This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to: Blue in Heaven September 8, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Blue in Heaven. Perhaps one of the more interesting Irish groups of the early to mid 1980s. Founded in 1982 they lasted just seven years and released only two albums, an EP and a number of singles. Their first, All the Gods Men, was a tinny artifact from the dying embers of post punk with much to recommend it, not least the proto-goth guitars, Martin Hannett’s just so production and singer Shane O’Neill’s voice which didn’t so much sing the songs as wander hither and yon above the instrumentation. And then there were the lyrics themselves which when not moodily enigmatic (for which read indecipherable) appeared to be mostly concerned with sex. I should add in passing that this is yet another Irish group where U2 did something of an (one presumes) unintentional reverse Midas on them, the Edge produced their first demo.
But what instrumentation! Remarkably over-emphatic bass lines two steps removed from Joy Division or ‘Movement’ era New Order underpin the tracks – but heavier, much much heavier (I’d dearly love to know how they achieved that), sheets of guitar sound fade in and out, martial drum beats predominate. What other Irish band of this period was attempting to create such dissonant songs from none more Joy Division track ‘In Your Eyes’ right down to the descending bassline (though a good one and one not used by JD before them) to ‘single’ “Julie Cries”. One has to wonder how much this was Hannett’s doing and how much theirs – and while similar thoughts are raised by many groups he produced the overall effect here was fascinating (also as an aside “Irish Rock” by Mark Prendergast, published all the way back in 1987 suggests there were ‘hiccups’ with Hannett, interesting to know what they were). It was no masterpiece – let’s be clear, but it was different and that was no small thing in the context of Irish music of the period.
Album number two – Explicit Material – with its risible/ highly entertaining cover of the band staring at a blue television screen out of shot, and watching – well who knows what, was actually better in some ways. Their never entirely disguised appreciation of Iggy Pop was allowed near free rein, in a neat inversion of the trajectory JD took. There were a range of fast, rock oriented, tracks like “Tell Me” and “I Just Wanna” which while eschewing the Hannett led atmospherics cohered into a tightly focused set. And the slower paced tracks were equally good though the transition from glacial keyboards to – er – burbling ones as on “Be Your Man” (a track littered with nods to that same Mr. Pop) wasn’t necessarily an improvement. Yes the bass was still there, and the guitars while rockish, not quite metal. O’Neill’s vocals were more audible and direct – though to glean from the lyrics there was some fairly dubious sexual politics on display. But it was somehow a different band in approach, style, aesthetic, albeit it worked surprisingly well. Even thirty odd years later it holds up well when set against a lot of what was popular during the period.
They played numerous gigs (and, discreditably, appeared at Self-Aid), I saw them at least twice and O’Neill was quite the incendiary character on stage but their star seemed to fade in the late 1980s, I don’t recall much news of them after Explicit Material. They released a final valedictory EP and then vanished only to return as the Blue Angels. This latter act released an album (which I’ve never heard, I was out of the country when it came out, so if anyone who has a copy I’d be most appreciative). O’Neill later teamed up with Dave Long of the equally excellent Into Paradise – another group with something of a debt to Joy Division – and produced a single, and genuinely fantastic album under the name Supernaut which is the work of another day in this slot.
All the Gods Men
All You Fear
In Your Eyes
I Just Wanna
Hope To God
Be Your Man