sun 29/03/2020

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Beloved - Where It Is | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Beloved - Where It Is

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Beloved - Where It Is

Charming collection of what the electro house-popsters were up to before the hits

The Beloved go sightseeing in Paris, June 1987. Check out Jon Marsh's (second from right) T-shirt for the Belgian band MarinePhil Nicholls

Commercially, The Beloved’s peak years kicked off in autumn 1989 when their electro house-pop began its chart run. The band called it a day in 1996 after the X album and its attendant singles.

Commercially, The Beloved’s peak years kicked off in autumn 1989 when their electro house-pop began its chart run. The band called it a day in 1996 after the X album and its attendant singles. Throughout the period, they dealt in a form of house music – indeed, their final hit single “Ease the Pressure” was built around an acid house pulse and the sort of gospel-inclined chorus that was de rigueur for white, British dance-inclined outfits to show they had soul.

There was a back story. Like Primal Scream, The Soup Dragons and all the others, The Beloved were an Eighties indie-circuit staple which embraced the groove. In their case, what they were up to before the hits and the change of direction was caught at the time with the October 1987 album Where It Is, which was built around their early singles. Now, Where It Is has been given a makeover and is reissued as a double CD – different to the double-CD edition released in 1988, though the same well is drawn from. The original tracks are all present but sequenced differently to 1988, and the new release – tagged as a “special edition” –  features a raft of previously unheard demos.

The Beloved_Where It IsIn his liner notes to the reconfigured Where It Is, the band’s frontman Jon Marsh recalls that in the period they were compared with “The Banshees, The Wild Swans, everyone on Postcard, New Order, The Bunnymen, The Cure, The Teardrop Explodes, even The The. A review of our set at Earthbeat ’86, Sefton Park, completed a full-house of New Wave titans. ‘I fail to see how even a private showing in their mum’s living room could make this fairly lifeless, U2-derived bunch sound any more interesting’.”

That they weren’t an easy fit with the House of Love, Jesus and Mary Chain, the “Death to Trad Rock” bands (for want of better label, the title of John Robb’s book encapsulates it), etc. indie narratives of the time is confirmed by their having recorded early demos at Rochdale’s Cargo Studios, a set-up favoured by various Factory label bands including New Order. Take with this that most of the early Beloved tracks were produced by New Order’s engineer Michael Johnson, and it’s a fair guess where they were coming from.

The Beloved_Where It Is_1987 ParisAnd indeed, the essence of New Order is drawn from on “Slow Drowning”, with its Peter Hook bass and clattering Movement drum machine. The Cure are in there too but the Manchester band looms largest. Its vocals aside, “In Trouble and Shame” could be a Movement outtake (cf “The Him”). “Forever Dancing” moves it forward by overtly looking to the slightly later “Confusion” New Order.

However, assimilation does not mean that suppression of an innate identity follows. At their core, The Beloved of this era were a great pop band. Where It Is opens with “A Hundred Words”, a winning piece of pop with a nagging melody and an enviably kinetic forward thrust. The same applies to the as-good “This Means War”, “Saints Preserve Us” and “A Kiss Goodbye”.

The rare and unheard tracks on Disc Two don’t alter the impression that the early Beloved would have to head somewhere which wasn’t as obviously rooted in their influences. Otherwise, they would have stalled. Consequently, there is no inkling of where they ended up a couple of years later. That was a fundamental shift. Ultimately, the new Where It Is has to be seen as the work of band coming at music from a direction different to that which brought mainstream success. Which is why this most welcome collection charms.

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