The Members - 1980: The Choice Is Yours
Inspired by the initial rush of punk, Surrey's The Members soon expanded their musical palette to include elements of ska and reggae with a particularly British twist. Although minor players even at the time, their influence on contemporary artists like Graham Coxon is clear.
'1980 ...', now reissued with extra tracks by Captain Oi!, came on the heels of their only chart hit, the classic 'Sound Of The Suburbs'. Their label, Virgin, were hoping for commercial success but already stresses within the band were beginning to show. Bassist Chris Payne had already fallen victim to exhaustion prior to touring commitments (his boots being temporarily filled by future Damned bassist Paul Gray) and recording sessions were scheduled to follow 5 long months on the road.
The album opens with the 'Madness-meets-The Shadows' twang of 'The Ayatollah Harmony' before settling down to the band's particular brand of observational post-punk. As was the fashion at the time many of the songs were inspired by personal experience or current affairs: 'Goodbye To The Job' deals with guitarist Jean-Marie Carroll's decision to quit the 9-5 for the security of life in a rock band, while 'Brian Was' is a Kinks-y tale of suicide based on a true story. Even ex-aircraft technician Payne's sadness at losing access to free flights could became the subject of a song ('Flying Again': "Won't find no guns in my underwear!") The strident finale of 'Gang War' sounds like a 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' out-take and features guest Joe Jackson on piano.
The package is rounded out by several single tracks and b-sides and interesting sleevenotes by Carroll. The fact that there's no modern equivalent to something like 'GLC', a yobbish anti-council rant, is a minor scandal. Are there no young punks prepared to pen a tribute to London Mayor - and newt collector - Ken Livingstone?
Mining similar territory to artists like Ian Dury, XTC and Squeeze, listeners interested in well-crafted, but quirky British rock will find much to enjoy here.