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The Passage \ Pindrop + Degenerates [LTMCD 2589]


To mark the 40th anniversary of Pindrop, the lauded first album by cult Manchester post-punk group The Passage, LTM presents a new 2xCD set combining their 1980 debut with their third and most commercially successfully album, Degenerates, from 1982.

Formed by former Halle Orchestra percussionist Dick Witts and Fall bassist Tony Friel in 1978, the band issued two EPs on esoteric indie label Object Music before fracturing the following year, leaving Witts to record Pindrop virtually solo. A dense, brooding, claustrophobic album, dominated by layered keyboards and incisive vocal texts, contemporary critics put Pindrop on a par with Joy Division and Wire. "A work of disciplined intellectual aggression, frantic emotions and a powerful idiomatic musicality," wrote Paul Morley in NME. "It's as shocking a beautiful nightmare, as stormy and aware a debut LP as Unknown Pleasures."

By 1982 the group were a trio, with Witts joined by guitarist Andrew Wilson and drummer Joe McKechnie, as well as an array of emerging digital technology. The third Passage album, Degenerates, appeared on Cherry Red, trailed by near-hit single XoYo. "How on earth XoYo missed the charts must remain forever a mystery," Q Magazine would note later of an album of skewed technopop, which nevertheless retained the dark truculence of the group's earlier work.

Both Pindrop and Degenerates are expanded on CD to include companion singles and radio sessions, with archive images and detailed liner notes contained in the 16 page booklet.


2xCD tracklist:

1. Fear
2. Troops Out
3. Carnal
4. Watching You Dance
5. Hunt
6. Anderton's Hall
7. From the Heart
8. Locust
9. 2711
10. 16 Hours
11. Carmen
12. A Certain Way to Go
13. Prelude
14. Love Song
15. Competition
16. Slit Machine
17. New Kind of Love
18. Taking My Time
19. Clock Paradox
20. 16 Hours
21. Time Delay
22. Mr Terror - Chief of Police
23. My One Request
24. The Beginning, The Dawn
25. A Man Set Out
26. Tangled
27. Shave Your Head

1. XOYO
2. Fleck
3. Revelation
4. Love Is As
5. Born Every Minute
6. (Ourselves)
7. Go to Seed
8. Armour
9. Time Will Tell
10. Empty Words
11. XOYO (7" version)
12. Animal In Me
13. Born Every Minute (flexi)
14. Taboos
15. Taboodub

Available on CD only. To order double CD please select correct shipping option and click on Add To Cart button below cover image, or else contact LTM by email for other payment options.

Pindrop + Degenerates [LTMCD 2589]
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Reviews:

"A rumble of drums and ominous synths signal the onset of Pindrop and the song Fear, with vocals sparring back and forth effectively, before we're into the more traditional electro punk of Troops Out. It's no wonder they re-recorded this one later, it's a great tune and the vocal is passionately delivered. This is where The Passage truly embrace electronics after the garage sounds of the first two EPs. Though there is a reappearance of the 1960s garage feel on Carnal, which lyrically is an anti-love song full of cool, cynical lines like 'I don't need sex'. The skipping rhythm of Hunt gives way to electric squelches that help evoke a real atmosphere and From the Heart is a downbeat synth thriller/killer. The spooky synth drones slow things down on Locust and Watching You Dance is the only time their influences really show through. There's perhaps a little bit of Suicide circa Dream Baby Dream in there, but even then they reposition it well enough to make the sound their own.

"Carmen has speedy drums and synths rasps that propel a lyric that with bland sarcasm intones 'I'm a driver, I'm a car', before careering into a crashing finale. A Certain Way To Go is a barbed reference to their Manchester contemporaries, with bass sounds and synth twinkles setting the tone for Dick's spicy invective. Pindrop represents the perfect combination of punk energy and the electronic advances that were taking place. When Witts says 'I'm more frightened than you' on ironically titled closing track Prelude, you can bet he means it and the album is a rollercoaster ride of neurosis, style and cool, pithy comment backed by some fine tunes. Sometimes the excellent and interesting wordplay is too obscured by the production, with Witts often sounding like he is singing down the corridor somewhere. But on the whole Pindrop is a classic slice of electro punk that haunts one long after the music is over. Quite often the songs stop suddenly, like in Watching You Dance, leaving this listener a little shocked and bereft. But that isn't a criticism, as it works to get the listener out of their comfort zone and deepens the enigma and charm of Pindrop further."

"By 1982 the sound of the band had changed immeasurably from the punky flurry of their first EP. Degenerates was totally in tune with the electronic 80s, whilst not dumbing down their intelligent insights one bit. The robot voice that introduces XOYO with 'If music be the food of love, may God give me excess of it' gives way to a cool, catchy and clever electro-pop offering that should have scaled the charts by rights. It resonates through the years elegantly, like a fine jewel just waiting to be discovered.

"Probably the nearest thing on Degenerates to XOYO as a pop moment is Born Every Minute, the snarky lyric about users being set to bright synth drum handclaps and a gliding pop beat. Other good moments abound on the album. Go to Seed juxtaposes a near boogie rhythm to sleepy sounding vocals and dreamy synth flourishes and Time Will Tell advocates 'violence to the here and now' with a simple keyboard melody and clattering drums. But everything on the album impresses, using the pop medium to communicate complex ideas in an accessible and pleasing way. The final section of this set rounds up the single tracks. XOYO shines in its 7-inch mode and its fast paced non-LP flipside Animal In Me shows what an attractive package the record was. The final two efforts are the Taboos single and its dub, which both have pumping percussion, plus synth lines and guitar drifting over very coolly indeed.

"It's tempting to draw the conclusion that The Passage were just too clever for the general public to get a handle on. However I don't think its quite that simple, as they certainly could have made the breakthrough at the time of XOYO and the Degenerates album. When you consider Scritti crossed over successfully coming from a similar position, it seems more the case of fate dealing them a bad hand. In the final analysis, hit singles really don't matter: few bands of the era could offer up anything as original and enthralling as Pindrop/Degenerates. The Passage took punk and adapted it for their own ends, constructing something truly different, something passionate, articulate and often scathing, wrapped up in the sweetest and neatest of synthpop tunes. This collection is one to treasure." (Louder Than War, 10/2020)

"Lyrically they were bluntly polemical, and more explicitly than Joy Division, they caught the strange mood cocktail of hedonism and mortal fear of the early 80s" (Uncut, 06/2003)

"My, they've aged well. Lovingly compiled, and brimming with extra tracks and sharp-eyed sleevenotes" (Q, 07/2003)

"Pindrop chilled and thrilled - vocals switching between panicky whisper and desperate chant, drums beaten with a relentless passion, synth lines coiling around your heart like a creeper" (The Wire, 12/2003)

"With the disquieting Pindrop, The Passage can be accepted as major. It's a work of disciplined intellectual aggression, frantic emotions and powerfully idiomatic musicality. It's as shocking a beautiful nightmare, as stormy and aware a debut LP as Unknown Pleasures" (Paul Morley, NME, 10/1980)

"An astounding first LP - the most appropriate parallels are early Joy Division and late Wire, but their technique is unique to them" (Sounds, 10/1980)

"Pindrop never ceases to haunt and provoke no matter how many times you refer back to it. Troops Out has all the hallmarks of a great post-punk hit single, and the Piccadilly Radio session is largely fantastic. The two rare Object EPs feature Tony Friel's propulsive input and are pretty startling too" (Whisperin' & Hollerin', 04/2003)

"Riven with muggy, claustrophobic urgency. Of all Manchester's sons to crawl from punk's fallout, Dick Witts was possibly the cleverest" (Glasgow Herald, 04/2003)

"A welcome electronic diversion" (Careless Talk, 05/2003)