There are the timely circumstances. There are the comparisons to peers such as Joy Division and Echo & The Bunnymen. There are the albums of unquestioned quality, depth and longevity. There are the tragic misfortunes and unrealized dreams. And, now, they are mostly memories.
Truthfully, nothing more needs to be added to the story of the Sound. The band sealed its place in history with the U.K.’s first self-released full-length punk album in 1977, albeit as an earlier incarnation, when the band members were calling themselves the Outsiders. That said, the Sound rose from this adolescent noise and quickly blossomed into an inspired, though admittedly volatile, rock quartet over the course of eight brief years. Principally guided by vocalist and guitarist Adrian Borland, the Sound set itself apart at a time when the increasing subdivisions of rock marginalized individuality. The band was lyrically romantic yet harbored no New Romantic pretense; hopeful in the face of personal demons, as opposed to shrouded by an Ian Curtis; able to craft complex pop with the aid of synths, instead of being drenched in synth pop; ever on the cusp of a new wave of songwriting without sounding New Wave. Appropriately, the group acquired a solid-gold reputation; simultaneously, it completely missed widespread recognition.
Critical assessment of the Sound has been hit and miss. Critics are right in one sense: Listening to the band’s discography — reissued in near entirety by Renascent Records — it is a wonder why the band never achieved superstardom. Yet the critics are also guilty of being critics. In spite of such admirable work, the Sound was fated to remain that humble little band everyone should hear. For the same reason why Richard Davies remains a cult icon, why the Replacements imploded at the right/wrong time and why Nick Drake’s largest spotlight came courtesy of a car company, the Sound embraced the one quality that the market consistently fumbles: an individual’s emotions. From the snaggletooth rawk of their early sessions (the recently uncovered first “proper” album, 1979’s Propaganda, and the two discs of The BBC Recordings, released in 2004) to their newborn experiments (1980’s excellent Jeopardy and 1981’s From the Lion’s Mouth) to the adolescent fuck you (1982’s great All Fall Down) and finally closing with a mature ebullience (1984’s Shock of Daylight/Heads and Hearts and 1985’s In the Hothouse), the Sound was consistently flush with honesty until the very end. The Sound’s book has been written, but perhaps this reissue series will inspire a new one.