Forty-Eightish 2) Bad Speech 3) Hope 4) Hangman 5) Elizabeth 6) Frozen Moment
7) Twentieth Century Man 8) Advertisement (Another
International Irrelevant Suicide)
Roy Harper teams
with Jimmy Page here to produce a very intriguing album unlike anything else either has recorded. Page, just prior to forming the Firm, is in top form, and this album represents the best project he worked
on in the entire decade. Harper too, in an artistic drought throughout the 1980s,
comes to life here, writing his best songs in years. Overall the album is dark,
with a threatening sound, only intensified by Harper’s gloomy and mysterious lyrics, and represents Harper getting his
Forty-Eightish” kicks off the record and generates an Alice Cooper feel, not just in lyrical content, but in musical
attitude as well with an effective background organ. Spooky, foreboding and brilliant
through the first few verses, Page’s guitar then kicks in and transforms the song into a more straightforward rock tune,
before the organ returns and Harper, in his best Roger Waters voice, warns us all that “1984 is the one we’ve
all been longing for.” Page and Harper then shine on a guitar fadeout where
they battle against each other similar to the “Stormcock” sessions—this is undoubtedly
one of Harper’s most fascinating tunes.
Speech” follows and is just that…a minute long poem spoken by Harper with slight background noises. It is harmless, but pointless too. “Hope,”
co-written by David Gilmour, features Roy’s son Nick on guitar, and is in fact a very cordial message to Harper’s
future generations. Rocking, yet grandiose and at times beautiful, it isn’t
a tremendous piece of work, but towers above every song on Harper’s other 80s albums.
“Hangman” is next and the hope brought by …err…“Hope” is gone. This sinister, guitar-laden tune brings back the doomed feel of the first track and
deals with government’s suppression of its subjects. Like the entire project,
it has an intimidating, borderline hard rock sound and is another very effective song.
is the updated version of the same track found on “Born in Captivity.” Just like on that album, here “Elizabeth” is gorgeous and a little too long. I like the starker version heard previously a little better, but the ending coda is
more moving here and the tune definitely fits better with this album than it would have on “Work of Heart.” “Frozen Moment” begins with music box sounds, slowly drifting
into a gentle acoustic melody. More creepy than pretty, it is another unusual
song that works well with its surrounding efforts. “Twentieth Century
Man” is awesome. It features the best guitar work on the album and
keeps the general mood intact: frightening, intense, and catchy.
The subtitle to this album
is: “An ordinary man writing songs for ordinary people.” Well…I’d
like to see what ordinary people thought about the closing number, “Advertisement (Another Intentional Irrelevant
Suicide).” This tune features the sounds of Harper taking a piss in
the beginning…a man puking at the end…and a chorus of “I’m really stoned” throughout. It is funny, I suppose, and kind of catchy actually, but really ruins the feel of the album. Page plays a very energetic guitar solo as well, and this tune, although filler and dumb, made me realize
how much I missed the insanity…it had been a long while since Harper reminded us he was crazy, and a longer while since
he ended an album with a ridculous, fairly objectionable tune.
This is an odd album, but one that gets better
with repeated listens, and should not be missed. It features songs and arrangements
that resemble the more creepy styles displayed on "The Unknown Soldier" but are even more drawn out and developed.
Quite obviosuly, this album is a return to form and marks Harper's best work since “Bullinamingvase.” Other than the last track, the album flows together better than every album since
“Stormcock” and unlike most other products of the 80s, has aged very well.