Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Sound - Thunder Up

Thunder Up (1987) ***1/2

Perhaps the most tragically ignored swansong in history, and I mean ignored - the AllMusicGuide doesn't even warrant this a review, and good luck finding many other reviews round the net, dear readers (so aren't you lucky that I'm here with ears).  The tragedy is that this by no means sounds like a typical swansong:  the band does not sound weary or self-consciously elegiac, and certainly do not seem to be running dry at the well of ideas, enthusiasm, and inspiration.  It's simply a startingly abrupt end to a brilliant career - "Huh?  You mean they didn't put out any more records?" - as if a band were rudely cut off right in the middle of their prime.  The natural inference is that the band called it quits for that simple reason:  they were ignored.  Not because they felt they'd run out of steam and had nothing more to say.  But because the world just didn't seem interested in what they had to say.

Ironically, this is the most polished and accessible mainstream pop album the Sound ever released.  There's very little that a casual MTV viewer of the period would not have found to his or her liking, at least in regards to the more upbeat, poppy singles such as "Hand of Love," "Iron Years," and "Prove Me Wrong," the latter a clear highlight with its upbeat lyrical gambit.  Fast rockers (actually closer to hyper-tempoed pop than rock) like the opener, "Acceleration Group," and the aptly titled "Kinetic," keep the pace varied, along with the sole downbeat number on the first side, the vaguely reggae-tinged, "Barria Alta."  The second side, however, returns us to more typically moody and darker-tinged Sound territory, and is naturally more compelling if less pop-accessible.  Only the overwrought "I Give You Pain," which comes off as a failed Doors-y epic (Borland's Morrison-esque bellowing doesn't help) flops; but the epically moody "Shut Up and Shot Down," and "Web of Wicked Ways," more than make for that one misfire.  And the final track, "You've Got a Way," is the album's triumph, a bite of goth-pop that stands as the album's tastiest morsel, with the guitar and piano chiming like chinks of sunlight into Borland's veil of gloom.

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