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6 December 2013

Eyeless in Gaza - 'Photographs as Memories' (Edigsa/Cherry Red)

This first (second?) Eyeless in Gaza record is relatively simple, built around the drumless two-man band of Martyn Bates and Peter Becker. Over the years they picked up a cult following, but I've never been part; these two records I have are a pleasure every time I listen to them, which is rarely. Bates's vocals are the tough sell here - very dramatic, somewhere between David Sylvian and the Cure, they take what would be otherwise somber, moody songs and inject them with a bit of rock pyrotechnics. Yet it somehow doesn't have any element of glam; the synth beats, if anything, recall early Tuxedomoon or even Too Pure label stuff which of course was to come in the future. 'Speech Rapid Fire' takes on a romanticism in the chorus, but other songs are pure black eyeliner ('Looking Daggers'). Bates's vocalisations occasionally render the lyrics unintelligible, stretched out to an over-enunciated wail. I keep thinking of Tuxedomoon despite all attempts for anything else to emerge; the broken sax/synth interplay of 'John of Patmos' or the twisted rhythms of 'No Noise' really would situate this on Ralph Records as much as it makes sense to be on Cherry Red. But hey, it was 1981, and anything was possible. "Post-"punk in the truest sense, Eyeless in Gaza maintain a rhythmic and melodic experimentation throughout that is based more on textural effects than jazz-influenced improvisation, thus showing they chose a different path at what may have been the same forked road that, say, This Heat stood at around the same time. As to why we're still listening to this 30 years later, I can only blame my own dinosaur tastes -- yet if this record was re-released tomorrow on Not Not Fun, under a different name, I don't think anyone would suspect a thing.

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