There’s no doubt many contenders for what the best and most important year in rock music is. Certainly 1979 is a contender, where prime disco begat hip-hop, and the aftershocks of punk were setting in motion a chain of reactions that would produce post-punk, goth, indie and much more besides. It was important for what would originally be the three drummers intended to be working on this project, Lol Tolhurst (founding member of The Cure), Budgie (best known as a member of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Kevin Haskins (Bauhaus) as they emerged out of the shadows and dragged their ever-increasing audience back there with them. Their acts may or may not have liked the label ‘goth’ (though Tolhurst has just published a book about it), but it certainly sounded like it. Haskins was ultimately unable to commit to the project as he went off to tour with Bauhaus, and the project came together with producer Jacknife Lee.
All three are based in Los Angeles, which provides the theme for the album. There’s a whole host of collaborators on the album, including U2‘s guitarist The Edge, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie and LCD Soundsystem mainman James Murphy. The latter contributes vocals to the title track, creating a world that reflects the city’s glamour and corresponding dark side. It was the first track to be released and suggested that there was a brilliant album waiting to be unleashed. There really is.
It’s a very rhythmic record, as you might expect, but what also delights are perhaps the unexpected pleasures. The Philip Glass meets Talking Heads future-funk of ‘We Got To Move‘ which features vocals from Modest Mouse‘ Isaac Brock meeting the harp of Mary Lattimore on ‘Bodies‘ and the timely reminder that the Edge was always more than simply Bono‘s sidekick on ‘Noche Oscura‘ and ‘Train With No Station.’
So what we have is a thrilling, exciting record, that might have never got off the ground, but actually is now here, and hangs together rather brilliantly. It’s hard to seriously pigeonhole this as goth, but rather the result of some of the most important artists of the last forty years plus, and it probably owes as much to electronica as it does to goth, if not more so.
It’s a reminder that music is not just about the people who front a musical act, but that there are people involved who still have a lot of very creative ideas to share with an audience, rather than just simply being heritage acts (that is: the point at which an act’s new material ceases to be of interest and they simply play all the old songs ad infinitum). There’s quite a lot to take in on a first listen, so my advice is to take the album as a whole and submerge yourself in it. You won’t regret it, and I hope the three will take the opportunity to work together again. Los Angeles as a city seems to have its fans and detractors, but there’s a brilliant reflection of all the life within on this record.