This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears

by Jeff Penczak Rating:9 Release Date:2018-10-26
This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears
This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears

Yet another reissue (bringing the total close to a dozen) of the first of three collaborative efforts featuring the cream of the 4AD stables covering some of label head Ivo Watts-Russell’s favourite tunes. Martin Aston’s essential label bio describes the desperation, despair, and depression that made up Ivo’s remit to capture the mood of Lou Reed’s Berlin, and tracks like the terrific and terrifying opening trio succeed in spades. Cindytalk’s Gordon (now known as Cindy) Sharp’s heartrending interpretation of Alex Chilton’s ‘Kangaroo’ (from his Big Star days) is one of the most emotional recordings ever released on a label known for its unrelenting heartstring tuggings. Ivo likened it to “a cross between The Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett on heroin” and he’s not far off. But two things stand out – Ivo’s courage to open the album with it and subsequently choose it as the lead single and the fact that the listeners agreed, propelling it all the way to Number 2 on the UK Indie charts. Cocteau Twins bassist Simon Raymonde’s mournful bass is also eerily predictive of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks theme a decade later!

It’s easy to say it’s all downhill from here, but it gets even grimmer with Cocteau Twins Liz Fraser and Robin Guthrie’s heart-stopping version of Tim Buckley’s ‘Song To The Siren’. Originally released the previous year as both an A- and B-side, the song would eventually rack up the fourth most weeks on the UK indie charts (101, or nearly two years!). It would also be a major bone of contention between Guthrie and Watts-Russell, but you’ll have to read the book to get all the juicy details. Another Lynch connection – he wanted to use it as a central theme in Blue Velvet, but the Buckley estate wouldn’t budge from their extortionist licensing fee.

Chilton’s ‘Holocaust’ was also brilliantly channeled by ex-Buzzcocks and Magazine frontman Howard Devoto, although his choppy delivery does remind one at times of German operatic, avant garde/New Wave singer Klaus Nomi, who died from AIDS the previous year.

A distinctive component of this and subsequent TMC albums were the mysterious instrumentals attributed to the “band”, at once icily ambient and cinematically evocative. ‘FYT’ (‘Fuck You Too’) is a swirling synth swash courtesy Colourbox and Wolfgang Press keyboardists Martyn Young and Mark Cox, respectively, and the pair returned for the equally despondent ‘Fond Affections’ (originally released on Cox’s earlier project Rema-Rema’s “Wheel In The Roses” EP in 1980) and also benefitting from Sharp’s dreamy vocals.

Roy Harper, no stranger to gloom and doom (he even referred to himself once as “Doctor Doom”) provides one of his finest songs, ‘Another Day’, brilliantly realised by Fraser’s angelic, cloud-hopping vocals over a sombre string backing. Comparison to Kate Bush’s ethereal, helium vocals is apt; even Ivo considered excising them, but wisely reconsidered.

Dead Can Dance’s medieval chants/trance rock is represented by three tracks, with Lisa Garrard’s invented language bearing more than a passing resemblance to Fraser’s equally indecipherable pronouncements. Accompanying herself on accordion on the eerie arrangement of ‘Waves Become Wings’, which also features ominous synths and pealing church bells, she demands your undivided attention. Simon Raymonde’s ‘Barramundi’ again features Garrard on accordion, but it’s his very Guthriesque, shimmering guitar that steals the spotlight for this most Cocteau-like instrumental.

Garrard’s DCD partner Brendan Perry accompanies her on the liturgical churchlike composition ‘Dreams Made Flesh’, wherein her invented language is paired with the strident plucking of her Yang T’Chin (Chinese dulcimer) for a fear-inducing, pants-shitting experience you won’t soon forget.

Wire’s Colin Newman contributes ‘Not Me’, an unreleased demo from his 4AD debut solo album, A-Z, sung here in a herky-jerky, Tom Verlaine swagger by Modern English vocalist Robbie Grey and featuring Guthrie and German female punkers Xmal Deutschland guitarist Manuela Rickers on abrasive guitar backing. The album’s most outright “rock” song, it’s really out of place here, but can’t totally detract from the success of this daring venture. Ivo would try it two more times (with equal success, see our reissue reviews elsewhere), but this debut will forever be linked with the controversial tagging of This Mortal Coil as the 4AD “house band”, a label almost all involved vehemently but unsuccessfully tried to deny. In the end, the tags don’t matter, the album is a damn brilliant piece of work, an iconic 80s release that helped define 4AD’s sound for years to come. The album title, by the way, stems from a phrase uttered by Mick Allen (of 4AD signings Mass, Rema-Rema, and Wolfgang Press) during a dust-up amongst his Mass bandmates during a press shoot. Again, you gotta read the book! [Note: You're all set if you still have your original or any of the numerous reissues. As will all previous reissues, there are no bonus tracks.]

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