The Opposition - Somewhere In Between - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Opposition - Somewhere In Between

by Simon Heavisides Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-15
The Opposition - Somewhere In Between
The Opposition - Somewhere In Between

My first encounter with the Opposition was back in 1985, a BBC Radio 1 In Concert stopped me in my tracks and sent me racing for the record button. Mark Long's raw emotional outpourings compelling in a way most bands had turned their backs on at that point. In the landscape of 1985 not cool but clearly genuine.

Mark's naked honesty, revealing times of weakness and confusion in a disarmingly conversational tone, had the power to leave you at the edge of discomfort, an underrated skill. This willingness to share emotional vulnerability in a very distinctive way was always one of the qualities distinguishing The Opposition from their peers. Alongside that, there was a skilful mixing of the personal and the political, or maybe just an acknowledgment that everything is political?

The Opposition's discography gets a little complex after Blinder's release in 2003, at the very least this is the first album released under the Opposition name since 2011. For most, it will feel like the first 'true' Opposition album in many years. (Note: bassist Marcus Bell sadly died in 2014 - Bernard Husbands joined in 2015).

So the band now faces that difficult task of justifying their return... many have faced a similar task in this post-modern world, where almost every act that ever existed seems to enjoy some form of return. The reality is that while some thrive in locating the original spark or in finding a different equally valid source of inspiration, others end up damaging their legacy with unwanted, unloved music.

The opening track, The First Thing, essentially says, 'sit down shut up, we mean business.' Key Opposition signature sounds, echoing guitar harmonics and burbling fretless bass, find themselves in an updated setting next to rawer guitars and pounding bass and drums. It's a thrilling beginning.

The sound is cinematic, wide and spacious, instruments able to breathe and vocals clear. I've never thought of the Opposition as a 'power trio' but it's the economy this encourages that gives their music a particular understated power and directness.

Opening an album with the line, 'in the shadows there are dark souls' is clearly a statement of intent in terms of the ride we're in for, made all the more starkly clear during the endlessly questioning, I Want to Believe. You can feel the conflict as Mark passes between wanting to believe in the goodness of others and then doubting himself before exhorting us all to, 'get it together.'

The picture remains tense throughout Going to Find You, the certainty of the title bleeding into the doubt of the line, 'How am I going to find you in all this mess?' Darts of despair finding their target in any listener who has experienced even the faintest twinge of loneliness...the fear of losing a loved one or never finding them to start with. Using the lyrical imagery of prosaic blind date rendezvous instructions is a stroke of genius in this context.

Things take a further stumble into the dark with Slipping in the Water where an innocent walk in the park is just the backdrop to a final act of desperation,
for which the reasons will never be known, leaving the witnesses as collateral damage.

Let it Burn unsettles with disembodied background vocal effects and a creeping feeling of nihilistic anxiety, 'it won't help me now...let it burn.' A skeletal guitar figure seems to count the time as the tension builds and then dissipates, not a note wasted.

Some light is let in during Down in Hollywood, although the fire is still burning  and the mood feels fatalistic, 'I guess it never rains it pours...'
The final words, 'I believe in you' offer some hope but the 'na na na' refrain is almost mocking and, don't forget: we are in Hollywood...

Finally, we reach the outro of At the Window, more like a sound collage with snatches of a sampled spoken word and a repeated refrain that seems like an obscured warning.

And then it's over, you can relax your clenched knuckles and reflect on the pleasures to be had from music that pulls no punches and faces the grim everyday terror of existence without tipping over into hysteria. Tough questions are asked and the answers offer only limited comfort if any at all. I think that was what post-punk was all about, wasn't it...?

A quietly intense record for tumultuous times.

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