Reissues: Ones We Like, Ones We’d Like to See

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written by I Die You Die
March 15, 2012 | Category: Commentary

Reissues can be a contentious issue, often accused of being unnecessary cash-ins made at the expense of the most die-hard fans who deserve better. While some are long-overdue, some other records seem to get trotted out nearly every year with slightly different artwork and one measly unreleased track (we won’t tell any tales out of school, but a certain godfather of endzeit whose band name rhymes with “Trump’s gut” comes to mind). The track listing of the always-touted bonus tracks is often a bone of contention, with fans grumbling about notably absent, legendary “lost” cuts while paying again for the b-sides they already have on singles, and licensing issues can keep records in limbo for years or force them to excise key elements, like the Carl Orff samples in Apoptygma Berzerk’s “Love Never Dies”.

That said, some reissues hit the sweet spot of timing and material just right. Here’s a list of four reissue campaigns which we were more than happy with, and four more we’d love to see sometime before the technological singularity lets us stemcast any and all media directly to our frontal lobes.

Reissues We Like

Bruce: The Sound, Jeopardy & From The Lions Mouth
The Sound are, for my money, perhaps the most criminally overlooked post-punk band of all time. While Lowlife are just as dear to my heart, their relentless romantic gloom was always going to limit their audience, whereas there’s no good reason why The Sound couldn’t have gained the same profile as Echo & The Bunnymen, or at least The Chameleons (two bands whose best records The Sound’s can go toe to toe with). They wrote dirges. They wrote pop songs. They wrote anthems. All of their music was direct, unapologetic, and passionate. That the band stuck it out as long as they did without ever reaching a wider audience is a miracle. That the band’s lack of success is believed to have compounded the long-term depression to which singer/songwriter Adrian Borland eventually succumbed is heartbreaking. The only positive that can be taken from the story of The Sound is that their cult outlived them and continues. After a 2002 reissue campaign by Renascent (who sadly seem to have gone into hibernation), the torch has been picked up this year by 1972 (about whom I can find absolutely no information), who have released the first two of their five LPs. Not sure if the other LPs (which were originally released on different labels than the first two) will follow, but regardless, these are two absolute gems I’m happy to see circulating again.

Alex: Throbbing Gristle, Second Annual Report, D.O.A.: The Third and Final Report, 20 Jazz Funk Greats, Heathen Earth, Greatest Hits
There’s already been a host of really excellent writing done on the topic of last year’s Throbbing Gristle reissues, to the point where when I acquired them I didn’t feel like I had anything to add. Their status as the progenitors of an entire movement of music (and the long-suffering go-to in the ages old “real industrial” argument) has a tendency to overshadow the actual content of their work, which is by turns brilliant, infuriating, inscrutable, unlistenable and just plain weird. The real value of the five double CD reissues of the “official” albums of their original run is in how it cuts through the three plus decades of discussion that has risen around them: the remastering job done by TG’s own Chris Carter avoids washing away the sonic grit of the anti-music of D.O.A. and Heathen Earth while highlighting the unnerving beauty that surfaces on 20 Jazz Funk Greats to incredible effect. The collection of live material and b-sides (absent on the vinyl versions) that make up the second CD of each album are the perfect bait to lure in people who may already own these records and give the collection a dual purpose: yeah it’s great to have them so new fans can find them, but old-schoolers who want to listen to three or four versions of “The Old Man Smiled” get something too. By the way, you should really read Drew Daniel’s review for Pitchfork, the only time I’ll ever link that site from this one.

A lovingly assembled package of music you are supposed to hate.

Bruce: Clan of Xymox, Hidden Faces
Hidden Faces isn’t just one of Xymox’s best records, or the one which heralded the return of their original name, or the beginning of their third (and still-ongoing) distinct musical style: it’s also one of the best darkwave records of all time, and acted as a rallying point for what much of that genre would sound like for the next decade. Adding some heavy punch to the genre’s existing blend of ethereal and coldwave with dance beats and full-on goth rawk guitar, Hidden Faces was immediately accessible and club-friendly, yet still provided all of the introspective swooning that fans wanted from a CoX record (or a darkwave record in general). Released by Tess Records (who also released stuff from Trance To The Sun, Blade Fetish, and a slew of This Ascension records in the 90s), the record was only in print for two or three years before the label closed up shop. Ronny & co. raised their North American profile with their Metropolis debut Creatures in 1999, but for well over a decade Hidden Faces stayed, well, hidden stateside. The 2010 Metro reissue rejigs the track order just a titch, adds some b-sides, and reminds us of just how good Xymox are when they’re firing on all cylinders.

Alex: Alex: Caustic, I Can’t Believe We’re Re-Releasing This Crap
A reissue doesn’t have to be part of a campaign, or even of particularly old material to be of value. Take Caustic’s I Can’t Believe We’re Re-Releasing This Crap (please), a collection of his out of print first two albums (Unicorns, Kittens and Shit and Booze Up and Riot) released on Metropolis this week. Self-effacing title aside, Matt Fanale scores major points for adding not only 10 bonus tracks in the release itself, but for tagging on 29 additional remixes available as a download for purchasers of the package. Think about that, for the approximate $20 this costs here in Canadia, you’re getting literally hours of music, driven by an artist who is constantly working on and releasing new material and who could have justifiably left the package as is but wanted to do something extra. It’s about as far from a cash-in as is possible in terms of value and a shining example of how an artist can apply DIY principles to a label release.

Reissues We’d Like to See

Bruce: Bauhaus, The Sky’s Gone Out & Burning From The Inside
The 2009 boxed “Omnibus” reissues of In The Flat Field and Mask were a Bauhaus obsessive’s wet-dream, loaded with unreleased and legitimately interesting bonus tracks, oodles of interviews and photos, all lavishly presented. Having such a detailed look at only half of the catalog of a band as beloved as Bauhaus is downright torturous. The original Omnibus editions sold out quickly (admittedly at a pace hastened by that big warehouse fire), so I can’t imagine it’s a lack of market confidence that’s holding up the deluxe iterations of The Sky’s Gone Out and Burning From The Inside which black-clad masses are clamoring for. Here’s hoping that it’s a case of detailed research and archival spelunking that’s causing the delay, and that we’ll all be able to celebrate with five different studio outtakes of “Honeymoon Croon” (and the long-rumoured mono mix of “Wasp”!) soon enough.

Alex: Alex: Poésie Noire
It’s insanely frustrating to be a fan of EBM and darkwave and not be able to locate material by Poésie Noire, the seminal Belgian group whose influence stands astride both genres. I can think of fewer acts who are name dropped by so many other artists as an influence, and yet have an almost complete lack of work in print aside from a couple of haphazard best ofs. Thanks to Youtube and the occasional compilation appearance I know just enough about them to know I like them: they mixed up industrial and goth rock tropes in the oddball fashion that so many of their countrymen (paging A Split Second, who are just about to get a nice vinyl reissue of their first tape on Maximal Minimal) did, but with a Klaus Nomi-esque sense of the theatrical adding to the effect. Thing is, it’s not like they aren’t a going concern: they released a new LP in 2010 and play plenty of festival dates in Europe. They’re the perfect candidates for the sort of lavish LP boxset treatment Vinyl on Demand has put together for classic material by Portion Control, Clock DVA and Psyche. It’d be an expensive undertaking no doubt, but considering the current state of affairs with regards to their discography and the apparent demand amongst nerds like us for material from bands of their ilk, it seems like a no-brainer.

Bruce: Coil
We’re gonna have even the most passionate Coil fans sick to death of us yakking about them soon if we keep going at this rate, but Sleazy’s death has brought the long-standing issue of the scarcity (and cost) of Coil records back to the surface. I’m not sure if anyone is currently in place as the “musical executor” of Coil’s catalog, and a full-trawl through Sleazy’s archives for unreleased material would likely be a gargantuan undertaking, requiring years to organize and release coherently. In the meantime, though, only a couple of Coil albums are available via Threshold House, and I can’t imagine any are actively in print, which is a crying shame. The last official pressing of the major works was done in 2001 – as with Einstürzende Neubauten’s catalog, Some Bizarre were printing copies of Scatology and Horse Rotovator for which John and Peter were never paid a dime, but they seem to have stopped. Rereleasing everything Coil has done would be impossible, but getting their core LPs back in print’s a manageable enough task. The format of the TG reissues and the reception they’ve received shows that there’s a proper way to do justice to these records and still a sizable market for them.

Alex: The Tear Garden
The Legendary Pink Dots have done a fairly good job of making sure you can still acquire most of their classic albums, and Nettwerk has kept the larger part of the Skinny Puppy discography in print, but aside from iTunes there is currently no way of getting a hold of the collaborative works of Cevin Key and Edward Ka-Spel, outside of lucky record store finds and eBay sniping. Thanks to the leftfield success of acts like Animal Collective, electronic psychedelia has never had a larger profile amongst young music fans, and it seems a shame that prescient albums like Tired Eyes Slowly Burning, Last Man to Fly and Sheila Liked the Rodeo can’t share this moment in the sun. If that seems like farfetched, pie in the sky thinking, consider this: the rise of post-punk over the last decade has created an enormous secondary market for the catalogues of forgotten bands (like say, The Names or like, everything on Danse Macabre) to be consumed anew by kids born long after any of it was recorded. More broadly, you tell me you couldn’t sell a track like “You and Me and Rainbows” to somebody who loves MGMT? Slap it on 180 gram vinyl, get it in the right record stores and the market for them creates itself.

Any albums you want but can’t get or are happy finally got the release they deserve? Leave ‘em in the comments!

13 Responses

  • Steven says:

    nice write up. as a long time collector i’m guilty of looking through the wrong end of the telescope (meaning i have no idea how rare or OOP certain releases are because i’ve had mine all along).

    btw, ever notice that you can sing the lyrics of fad gadget’s ‘collapsing new people’ right over the top of CoX’s ‘this world’ and not miss a beat?

    • Bruce says:

      Yeah, that was the case with the Xymox record for me. Picked it up round ’99 and never lent much thought to whether it was in print for quite a while.

      Will have to test that mix out some time. ;)

  • Brad says:

    Someone needs to reissue the first SPK album.

  • peter says:

    Parade Ground (Strange World is an album for the ages)
    Gavin Friday (Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves, in particular)
    Bande Berne Crematoire (Missing Bodyparts is missing quite a bit)
    Lycia’s early works could do with the same treatment Bleak’s album got in 2009.

    Some Poesie Noire re-issues would be damn nice, my CD’s groan every time I play them.

    It’s flagrantly obvious but Noise Unit’s first two albums are begging for a re-release. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve played them for people and it is like the last missing piece falling into place.

    • Bruce says:

      Found “Grinding Into Emptiness” in Amoeba a year back, but yeah, have never come across “Response Frequency”.

      As above, had no idea that Friday’s catalog was out of print: my partner’s had all of his stuff for a donkey’s age, and I never really thought it might have fallen by the wayside. That reminds me, have to pick up “Catholic”…

  • peter says:

    Hee hee, that should be Cut Up and not Strange World (though that single’s a killer.)

    • Bruce says:

      “Cut Up” is for sale digitally, but it would be nice to have a physical copy of (oh, how I love “Moans”). I picked up that “The Golden Years” comp on vinyl from Dark Entries – rather nice pressing with a cool booklet.

  • peter says:

    Xmal Deutschland. All of it. Yes, even Devils. Catholic is a truly moving album.

    http://www.brutalresonance.com/viewreview.php?id=1190

    • Bruce says:

      Nice review! Gavin’s vocal chops have always been overlooked in my opinion, perhaps due to the theatricality of the Prunes.

      “Devils” is the one X-Mal record I -don’t- have, so I’d be fine with that (and they did so many 12″s that filling out the bonus tracks would be a cinch). “Viva” was the first one I picked up, and I was too young to know that I “wasn’t supposed to like it” because it was too soft and poppy or whatnot. Whatever – I still love it.

  • peter says:

    Viva was the high water mark for them, no doubt. It was quite clear why they split up after Devils, it no longer was a band in any sense of the word though there are some great moments on it. Ms. Huwe now is a visual artist in Berlin.

    http://www.anjahuwe.com/

    I managed to locate a compilation which collects all their non-album tracks and single mixes that sometimes appears on ebay and is entitled Singled Out. Worth every penny, it goes all the way back to their first release in 1980.

  • Lawrence says:

    Now I know this is a pipe dream: a north-amrican reissue of the Soft Ballet back catalogue. But alas, I don’t think there’s too much of a market for obscure japanese electro-industrial acts…

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