The Grey Area of Mute has released reissues of five albums by influential Dublin band, Virgin Prunes – “A New Form Of Beauty”, “…If I Die, I Die”, “Hérésie”, “The Moon Looked Down And Laughed” and “Over The Rainbow”
The five albums, all originally released in the 1980s, have been remastered and repackaged with the involvement of Gavin Friday and include mixes of material available here for the first time. The reissues represent an overdue opportunity to rediscover the awesome creative power of the Virgin Prunes.
“A New Form Of Beauty” sees parts 1 to 4 of a their highly ambitious A New Form of Beauty project collated together on CD for the first time. The series saw Virgin Prunes tackle the tricky concept of the beauty that can be found in being different (in this case both physically and musically), an idea that had informed the initial formation of The Lypton Village. Available here as a two CD package, the first CD features the 7-inch, 10-inch and 12-inch (parts 1-3) while the second is Part 4 (originally available on cassette), an edited soundtrack to the exhibition which would be Part 5. The final two parts are an unpublished book and an unreleased film.
“…If I Die, I Die” (originally released in 1982), features one of the band’s best known tracks, ‘Baby Turns Blue’ and was produced by Colin Newman of Wire and whilst less experimental and perverse than the records that preceded it, the album continued to examine the group’s key themes of purity and beauty. The record was not without humour either, a closer examination of the delicate pop of ‘Ballad of the Man’ reveals it to be a wonderful parody of Bruce Springsteen, while the distinctly post-punk sound of concert favourite ‘Walls of Jericho’, contrasted beautifully with the longer forms of ‘Bau-dachöng’, and ‘Caucasian Walk’.
“Hérésie”(originally released in 1982 on the French label L’Invitation au Suicide) was originally packaged as two 10” singles, here the release has been collated onto one CD. Part studio recording and part live recording of the band at the Rex Club, Paris, in June 1982, the methods employed to create “Hérésie” account for much of its unusual atmosphere. All of the songs were written during the day and recorded in a Dublin studio at night, a process that saw the band go without sleep for 3 days. On “Hérésie” the band offer a counter-point to their dark experimental music by also including ‘Down The Memory Lane’ a parody of a traditional Irish sing-a-long that provides a stark contrast to the heavier tones of tracks like ‘Rhetoric’.
Their next album “The Moon Looked Down And Laughed” (recorded in 1984 and originally released in 1986) was produced by Soft Cell’s Dave Ball and demonstrated that the group had deliberately taken a new musical direction away from the emergent Goth scene. Despite a guest appearance by the anarchic Jim Thirwell of Foetus fame, the confrontational aspect of their music had been replaced by a selection of more twisted melodic songs and ballads. Through their lengthy travels of Europe the group had been exposed to a whole new range of influences including the lush romanticism of the classic chanson singers, a style that Gavin Friday in particular was beginning to embrace as part of a wider exploration of torch songs.
The group’s label Baby released “Over the Rainbow” (LP 1985, CD 1986), a compilation of previously unreleased and rare tracks from the period up to 1983 that demonstrated just how stunningly varied Virgin Prunes material had been. A track culled from an NME compilation entitled ‘Red Nettle’ remains an unusual standout, its repetitive sampled chord structures evolving into a seductive and hypnotic piece. The influence of music as diverse as Industrial, Krautrock, Glam, the experimental composers and all points in between can be heard within the double CDs many moods.
Just as Virgin Prunes had incorporated their myriad musical influences into their individual sound, successive generations of musicians and artists have claimed Virgin Prunes as a huge influence on their own work. It’s an influence that is readily apparent in the attitude, sound or image of fans like Michael Stipe, Bjork and the Sugarcubes, Billy Corgan, Nine Inch Nails, the dancer Michael Clark and Ash’s Tim Wheeler to name but a few.
All five reissues were released on The Grey Area of Mute on 4th October 2004.