Eyeless In Gaza
Photographs as Memories
(BRED 13/ASR 009, Jan 30 1981, Lp)
by Errol Golddust
IT’S HARD to concentrate on such a dreary collection of castrated willfully contorted neu-poop songs post amateurism at its most grubby and preciously screwy, pre-art school at its most pedantic and self-conscious. All the current preoccupations with Art(aud) yes, more theatre of cruelty vocals thin air, facile imagery and knowing primitivism.
Eyeless In Gaza are ageing bedroom/electro-poppas, more premature than precocious, who extend the notion of spontaneity and raw power to ridiculous and self-defeating ends. With such limited technological understanding (in their case very much a limitation) and ultimately an inability to structure songs (or even non-structure them), Eyeless In Gaza could easily be a reject Bizzare group. Their imaginations are imprisoned, and they’re far too impetuous slapping it all down for posterity is alright if the songs crackle with life and soul, or if they absorb and involve the listener. These songs just do not.
Eyeless No Gaze see life through a wet fog – I hear their music as if through a wet fog where Hawkwind seeps into the worst-ever abuse of The Velvet Underground and gets caught up in half formed fantasies. Music that should have been kept on a private tape. Legless and gaga?
by Steve Sutherland
The days of the garage groups are gone. The bands of today are being born in bedrooms and the latest in the increasing line of DIY knob-doodling duos are Eyeless In Gaza from Leamington Spa.
Much in the mood of Orchestral Manoeuvres, Martyn Bates and Pete Becker take more risks, talk more dirty and act more arty than the Liverboys but you shouldn’t let that put you off.
Although “Photographs As Memories” is an awkward album that initially sounds irritating and samey, like a rough assortment of improvisations over very similar backing tracks, further listening reaps rewards, revealing a record made up more of experimental fragments than actual bona-fide songs.
Starting and finishing somewhat arbitrarily, each individual track attempts, with varying degrees of success, to define a different mood, ranging from the malice and menace of “Keepsake” and the boisterous bubblegum bop of “No Noise” to the weird and worrying “In Your Painting” – a sort of “Weaver’s Answer” for the Eighties.
Predominantly featuring scratchy, freely-scuttling guitar over basic drumbeats, and atmospheric keyboards and occasionally augmented by unnecessary and incongruous Beefheartean sax, Eyeless’s real strengths and weaknesses lie in their overblown vocals which, while inhibiting literal understanding, instill the proceedings with crucial emotion.
A cross between unbridled passion and stylish effect, the voice is by turns crudely convincing and theatrically histrionic, resulting in an album that simultaneously sooths as it unnerves.
“Photographs” constantly strives for something special, very seldom fully succeeds but even its many pitfalls and failures make for an interesting, invigorating listen.
by Johnny Black
First impressions can be misleading. The more I listen, the more I suspect these are intelligent people. I also suspect that their lyrics are worth hearing but I can’t make out above one word in 20. They might argue – maybe justifiably – that it doesn’t matter.
Eyeless In Gaza are two people, Martyn Bates and Pete Becker, playing guitars and synthesizers and drum machines and singing. At first I was in favour of stapling their mouths shut but, gradually, things started getting to me. The brief Clear Cut Apparently is a model of concise melodic expression (a nice tune) and Speech Rapid Fire has a similar melodic, if peculiar, appeal.
In some ways, what they do was out of date before they went into the studio because Suicide, OMD, Kraftwerk and others are all clearly in their ancestry. The same thing was probably said of Bach. Vivaldi had done it before.
Throughout, there is fine, choppy rhythm guitar and if the sequencer/drum machine counterpoints sound familiar, remember elements of most music are familiar but a Chuck Berry 12-bar could never be mistaken for a Status Quo 12-bar. It’s not what you do. Eyeless In Gaza torment their machines into producing some noises I’ve never heard before and a few I hope I never hear again, but some of it, particularly the Moondog-like percussion of the almost Latin No Noise, has something to offer.
On the other hand, Martyn Bates can’t possibly be as tortured a soul as his voice suggests or he’d have ripped his own head off years ago. If I had been born yesterday I might have thought that a track like John Of Patmos was anarchic, visceral and auto-destructive. However, I was actually born some time ago and the gap between innocence and experience forbids such an interpretation. Rhythm tracks and meandering saxophones reminiscent of bowel movements do not a song make.
It is not widely appreciated that it can be more difficult to follow than to lead. Eyeless In Gaza are currently bringing up the rear, and perfecting an already existing musical form can be more trying than inventing a new one. One day Eyeless In Gaza will make a great album. This is not it, but there is enough good material here to ensure that their talent will not be denied. Unfortunate vocal mannerisms copied from OMD’s Paul Humphreys, without his purity of voice, can be remedied in time.
Photographs As Memories is quite a long album and, in parts, quite a good album. It was recorded in Leamington Spa which, for the moment, will remain famous mostly for its healing waters.
This is the debut album from that prolific Nuneaton duo Eyeless in Gaza and opens with ‘Seven Years’ which is a slow and haunting theme like a recurring nightmare, unreal yet convincing. This is followed by ‘Fixation’ a short repetitive sketch, in contrast to the more epic ‘Looking Daggers’ that follows (and is excellent). ‘From A to B’ clearly demonstrates Martyn’s urgent, distinctive, and highly original vocal style. ‘Clear Cut Apparently’ one of the more instantly recognisable stage songs finishes the side, along with ‘Speech Rapid Fire’, and ‘John of Patmos’, a classic E in G, piece.
Side two opens with the jagged, choppy rhythms of ‘Knives Replace Air’ with keyboards coming forward more noticeably ‘Faceless’ boasts a great pair of interlocking riffs whilst ‘In Your Painting’ is more attacking and urgent in it’s tone. ‘A Keepsake’ is more like ‘Seven Years’. Lastly ‘Whitewash’ and ‘No Noise’ end the side, both of them atmospheric pieces with one sounding like a tribal chant.
Overall it’s a very good L.P. and should be out by the time you read this. It is challenging without resorting to ‘grey noise’ tactics (e.g. Pol Pot Pop tape) and the Gaza’s have managed to create a sound which is their own, which owes a lot to Martyn’s unusual & effective, vocals. ‘Eyeless in Gaza’ are two talented people trying to do something differently and succeeding. Make the effort to find out about this L.P.
Review in Gary Knight’s (of In Embrace) Magazine 0533 last issue (7)
Side 1:seven years/fixation/looking daggers/from A to B/clear cut apparently/speech rapid fire/john of patmos//. Side 2:knives replace air/faceless/in your painting/a keepsake/whitewash/no noise.
Eyeless in Gaza have in ‘Photographs’ an album of rare depth of feeling. As a whole it is a breath-taking exercise in “Do it yourself … and do it properly”, they have worked for this success, and if there is any justice they will be a HUGE success amongst the likes of the Fall, Crass, etc. in the ‘alternative charts’ of the music press.
E.I.G. are only 2 people, that’s what makes it all so refreshing just because you are a duo with a wasp doesn’t mean you churn out ‘Futurist’ shit here is imagination and passion.
“There’s too much negativity. You can do anything you want to if you really want to do it enough.” (Pete Becker 0533/4)
I will not single out any tracks because this LP is a WHOLE & anyway John Peel will be playing it if he’s got any sense, so listen.
by DES MOINES (Sounds, February 14, 1981)
THIS RECORD celebrates the first anniversary of Nuneaton duo Eyeless In Gaza and simultaneously plugs another hole in the Coventry Nuneaton jigsaw already graced by the Reluctant Stereotypes, The Urge and semi-cult figures Pete Bosworth and Kevin Harrison.
Recorded and mixed very cheaply in 24 hours last July, the disc has a decidedly ‘live’ feel to it, a feel which guarantees plenty of atmosphere while taking its toll in terms of bum notes, fluffed timing (cock an ear to Bates beserkly-strummed guitar on ‘Knives Replace Air’) and recurrent instrumental indecisiveness. But that’s the price you pay for being committed to first takes and minimal overdubbing usually only one synthesiser overdub per track. The entire trip is excruciatingly intense, speculative and aggressive, and almost totally devoid of discemable influence.
American jazz-funk, Big Youth and Robert Wyatt are all professed heroes of Becker and Bates, but you hear as little of them as you do of anyone except Eyeless throughout this stupendously self-assured long-playing record.
There are a lot of flaws. Former R Stereotypes songsmith Bates has an extremely challenging voice but doesn’t vary it half as much as he needs to, and sometimes affects it so contrivedly it takes the form of unlistenable asinine rantings or else projects like an unsuccessful Louis Armstrong impression.
Usually, though, it’s just so for futurism par excellence. ‘From A to B’, ‘Speech Rapid Fire’ and ‘No Noise’ are three representations of how Becker (£200 Wasp synthesiser, voice, percussion, violin, stylophone, ‘treated tapes’) and Bates (voice, electric guitar, plastic organ, soprano sax) at full flow achieve their thoroughly magic melodies. Their formula isn’t easy to unravel. Becker’s uncanny flair for compelling succinct synthesiser hook lines is the conspicuous characteristic, but Bates’ imperiously evocative vocal is a factor just as crucial.
‘John of Patmos’, with a vocal line superficially reminiscent of ‘White Man In Hammersmith Palais’ and featuring Bates’ cliché crazy sax, is one that botches its pretension to ‘avoid entropy’, disintegrating into time-wasting chaos and representing Eyeless at their worst. ‘In Your Painting’ is similar rubbish, the musical equivalent of cycling over a canvasful of oil paints and calling the result ‘art’. Listen out for both of them nonetheless we rolled about when we heard them, they’re so ridiculous. They made us feel so conservative!
Sad that ‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’, the indie EP of ’80, didn’t join the other ‘Photographs As Memories’, a victim of the frequently misguided ‘no duplication-of-material’ stance favoured by your average left-field combo. But the highspots of the album are truly staggering, and it’ll be interesting to witness the band break cover from the false security of policy statements (‘It’s important to us that our music intuitive … we make music from pure feeling as opposed to analytical and methodical considerations‘ etc etc) get up there on a podium, take risks and sing for their suppers. Sing, in fact, lyrics like ‘Scratch at peeling veneer, worn unpolished. Carve more lines and refuse to acknowledge Praise up your figure. The Indian giver. As if it’s seven years bad luck just to look in the mirror’. (‘Seven Years ’).
by Phil Clarke [I believe] (Damn Latin fanzine)
In this review I’ll attempt to summarise E in G’s current position as well as stating my own views on their much-reviewed L.P. As anyone who reads the National music press will know, it’s gone down well with just about everyone from John Peel to “Sounds”, (with the curious exception of N.M.E.) the latter giving them another large interview/article plus a photograph taken outside Nuneaton railway station. Since then they’ve cancelled a tour of England with the “2002 Review” headed by Classix Nouveaux, but have an E.P. cut soon to follow-up the L.P. called “Invisibility”. (A.S.R. 10) Add appearances on Stabmental’s “The Men with the Deadly Dreams” cassette and a track or two on compilation L.P.’s, plus the re-release of “Kodak Ghosts” and you’ll see that the Eyeless’s are a more viable export from Nuneaton than George Eliot or Larry Grayson (or Damn Latin) at the moment.
I digress. My favourites on “Photographs as Memories” are:
“Seven Years” Track 1, Side1. Arabian mirror images.
“Speech Rapid Fire” Track 6, side 1. Beautiful anger.
“John of Patmos” Track 7, Side 1. Discordant, uncontrolled.
“Knives Replace Air” - Track 1, Side 2. Melodic, evocative.
“Faceless” Track 2, Side 2. Sublime, subliminal, the best.
“No Noise” - Track 6, Side 2. Perfect, poignant last track.
I don’t like all of the L.P., and don’t think of it as any kind of “classic”, it’s more of a tidying-up of past ideas. I think that many listeners will like at least some of it, though, as it demonstrates their versatility and opens the way to future experimentation. Cherry Red Records are showing themselves to be an increasingly “suss” label, and we have them to thank for releasing this L.P. by talent that was too large to be contained in the Nag’s Head, or in the musical desert that is Nuneaton. Certainly “Boxing Clever”.