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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… All About Eve, Ultraviolet. March 1, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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The first time I heard All About Eve, it was the neo-hippy Flowers in Our Hair sometime around 1987 or so. I really enjoyed the track, even if I sort of hoped it was tongue in cheek. There was something about it’s 1970s schtick which was great. Of course their affection for paisley at that particular point in time saw them sliding into the orbit of Planet Goth, something that they never quite shook, and perhaps never quite wanted to. There was the famous friendship with the Mission, the fact that main-woman Julianne Regan had been herself a member of the sometimes excellent Gene Loves Jezebel, and then the small matter that many in what was to prove a revolving line-up served time either before or after their stint with AAE with a range of other bands, guitarist Tim Brichenco went on to the so-so fourth incarnation of the Sisters of Mercy.

But really their sound was goth rock pop, with the dial set firmly towards the latter two positions.

Their first album was fine, but nothing on it was as good as Flowers In Your Hair, though the submerged gothisms made tracks like Every Angel and In The Meadow which has a great last three minutes, pretty compelling. Album number two I never liked, far too twee for my tastes – which for someone who will happily listen to The Field Mice or Fantastic Something is no small feat. Later in the day, album three it was, along came Marty Willson Piper of the Church, or late of the Church at that point. There was a shift to not so much a harder sound, but a different one with the arrival of a more overtly psychedelic element. I’m conflicted about that album, my instinctive Churchophilia crashes straight into a sense that the sound was a bit too ‘sweet’ to the detriment of the overall output.

And so we come to album number four, Ultraviolet, which with the same cast – so to speak – took a decidedly different direction. It’s not so much that any residual goth element was gone, but it had morphed into something chillier, think a less dance inflected Curve, think a less mannered Cranes, all phased guitars and cool and detached vocals.

It’s an odd mix, indeed it’s almost as if it is an attempt at shoegaze by someone who had heard it describe but never actually heard it or who decided to produce it using traditional, or mostly traditional guitar effects (various pedals, phased guitar etc) rather than more (then) contemporary means. And yet because of that traditionalism – rather than post-My Bloody Valentine sonic experimentation, it sounds distinctly different to a lot of shoegaze while sharing reference points.

And it’s oddly compelling, a sort of cross between neo-psychedelia and shoegaze – perhaps most overtly on I Don’t Know which has a fantastic combination of sounds, with the guitars leaning on the former and the vocals and overall ambience drawn from the latter. And it works. Regan’s vocals are treated and double tracked in places, giving them an icy hauteur and the lyrical concerns (mostly) appear to be more abstracted than before.

The most straightforward tracks, like Things He Told Her, move along quite speedily, descending guitar lines, melodic choruses with Regan’s voice moving from whispered to declamatory. And there in the background are neatly twisting psychedelic guitar lines and Hawkwind like synth effects just to ensure we’re in no doubt as to where this music is positioned.

It didn’t work commercially and the band subsequently split, though entertainingly I see that the copy of the album on CD can be purchased second-hand for absurdly high prices on Amazon, but it’s an interesting testament to Regan’s personality that there appears to have been no acrimony, and almost all the group remained involved in her next venture, an outfit called mice which was a little too in debt to then contemporary Britpop influences, although as ever Regan’s vocals were great. She continues to work to this day and by the by, a few years back she was involved in a benefit album for Tim Smith of the remarkable Cardiacs (and there’s a connection there because a number of ex-Cardiacs members worked with her in mice).

But I still think Ultraviolet with it’s curiously dark take on shoegaze is one of her (and AAE’s) finest moments.

Things He Told Her

Phased

Outshine the Sun

Freeze

Infrared

Some Finer Day

Blndfolded Visionary

Yesterday Goodbye

I Don’t Know (from 26 minutes in)

Flowers in Our Hair (Extended Version) (from their first album, well actually an early EP IIRC)

In The Meadow (from their first album)

Comments»

1. EamonnCork - March 2, 2014

Ah, you can’t mention All About Eve without showing the finest moment in the history of Top of the Pops.

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