I've been enthralled by In The Marshes, the latest in a reissue series for post-punk band For Against. While I must admit I've never really reacted to the other records in the series--I simply haven't connected with the music--I must make an exception for this latest record. This record is a reissue of a vinyl-only EP from 1990, which contained demos from the band's beginning. Instead of the moody, heavy atmospherics of those records, the songs found here are raw, rough, and slightly primitive. Yes, the elements mentioned before are still there, but in this state, they work quite well. The biggest influence I hear in these baby-band recordings isn't Joy Division but Marc Almond. The influence is most obvious on "Amnesia," for I half-expected lead singer Jeffrey Runnings to break into "Memorabilia." "Fate," though, sounds like a Cure outtake from "A Forest" sessions, with guest vocals by Mr. Almond. In my mind, the prospect is interesting; in my mind, the song is excellent because of it, even if, well, the vocals are somewhat muddy.
The Rosetta Stone element comes from a bonus track, a studio version of the original EP track "Amnesia." The demo version is dominated by a drum machine; the vocals are languid, the bass line is rolling, the guitar parts are minimal--almost nonexistent--and the whole song feels like you're floating around in (and on) thick cough syrup. The finished version, however, adds real drums, heavier guitars, a faster tempo, and a buried bass line. The song doesn't work at all, though, because it just sounds a mess. It's the vocals that ruin it, in my opinion. Runnings sounds as if he's trying to keep up with the band's more rock-like arrangement, and the song works better with a more minimalist approach, as heard on the demo. The other bonus track works the opposite angle, presenting a demo version of the EP's "Amen Yves," whereas the EP version is a bit lighter than the heavy, dark, and moody demo!
Perhaps the band's other albums had too much of a sheen to them, and the live-to-tape element found in these older, not-intended-for-release songs adds a dimension lacking in their more focused, official releases. I'd have to go back to those albums and spend some time with them to really back up what I've just stated, but In The Marshes is compelling enough to make me want to do that.
Listen To: Fate
In The Marshes is available now from Words on Music
Labels: For Against, reviews f, Words on Music