5 February 2014

Transvision Vamp - Velveteen

What can you say about this band other than lead singer "Wendy James was incredibly fit back in the day"? I suppose you could say that besides that, they were merely an adequate pop band which had a slight punk edge but they weren't worth the hype that was heaped on them due to said fit singer also letting her mouth run in the press. Seriously, she would say things like "I can guarentee that in ten years time, Smash Hits will want me on the front cover" and she even reckoned she'd win a best actress oscar before Madonna. She was right about one thing though - Stock Aitken Waterman (the 'Simon Cowell' of the 80's) were parasites.

This - coupled with her perchant for wearing skimpy clothing - added a sexually charged rebellious vibe to the band, which very nearly made people forget that she couldn't sing to save her life. The rest of the band were adequate musicians and the music they created was a nice mix of new wave and pop. Some of the songs had a punk vibe to them but there was a dcent tune or two behind them, sounding very reminiscent of anything Phil Spector produced during his heyday. Without the 'wall of sound', drug abuse and the psychological torture.

This was their second and most successful album, which got to number one in the album charts. Initially, success had been slow in coming for the band but things started to pick up once the single "I Want Your Love" off the previous album got to number five in the singles charts. Then this album came along in the summer of 1989 and ushered in more success for the band. There were four singles off this album - and in the case of "Welcome To The Pleasuredome" by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (See prev blog), the singles are really all you need. That's not to say this album is as overblown, pretentious and as self-indulgent as Frankie..., oh no. It's just that the band couldn't really stretch their talents to a full album, they couldn't pace themselves, if you will.

Opening with their most successful single, "Baby I Don't Care", it kicks things off nicely with what I like to call the "Troggs Riff". I call it that as it's very remisicent of the main riff from "Wild Thing" by The Troggs (Duh duh, duh-duh, DUH DUH, duh-duh). This ended up getting to number three in the charts and would be their most successful single. Wendy James' vocals veer from 'childlike' to 'water going down a rusty drain'. Which is pretty much all she could do vocally. After this, we're onto the punk-influenced "The Only One" which is a good song. It sounds very new-wave, which is no suprise as the band do have punk influences. Again, a nice song. Then, we're onto another single. This one really showed the Phil Spector influence as it sounds like something from the 60's. A slow ballad, "Landslide Of Love" (The name of the song) approaches something resembling emotion, lamenting unrequitted love. Next song is "Falling For A Goldmine" and, to be honest it's quite forgettable, really, as it's one of those slow-broody ballads which were popular around then. "Down On You" has a sneer about it, which brings the tempo back up but I think by now, it's a template that's been well utilised. "Song To The Stars" is a waste of time.

Next up is the quite frankly awesome "Kiss Their Sons" which rumbles on like a stroppy girl at a disco (Hmmm). For me, it's the best song on the album and highlights that the band could get by on a bit more than Wendy James charms. In fact, it's the only song on here that she sings perfectly on. More of this would've sufficed as each members individual strengths were utilised in this song perfectly. Afterwards, we're back into more familiar territory with "Born To Be Sold", a song about various pop-culture icons and the way the media covered them. It's not too bad, but by now, we're starting to get bored. Afterwards we've got the atrociously titled "Pay The Ghosts" which sounds like something Billy Idol would write (Someone remind me to blog his "Cyberpunk" album...). It's a rocking number that thankfully, doesn't sound as stale. Afterwards, we've got a slow number in "Bad Valentine". Seemingly a lament at being bad all the time, it's got a cosy feel to it. Then we're onto the nine minutes long title track, Velveteen. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking this was their attempt to be regarded as serious musicians. It almost works.

So, all in all, it's an adequate enough album which is alright, but lacks many suprises. The band tried to go a new direction with the one after this but the record company didn't like it and refused an official release in the UK. The band soon split up after that. It's a shame as there are hints of brilliance on this album but a little more variety and pplaying to their strengths as opposed to the tried and tested formula of vaguely-punk-and-new-wave would've been nice. One of the members (Dave Parsons - bass) ended up joining that shit grunge band known as Bush and Wendy James recorded a solo album with songs written by Elvis Costello.

PS: The remaining members of the band were Nick Christian Sayer - guitar, Tex Axile - keyboards and Pol Burton - drums.

5/10 - It could have been a bit better.

This album is available on iTunes, Amazon (click here) and Spotify (Click here).

Chris J

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