Darling Buds Packshor

The Darling Buds – Killing For Love: Albums, Singles, Rarities, Unreleased 1987-2017 (Cherry Red)

Picture the scene, it was 1986 and the NME included a compilation cassette, C86 on the cover of their magazine. This cassette achieved the accolade that it had marked the beginning of indie. Who’d have thought that a pivotal music scene would have come out of a cover-mounted compilation cassette, a cassette that now fetches a pretty penny on a popular auction site?

The Darling Buds were one of those bands that featured, a band formed in Caerleon, Wales in 1986. With their rumbling bass line, steady beat and female vocals that fronted the sound, it captured the zeitgeist and was a sound whose elements we can still hear today. They named the band after English writer H.E.Bates‘ novel, The Darling Buds of May, who in turn had used the third line from Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’, where the author wrote: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May… “. From this, the band were born and no better description could they have chosen.

With that, perhaps we should expect a literary element to their sound, but as with the great bard himself, these are sounds that relate to popular culture, or as we now know it, just “pop”. From singing songs that relate to going out at the weekend in the likes of ‘Just To Be Seen’, which possesses a light refrain to the chorus, with darker elements that are reflected in the music of the verses. Others reflect the fundamentals of youth, with songs like ‘Valentine‘. These are just a few of the tracks found on the first disc, The Early Years laying out music played by this young band, with tracks collected from their first two singles, the flexi disc Spin and the compilation that became their second album Shame on You (The Native Years) and three Leeds Demos, ‘Shame On You’, ‘Mary’s Got To Go and the song I mentioned earlier ‘Just To Be Seen’, where vocalist Andrea Lewis tells us “…we’re going out tonight, going to a place we need to dance more and dance more and dance.”. I could describe the early recordings as pretty wild, with musical elements perhaps heard on future recordings by the likes of Thousand Yard Stare, or Bleach.

The Darling Buds were a band when ‘the sounds of indie’ were in their ascendancy and tones that would write the history of youth in the ’80s and beyond. On this 5-disc set, it’s the band’s first album, of which an enhanced version can be heard. The original 12 tracks now become 22, one more than the 2006 re-release. The additional track is the 12″ version of the first number on the album ‘Hit The Ground’. With their tendency to reflect the bass rumblings of The Wedding Present in the earlier years, the music here contains a lighter refrain, and it feels wonderful to describe this as pop, doing exactly what it says on the tin. The album’s original 12 tracks are a glorious portrayal of what was happening in music.

From ‘Hit The Ground’, ‘Big Head’ and finishing on ‘Things We Do For Love’, the band certainly provided a good insight into the alternative side of ‘Pop’ of the late ’80s. The final track finishes on what I can only describe as possessing elements similar to The Beatles‘A Day in the Life’ runout groove. Hardly music, but a series of sampled voices and back mastering; a wonderful slice representing a bygone era, meeting what was the current. The remaining expanded content begins with the track ‘Just Say So’ and is a glorious ride on an indie rollercoaster. With a constant jangly guitar providing the base to Andrea Lewis’s vocal, this is as good an indie tune as any I’ve heard. I also have to mention the following track, the Slightlydelic Version of ‘Shame On You’. We’ve heard this on several occasions throughout the set, but this offers a ’60s psyche vibe to the original song, a version only possible from the recording tapes I would suggest. ‘Different Daze’ another track available on the expanded content, caught my ear. This is a fast-paced tune with surf-rock pretences, leading into the Flip Flop Version of ‘It’s All Up To You’, a track which speaks with a hip-hop tongue, verging on rap. This was a sound that Pop Will Eat Itself made their own, but has been adapted by Darling Buds on this occasion.

The band’s final two albums are available as we continue, as Crawdaddy-plus and Erotica-plus, are both included, with the plus referring to the expanded content that’s been assembled. These two affairs were produced by the legendary Stephen Street, recognised for his work with The Smiths in the ’80s. His involvement can be heard the moment you tune in to Crawdaddy. A smooth, yet confident air that Street has managed to attain is laid bare. I see that this first recording achieved lesser success, as did its follow-up, than their debut Pop Said…, but I feel this was unfair as both recordings stand tall. On Crawdaddy, from ‘It Makes No Difference’ to ‘The End Of The Beginning’, is fully engaging and certainly speaks of its time. I’m surprised it didn’t receive more plaudits on its release. This album is certainly up there. The additional content on the plus version is a series of B-sides and versions, that I can hear just why they’ve been included. 

Erotica is less urgent than its predecessor, but with Street in charge of production, like Crawdaddy, is an album you will find fully engaging and can’t understand why it didn’t see the band to their fourth studio album. If anything, this possesses a goth tone and is surely up there with anything else recorded at the time. This version contains a further five tracks, which are solid in their composition, with no rough edges. The first track is ‘Love And Death’, a glorious ride led by Lewis’s sweet vocal dripping off every note. The disc concludes with ‘What Goes Around’, an unkempt trip, with shades of grunge, as we hear Lewis sing, “…what goes around, comes around again…” and as the disc bids its farewell, I’m left thinking, never a truer word has been spoken.

And so we arrive at disc 5. Described Rarities and Unreleased, and is a volume comprising demos, live recordings and 2017s Evergreen E.P.. It’s 1990s ‘Honeysuckle’, lifted from the band’s Crawdaddy album that begins this chapter, a demo that is the first of 4. The final 3, being previously unreleased and displaying a depth of songwriting I would ask why 4th album never materialed. From the ethereal, 90s feel of ‘Elevate Me’, through the clean storytelling of ‘Emaline’, concluding with ‘Why Bother Now’, which displays an untamed and unforgiving wall of sound, that any indie-disco would be happy to include on their setlist. These few early turns are worth the admission price alone. But were just an aperitif, as a series of live numbers follow. Tracks that are taken from the band’s show in Chicago and an acoustic number from a radio performance in San Francisco, introduced by Thomas Dolby. Further unreleased demos, recorded in LA in 1993 are then offered. A full-bodied collection of recordings, that whether you want to dance, or feel the power offered by the band’s foray into grunge, then as a set of tunes this has few that could compare. I’m just sorry they never recorded that fourth album. The band will be performing The Lexington in London, on November the 4th, later this year.

Website; http:www.facebook.com/TheDarlingbudsOfficial

Video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYivklKWIHo

Darling Buds Packshor

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