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Spherical Objects \ Past & Parcel + Elliptical Optimism [BOUCD 6614]

A digitally remastered edition of Past & Parcel and Elliptical Optimism, the first and second albums by Manchester indie pioneers Spherical Objects.

Released in July 1978 and October 1979 via Object Music, both sets featuring Steve Solamar, John Bisset-Smith, Fred Burrows, Duncan Prestbury and Roger Hilton. CD booklet includes archive images and detailed liner notes, with contributions from Objects mainman Steve Solamar.


1. Born to Pay
2. Situation Comedy
3. You Can Become
4. The Crystal Tree
5. If I Can Chose (Oh Babe)
6. Lover Flow
7. Drama Queen
8. The Face I Want To See
9. What Goes On
10. Past & Parcel
11. Metropolis
12. Show Me
13. Comedians
14. Elliptical Optimism
15. Ten to Nine
16. Another Technique
17. I Should Have Left Him
18. It's So Good to be Alive (Tonight)
19. Lying Again
20. I Don't Remember
21. Walk Away
22. Lucy
23. I Remember You


Past & Parcel + Elliptical Optimism [BOUCD 6614]


"The tightly structured music is hardly imitative or naive. By regulating distinctive influences - Love, Buckley, Reed are heavily discernible - alongside their own fully charged elegance the group achieves a music that is distinctly eclectic yet undeniably original and special. It is a very personal uncommon music, irregularly based with versatile, individual embellishments from Bisset-Smith's delicate introverted lead and Prestbury's subtle illuminative keyboards. The very curious Objects sound is totally unlike anything else anybody else is doing" (NME (Paul Morley), 1979)

"All four albums collected on these two CDs are forgotten classics. When I say forgotten, I don't - he said smugly- include myself, of course. I still have my trusty vinyl copies" (Stride, April 2009

"These two albums were originally released in 1978 and 1979 on Object Music, Manchester label formed by Steve Solamar in order to release records by his own band Spherical Objects. Though the label quickly branched out and released albums by other acts - Grow Up, Steve Miro and most notably, The Passage - it had effectively ceased operations by 1981, and the records quickly disappeared into obscurity. The reason for the label's dissolution is too fascinating not to relate right up front: by 1980, Solamar had decided to become a woman, and ended label operations in order to prepare himself mentally and physically for his transformation.

"Knowing what eventually happened, it is impossible to listen to Spherical Objects without hearing signs and auguries of Solamar's eventual transformation. The very first track on 1978's Past and Parcel, for instance, contains the line: "Sometimes I think I should have been a woman/Sometimes it'd be a lot easier that way." On You Can Become, Solamar sings: "You can become just what you desire." By the time of Spherical Objects' very last album No Man's Land, this theme had become explicit, as made clear in the album's title. All that aside, listening to these albums should be more than simply an occasion for trans-spotting, and happily there is much here that is compelling beyond the obvious fascination presented by Solamar's story.

"Spherical Objects was, for all intents and purposes, the project of Solamar alone, who wrote all of the songs save one in the band's catalog. The band was made up of hires and session musicians who had almost no creative input. Band members would receive a sequenced cassette of Solamar playing his songs on acoustic guitar. The songs and the sequencing would remain unchanged throughout the recording process, which would occur after a few days of band rehearsal in which all arrangements were quickly worked out. This was a band working in the service of Solamar's songs and vision, a fact which is quite obvious when listening to the music, especially on these first two albums.

"Past and Parcel is peculiar even by the standards of post-punk. Although it is a "rock" record at least as far as instrumentation is concerned, there is something oddly detached and tentative about these pieces. The arrangements often feel a bit slapdash or even incomplete, and Solamar's throaty, foregrounded vocals take some getting used to. After a period of adjustment, the songwriting itself is the element that asserts itself most strongly; Solamar has the talent to write good-to-great pop songs with strong hooks and memorable lyrics. His blunt, introspective lyrical style stands out, even when the arrangements fail him. The sound lies in some weird liminal zone between the pop-punk of the Buzzcocks, the mannered sound of post-punk bands such as Magazine, and musical references as varied as Brian Eno's early glam-pop records, John Cale, and especially Nuggets-era garage psych, an influence which would come to the fore on Spherical Objects' second and finest album.

"Elliptical Optimism is the album on which things really come into focus for Solamar and the band. Guitarist John Bisset-Smith's abilities have seemingly improved immeasurably, and the presence of horns, synths and organs make for denser arrangements that bolster Solamar's songwriting. Though the entire album is listenable, and hardly sounds dated even now, there are a few outright winners here. The disco pastiche of Comedians is a highlight, as is the title track, which turns absurdist wordplay ("Tongues twisted with talking/But you're blowing your solution/Bubblegum euphemism, elliptical optimism/Don't let that bubble catch your nose") into psychedelic profundity with wobbly synth peals, wacky cartoon noises and a whole lot of delay and reverb. Elliptical Optimism is one of those albums that should be spoken of in the same breath as the rest of the post-punk critical canon along with Chairs Missing, Kilimanjaro or Entertainment!, but various factors, including its scarcity, have conspired to keep it virtually unknown.

"As usual, LTM/Boutique does a great job here compiling both records along with a couple of 45s onto one disc, with copious liner notes, artwork and photographs of the band. This is meant as a companion piece to the other S.O. disc Further Ellipses / No Man's Land, released simultaneously, but the inclusion of the band's superior second album makes this collection the essential of the two. However, as with many LTM/Boutique reissues, the question is not whether these unearthed obscurities count as lost classics or essential pieces of the post-punk puzzle. Instead, the music is simply presented, in context, in order to give a bigger and more complex portrait of a musical era that has a tendency to be reduced to broad strokes, a few big names and labels, a Hollywood biopic or two. Releases like this prove that there is always more to the picture than what is revealed by chroniclers who make sweeping generalizations about an era" (Brainwashed, 01/2009)