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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Andy McCarroll & Moral Support - Zionic Bonds

Name: Andy McCarroll & Moral Support
Album: Zionic Bonds
Year: 1981
Style: Christian/Religious, New Wave, Power Pop
Similar Bands: Clash, Buzzcocks, Elvis Costello, Alarm, Police, 80's sitcom theme, slow English Beat, and a little Bowie
"One Word" Review: New-Christ-Wave
Based Out Of: North Ireland
Label: Pilgrim American Records, The Benson Company
 Zionic Bonds - Cover, Liner, Record
Zionic Bonds - Back, Liner Notes, Record
Zionic Bonds (1981)
  1. Sin 4:10
  2. How The Kids Are Feeling 2:39
  3. To Know You 2:53
  4. Slippin' And Slidin' 3:38
  5. I Am Human 3:53 /
  6. Cyan City 3:44
  7. King Man 2:43
  8. Livin' A Lie 3:54
  9. In Control 4:56
  10. 20th Century 4:41

Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members and Other Bands:
Andy McCarroll - Guitar, Vocals, Sleeve Design
Jimmy Davis - Guitars (The Lids)
William Hilary - Keys
Ian Sloan - Drums
Alan Gillespie - Bass
Kyle Leitch - Manager (Rudi)
Dennis McMeekan - Photography
Andy Kidd - Producer

Unknown-ness: I had never heard of this band. I bought this about 10 years ago, right around the time when I first found the A’s records in a 10 cent box. This one was from a Goodwill in my small hometown. I liked the energy, the color, the random look to the cover. The vibe from the cover seemed like it would be a fun, new wave/power pop group that I might enjoy as much as the A’s. Beyond that, 1981 had good potential as well for a fun record.

Album Review: Unbeknownst to me, it turns out that this is a Christian rock band from Ireland. I liked it a lot the first few times I listened to it, and admittedly, the affection dropped off when I realized there was a message I was against buried down (or not too far down) in the lyrics. I’m so unfamiliar with religion that I did not even get the album name’s reference. But I thought about it a little more, and grew to re-like the album, despite the message. I mean, it was kind of unfair to disregard the music and catchiness, especially since there are other bands I like whose messages I don’t identify with. Moral Support’s songs were pretty good. Apparently, Andy McCarroll had a few folk albums before this, and is still a songwriter over in Ireland. The band was really just called the Moral Support, but his name was attached for the US release. The songs titles were also “godded” up for the second wave of US releases, and on my copy, the titles on the sleeve are original, but the record label has the exaggerated versions.

“Sin” marches out with a drum beat and Bowie-ish vocals. There is keyboard synth and power pop chords. The bridge between the verse and chorus is the best part of the song. The lyrics of the song talk about hating sin. On the surface, it is just another power-pop arena rocking song, but they lyrics deliver the christian message. The end of the song chants 6-6-6 and hate it in combat repetition.
“How The Kids Are Feeling” has a jittery guitar hook that feels over all washed out, but all the energy of the Buzzcocks and Clash. The verse is spoke-sung in a fast paced action, and the chorus layered behind is a ver catchy peretiton of “this is how they feel.” There is also an echoy whistle that mimics the backing chorus melody, and at times it almost sounds like bird calls. The pace of the song starts and stops, but chugs along under long held synth notes buried in the background. The whole song rocks until they have to go and ruin it bring jesus into it in the last 30 seconds. Still a solid song
“To Know You” is a dark Clash / Elvis Costello alley way song. There is a bit of a reggae construction to the guitar playing and backing bass line.
“Slippin' And Slidin'”has a simplified Graham Parker/Squeeze feel to it, perhaps a bit of the Police in the stripped down reggae mixed with power pop. This track has some bright, jangley rhythm guitars, and watery lead guitar. The vocals in the verse feel like they are just falling out and down the melody as they are only partially sung. And in the last 30 seconds, again, they have to go and bring in the
“I Am Human” starts with echoing drums and a droning, chugging guitar. The vocals are turned up, like a more less mechanical Gary Numan. Synth notes are played that don’t follow the melodic structure, but create an atmospheric feel. The chorus rocks out, repeating the extended, US title “I am special, I am human” The synth keys are combined with the rocking guitar, but the vocals never pick up the energy, they let the music do that. The chorus is changed up eventually to say “WE” rather than “I”, and the lead guitar takes an opportunity to solo. The song falls apart in the end, piece by piece, even lyrically, only repeating special and human, and it ends with the guitar continually chugging away.

“Cyan City” is an instrumental that starts with an echoing, jangley power pop version of a Ramones chord structure. Twinkling and sparkling synth effects are peppered over the top, and the melody takes shape like an 80’s sitcom theme song. A variety of more synth effects take their turn over the music, some buzzingly smooth, and some watery and echoy. The song seems to fade out at the end under the weight of all the synth effects.
“King Man” is a jumpy, jittery, quick chord shifting song with Difford/Tillbrook like harmonies, and Buzzcocks like spoken singing. The electric guitar takes the song in a different direction, toward Prog/Metal. The music all fades out except the twinkling synth. Which seems to wind down in a warbling fashion with a slow fade.
“Livin' a Lie” is a straightforward power pop song, with an up-down chord progression. The vocals are very echoy, reminding me of Flock of Seagulls. As the synth is added in the second verse, the song balances on a fine like that feels like they are entering OMD territory once it hits the chorus. But it is electric guitars that take the song out to the end with a fade.
“In Control” has a slow, relaxed island/reggae English Beat tempo to it. On the record, this song has the word god added to the front of it, as the lyrics are “Do you believe/that god is in control.” About 3:10 the song brings in a political aspect to the song, employing static, and radio/tv transitions that make the listener question whether this god-person is actually in control of the tense world-wide situations with news broadcasts. The band then pushes it’s point to not worry, but their god will take care of things.
“20th Century” ends the album with a ramped up electronic surge at its start. That fades away, and a single chugging guitar plays under the vocals, like a Ted Leo story-song. The tempo changes to side-to-side swaying, slightly Ziggy Stardust style of song, letting the listener know that there’s a god in this 20th century. The song follows standard form with verse-chorus-verse-chorus and then features an instrumental breakdown with soaring guitars. Just when they could come back to the chorus, the song takes the instrumental route and finishes the song with electric guitars playing the melody.

Stand-Out Track: How The Kids Are Feeling


1 comment:

  1. It sounded as though you are pretty fixed on the album minus the Christian overtones which I particularly liked. I bought this album in the early 80's and still have it and found it in the discount section of a record store for a couple of dollars and gambled based on the cover and song titles. This is the best album of its kind that I own.