Tuesday 5 June 2018

Review: Poptone – 'Poptone LP'

The reunion of former Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets, and The Bubblemen founders Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins can only be a good thing. Even if their new incarnation as Poptone (also featuring Kevin's daughter Diva Dompé on bass) is more of a resurrection for old material. But considering that material leans heavily on their Tones on Tail output, which hasn't been performed live for over 30 years, it's nevertheless a welcome return.

With this heavy lean on the ToT material, and the fact that Dompé faithfully reproduces the performances of Glenn Campling you could be forgiven for thinking this is just Tones 2.0 and an exercise in nostalgia. Yet the band's debut EP is a raw and energetic re-appropriation of that old material. The songs feel fresh and exciting and are performed with passion to bring out different nuances from the classic recordings.

In particular tracks such as 'Mirror People', 'Movement of Fear', 'No Big Deal', 'Lions', 'Christian Says', 'Ball of Confusion', 'Go!', and 'Slice of Life' sound great. Dirty distortion, fresh electronics, and a real zest to forge a new identity are ever present elements that cement the Poptone sound as a new and exciting. The only time it doesn't work is on the albums opener 'Heartbreak Hotel', which while a stripped-back and psychedelic garage style cover just feels a little clumsy and lumbering for an opening track.

With the songs originally recorded for a recent Part Time Punks session on KXLU there is a raw live energy that is akin to the early Bauhaus Peel Sessions. It's a strong approximation of what is undoubtedly a tight live sound that plays well to their post-punk origins.

It's great to hear this material get an airing again, Tones on Tail may have been a blip in their career but it still yielded great material. It may be nostalgic at heart but there is so much promise here that it would be a crime if a future release didn't yield some new songs or revisit some lost demos. One can hope. In the meantime this should create more buzz for their live shows.

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