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Music Review: Dead Can Dance – Dead Can Dance

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It seems like an alternate universe now, but back in the early eighties finding adventurous music was almost a full-time job, especially if you did not live in a major city. I probably would have been listening to nothing but Quarterflash and Billy Squire had it not been for a Tower Records store near the local mall. They carried cool magazines like Trouser Press and ZigZag, and had import bins filled with the albums those mags were reviewing.

I made many discoveries this way, because there was no way any radio station within 500 miles of me would be playing any of this stuff. This is how I came upon 4 AD Records, and their largest selling act over the years, Dead Can Dance.

In 1984, I bought their instant-classic Goth debut, Dead Can Dance and have been a fan ever since. Thanks to the burgeoning vinyl renaissance, I now own the LP in a vastly improved pressing over the original. Additionally, this great package includes the four-song Garden Of Arcane Delights EP, which was also released in 1984.

The “new generation” of vinyl features long-players pressed on 180 gram slabs of plastic, with deep grooves. There is a huge improvement in the sound quality of these meticulously re-mastered beauties over what had come before.

In the end though, it comes down to the music. Some later DCD fans dismiss the first album as “too Goth.” Not me. If anything, I want more like it. Although I never adopted “the look,” I was a huge fan of bands like Siouxsie And The Banshees, Bauhaus, and The Chameleons in 1984. Dead Can Dance fit in perfectly.

From the opening instrumental “The Fatal Impact,” through the atmospheric closer, “Musica Eterna,” this was a record that resonated deeply with me. Listening to it all these years later is a reminder of the vital role that sequencing made on an album back then. Side one ends dramatically with the haunting “Ocean.” Flip the LP over and you are onto a different journey, beginning with the bouncy (for DCD) “ East Of Eden.”

It seems appropriate for 4 AD to include the Garden Of Arcane Delights EP with Dead Can Dance, as they had previously incorporated it into the CD reissue. Having said that though, the Garden songs never really fit with those of Dead Can Dance. Much of the Goth-ness of the debut has been stripped away on these later tunes. There is no way they could be mistaken for music written and recorded at the same time. Garden does point the way to the very different band DCD would become however, especially the songs “Carnival Of Light,” and “Flowers Of The Sea.”

I never noticed it before, but it seems that Chris Martin’s parents were playing Garden’s “In Power We Entrust The Love Advocated,” to him each morning before grammar school. It seems to have provided him with quite the rush of blood to the head.

As always with 4 AD, the packaging is immaculate. Even though I am reviewing the magnificent vinyl reissue here, I have to say that this music is worth hearing on any format. Their debut in particular is grossly underrated, and is an album I highly recommend.

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About Greg Barbrick