1919: Bloodline – Album Review
Released March 2017
Comeback album from 80s Goth contenders 1919, completed before the sad passing of guitarist Mark Tighe earlier this year……Ian Canty sees a fitting tribute to the band’s leading light and a very good record by any standards…..
This LP comes out in very sad circumstances with the death of Mark Tighe just before its release, but the band have decided to carry on to honour the work he did on this record and on listening, it is entirely the correct decision. Starting out under the name Heaven Seventeen in 1980 before that particular sobriquet was nabbed by some errant ex-Human Leaguers, 1919 emerged out of their Bradford base to carve out a reputation in both Post Punk and Goth circles with a set of atmospheric and strangely danceable tunes. Lead at the time by singer Ian Tilleard, they made their recording debut with “Replusion” before hooking up with the local label Red Rhino to release the “Machine” mini-LP and a single “Caged” before finishing their career with a couple of further 45s on Cherry Red spin-off label Abstract (“Cry Wolf” and the “Earth Song” 12″ EP, which was nothing to do with Michael Jackson of the same name).
In 1984 the band morphed into Another Cinema, signalling the end of the 1919 story for nearly 3 decades until they regrouped with new singer Rio Goldhammer (Tilleard seems to have fallen out with the others at some point) a couple of years ago. After playing some well received comeback gigs they convened to record their first full album “Bloodline”, which is what we have here before us.
Now band reforming/recording with replacement vocalists are sometimes problematic situations to put it mildly, with people mostly considering singers the sonic signature of a great many bands. Perhaps not being overly familiar with 1919’s first incarnation helped me when listening to this, as I was left to merely judge on the quality of the vocals (which are actually very good) rather than whether he sounded like the other bloke or not. When all is said and done the personnel doesn’t really matter: you must judge the record on how it sounds, not who played on it, the history of said band or whatever.
The fact is on “Bloodline” the vocals are sung with conviction and enhance the record, fitting with the material well and dovetailing perfectly with the instrumentation. Now I could go down the route of comparisons (the singing is sometimes in a Lydon-esque wail, as on the excellent hard-hitting title-track “Bloodline” and in other moments a semi-speaking dramatic style prevails), but suffice to say it is very difficult to strike new ground with a voice in this genre, so people will hear hints of Jaz Coleman, Eldritch etc. Does it harm enjoyment of the record? Not really as to me it seems Goldhammer just seeks to sing passionately, which he obviously does.
To most people I suppose 1919 broadly sit in the area marked Goth, though on listening to me they actually appear to have a lot more in common with the early incarnation of PIL and in particular Killing Joke than, say, the Sisters Of Mercy. This is much more of a zippy Post Punk recording than the dour labouring of gloom and doom merchants. There is a pleasing Pop element too with “Retrograde” and “Trespass” in particular being very tuneful with touches of the less mainstream efforts of the Psychedelic Furs, very accessible to non-believers. “Inquest” manages to put a declamatory vocal atop some raging guitar, bass and drums, but adds a surprisingly gentle refrain. “Life Is…..” ends the album in epic fashion, with a huge, dramatic sound. The song itself is a meditation on the negative aspects of the human condition – though the instrumentation is uplifting and handled with a light touch as a contrast.
There are some great tunes, full-pelt rhythms and some pithy but dark observations on this LP, but above all else this album stands as a tribute to guitarist Mark Tighe. His playing throughout “Bloodline” is superb. Sometimes his guitar is glacial, mellow and also pretty, others cutting, exciting and abrasive, but whatever the tone applied it is always a perfect fit for the songs with the drumming, bass playing and other effects not far behind. If you can ignore the “reformed band” thing for just a while, “Bloodline” will bewitch you, a fine recording for 2017 whatever the band line up. If you can’t, you will miss out.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here