise of The Birthday Party.  At the wheel is a five-piece band from Leeds called Autobahn.

Their second album, The Moral Crossing, released this month and portrays a band in love with post-industrial Northern landscapes and awash with a post-punk sound of intense power and darkness.

Frontman Craig Johnson says:

“Actually, as a band, we’re more optimists,” explains Johnson. “I don’t find talking about this stuff ‘dark’, but it’s stuff people don’t usually want to talk about—execution, rising from the dead, depression, feeling utterly lost and unsure where to go. To understand the moral crossing, to go one way or the other, and how it can change your life. For me, saying this stuff out loud gives the feeling that there’s a future.”

The album is available on Tough Love Records as a CD, a red vinyl pressing for indie stores, 100 red vinyl pressing with a poster available exclusively through Bandcamp / Tough Love Records and, finally, a 100 grey vinyl pressing only available for their hometown through Leeds record stores.

Following the praise awarded to their debut album, The Moral Crossing sees lead singer and principal songwriter Craig Johnson, guitarists Michael Pedel and Gavin Cobb, bassist Daniel Sleight and drummer Liam Hilton deciding to build their own studio space – on their own terms, all on their own.

“The first album hinted at emotion and feeling, but this record encapsulates that from the offset. The melancholic aspect of our music is often offset by an aggressive dissonance, but to me there’s also a romantic side to what we do, which isn’t always clear because of the 100mph drive of the band. That’s what we are exploring with this new album.” – Craig Johnson

They found a former double-glazing firm, under a disused bridge, in Holbeck (Leeds’ red light district), and despite having no experience of such a job, they undertook this feat. It took a year from ripping out the existing contents to finishing the album – which was then mixed in New York by Ben Greenberg, known for his work with the Sacred Bones label.

On top, Johnson taught himself how to make a record after the studio was built. “I was down there nearly every night,” Johnson recalls. “It was pretty horrible at times, but worth the pain to have control over everything. We’ve had the chance to create the sound we want, at times it’s more melancholic, and romantic.”

Autobahn
Autobahn

Autobahn – The Moral Crossing Track listing:

  1. Prologue
  2. Obituary
  3. Future
  4. The Moral Crossing
  5. Torment
  6. Low/High
  7. Execution/Rise
  8. Creation
  9. Fallen
  10. Vessel

Autobahn UK Dates: 

4-November: O2 – Oxford
5-November: Brudenell Social Club – Leeds
8-November: Louisiana – Bristol
9-November: The Lexington – London
10-November: The Joker – Brighton
11-November: Heartbreakers – Southampton
16-November: The Cookie – Leicester
17-November: Record Junkee – Sheffield
18-November: Undegun – Wrexham
22-November: Broadcast – Glasgow
23-November: Sneaky Pete – Edinburgh
24-November: Ku Bar – Stockton-on-Tees
25-November: The White Hotel – Manchester

Alien Sex Fiend – Classic Albums & BBC Sessions Collection 4CD Box Set

 Alien Sex Fiend - Classic Albums and BBC Sessions Collection 4CD Box Set is released by Cherry Red Records
Alien Sex Fiend - Classic Albums and BBC Sessions Collection

In the early 1980s the New Romantics scene had dissipated. The underground hipsters had moved on.  The fasion had hit the High Streets and the likes of Spandau Ballet and Visage were appearing on Top Of The Pops. What took its place in the underground clubs was a gothic punk scene. The likes of Sex Gang Children, The Specimen and Alien Sex Fiend were making a scene; and the place to be seen was the famous Batcave Club in London, where Nik Wade (AKA Nik Fiend) happened to worked.

Alien Sex Fiend were formed by Nik Wade (Nik Fiend), Christine Wade (Mrs. Fiend), David James (Yaxi Highrizer) and Johnny Freshwater (Johnny Ha-Ha) in 1982 at The Batcave.

The band soon became known in the emerging gothic rock scene for its dark, electronic industrial-leaning sound, heavy samples and loops. They stood out from other bands in that goth punk scene and were ahead of their time in their use of synthesizers, loops and their fusing of industrial sounds with electro beats. They quickly built a loyal fan base from their exciting live performances.

In 1983 they released a cassette (The Lewd, the Mad, the Ugly and Old Nick) produced by Youth (Killing Joke). In the same year, they released the track “R.I.P.” on the Batcave Club compilation, The Batcave: Young Limbs and Numb Hymns. That year they signed to the Cherry Red subsidiary label Anagram, and released their first single, “Ignore the Machine” and the critically acclaimed debut album, Who’s Been Sleeping in My Brain.

The following year, they recorded two John Peel Sessions for the BBC. They managed to outstay the gothic scene and watched their contemporaries fall away before them. But by 1987 they were reduced to a duo as Mr & Mrs Fiend continued to record under the name, even though by now, their most popular days were behind them.

Alien Sex Fiend – New Christian Music
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOKVTJnOj_c

No less than 12 studio albums later, the latest being Death Trip (2010), Nik Wade (Nik Fiend) & Christine Wade (Mrs. Fiend) continue to record and perform live as Alien Sex Fiend.

In February 2015 Cherry Red Records released a 4 CD box set entitled Alien Sex Fiend – Classic Albums and BBC Sessions Collection containing the first 4 albums – Who’s Been Sleeping In my Brain, Acid Bath, Maximum Security and It. The box set also includes single mixes, b-sides, rarities and six previously unreleased John Peel session recordings.

Alien Sex Fiend – I Am A Product
Recorded at the Brixton Fridge in September 1984
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtFSeS0hsc

Alien Sex Fiend – Classic Albums and BBC Sessions Collection Box Set tracklisting:
DISC ONE
WHO’S BEEN SLEEPING IN MY BRAIN?

1. WISH I WOZ A DOG
2. WILD WOMEN
3. I’M NOT MAD
4. NEW CHRISTIAN MUSIC
5. WIGWAM WIPE OUT
6. I’M HER FRANKENSTEIN
7. I AM A PRODUCT
8. IGNORE THE MACHINE
9. LIPS CAN’T GO
10. BLACK RABBIT

BONUS TRACKS
11. UNDER THE THUNDER (IGNORE THE DUB)
12. 30 SECOND COMA
13. RIP (BLUE CRUMB TRUCK)
14. NEW CHRISTIAN MUSIC (SINGLE VERSION)

DISC TWO
ACID BATH

1. IN GOD WE TRUST (IN CARS YOU
2. RUST?)
3. DEAD AND RE-BURIED
4. SHE’S A KILLER
5. HEE-HAW (HERE COME THE BONE
6. PEOPLE)
7. SMOKE MY BONES
8. BREAKDOWN AND CRY (LAY DOWN &
DIE)
9. E.S.T. (TRIP TO THE MOON)
10. ATTACK!!!!!! #2

BONUS TRACKS
10. DEAD AND BURIED
11. ATTACK!!!!!
12. BONESHAKER BABY
13. I AM A PRODUCT (LIVE)

DISC THREE
MAXIMUM SECURITY

1. I’M DOING TIME IN A MAXIMUM SECURITY TWILIGHT HOME
2. MINE’S FULL OF MAGGOTS
3. DO YOU SLEEP
4. IN AND OUT OF MY MIND
5. SPIES
6. FLY IN THE OINTMENT
7. SECONDS TO NOWHERE
8. THE BEAVER DESTROYS FORESTS
9. DO YOU SLEEP (VERSION)
10. DEPRAVITY LANE (THINK I’LL TAKE A TRIP…)

BONUS TRACKS
11. IGNORE THE MACHINE (ELECTRODE MIX)
12. ATTACK!!!!! (LIVE AT THE BBC)
13. DEAD AND BURIED (LIVE AT THE BBC)
14. HEE-HAW (LIVE AT THE BBC)
15. IGNORE THE MACHINE (LIVE AT THE BBC)

DISC FOUR
“IT” THE ALBUM

1. SMELLS LIKE…
2. MANIC DEPRESSION
3. BELIEVE IT OR NOT
4. APRIL SHOWERS / WOP-BOP
5. GET INTO IT
6. LESSON ONE
7. DO IT RIGHT
8. TO BE CONTINUED…

BONUS TRACKS
9. BUGGIN’ ME
10. I WALK THE LINE
11. HERE SHE COMES
12. CAN’T STOP SMOKING
13. IN GOD WE TRUST (LIVE AT THE BBC)
14. E.S.T. (LIVE AT THE BBC)

Alien Sex Fiend – I Walk The Line
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nA7KZF94wk

Alien Sex Fiend – Classic Albums and BBC Sessions Collection 4CD Box Set is released by Cherry Red Records.

The Danse Society – Seduction: The Society Collection

The Danse Society - Seduction: The Society Collection
The Danse Society - Seduction: The Society Collection

In 1982 I went to see three great bands on one night as Theatre Of Hate, UK Decay & The Danse Society came to Gravesend, Woodville Halls.  This was a first for me, going to see a live performance of groups that adorned my record collection; and I can’t think of many gigs over the past 32 years where I have been so excited about seeing all acts on the bill.

The Danse Society were the new kids on the block.  They had released three singles on their own Society Records including the wonderful Woman’s Own; and later that year would release the excellent six track mini album, Seduction. But like many bands from the 1980s they lost something with the transition from cult ‘indie’ band to signing for a major label, Arista, to becoming an over-produced, polished gem.

Seduction – The Society Collection
was originally released in 2001 on Anagram Records & is re-released via Cherry Red Records.  It collects the very best of The Danse Society, except maybe for their sublime cover version of The Rolling Stones’ 2,000 Light Years From Home.  Tracks from the originally three 12” singles and all six from the mini album are here; along with images  of the sleeves from the Society Records period, a complete discography and interesting sleeve notes by Danse Society keyboardist, Lyndon Scarfe, where he recounts how the band lost their way after signing with a major label.

Not having a record player in the house for the past 20 years, it has been more than this since I last heard the original album, and like Lyndon Scarfe in his sleeve notes, wondered what the songs I loved so much as a teenage crimp-haired goth punk would sound like 30 years on. I remember being very disappointed hearing Southern Death Cult many years later and wondered if I would be spoiling some great memories by listening once again to The Danse Society. But as I placed the CD in the player, cranked up the speakers & subwoofer, and pushed play, I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh the music sounded, its powerful production and for one moment my hair was black and spiky and my ripped jeans were tucked into my black motorbike boots. Admittedly, I played safe and skipped to track 5 for a first taster – Woman’s Own. For me, this was one of two songs that perfectly captured everything I loved about The Danse Society.  The energy, the rush, the manic tom tom drum roll and throbbing post-punk funky bass driving the song as Steve Rawlings spoken words chanted like a spellbinding mantra.  This song had, and still does, everything.  One of those classic songs that defies time.

Similarly, the other track I think stood a cut above the rest, both then and now, is Ambition.  This plays out the other main ingredient and success of The Danse Society with its atmospheric use of synthesizer and bass, gradually building a dark mood.  Tension fills the room, as did the dry ice, before the song erupts with distinctive sounding tribal drum rhythms and throbbing bass.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poPKl_VvlPg

The Society Collection pleasantly surprised me.  Songs from this period of The Danse Society do much more than stand the test of time. They sound powerful and surprisingly, considering the heavy use of synth sounds, ageless. In fact, listening to this CD had me wondering just how The Danse Society didn’t go on to become commercially successful along with the likes of Bauhaus and other members of the crimped-hair brigade.

The Danse Society – Seduction: The Society Collection
is released through Cherry Red Records as part of The Goth Collectors Series, which includes the best of Alien Sex Fiend and The Specimen.

The Danse Society performing ‘Ambition’ on BBC’s Riverside (apologies for the poor sound quality)

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pGjCVkXWBU

Stop The World by Ghost Dance – Deluxe Edition

Anne Marie Hurst of Ghost Dance
Anne Marie Hurst of Ghost Dance

In 1985 the two original guitarists, Wayne Hussey & Gary Marx, left The Sisters Of Mercy and formed separate bands.  The Sisters Of Mercy became a vehicle for singer Andrew Eldritch who enjoyed some commercial success.  Wayne Hussey also experienced some commercial success, to a lesser degree, with a similar style of dark and moody goth rock – all dry ice, dark glasses, cowboy hats and tassels. While Gary Marx joined forces with singer Anne Marie Hurst, formerly of goth rockers The Skeletal Family.

Bizarrely, Hurst’s female vocals and Ghost Dance’s lighter goth pop overtones gave them a more commercial radio sound than the Sisters or The Mission.  But unlike their contemporaries, they failed in their quest for Top 40 success.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-uixYvGAMY

In 1989 Ghost Dance released their second album, Stop The World on Chrysalis Records.  Though it was their first studio album, as their debut, Gathering Dust was a compilation of their first three EPs.   Stop The World included the singles ‘Celebrate’ and ‘Down To The Wire’ (which reached the Top 75) but has long been deleted.  So this deluxe edition will be welcomed by forty-somethings as they blow the cobwebs from their memories and indulge in a bit of 1980s goth nostalgia.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uhD4-aJnkQ

Stop The World: Deluxe Edition is a 2 CD 20 track reissue which includes the original album plus a bonus disc of non-album material which includes b-sides, an alternate single version of ‘Celebrate’ and three live tracks.  Anne Marie Hurst was joined by other members in compiling this release, which includes a booklet with rare photos, music paper articles, quotes and memorabilia from the period.

Stop The World: Deluxe Edition by Ghost Dance is released on Cherry Red Records.