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Classix Nouveaux – Battle Cry (Cherry Red)

It was in February 2021, that Cherry Red released The Liberty Recordings, a comprehensive account of Classix Nouveaux albums, from 1981’s Night People, its international alternative Classix Nouveau, 1982’s La Verité and 1983’s Secret. This was their entire studio output up until 1983; then in 1985 the band split, following lead vocalist Sal Solo’s move to pursue a solo career. They surprised fans in 2021, with the release of The Liberty Recordings, which as we see now was their pursuit toward the release of this new album Battle Cry. The first new material to have been released does indeed come as some surprise, not just a new album, but one 40 years since the release of there than, final album. How is this passage of time going to affect the sound, well into the 21st Century? This is some 44 years since their formation, well, we are about to find out.

The album opens with ‘Prelude / Fix Your Eyes Up’, as a calm sets the scene. Running water and then electronic sounds suggest that something might be on the horizon. I feel we’re not into the heart of the number, as tabla sets the pace, then a shrill guitar takes over. Sal’s vocal is introduced as the companion piece Fix Your Eyes Up’ begins. It’s not lost that like the band’s earlier work, Sal is using a vocoder. He doesn’t need to use a vocoder; his vocal is as strong as it was in the band’s heyday and just muddies the water. As the technique is reduced, it becomes clear there is something about this song, because even after it has played out, the echoes keep ringing in my subconscious, in a nice way I should add. Then the gladiatorial intent of its title track Battle Cry’ becomes the central topic. This is something quite striking, the main role is performed by Sal singing “There are demons yet to conquer/There are mountains still to climb/There are oceans to cross over if we only have the time.” Here B.P. Hurdling’s drums are acting as the undercurrent, as all proceeds, the band’s guitarist Gary Steadman provides the strength of a distorted lead guitar, before resorting to occasional stabs of a wah-wah pedal. This whole sheet on which the number is written is crammed with content, from Solo’s lyrics to the band’s canvas of instrumentation. Here you won’t be lost to find an inspiration, be it the Roman gladiator taking up arms, or the sound of nature, provided by the electronic samples as the number opens.

This new album is not a million miles from the band’s debut Night People, but isn’t living on its laurels. Sal’s lyrical palate seems more direct and displayed none more so than on the track ‘Revelation’. Here one of the oldest stories of all is told, one from Revelations. Opening with a cinematic quote, before Sal’s vocal is brought in, “I turned around to see/A voice that spoke to me and seven golden stands/One like the son of man all dressed in flowing robes/With hair as white as snow/A bronze his feet were made/His voice like ocean waves/Revelation.” A swirling guitar has been playing overhead, as the lyrics have been read and it’s only now that this has become apparent. As the story progresses, it becomes clear as to its meaning, “And I fell down like dead/And then he touched my head/Don’t be afraid he said/Although I once was dead/Now I’m alive.” Here the musical tone has changed, becoming more sinister, but with it the most sinister story of all. I had read that Sal Solo, following his work with the French, space rock band Rockets, had become heavily involved in Catholicism, so this may’ve been the inspiration, whichever way it may be, both lyrically and musically, this is a powerful number.

The band’s more radio-friendly tracks, the likes of the remade of ‘Inside Outside’ and the already talked about ‘Fix Your Eyes Up’, have been released as singles, the latter having charted at number 10 on The Heritage Chart and having been talked about by DJ Mike Read on Talking Pictures TV. Although this may not have attained the same media exposure, as their earlier work, the fact the band have flexed the same memory muscle, over 40 years from the release of their debut, is in my mind pretty good going. The album contains nine tracks, two of which, like the opening number, are tracks that combine 2 compositions, the penultimate number ‘Interlude / Inside Outside’, follows ’Never Never Comes’, a number whose soundstage is just massive. The production had opened the windows for the number and cleared the surfaces of any unwanted clutter, with Sal Solo wistfully reminiscing on the subject. This is before I presume what is the ‘Interlude’ to the next number, a prerecorded voice explains “This song is a fast song isn’t it, it has a beat that moves right along too, listen,” and then the remade ‘Inside Outside’ comes into view. This is a number whose bpm certainly is not as fast as the original, although I would say it has a deeper production. As the more familiar sounds of the song begin, although the wallpaper has changed, I can see the room as I remember it. This is a pop song, plain and simple, the original, one of five singles released during 1981 and still has that familiar hook. The final song, ‘Colour Me The Sky’ possesses a Balearic tone, along with a Spanish guitar that sees the close of the album. Having listened to this, I would consider it a concept album, which might only be a stopover to further output. A question that for now is just that.

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