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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Planets - S/T

Name: Planets
Album: s/t
Year: 1980
Style: New Wave, Pub Rock
Similar Bands: New Musik, Police, XTC, Squeeze, J. Geils Band. 
"One-Word" Review: Eccentric-Rock-Pub-Reggae
Based Out Of: Liverpool, UK
Label: Motown
 Planets - Cover & Record
Planets - Back & Record
Planets (1980)
  1. Iron for the Iron 3:37
  2. Mile High 3:53
  3. A Minute Ago 3:55
  4. Lines 3:57 /
  5. Break It To Me Gently 3:05
  6. Too Late 3:22
  7. Secret 2:41
  8. Ball & Chain 3:22
  9. I'm On Fire 4:08

Album Rating (1-10): 9.5

Members & Other Bands:
Steve Lindsey - Producer, Writer, Keys, Bass, Vox, Guitars, Drums (Deaf School
Charlie Charles - Producer, Drums, Percussion (Ian Dury & Blockheads, Bop, Loving Awareness)
Mickey Gallagher - Producer, Keys (Animals. ARC, Ian Dury & Blockheads, Heavy Jelly, Skip Bifferty)
John Turnbill - Producer, Guitar (Ian Dury & Blockheads, Glencoe, Heavy Jelly, Loving Awareness, Skip Bifferty, Dave Steward & the Spiritual Cowboys, ARC)
Gregory Rose - String & Horn Arrangements & Conducting
John Ward - Keys, Backing Vox
Tony Wimshurst - Backing Vocals, Guitars (Nasty Pop)
Jane Robbins - Backing Vox (Satellite Sisters, Prima Donna)
Katie Robbins - Backing Vox (Satellite Sisters, Prima Donna, Anti-Heroin Project)
Kit Woolven - Engineer
Gut Bidmead - Engineer
Alan Winstanley - Engineer
Martin Moss - Engineer
Frank Silver - Managment
Ginny Livingston - Art Direction
Max James - Design & Illustration
Budgie (Peter Clarke) - Drums (Siouxie Sioux, Slits, Creatures, Clive Langer, Indigo Girls, Thomas Dolby, Marc Almond)
Danny Kustow - Guitar (Spectres, Tom Robinson Band)
Paul Madden - Guitar
Andy Duncan - Percussion (Then Jericho)

Unknown-ness: So I have never heard of this band before buying the record. While I do like the random and chaotic nature of the artwork, it comes off as soft, as this might be an ambitions light jazz band that uses the artwork as the physical illustration of music: particularly as per the back cover. But then again, there are 9 songs, and they are not jazz song lengths. And in any case, 1980 was a good year, even if Motown is not quite the right label for what I look forward to.

Album Review: This was one of the first albums I picked up with the Thrift Store Music idea in mind. And this (as well as Code Blue) was perhaps thee record that kept me going, looking for more unheard of gems. It is near perfect for all of my tastes. It might taper off a little at the end, out as a whole; you can’t make a much better discovery than this. I quickly sought out their 2 records as they were reissued together on CD. Historically, Steve Lindsey was part of the second most important band from Liverpool, Deaf School, which boasts the hugely influential Clive Langer on guitar. He started The Planets after Deaf School dissolved. The musicians in The Planets make up most of the Blockheads, who backed Ian Dury in the mid 80’s. The record I picked up was the US release of their first album, Goonhilly Down, but Motown just released it as self-titled. Although it is dated 1980, it was actually released a year earlier in the UK.

“Iron for the Iron” starts off with an XTC – Wait ‘til Your Boat Goes Down like start with iron chains clanking, or being manufactured. Then the keyboard and drums fade up to a wonderful, and slyly sung bouncy pop song. The chorus is built on a call and response between a chorus and the wacky, nasally vocals from the lead singer that is stepped away from the front, and sung through grainy-on-purpose production. Just as you think you’ve got the gist of the verse-chorus structure, the song throws in a new melody that is related, but like a reprise. It easily flows into the verse again, that’s bouncy character has a fun ska-reggae style rhythm. This song is just perfect magic. The song ends with metal beams being hammered in an iron works factory which fade up and take over the end of the song.
“Mile High” buzzes and whips by the speakers with synth sounds, before settling on a very Squeeze 1978 “Take Me I’m Yours” synth melody. But rather than the straight driving lyrics from Tilbrook, this is a more playful, sing-song melody, which soars like a roller coaster out of the murky synth depths to the bright and catchy chorus encapsulating the perfect building anticipation and delivery format. It forgoes a lyrical verse a second time around, and instead launches into the chorus. The instrumentation for the ending instrumental section is a little too bombastic and all over the place, but the soaring guitars and booming drum kit fade out after a perfectly set amount of time
“A Minute Ago” has very angularly and grinding guitar notes to start off, the song, and like the other two songs, it loses the chaotic-ness, and goes for a smooth luster of a pop song up through the chorus, before returning to the noisy (in a good way) bridge. The vocals are not too far from Elvis Costello, but are not as quite as urgent. There is a lot of pub rock guitar in this song, which takes the attention away from the simple and catchy melody, and just drowns out the bouncy time keeping drums and bass.
“Lines” was the original single in the UK, and it begins with echoing, reverberating, watery guitar. The song transitions into an eerie reggae song. I would not have guessed this was a single. There are some fun bipping synth effects supporting the first breakdown at about the 2 minute mark. In my opinion, sadly this is the stylistic direction the second album followed. Quite an array of synth, organ, and keyboard sounds finish out the song as it fades away. But the song continues to haunt on very quietly with hushed singing on “who’s side are you” being uttered.

“Break It To Me Gently” starts off with some aggressive power pop chords and accompanying electric guitar. But this is the more Elvis Costello song on the record in vocal melody, and this was the US released single. It is slightly dark in musical structure, but the rollicking melody follows a preset wave form of chord progression, rising and dipping as it drives along. This is a very solid song. It is also one of those songs where you cannot figure out the catchiest melody, and feel like the sections could repeat infinitely (like TMBG’s “Birdhouse”) and never get boring. It finishes with a fade out and a ringing guitar.
“Too Late” quietly fades in until the electric guitar and drums kick. The song feels like a pub rock J Geils Band song. The song has a bold swagger to it, with a backing chorus of female singers, and follows its second chorus section with a new-to-the-song nursery rhyme melody.
“Secret” sounds like it could be an Oingo Boingo song at the beginning with the style of guitar and machine gun drums. Then the song really begins, revisiting that Squeeze style of synth shrouding another pub rock song. But when the chorus comes, somewhat out of the blue, it carries a mockery tone with it that maintains the song’s catchiness, and it kind of sounds like an emergency vehicle’s siren.
“Ball & Chain” begins with a harsh transition from the previous song, as if they were meant to be played as one track, even though the style, tempo and structure are vastly different. This song is darker; reflecting on the song’s topic of needing another person like you’d need a ball & chain. This song too, carries a bold, confident tone.
“I'm On Fire” previews the following album’s style with a straight forward reggae song. The wah-wah guitar, and stumbling drum give way to a smooth groove, coupled with female vocals supplementing the lead. The song is a bit of a downer to the album, but the rest of the album holds up tremendously well.

Stand Out Track: Iron For the Iron
Break It To Me Gently

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