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P o s i t i v e V i b r a t i o n s

the egyptians - a living epitaph

By Pete Dooley

This isn't a review of anything, as such. Call it an overview, if you like. My quid's worth towards the great debate currently tearing these pages to shreds: Has our hero still got it? And if he has, what's he doing with it?

We'll skip the 'glory days' of the Soft Boys, and the peaks and troughs of The Solo Years. Let's get straight onto those Egyptians fellers.

The first I knew of the Robyn-Andy-Morris reunion came with the release of 'The Bells Of Rhymney'. Never being a great fan of Hitchcock covers I thought it was so-so. 'Falling Leaves' however was another matter. I loved it, and still do.

Fegmania! followed hot on the heels of 'Rhymney'. It was once described by Robyn as his 'Imagine'. At the time I'd rather have had his 'Primal Scream', and was more than disappointed by its listener-friendliness. Fegmania! was too polished, too clean for my ears ('The Man With The Lightbulb Head' and 'Dwarfbeat' being two exceptions, and the former doesn't feature Andy or Morris), but then I'd rather have A Can Of Bees than Underwater Moonlight, so draw your own conclusions.

Gotta Let This Hen Out! makes a better video than it does an album, and came too early in the Egyptians' career, but at least it did more justice to 'America' than Groovy Decay ever did.

Element Of Light was the first Egyptians album I took to over the Soft Boys. I found it a marked improvement on Fegmania!, less polished, more organic. Hardly a duff track to be found (for my money, 'The Leopard' is the least successful), and amongst these shine through several gems: 'Raymond Chandler Evening', 'Lady Waters', 'Never Stop Bleeding' and of course 'Airscape'.

Globe Of Frogs. Dammit, I like it. Don't care what you say. Even though it's not the equal of Element, it marks the start of the Hitchcock/REM love affair, and it's a rip-off lengthwise (thank you A&M). After this, rigor mortis starts to set in.

Queen Elvis. Oh dear. There's an awful lot of twee 'eccentric' stuff around this album, like flies around dead meat. 'The Devil's Coachman' is by far the worst offender. There are pointless non-songs ('Freeze', 'Knife'), bland AOR radio fodder ('One Long Pair Of Eyes', 'Madonna Of The Wasps') and, as if all that weren't criminal enough, A&M pad out the CD with duff remixes of two of the duffest tracks. 'Swirling' is nice, though, and against all reason, 'Wax Doll' does something for me.

Perspex Island. NO NO NO NO NO. A whole album full of 'Freeze' and 'One Long Pair Of Eyes' regurgitated again & again. This is the only Hitchcock album I actively dislike. It's an American album by an English band, and personally there's nothing I find more distasteful. A pretty glistening surface with nothing underneath it, made all the more loathsome by the fact that it was apparently intentional.

Respect. Respect is something that seems to be in rather short supply for this album, but to my mind it's certainly an improvement on the glittering artifice of Perspex Island, and - 'Wafflehead' aside - it flows along nicely. 'Allright Yeah', 'Bright Fresh Flower' and 'The Live-in Years' should all have found their way onto Respect, but hey, this is A&M. You're not about to get your money's worth, you know.

(Another point in Respect's favour is that it's the first Egyptians album since Element that doesn't feature Peter Bloody Buck or Michael Sodding Stipe.)

Surfer Ghost - it's obviously an unknown quantity. It may never even appear. But in embryonic form, it's rumoured to be one of the better albums for some time. Let's hope so. Queen Elvis made my heart sink. Eye was fine, but not a patch on Trains. Perspex Island made me wonder why I bothered to part with my money. I almost didn't bother to buy Respect, that's how bad things were. In the end Respect restored a little of my faith. A backward step, but that's the right direction for my money. If Perspex Island was the way forward, I didn't want to be along for the ride.

In conclusion, I'm personally thrilled that Robyn's been dropped by A&M. Hopefully he'll eventually find himself signed to a label who'll make more of what he still has to offer and worry less about those precious demographics. As a bonus we might start to get our money's worth in future, instead of the 45 minutes or under which was all A∓M were willing to deliver.

So good luck on cracking the right deal, Robyn. And that's not just the right deal for you, but the right deal for your fans too.

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