Sunday, December 19, 2010

Eurythmics - In The Garden (1981)

Eurythmics 1981 album 'In the Garden' is a fascinating and generally forgotten record. Recorded with Kraftwerk producer Conny Plank and featuring Blondie's Clem Burke and Holger Czukay (Can) ITG was the first record they recorded after the demise of The Tourists and before they had major commercial success. ITG failed to chart (which seems amazing given their later, and earlier, success) and it remains largely ignored to this day - although the 2005 CD re-issue may have helped to improve that situation.

ITG is new wave, no wave, psychedelic, experimental and totally pop, if pop comes from outer space (and it's good when it does). Themes include dreamy reverie (English Summer), Kraftwerkian love songs (Take Me To Your Heart), desperate housewives who behave like calculators (She's Invisible Now - the 10 to 1 countdown mixed with the sound of adding machines is brilliant), female body image (Caveman Head), and, that's just for starters. Annie sings in French on the bizarre and catchy 'Sing Sing' and most tracks are punctuated with all manner of sound effects, animal impersonations, trains, crickets and sirens. Vocals are processed, mixed up, mixed down, sound like they were recorded underwater, surrounded by cushions, or beamed in from another galaxy, or era, or mental state.

The album produced 2 singles - Never Gonna Cry Again and Belinda.

What Belinda is about is up for interpretation, but features Annie's offer to never leave or deceive the song's subject. It's again sonically amazing, like so much of the album, especially in the vocal treatment/harmonies and the mid-song refrain. Never Gonna Cry Again is memorable for Annie's restrained vocal performance, singing in a manner that makes the subject sound, to me anyway, completely numb as if immersed to immobility in thought, pain, or perhaps revenge. I prefer Annie singing in this way rather than the endlessly emotional way she usually sings these days. On ITG her voice acts more as an instrument and it's amazing.

'Your Time Will Come'  closes out the first (LP) side, with another catchy chorus and feeling of unease mixed with a jubilant chorus. It's quite a trick to pull off, but it works. There's also a psychedelic moment as Annie name checks the album's title in a spooky way that defies print description.

'All the Young People Of Today' which plods weirdly as it praises, fears, reveres, ridicules those included in the song title. One of the less successful tracks, but sticks with you after a few listens.

I have to return to 'Sing Sing' which never fails to please as Annie's playtime melody about "Touts les betes du la citee" and how they arrive by train, car, bicycle, work day by day, get tired, and go home. Amazing percussion, sound effects, tape manipulation and instrumentation round out this incredible track. 'Revenge' finishes the album - a hint at a theme they would revisit in 1986 with more ITG weirdness.

ITG is a great example of the sound of a band experimenting with an Everest of ideas. They wisely stop short of overloading the album though, as it could have been a complete mess. I've been finding new things in this album every time I hear it, and that is an awful lot of times. From here came Sweet Dreams and later, it must be said, a general move away from experimental pop towards a generally more commercial direction (which is where I become a little less excited about their music).