After two pretty flawless major label releases, 1985’s Oil & Gold and 1986’s Big Night Music, Island Records wanted a hit. At the time, I’d heard some of their music but nothing I could have identified as them. Go Bang! came out several months before I moved in with a flatmate who played me the glory of Oil & Gold. I don’t think I heard Big Night Music until about 1991. So really, I knew of them by reputation only. I was working at Rainbow Records on Stanyan and the store manager was very keen on hearing it the day it came in. I recall feeling the affair was all too disco (which I definitely did not appreciate for another ten years or so), not helped by the first single, a mostly faithful cover of KC and the Sunshine Band’s Get Down Tonight. I’m pretty sure the manager was disappointed too.

As they’re touring this year for the first time in forever, I’ve started to dig into the catalogue. Go Bang! is the only album I didn’t have in some form or another and which isn’t available on Spotify. Four quid and a week in the post, and some fine Amazon seller has me taken care of. Whereas Oil & Gold is balanced about half and half with hard tracks like Nemesis and softer tracks such as The Only Thing That Shines, and Big Night Music tends very much to the jazzy, Go Bang! is almost entirely hard dance music. Only Nighttown and the closer, Dust and a Shadow hint at Shriekback’s downtempo tendencies.

It’s not as though the album isn’t recognizably Shriekback, though. Producer Richard James Burgess (Spandau Ballet’s Journeys to Glory, Adam Ant’s Strip) has maintained most of their signature sound – Barry Andrews’ tenor augmented with the female voices heard on the previous releases, the bass. Even going back to their stripped down earliest releases, the bass and the funk were always prominent

s-gbLyrically, side one has more of the depth found in their earlier work. I can’t really tell if they arranged the tracks for LP release or CD, but major releases still came out on vinyl at the time. After Nighttown, side two has the disco 1-2-3 of the title track, Big Fun, and the aforementioned KC and the Sunshine Band cover. Big Fun has big horns and lyrics about going out and (long before Daft Punk) getting lucky. The chorus of Well-e-o, well-e-o here we go / We got a bite like a pit bull yeah we don’t let go / Well-e-o, well-e-o under the sun / Everybody looking for…big fun doesn’t really suggest the seriousness of purpose the band was known for. On the other hand, the bass and the brass are used to good effect. Even considering the lyrical silliness of Big Fun, the only real embarrassment of the album is the rap that Andrews injects into Get Down Tonight. (All one can say is that it was a thing at the time.)

Dust and a Shadow very much harkens back to the sound of Oil & Gold, to the point where back to back, it sounds like a brasher but inferior reworking of This Big Hush.

At a meagre 32 minutes, it’s a sugary and tasty confection, but not the perfection found in their other work.

 

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