Eyeless In Gaza
Rust Red September
((C) BRED 50, July 15 1983, Lp/Cassette)
Sight for Sore Ears
by Johnny Waller (Sounds, 1983)
After the comparative heavy going of ‘Drumming the Beating Heart’ (an album full of fierce intensity), Eyeless have come out into the sun and almost recorded an LP of bright, breezy pop music. It’s a step in the right direction … .
While the presentation has altered – there’s a new spring and joie de vivre in the songs – the basic core of this open music, this quietly screaming desperation, remains unchanged by fashion or marketability. EIG are a long-term prospect, and to watch their gradual progression is a fascinating, rewarding pastime, even when it requires a lot more effort and patience than does being a Duran Duran fan.
Maybe these jolly Gaza boys SHOULD suddenly go pop and sing trite lyrics with teasingly glossy tunes, but such insincerity would utterly destroy everything they’ve so far built and I don’t think even the newly-affable Martyn Bates (he’s even cracking jokes, young Henderson tells me!) is ready for such empty-headed acclaim. But, as I said, this album is a first tentative step … .
And not before time! This piercing music – part terrifying angst, part soothing lullaby – has been termed “obscure” for too long. The fault was undoubtly due to the admirable Eyeless blindness as regards SELLING THEMSELVES, but hopefully now they realise that little girls could love ‘Rust Red September’ as well.
The haunting sombre tones of sweeping, emotional tales like ‘Only Whispers’ and ‘Leaves are Dancing’ still cherish the autumn sadness in the lyrics, but now have a sparkling sunny view to the pop charts with an increased use of strumming guitar. Producer John Rivers has blown away a lot of cobwebs and let in a gust of invigorating fresh air. Suddenly, EIG sound like a band you could play to your mates and not just wallow with alone in the bedroom.
But ‘Rust Red September’ (brilliant title!) still sadly falls short: while the overall effect of the new songs given brighter arrangements is one of a warm glow gradually spreading outwards from the speakers, individual songs tend to hide away in their own safe introspection.
‘New Risen’, the single, is an awesome indication of the massive change Eyeless could make without sacrificing passion, belief or sincerity. It BURSTS outwards with a pure joy and unashamed love (“I can almost taste your presence”)but elsewhere things are too complicated. Pop is simple (but not stupid) and making the human connection depends upon a mutual simplicity.
With ‘Rust Red September’, Eyeless In Gaza have stumbled over a devastatingly simple truth, but haven’t yet learnt how to harness it for their best purposes. Still, it makes (occasionally) great listening until they come up with their real masterpiece. Winter kills?
Martyn Bates, and Pete Becker have tended to become typecast as introspective romantics but their latest Cherry Red collection thankfully portrays them in completely different light. Echoes of the old melancholy gloom still re-appear from time to time but nifty dance tunes such as ‘New Risen’ and ‘Changing Stations’ should help to signal a new and much more rewarding phase in the Nuneaton duo’s career. A vast improvement.
by Neil Tennant
Rich, sensual songs with poetic words by a duo from Nuneaton. They produce a big sound on a small scale with a low budget, and too often the music drags where it should soar, but there’s some unusual and fiery talent on display. (7 outof10)
The long awaited fifth Eyeless in Gaza LP is now available, and it was well worth waiting for. It seems that this could well be the crossover into “chart stardom” (?) for Martyn and Peter. The excellent single “New Risen” (also included here) has got to be a stab at the charts, with its wickedly catchy tune. I expected the LP to be in similar mood to previous material, but like the single they have cleaned up the songs. Martyn Bates voice is clearer and stronger, and they have added special touches to the backing tracks is that a “funky clarinet” (a la S. Wonder’s “Superstition”) I hear vaguely in the background on “Taking steps”? Also it seems to have a better, crisper production than former glories, though it’s still the job of John Rivers, perhaps he’s learnt a few tricks recently.
Most of the tracks would make good singles, and I think singles are where their interest lies at the moment, as Martyn wrote on a postcard I received earlier this year: “Maybe there’s some level of public acceptance around the corner. Our music deserves that space to breathe, in fact. I think we’re almost at that “dangerous” junction where if feels like we need it to avoid tunnel vision. All artists are insecure enough to want to be loved and hated.”
The album includes a new Eyeless in Gaza classic “September Hills”. Very powerful and dramatic, and there is not a bad or even mediocre track in sight, their best so far, and already my favourite LP of this year.
If you don’t know their earlier work, buy the cassette version, because it has 15 bonus tracks featuring the singles and their B-sides. EXCELLENT.
by Pete Hayes
Rust Red in September Eyeless in Gaza Cherry Red records BRED50. Changing Stations/Pearl and Pale/New Risen/September Hills/Taking Steps/Only Whispers/Leaves are Dancing/No Perfect Stranger/Comer Of Dusk/Bright Play of Eyes/Stealing Autumn.
CHERRY RED have captured a comer of the current market by recognising new talent. Eyeless in Gaza are new talent in the shape of Martyn Bates and Pete Becker. They use old techniques in a 1983 way. Harmonising over rhythmic but thin backing they awake me to half-forgotten experiences shared by us all.
The poetry is set to uncompromising percussion or sympathetic keyboards, I have been thinking for some time we need a new word other than ‘song’. This album […]
[…] the present form, but many of the other tracks are words and music, put together conjuring up a feeling or emotion, not relating a story or inviting a sing-along session. Often these tracks are more powerful because of this attack.
In years to come we may look back and realise the future of pop was kindled by the likes of Martyn and Pete and Cherry Red. But for the moment they will get across to those unblinkered fans who have pushed down the boundary walls of convention, and the trendies who follow this week’s fashion. This album deserves to find its way into more hands.
The music and lyrics of the band reflect the best of what is happening today on the music scene. The sooner they take over from Bucks Agoogoo on top of the Pops the better it will be for us all.
[Published in two magazines.]
Eyeless In Gaza, “Rust Red September”, (Cherry Red BRED 50) Martyn Bates and Pete Becker have tended to become typecast as introspective romantics, but their latest Cherry Red collection thankfully portrays them in a completely different light. Echoes of the old melancholy gloom still re-appear from time to time but nifty dance tunes such as “New Risen” and “Changing Stations” should help to signal a new and much more rewarding phase in the Nuneaton duo’s career. A vast improvement on past […].
by Mark Prendergast
The singular feats of Eyeless in Gaza defy simple classification. In January 1980 I heard “Knives Replace Air” by Martyn Bates and Pete Becker and concluded that something very special was happening in music. Three years on, Eyeless in Gaza are producing music of a strange and majestic beauty.
“Rust Red September” is their fourth album and like its predecessor “Drumming the Beating Heart” is inspired. Here the brittle organ sound of earlier work has been honed and softened, while vocals have moved from plaintiveness to full blooded passion.
Look, for example to “September Hills”. A guitar is strummed and a wave breaks on a shore. A vocal hearkens to the slush of acoustic guitar … a key change and “I know there’s only whispers there …” … the guitar takes you higher. Devastating and brilliant in the same league as “The Doors” first and just one of eleven tracks of hypnotic potency. Essential.
by Julian Newby (Album Review Sunday)
Eyeless In Gaza are PETER BECKER and MARTYN BATES, who played and co-wrote all the pieces on this album.
It sounds almost like an experiment, and definitely poetry set to music rather than the other way around. But don’t let that put you off. Many of the songs work very well: “Stealing Autumn” and “Changing Stations” are gentle, almost melodic in parts, while “No Perfect Stranger” hints at an exciting rhythm … .
An interesting LP with a cover as pretty as the title.
Etwas zu früh kam diese September-Platte heraus, jedoch früh genug zur Oktober-Tournee durch Deutschland. Wer dieses englische Duo noh nicht kennt (soll ja vorkommen!), dem sei gesagt, daß bei Eyeless In Gaza eigentlich die Stimme die Musik macht. Martyn Bates beansprucht sein Organ bis zum Exzess, obwohl er nie laut wird. Er setzt der dünnen Instrumentierung von Pete Becker (einsilbige Tastensequenzen, sporadisch aufflackernde Baß-, Gitarren und Drumanschläge) die Klangfarbe auf, dirigiert die Stimmung in Ups and Downs.
Für mich hat Bates die beste Stimme der neuen Musik seit Cindy Wilson von den B 52’s. Monieren kann man an dieser dritten Platte der Briten, daß sie irgendwie keine großartige Abwechslung bietet. Der Gesang ist phänomenal, aber auch dessen kann man überdrüssig werden.
Review 10Japanese review
[See also CD reviews. -Ed.]