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Godfathers - Godfathers

  by Andrew Carver

published: 23 / 4 / 2011



Godfathers - Godfathers

intro

Andrew Carver reflects upon South London punk/rock 'n' roll band the Godfathers first two major label releases, 1988's 'Birth, School, Work, Death' and 1989's 'More Songs about Love and Hate', which have both recently been reissued


The Godfathers had impeccable timing, arriving at just the wrong time to enjoy the full commercial fruits of their driving guitars and bile-filled lyrics, motifs that would leap into the mainstream just a few years after their creative peak. In North America, major labels had signed bands like the Replacements and Husker Du and Guns’N’Roses' ‘Appetite For Destruction’ was beginning to restore the electric guitar to its former prominence in rock’n’roll - but the big hitmakers were folks like George Michael and Whitney Houston. Fortunately, the Godfathers had some limited chart success home and abroad, as well as substantial critical success, enough to warrant a re-release of ‘Birth, School, Life, Death’ and ‘More Songs About Love and Hate’, two albums wrangling for the title of ‘creative peak’. After compiling some earlier releases on the humbly named ‘Hit By Hit’, the band made their Epic debut, ‘Birth, School, Life, Death’ in 1988. The band had a take-no-prisoners attitude to the world’s vicissitudes, exemplified in the title track, the chanted chorus of which “Birth! School! Life Death!” is likely their best-remembered moment. The group also had a streetwise outlook life that poked through in the unvarnished drug references in ‘If I Only Had Time’ and the vaguely psychedelic ‘When Am I Coming Down?’ The band’s pugnacity surfaces (as if it ever went away) in ‘Cause I Said So’, banishing the thought there might be tomorrow by sheer force of will. In the world of the Godfathers, love is a rose that’s more thorns than flower, bordering on the inexplicable as singer Peter Coyne asks in ‘Tell Me Why’. “Why do I phone you up/Why do I make a fuss?” he sings in his trademark style, biting off the words like a man spitting out unpleasant truths. In fact, in songs like ‘The Strangest Boy’ it seems he might be happier if everyone just went and left him alone - “I never wear a smile, cause that would show I care”, though the falsetto refrain of “I don’t think so” shows at least some self-doubt might be penetrating the band’s facade. Kicking off with a speedy rockabilly riff ‘S.T.B.’ - the tune also offers a crash course in Chuck Berry worship - Coyne is once again dialling up a sweetheart, but this time with a higher hopes of hearing her “sweet voice breathing down the line.” In ‘Just Like You’ he’s even saying he’ll write the object of his affection and testifying that he’ll never leave. By the time the original album comes to a close, however, with ‘Love Is Dead’ where Coyne takes a rare moment to sing about what’s happening to someone else it seems like, well love is dead. The re-release adds a couple of B-sides, the markedly sweet-tempered ‘Miss That Girl’, a wah-wah-laden cover of Them’s ‘I Can Only Give You Everything’ and four live songs from a March 26, 1988 show at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro. They kick off with ‘When Am I Coming Down’, where they sound remarkably like Screaming Trees musically. The band heads back to ‘Hit By Hit’ territory for their notorious cover of John Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ and a hard-hitting ‘I’m Unsatisfied’, and also jump forward to their next album on ‘Those Days Are Over.’ It sounds like a hot set for an enthusiastic crowd. The band hit a new peak in their popular acclaim with the follow up, 1989's ‘More Songs About Love and Hate’, which led off with the memorable ‘She Gives me Love’ - a college radio hit in the U.S. While love remains as inexplicable as ever, at least he’s getting some of it. A slight electric sheen seems to have been laid over some of the vocal tracks (well, it was the 1980s ...), but the band’s fondness for declamatory choruses is intact. Such sort-of-cheery thoughts can’t, however, stand for ever - actually about one per Godfathers album seem to be the norm. ‘Those Day Are Over’ returns to the Godfathers’ usual apocalyptic state of mind, with “soldiers all around.” Things don’t seem to be improving on ‘How Low Is Low?’, which kicks off with a biblical lyrical turn that continues in later verses where Coyne asks, “Jesus you blessed my soul/So won’t you help me please?” Although it sounds like the sort of thing that might be found on a Spiritualized LP. instead it’s served on top a plate of Kris Dollimore’s short, jabbing riffs. On ‘Pretty Girl’ Coyne is predictably singing about the one who got away, and the life in “This Is Your Life’ typified by the line ‘“I’m all messed up aside, don’t want this kind of life,’ and sent home musically by the succession of punching chords at the end. ‘I’m Lost And Then I’m Found’ finds Coyne in a more poetic frame of mind, musing on the tinfoil celebrities swanning through the press and the band providing a relatively rollicking, bluesy backdrop. ‘I Don’t Believe In You’ has more of the conflicted love and shouty choruses that were the band’s main strength. While the prickly sentiments of ‘Life Has Passed Us By’ is par for the course for the band, the almost-country feel and the twangy guitarwork around the defeatist chorus. ‘Walking Talking Johhny Cash Blues’ continues in the country vein, with a definite Sun Records vibe to the music to accompany the lyrics. ‘Halfway Paralysed’ returns to the band’s more electric sounds, while ‘Another You’ ends the album with a solemn turn to the start, with Coyne once again clinging to love, however fleeting it may be, sung with more of a croon than his patented snarl, and some almost Latin guitar work. The newly expanded version comes with the ‘Out on the Floor’ EP and a pair of B-sides. The fierce ‘Just Because You’re Not’ is a definite bonus which adds a definite octane kick to the album with a polished, vaguely Stooges-ish riff. The dolorous ‘Still Alone’ is another big plus with it stomping bass drum and neat acoustic riff. The ‘Out on the Floor’ EP is somewhat less vital, offering an extended mix of ‘Birth School Work Death’ and two mixes of ‘She Gives Me Love’. Adding canned drums and synth must have seemed like a grand idea 25 years ago, but now it sounds horribly dated and is strictly a boon to the completists. That is the only weak spot, however, in the re-release of two of the sharpest albums to come out of Britain in the late 1980s. Although indie rockers have turned up the volume a bit in the intervening decades, both ‘Birth School Work Death’ and ‘More Songs About Love and Hate’ stand as vital signposts in the turn back from glistening pop to a more fierce rock.



Band Links:-
http://www.godfathers.uk.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheGodfathersFamily


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Godfathers - Godfathers


Godfathers - Godfathers



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