04 August 2011

Retrospective on The Glove's "Blue Sunshine"

“Move inside my daydream, like fingers in a glove, twisting round and round and round…” ["Perfect Murder"] No single line describes The Glove’s “Blue Sunshine” (August 1983) better than this one. It is one of those lines that have haunted me for many, many years, so I knew I had to write about The Glove eventually. When I told a friend that I wanted to write this retrospective about The Glove, she sort of looked at me with that “why” look, and my internal reaction was, “That’s why!” It would be extremely easy to write about an older album that is well known (which I have done and will be doing again soon), but this is more of a personal crusade to save an album from obscurity, consciously shedding light on a single moment that is way too often ignored.

Though many people may never have heard of The Glove, they may be quite familiar with the heart of the band: Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Robert Smith of The Cure. After the implosion of The Cure in 1982 after The Pornography Tour, Smith would join the Banshees as their guitarist for a second time (the first being in 1979, when Smith performed with The Cure as the opening band and then with Siouxsie and the Banshees as their guitarist on The Join Hands Tour). The Cure, however, was not completely disbanded, as Smith (with Lol Tolhurst) would release three ultrapop singles: “Let’s Go to Bed,” “The Walk,” and “Love Cats” – taking The Cure from obscurity to international curiosity. On the other side of things, Siouxsie and the Banshees, though they may never have reached the heights of The Cure, were already a well-established band, whose influence was already noted in the post-punk and goth scenes. The ever mounting pressures of touring at the time (captured in the “Nocturne” album and video) and to continue to be one of the most cutting edge bands out of the UK was definitely weighing on Severin. Smith would go on to record with the Banshees (“Hyæna” album) but leave the Banshees to record and tour to “The Top” with The Cure. But much of what both bands would do in the future was so evident when these master craftsmen collaborated on this album – in fact, much of what would follow for both bands for the next few years was laid out in “Blue Sunshine.”

Not your traditional post-punk, dark but not really goth, pop but worlds always from generic new wave, “Blue Sunshine” truly whirls track-to-track like a person caught in an ever-shifting daydream. Jeaanette Landray joined Severin and Smith on vocals due to the fact that Smith was not contractually allowed to be the lead vocalist of any other band. She was Siouxsie and the Banshees’ drummer’s (Budgie) then girlfriend and dancer of the Zoo troop from “Top of the Pops.” Also in the mix were Andy Anderson on drums (who would later join The Cure) and multi-instrumentalist, incredibly talented Martin McCarrick (who would later join Siouxsie and the Banshees). The album is named after a late-70s horror film about LSD and homicide, while the cover and the band’s name take a big cue from The Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine.”

The album opens with the first single, “Like An Animal.” If I am correct, it was Robert Smith’s first time writing and performing his own song on an acoustic guitar, with Severin’s traditional high-pitched bass, which borders on melody. The lyrics are as surreal as the music: “One mile in the air, that’s where she lives, her body looks so thin and pink; and small dropping eggs from nervous shaking hands, and swallowing her fingers as they fall.” Lyrics like these make you wonder exactly how these two collaborators challenged their sobriety. Though the tempo drops for the following track, “Looking Glass Girl,” the surreality is taken up a notch in this allegory of a little dancer in a child’s toy musical box: “Like a looking glass girl, in a miniature world, she saw you dressed in rags in-and-out of a jack-in-the-box because she’s a looking glass girl, in a miniature world, whirl your see-saw arms and ride the Catherine wheel…”

“Sex-Eye-Make-Up” follows: “Run around the chairs in your Sunday dress, it’s the best thing money can buy. Or leave me on the stairs with my feet in the air, I think that I’m jazzy like Christ.” It is a mediation of how women are seen by society. From the Sunday dress church going woman to the whore, the song eerily hints at how women are forced into these roles: “she just woke up today to do as she’s told.” The next track is one of my favorite songs of all time, “Mr. Alphabet Says” – one of the few songs that Smith was able to sing. Allow me to quote substantially from this jazzy, piano driven number, which I can easily dedicate to the vast majority of political and religious leaders: “Here comes the book, the book of rules, if you play this game, you won’t stay the same…. Mr. Alphabet says, ‘Smile like a weasel as I cover you, cover you in teacle’. We all know impatience is a sin, so do as you’re told do, it SO rewarding to …. Mr Alphabet says, ‘Give me all your money, just to cover you, cover you in honey.’” This is followed by one of two instrumentals “Blues in Drag,” which softness counterbalances the previous track – it’s title, however, is an oxymoron if ever there was one: drag and blues, theoretically, are mutually exclusive, unless the first is poking fun at the second.

If there is one track that music lovers may recognize, it will be the second single, “Punish Me With Kisses.” Kitsch meets new wave, a brilliant ostinato and electro-pad percussion for effect; this is one of the most brilliantly written songs ever. Similarly formatted, “This Green City” chimes in with more of a synthpop edge, and perhaps the “gothiest” track on the album. The arabesque is finally unleashed in “Orgy”: “A disease in under my fingernails, its stains me like a tattoo, back on the rack, aching with time, your face is familiar from another crime. And we could swim, we could swim, my little fishes with me.” A return to the surreal and the post-punk stream-of-conscious lyrics, in many ways this is the most experimental track on the album. It takes something that is intrinsic in The Cure’s music, the arabesque, and is layered and arranged in the same manner as a track from “Kiss in the Dreamhouse” by Siouxsie and the Banshees. It is truly the meeting of two worlds!

Then comes “Perfect Murder,” quoted above. This is a psychedelic, electropop track, which subtle pop sensibility is belied by lyrics. When listening to the bassline of this song, you realize that it is years ahead of its time in terms of the synthpop mainstream. Then comes the final instrumental, “Relax.” This would be the moment I would be getting ready to turn over the translucent blue vinyl over in the player – these ten tracks above are the original ten songs on the “Blue Sunshine” vinyl, before the days of the antiquated CDs and decades before the prevalence of digital downloads.

The Glove’s “Blue Sunshine” is more than just a singular moment in time that gives insight into two amazing bands. This album is the moment where two of the most seminal bands in music history, Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Cure, literally cross-pollinated. The mutual influence that Severin and Smith would have on another was more than apparent for years, though rarely (if ever) commented on. Any lover of either of these bands should stop, take a moment, and truly (re)listen to this album. But any lover of music in general, who wants to hear worlds collide and what impromtu experimentation with music can yield, should also take a good listen. This is an album that cannot be lost to the obscurity of history.

Track Listing (Deluxe Issue):
Disc One
1. Like An Animal
2. Looking Glass Girl
3. Sex-Eye-Make-Up
4. Mr. Alphabet Says
5. A Blues in Drag
6. Punish Me With Kisses
7. This Green City
8. Orgy
9. Perfect Murder
10. Relax
11. The Man from Nowhere
12. Mouth to Mouth
13. Punish Me with Kisses, Mike Hedges Mix
14. The Tightrope
15. Like an Animal, 12” Club? What Club? Mix
Disc Two
1. Like An Animal, RS Vocal Demo
2. Looking Glass Girl, RS Vocal Demo
3. Sex-Eye-Make-Up, RS Vocal Demo
4. Mr. Alphabet Says, Alt RS Vocal Demo
5. A Blues in Drag, RS Vocal Demo
6. Punish Me With Kisses, RS Vocal Demo
7. This Green City, RS Vocal Demo
8. Orgy, RS Vocal Demo
9. Perfect Murder, Alt RS Vocal Demo
10. Relax, Alt RS Vocal Demo
11. The Man From Nowhere, Alt Instrumental Demo
12. Mouth to Mouth, RS Vocal Demo
13. Opened the Box (A Waltz), RS Vocal Demo
14. The Tightrope (Almost Time), RS Vocal Demo
15. And All Around Us the Mermaids Sang (aka Torment), RS Vocal Demo
16. Holiday 80, Original Instrumental Mix

Keep up with Steven Severin at his homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Keep up with Robert Smith at The Cure’s homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is a mimed performance of “Punish Me With Kisses” at Riverside from the steveseverin YouTube Channel.

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