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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

TRB (Tom Robinson Band) - Power In The Darkness

Name: Tom Robinson Band
Album: Power In The Darkness
Year: May, 1978
Style: Pub Rock, Punk
Similar Bands: The Clash, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, English Beat, Kinks
One Word Review: Blue Collar Relatable Activism
Based Out Of: London, UK
Label: Harvest, Capitol, EMI Records Limited
 Power In the Darkness - Cover, sleeve
 Power in the Darkness - Back, Sleeve
Power in the Darkness - Records
Power In the Darkness - Records
Power In The Darkness (1978)
  1. Up Against the Wall 3:32
  2. Grey Cortina 2:08
  3. Too Good to be True 3:32
  4. Ain't Gonna Take It 2:52
  5. Long Hot Summer 4:42/
  6. The Winter of '79 4:29
  7. Man You Never Saw 2:37
  8. Better Decide Which Side You're On 2:48
  9. You Gotta Survive 3:12
  10. Power in the Darkness 4:53/
  11. Don't Take No for an Answer 4:35
  12. Martin 2:53
  13. Glad to be Gay 5:00
  14. Right On Sister 3:25/
  15. 2-4-6-8 Motorway 3:18
  16. I Shall Be Released 4:35
  17. I'm Alright Jack 2:29
Album Rating (1-10): 8.0

Members & Other Bands:
Brian 'Dolphin' Taylor - Drums, Vox (Billy Karloff & Extremes, Go West, Spear of Destine, Stiff Little Fingers, Techno Twins, Techno Orchaestra, Marius Muller-Westernhagen)
Tom Robinson - Bass, Vox (Cafe Society, Sector 27, Faith Folk & Anarchy, John Wesley Harding, TV Smith, NO55)
Danny Kustow - Guitar, Vox (Planets, Spectres)
Mark Ambler - Organ, Piano (Red)
Chris Thomas - Producer
Bill Price - Engineer
Jerry Spencer-Green - Asst Engineer
Terry O'Neil - Back Cover Photo
Pete Veron - Inner Sleeve Photo
Brian Palmer - Art Direction
Wally - Mastering

Unknown-ness: I've never heard of TRB, but I bought it in the same lot as the Michael Stanley Band, and other Americana rock. Although, the back has UK references, and a bold association to Rock against Racism, which would have been a big political platform back in 1978, and a quote from Tom Robinson himself. So perhaps it is a double punk record, which might give a better idea of their cover logo of a fist.

Album Review: TRB was an essential band for the development of punk rock in the late 70’s and equal rights activism. Proclaiming it as an important cause on their album, they introduced many people to the organization Rock against Racism. They were also proponents for equal gay rights, Robinson being gay, himself. Some of their music was banned early on, but because record labels liked what they saw, and the uprising of politically charged music was un an uprise, they were signed easily. Unfortunately, their second album was not received as well, and it marked an end to the band as it was. Robinson went on being a solo artist and has found success (and is still active) as a radio personality and activist.

“Up Against the Wall” is a punk rock slice of 3 chord magic. The vocals are stumbling over themselves in an important and urgent delivery. The song really feels like a Graham Parker song. It is anthemic and bold, clearly sending its message. But it is a clean and relatable anarchy, unlike the Sex Pistols (whom I’ve seen compared), who are dirty, sneering and comparably off-putting.
“Grey Cortina” starts with bouncy piano pub rock, reminding me of The Blasters. The guitar is urgent, and the vocals remind me again of Graham Parker. The guitar solo is electric and raw, but the song relies on safe pop hooks.
“Too Good to be True” is basically Van Morrison’s Moondance.
“Ain't Gonna Take It” rushes off after the slow song with power chords and aggressive, urgent vocals. This song falls in line with their whole image and message, referring to anti-racism, anti- homophobic and equal rights stances that are still relevant today.
“Long Hot Summer” is a little darker, but features an upbeat organ in the background. This song also sings of resistance against aggressive policing, and how the heat of the summer parallels the heat of conflict. It speeds while still being slinky (thanks to the organ), giving contrasting elements that work well together.

“The Winter of '79” begins with a couple of power chords accented by drums. A power guitar takes over the spotlight, and the song gets kinda jangly with a pub rock backbone. It feels like a story song, similar to John Cougar Mellencamp and other relatable blue collar bands.
“Man You Never Saw” is a toe-tapping, driving song that follows a basic, rewarding melody that invests all of the catchy hooks in the verse, basically eliminating a chorus.
“Better Decide Which Side You're On” is another slinky, blues heavy alley stomper. The theme asks if you support gay rights or are you against us.
“You Gotta Survive” sounds like a typical 70’s AOR rock song. It has a somewhat funky bass line, smooth vocals supported by keyboards, and a bluesy guitar hook here and there.
“Power in the Darkness” begins with a funky bass line and ELO-style harmonized vocals. Once the lead vocals take over, they get up on the soapbox and give promise and motivation to people in despair. The instrumental breakdown is a little psychedelic, and features an overdub of stuffy British spoken vocals illustrating the political side trying to keep diversity down. The vocals get angrier as they run through a list of racist and bigoted terms they despise.

“Don't Take No for an Answer” and the next three songs were bonus tracks on the US release of the album, but comprise their second EP (live recording), released right after the 2-4-6-8 Motorway single, which was also included on the B-Side of this EP. It is organ heavy, and a powerful driving guitar and drum beat. The vocals are controlled by shouty. The chorus has the vox and music synch up to form an unopposable force.
“Martin” feels like a Kinks song. It is a reflective, story song about a childhood brother/friend.
“Glad to be Gay” is a retort and message to the World Health Organization, who classify being gay as an illness 302.0. It too feels a bit like a Kinks song, with a sing-song melody that stumbles along with a slightly drunk cadence. It describes how it is to be treated as a homosexual, but calls for other gay folks to stand together in proclamation and song.
“Right On Sister” is a rocking song from the get go. The energy never lets up, and it honors women, suffragettes, and equal rights.

“2-4-6-8 Motorway” was their first single, released a year before this album came out, and reached #5 on the UK charts. It is a toe-tapping pub rock song with a steady marching, hand clapping tempo. Apparently, the song’s content refers to a gay truck driver.
“I Shall Be Released” was the B-Side to 2-4-6-8, and is a Bob Dylan cover. It is quiet and almost country-ish in a sad ballad manor.
“I'm Alright Jack” was the B-Side to the Up Against the Wall single. It starts with a Social Distortion like guitar, and quick-paced British accent. I enjoy this nervous melody quite a lot, and the power-arena rock chorus slows the pace down if only for a moment. 

Stand Out Track: Ain't Gonna Take It
I'm Alright Jack

Links:
Wiki
Discog
Website
Telegraph - UK
Allmusic
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Guardian
Youtube Full Album
Death note of boy on UATW single cover

2 comments:

  1. The follow-up, was produced by Todd Rundgren (my favorite) and was a little more accessible.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Saw reviews of the follow-up, which sounds like it was not well received critically, but I'll keep an eye out for it.

    ReplyDelete