SPEAR OF DESTINY – Grapes of Wrath – (Burning Rome Records) – 1983

 Spear of Destiny - Grapes of Wrath

Can you possibly comment on music that you cannot, even remotely, identify with?

I suppose the answer is, yes, but the comment can only extend to why you don’t like the style of music rather than a comment on the artists position within the style.

OK, perhaps a better answer is ….

Yes, but why would you bother?

A good question which I don’t have a well thought out answer for.

Suffice it to say that the purpose of this blog (see the about me link) is to give me the discipline to sit down and listen to the records in the pile behind me.

Most of those records I know about or I know the genre the album belongs to. But, sometimes, I have no idea what the record is like when I threw down a dollar in the op shop.

Perhaps this is a good thing.

Sometimes, you will hear something new or some style or artist that you have dismissed in the past and you will be forced to re-evaluate your position or reaffirm it.

To my continual surprise I’m often called narrow in my tastes. Maybe it’s because I dismiss certain things harshly or more likely, because I affirm what I like, so loudly. Either way I will give everything a go.

But how much is enough?

I have never heard of “Spear of Destiny” (or if I had I have forgotten about them) but I do recall “Theatre of Hate” who “Spear of Destiny” evolved out of, as well as the genre they were in.

I didn’t have much time for Theatre of Hate.

This was not a result of the band itself. It’s just that they were not in my field of interest at the time.

The band are often referred to as post punk or occasionally gothic rock and they certainly have elements of both even though they look like clean cut new soul fans or members of The Housemartins.

Ahhhh, 80s semi mainstream fashion.

Wikipedia define post-punk as “a rock music genre that paralleled and emerged from the initial punk rock explosion of the late 1970s. The genre is an artier and more experimental form of punk. Post-punk laid the groundwork for alternative rock by broadening the range of punk and underground music, incorporating elements of krautrock (particularly the use of synthesizers and extensive repetition), dub music, American funk and studio experimentation into the genre. It was the focus of the 1980s alternative music/independent scene, and led to the development of genres such as gothic rock and industrial music”.

I think they are being absurdly broad (too often postpunk seems to wrongly incorporate any band that plays punk a little off the beaten track) and generous (it certainly wasn’t the focus of the alternative and independent music scene – well not outside of England anyway)

Allmusic  describe it as: “After the punk revolution of 1977, a number of bands inspired by the d.i.y. spirit and raw sound of punk were formed. However, instead of replicating the sound of the Sex Pistols, many of these bands forged into more experimental territory, taking cues from a range of artists and styles, such as Roxy Music, David Bowie (especially Low, Heroes and Lodger), disco, dub and Krautrock. The result was Post-Punk, a more adventurous and arty form of punk, no less angry or political but often more musically complex and diverse. Many of these groups — like Joy Division or the Cure — created dark, synthesizer-oriented soundscapes while others– like Orange Juice or XTC — had a lighter guitar-based musical approach but their lyrics and music were off-kilter and often subverted traditional pop/rock song structures. Post-punk eventually developed into alternative pop/rock in the '80s”.

I like those ancestors so I should like this.

But the post punk I have heard is a little less rockier, more funkier with pseudo jazz and significant artistic (and perhaps political) pretensions.

Certainly the use of “musically complex”, “diverse”, “experimental” and “more adventurous” in this context smack of pretensions.

It was, at the time, championed by rock critics who were too old (and knew it) to like basic 1-2-3 punk.

It is, perhaps, punk for people who don’t like punk.

Ultimately, most (not all) of it is crap….clearly that is an opinion and not a statement of fact.

Not surprisingly, in the definitions above, no American bands are mentioned (I wouldn’t call, as others have, the Swans, Sonic Youth or even Suicide as post punk). Such pretensions could only exist fleetingly in the US, and then, only around Manhattan Island.

I will mention there were quite a few Brisbane bands (ever the followers) that played this crap.

I’ll never get those cover charges back.

What the fuck are you supposed to do with this music?

You can’t dance to it, you can’t read to it, it doesn’t make you think, the only emotions it generates are self-delusional ones based around posture and posturing.

It’s narcissistic and ultimately quite pretentious.

“Spear of Destiny” certainly fit the bill. Clattering drums, chants, precious nonsensical lyrics, and lots of “attitude” with a truckload of cheesy, meaningful saxophone thrown over the top.

It would be disingenuous of me to critique each song as they all sounds like one drone.

So, I will refer to Ira Robbins of Trouser Press who says: “Following the stormy existence of Theatre of Hate, singer/guitarist Kirk Brandon and bassist Stan Stammers launched Spear of Destiny. Grapes of Wrath, produced by Nick Launay, unveils a straightforward guitar/bass/drums quartet; Andy Mackay-like saxophone work provides the sole distinguishing tonal component. Brandon's songs are a drag — spare, dirgey things with hopeless quasi-Scottish melodies and self-important, insignificant lyrics. Slight Nick Cave tendencies don't add enough extremism to salvage these effortlessly ignorable tracks”.

Apparently “The Grapes of Wrath” album echoed Theatre of Hate's final demos closely.

I will say that despite all of the above that the album (and the genre generally) does achieve some sort of a noisy tone piece and it’s not overly offensive. It’s just something I’m not into, I don’t get and I can’t do anything with.

I like things poppy, rocky or …err, entertaining.

Tracks (best in italics)

  • The Wheel       
  • Flying Scotsman – there is certain drone that works here.
  • Roof Of The World – this makes Sade look like Joan Jett.
  • Aria
  • Solution – good pumping rhythms
  • The Murder Of Love  – quite good.
  • The Preacher
  • Omen Of The Times
  • The Man Who Tunes The Drums – should probably be the man who writes the songs.
  • Grapes Of Wrath – not too bad, with some nice guitar. The best song on the album, perhaps.

And …

Sell, sell, sell.

Chart Action

US

Singles

Album

England

Singles

1983 Flying Scotsman #83

1983 The Wheel #59

Album

#62 England.

Sounds

http://recordlective.com/Spear_of_Destiny/Grapes_of_Wrath/4cc606e8-acd1-45b7-bc4d-24c655b3b6e4/       

Flying Scotsman

MP3 attached

Spear of Destiny – Flying Scotsman

Grapes Of Wrath

live

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dno6M2Ex7r4

Others

a very English band:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9becn8y3CA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk84vpFXBdw

Review

http://www.allmusic.com/album/grapes-of-wrath-mw0000781010

http://www.trouserpress.com/entry.php?a=spear_of_destiny

Bio

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spear_of_Destiny_(band)

http://www.allmusic.com/artist/spear-of-destiny-mn0000001311/biography

Website

http://www.kirkbrandon.com/fr_splash.cfm

http://www.stanstammers.com/

Trivia

  • Wikipedia: In addition to Brandon and Stammers, past members of the band in the 1980s included former Gillan drummer Pete Barnacle, former JoBoxers bassist Chris Bostock, former Adam and the Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni, and former Tom Robinson Band and Stiff Little Fingers drummer Dolphin Taylor.
  • Billy Duffy from The Cult was briefly in Theatre of Hate.
  • Question to Kirk Brandon: "Your music has very rarely been anything approaching conventional rock. Do you try to avoid that?". Answer: “That sort of Beatles way of writing – v-c-v-c-middle-eight-c-out – that to me is just awful.  I always try and makes things different all the time.  Stuff has to be different otherwise I lose interest in it.  Right up to today, where I detune the guitar and learn to play again.  I just got physically bored with playing the same old shapes so I had to teach myself guitar again almost, this tuning I got.  It makes you think differently.  You have to move it on.”  http://designermagazine.tripod.com/KirkBrandonINT1.html

About Franko

Hi, I'm just a person with a love of music, a lot of records and some spare time. My opinions are comments not reviews and are mine so don't be offended if I have slighted your favourite artist. I have listened to a lot of music and I don't pretend to be impartial. You can contact me on franklycollectible@gmail.com though I would rather you left a comment. I also sell music at http://www.franklycollectible.com Cheers
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