Ian Lowery - Eye Of The Beholder - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ian Lowery - Eye Of The Beholder

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2019-02-08
Ian Lowery - Eye Of The Beholder
Ian Lowery - Eye Of The Beholder

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that is certainly the case with the latest installment of Ian Lowery’s unreleased recordings. Rough they may be in places, but the beauty of Lowery’s heart and intellect shines through.

For those not in the know, Ian Lowery was a force of nature on the UK Post Punk scene. First with Ski Patrol and later with the furious likes of the Folk Devils, he was an incendiary presence on a scene that fostered the likes of The Birthday Party and Killing Joke. Bands the Folk Devils could match in terms of intensity. However, Folk Devils' brand of amphetamine-fueled Blues couldn’t last forever and once the band burnt themselves out at both ends, Lowery recorded two remarkable solo albums under the moniker of King Blank (The Real Dirt and King Blank To).

Sadly, Lowery passed away in 2001. While his potent legacy received much deserved critical acclaim, Lowery remains a lost legend awaiting rediscovery. While longtime fans like Spiritualized's Jason Pierce need no convincing, my advice is to hit Folk Devils and King Blank hard. His posthumous collections, Get Out The Sun and Ironic are the cherry on top. Filled with lost gems.

Speaking of which, Eye of The Beholder kicks off with a slower tempo version of  ‘Bent and Rusted Crown’, a Lowery classic and a highlight off Ironic. Its a more reflective spin on a number that questions somewhat questionable behavior. The tempo may be slower, but the guitar riff remains just as irresistible.

‘Son Of Negative’ is a bluesy unreleased number seeking to give complacency a punch in the gut. A song that would have fit well on either Sun or Ironic.  In terms of energy, the performance doesn’t quite rise to the challenge posed in the lyrics, but that’s what lends the tune it's irony. The epic fury of ‘Victory Parade’ takes up the slack, however.

‘Gravity’ is rooted in a bed of gritty guitar fuzz, yet still hits the Pop sweet spot. “Nothing but gravity, holding me down,” Lowery sneers as soaring guitars raise the roof. It’s glorious stuff. A lost Lowery classic. Alone worth the price of admission.  By contrast, ‘Juicer’ brings it all down to an acoustic guitar and violin. A compelling mix of compassion and tough love.

‘Somewhere To Crash’ was a highlight off last year’s Agent Orange + Drug Of Choice Sessions. Another terrific, posthumous release. Eye’s rougher version is positively demonic in comparison. A furious, sleazy bit of Velvet Underground noise. Punk as shit.

‘Spook’ finds Lowery in uncharacteristic Pop Group, Gang of Four mode. Chanting to a Funk beat and a churlish saxophone. Not the kind of thing one comes to associate with Lowery. But it's interesting to see him try on a different musical jacket and the end results are undeniably compelling. True, sonically there’s no denying these are demos, but like all of Eye, it’s an unreleased diamond in the rough. Offering a different side to an iconoclastic and uncompromising artist. “I need someone and your face fits,” he quips before screaming, “I gotta dirty my soul!”

The acerbic, ‘Uncondition Myself’ is as sonically rough and noisy as anything of The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat. While not the place to start with Lowery, it’s a rare glimpse of him blowing off some unhinged steam in the studio.

Another highlight on Eye is the spare brooding ‘Empty Hours’. Clearly, this is a demo of an unreleased song set to the lone accompaniment of double-tracked electric guitars. But its haunting stuff. “It’s like some horse keeps kicking me, empty hours killing me,” Lowery growls. A tossing and turning in the sheets ode to insomnia and another lost Lowery gem you will only find here. 

This posthumous collection ends with the charming acoustic demo of ‘Baby Monster Baby Star’. A sort of twisted lullaby begging the question, “How do you live with yourself?” It’s barbed wit on par with early Elvis Costello and a contempt worthy of Lennon’s ‘How Do You Sleep At Night’. A great way to call it the night.

Without a doubt, Eye Of The Beholder has its rough, lo-fi moments. But that’s the price you pay for lost pearls that have fallen through the cracks. You might have to dust them off, but they still shine semi-precious. A worthy addition to Lowery’s recorded legacy. As his work with Ski Patrol, Folk Devils and King Blank all go to show, Lowery was up there with the top songwriters of his generation. A must for fans of the Gun Club, Only Ones or Birthday Party. If you ask me, Lowery was the perfect Post Punk answer to Bob Dylan. In terms of mining for gold among long lost cult artists, his body of work is the motherlode.

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Ian Lowery - Ironic
  • 01/27/2017
  • By Kevin Orton