Monday, 4 September 2017
As a rule and generally speaking I am not too keen on the CD re-issue of bands from the punk / post-punk era that released a brace of 7" singles before disappearing into the swamp of life never to be seen or heard of again. These CD compilations are usually filled with demo tracks, dodgy live recordings and alternate mixes / acoustic versions. I always think it is better to save the coffers and try and find the original vinyl.
There are, however, exceptions to the (my) rule. "Glass Hymnbook 1981-1982" by Religious Overdose being one of those exceptions. Running time is a little over 50 minutes and includes the three single releases. The "bonus" material includes a couple of live recordings, a track from the compilation LP "Northampton Under Glass" and a 4-track demo tape version of an earlier B-Side. No O.T.T. excessive live versions or 21st century remixes. This CD is expertly compiled with well chosen extras.
I can't remember when I first heard Religious Overdose. The debut single "Control Addicts" came out in 1981. I either bought it from Sanctuary Records in Lincoln or through the classifieds in "Sounds". That's how I bought stuff back then. But...I have a feeling I had a cassette tape of theirs previous to this. I have always associated Religious Overdose with a couple of other bands; The Dogma Cats and Ersatz who I used to correspond with at the time, and I think I got to learn about Religious Overdose through them. Although I could be mis-remembering things. The website Discogs doesn't list any tape . but I can see it!
So. 1981, I am 18 years old and there's a band called Religious Overdose and they have a single out called "Control Addicts" (Just like the Cabaret Voltaire song .. but plural .. I know) it has got my name written all over it.
In the early days the style of Religious Overdose was languid. "Control Addicts" kicks off with a Dr Rhythm style beat box and slowly there comes the fuzz drone keys, the stabbing guitar, the floating strings and "in the mix" vocals. The kind of single that 4AD would have released, and yes, it has a Cabaret Voltaire air. The B-Side has always been my favourite. "25 Minutes" with it's repeated vocal "25 Minutes On A Train, On A Train" over a motorik psychedelic soundtrack. Think of The Instant Automatons "New Muzak" mixed with early They Must Be Russians and you get the build of this song.
Later in 1981 came the 7" "I Said Go" and the introduction of "real" drums. "I Said Go" is a tight two minute pop song with a catchy chorus. The B-Side has always been my favourite (spotting a theme here?). "Alien To You" is another Religious Overdose classic with spiked guitar wandering all over freeform drums and keyboards. One of those songs where it's easy to get lost in the drifting sound .. to these 2017 ears it reminds me of Circuit Breaker.
It was after this release I started writing to Religious Overdose and throughout 1982 got letters back from the singer Alex Novak, and sometimes the guitarist Richard Formby. That was what I did back then. No internet and hardly any "media" coverage.
The final vinyl came in 1982 with the 12" single "The Girl With The Disappearing Head", which (for some reason) I have never bought. Never even heard it before buying this CD. Perhaps I did hear it on John Peel and by the end of 1982 my music taste had altered? I doubt it though ... It's now a 12" I need to have....
Track listing puts the B-Side first. A seven minute plus masterpiece called "In This Century". It all begins with scraped guitar necks, tinkered cymbals, bowed bass strings and a tinny tippy tappy beat box. Its all very "Bela Lugosi's Dead". Slowly it breaks into a sub psychedelic stream of conscious loose live jam "type" of track. I know this is a bit niche but it reminds me a hell of a lot of "Little Room" by Bunnydrums. "The Girl With The Disappearing Head" is a straight forward pop tune with the title as chorus. Perhaps Religious Overdose were getting tired? Perhaps the introduction of Ciaran Harte to the line up changed the sound? He was in the band Glass before going solo before joining. Again, 2017 ears and I'm hearing a lot of Artery in the sound.
The bonus tracks are dispersed amongst the singles and gives a great indication in the development of sound in Religious Overdose. The CD ends with a ten minute plus live (to tape) version of "In This Century". It must have been a live showstopper.
I have always had a copy of the first 7". I can't live without "25 Minutes". The copy I have at the moment I found for 25p in an Oxfam shop in Selby. Mint it was.
I did try and listen to Venus Fly Trap in the late 1980's....the group formed by vocalist Alex Novak, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear back then. I saw the name of guitarist Richard Formby as producer on a VibraCathedral Orchestra CD a few years back.
The CD is essential if you want to know what great indie music sounded like in 1981. It comes with a 12 page booklet telling the story of the band with pages of old ads and flyers. And a couple of pictures. I had never seen a picture of the band before!
CD is available from Glass Redux for a tenner.
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