As a huge fan of the era, the opportunity to review a new album recorded in the early 1980s is certainly an exciting one. It is my great pleasure to write for The Rose of Avalanche and the release of their previously unreleased BBC sessions for both John Peel and Janice Long. No mucking about with long introductions this time folks, this band is from Leeds, and they might kick my teeth in if I don’t get straight to what is most important, the music.
Here are my thoughts on The Rose of Avalanche At The BBC.
The album starts off with “Goddess” – a noisy blend of stooges style punk n roll guitar and gothic drums and keys, a combination I am so excited about, it is something I am very eager to try in my own work. Even vocally the singer manages to achieve an awesome blend between Lou Reed, Andrew Eldritch and Iggy Pop, something he will continue to do over the course of the entire record. Track 2 “A Thousand Landscapes” sounds very much descended from gothic rock legends but doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights that a band like The Sisters of Mercy can take you to. Track 5, Rise to the Groove, has a brilliant horror punk/psychobilly vibe and is a nice change of pace.
Just before the halfway point of the BBC sessions features one of the band’s hits, Velveteen, which while not technically terrible, it’s a sound already covered by bands from the same era, if not before. It’s essentially a blend of The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Led Zeppelin. I’m not entirely sure of when this track was written, so it could have been very ahead of its time. But looking at it in the modern era, it feels quite cheap and derivative.
Ultimately, the BBC sessions continue in a similar fashion. Over time I begin to become quite bored with the constant jumping off to different styles of post-punk. The band clearly didn’t have a particular focus at the time of these sessions and were very much of the time. I kept waiting for a twist that just didn’t seem to appear. There are some good moments, I enjoyed the Lou Reed styling of the vocals in Stick in The Words, but the album feels both unfocused and one dimensional, which is rather strange, but it seems appropriate. The songs are all variations on a theme, and originality is scarce. I did however quite enjoy “Not Another Day” despite some production issues. From a songwriting perspective, it has an impact that a lot of the other tracks lack. In fact, I notice that towards the end of the BBC sessions, the songwriting does certainly improve, but the production gets certainly worse. “Dreamland” has an almost shoegaze level of guitar volume and the vocals just get drowned. I’m certain these were recorded at a different time and place. If it weren’t for the mixing issues present on these last few tracks it would certainly bump the record up for me as I do really like the songs.
All this time I was waiting to hear the legendary LA Rain, a track favoured by John Peel. Which ultimately, is a great tune, but this version retains the mixing issues prevalent throughout the latter half of the record. The vocals seem to duck in and out volume-wise, and it is very distracting. I really want to hear a version of this with a decent mix. The excuse that it is a live recording doesn’t really cut it for me. There are many well-mixed live albums and for the band to release this in this state doesn’t sit well with me.
The Rose of Avalanche At The BBC remains a decent listen for hardcore fans of the genre, but I urge the band to do a modern high-quality recording of some of these tracks, especially those on the last third of the record. I really want to hear what John Peel heard in this all those years ago, and that can only be achieved with a decent recording. Get on it!
Peace, Love & Cowbells,