Release Date : 02/04/2012 (Sacred Bones Records)
Permalink : http://mostlyferocious.com/2012/04/10/uv-pop-no-songs-tomorrow
Sacred Bones Records (home of ‘The Men’) have reissued early eighties punk/electro curiosity UV PØP’s ‘No Songs Tomorrow’. UV PØP (UV standing for ‘Ultra Violent’) hail from South Yorkshire at a time when Thatcher ruled, coal mines were closing, unemployment was at record levels, and there was very little to be cheery about. This record is as much a testament to the social climate of the time, as it is to the huge number of musical directions happening during that era. Punk and No Wave was dying away to more electro-led movements and there were a number of bands caught in the crossfire. On its initial release, ‘No Songs Tomorrow’ was pressed in very small numbers and after developing a word-of-mouth cult following, became a much sought after rarity. Over the years, the groundswell of bands citing this record as influential has led to its reissue, and, hearing it almost 30 years later, you can really see why.
Title track ‘No Songs Tomorrow’ opens the record and the intensity starts almost immediately. It sounds like a dirtier, more punk, early Gary Numan. Stark drum machine chimes beneath guitar riffs as John White croons across it. I found lots of the lyrics to be quite generic throughout the record, although this isn’t a criticism. Being of the time it was made, I was surprised that there were no direct political attacks here, as you might expect. Its strength is in the passion with which the lyrics are delivered, and it would seem meaning and message come secondary to the feelings it conveys. That said, there is a joy in the semantics and the poetry of the lyrics, which keeps you listening. The anger and frustration with which they’re delivered is as compelling as the musical tone.
‘Portrait – Extended’ is lighter, with layered guitars which are more pronounced over the ever-present drum machine. The track feels more like early Pulp or softer moments of The Fall. It’s edgy and authentic in a way you don’t usually hear these days. The production is muted, but without suppressing any of the beauty of the layered guitar parts.
‘Some Win This’ features a solo guitar riffing through with a story about losing a partner. It’s one of the simpler tracks on offer here, but the vocal is so heartfelt and affecting, it doesn’t drop any of the intensity built by what has preceded it. Developing into a Johnny Marr-esque strummed crescendo, it’s easy to see how UV PØP may have influenced what was to come from the middle and late eighties with bands like The Smiths.
‘I.C’ is the only instrumental piece to feature. Most evident here is how UV PØP want to really put their guitars at odds with the drum machine. Obviously, they’re the core sounds of the record, but here they really play them well against each other. It’s an interesting arrangement and reminded me of something approaching some of the bleaker moments of Radiohead. While the drums are stark, the chord changes on guitar build a softer aesthetic to the track. It’s delicious in its build up; maudlin and beautiful all at once.
Mid-album, ‘Psalm’ is one of the most interesting tracks on the album. It features Nietzsche-esque ranting from John White about how little he needs a god, played over a minimal soundtrack you would probably expect from a David Lynch film. The sound of a strong South Yorkshire accent gives weight and authenticity to the track. It’s a vocal sound you don’t always hear and even less so in a setting like this. It’s brimming with hatred and loathing, which is difficult to resist. The lyrics are spat throughout the track with enough venom to convey how much White means it.
Electro-clash ‘Sleep Don’t Talk’ has stood the test of time and still sounds very contemporary. The feel of the track is somewhere between The Fall, Kap Bambino and Crystal Castles and I’ve no doubt that this would be on the top of any DJ’s remix wish list. With its unrelenting drum machine and vocoded ranting, it makes for a hugely exciting and aggressive sound. It’s everything we’ve heard so far, crammed into a dance track, and it’s edgy beyond belief.
Of everything on offer throughout ‘No Songs Tomorrow’, ‘Commitment’ is probably the most challenging. With its industrial Krautrock beat and (unexpected) bebop trumpets, there is a huge number of very different layers to process. A barely audible sample of an American preacher building his sermon plays as the track develops; turning up its dread and intensity with every bar. It’s powerful stuff and not an easy listen. I have no doubt this is the reason ‘No Songs Tomorrow’ has maintained its cult status. There aren’t many bands who can build a track as stomach wrenching as this. It’s breathtaking in the mechanisms it uses to disarm the listener.
Penultimate ‘Hafunkiddies’ follows with similarly industrial sounds. This time we’re being given everything this record has to offer and it’s amongst some of the most accessible material on the record. The thing I most liked about ‘No Songs Tomorrow’’ is how contemporary it still sounds. Sacred Bones have cleverly identified that this would happily sit next to any of the edgier electro bands on offer today and probably teach them a thing or two.
‘Four Minute Warning’ closes the record and uses more dance music techniques that we would recognise today. The genius of the record is that these techniques must have been new experimental concepts back when it was made. Most prevalent here is a trance feel, with some very gentle melodies. It’s a soundscape that develops over the five minute duration, building to a huge wall of noise. Again, bold and brave, as is almost everything on this record.
‘No Songs Tomorrow’ isn’t a record you would play every day. It’s an intense piece that demands you take it full-on. However, the themes and sounds it presents are so varied and interesting that it’s a hugely rewarding journey to take. Given the social and political context the record was made in, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a protest record. It isn’t. It’s a record born out of a passion and frustration of the time, which has weaved itself into the writing. It’s also a timely reissue, based on how closely it sits with some of the acts around today, and the similar social climate we find ourselves in. Genres which were probably unknown at the time of writing are instantly recognisable: techno, trance, industrial, punk and electro-clash are all present and often within the same track.
Great records are always produced from hard times and this reissue demonstrates that perfectly. Hopefully UV PØP will again influence a new generation of bands to be inspired by ‘No Songs Tomorrow’ with its boldness and its passion. It’s a record that takes more risks than any major label could stomach today and, for that, it should be treasured.