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Chrysalids - Neither Love Nor Money

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 7 / 10 / 2012

Chrysalids - Neither Love Nor Money
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


Anthony Strutt examines long lost Manchester band the Chrysalids' debut album, which, largely consisting of tracks recorded over twenty years ago, has only just been released now

'Neither Love Nor Money' is the fifteen track debut album from Manchester's fines, the Chrysalids. It has taken over twenty years to be released, but is well worth the wait. The band are co-writers John Wood and Yves Altana. Wood had left One Thousand Violins at the end of 1987 with an aim to write his own songs outside the restraints of the 60's obsessiveness which the Violins were becoming bound by. I had first heard the Violins on the John Peel Show, and fell in love with them so much that I bought every live tape I could get my hands on down at the Portobello and Camden Markets. The cream of these were the band's 1984/85 demo recordings, which I played to death in my house back then. So, what were the Violins like, then? Well, imagine hearing Scott Walker when he was at the height of his talents (before he began slapping pigs) fronting the Smiths. It really was that good. As a singer, Wood was in a realm way above the C86 scene and, in my opinion, is up there with Walker in his ability to convey melancholy grandeur. In their earliest form, the Chrysalids released only one commercial recording, their 'should have been a hit' song, 'My Heart is Where My Home is', on the 1990 compilation 'This Is Manchester' on Castle. I had been privileged to see the band play their only London date and, in the days of pen and paper, got their contact address and wrote to them asking for demo tapes - which is why some of the songs on these album are already familiar to me. Back then I had, at one point, even considered putting out my own Chrysalids flexi disc, so much so did I believe that they deserved to be heard. Alas, without management and a press profile the Chrysalids were up against the tide of fashion at a time when everything was required to have a link - however tenuous - with Madchester and 'rave'. The Chrysalids sadly folded just before the tide turned, and bands who were big on emotion and structure, such as Suede, came round. Well, back to the future. Come forward twenty years after these mostly cassette home recordings were made, and they now have had a re-mastered release and, guess what, they are again being played to death in my house. Some things don't change, eh! These are pretty much just cleaned up versions with five recent re-recordings. The musical arrangements are by Yves Altana, a complete musically 'mad for it' guy who moved to Manchester from France to be near his favourite bands, Magazine and the Chameleons. Altana later ended up working with Mark Burgess in two different bands. The album is wrapped up in a sleeve that could be a Smiths cover for its Northern looking retro aesthetic. But this music is not retro, at all; it's an album that is completely refreshing and full of life's hopes and dramas. 'When There are No Stars in the Sky' opens the work, and is big and bouncy and full of a joyous regret. It just totally floors me. It is how John Wood should be heard. His voice and his songs are backed by a pre Wonky Alice Yves Altana jangling away stratospherically. If you’re like me, you’ll be waving your arms in the air when you hear it. This is just so wonderful! Anyone who has danced alone in their room to the Smiths because they were too shy will love this work. 'My Heart is Where My Home is (And I’m Leaving)' was the song that had a couple of majors sniffing around and which picked up local airplay. No wonder, for this is a truly heartfelt song that breaks my heart. Wood is poetical, and Altana's guitar colours in the landscape to add a blue-ray quality to the language spoken. 'Home Grown Garden Boy' is downbeat in a dysfunctional familial landscape, but is still a song to wave your arms in the air to or to watch the world go by from your window. The guitar haunts like early Chameleons. 'Shrine' is the first of the re-recordings. It is soulful in a 60s way, like Scott Walker crooning one of his timeless classics. Words flow like liquid honey, reflecting on the psychology of fandom and personal re-invention, while the backing is gentle but with an indie edge to it that gathers pace to fade on epic desolation. 'Too Lucky to Listen' is fast like upbeat Violins, a song to dance around to whilst pointing a finger at those who care little for the unfortunates and for whom life is served up on a plate. 'Half the Distance' is lush, cinematic, like Scott singing into the European landscape but transposed to small town English wastes. The guitar cuts through like a hot knife cutting the chocolate of a doomed romance. The vocals are mournful and very lonely. You really do feel the lyrics here, a bedsit classic for the lost. 'Canute's Last Wave' is a re -recording and muses on social breakdown and loss, backed by a colossus of edgy guitar not unlike Morrissey's early solo work. 'Days Like These', another of the re-recordings, is big and spacey, quite dubby in places, with guitar that sparkles in a Johnny Marr like fashion whilst Wood croons this domestic despair. 'Tell My Story' is guitar spiked, like early Chameleons with a piano that haunts 'like tears' painting the wide-screen canvas. Acoustic guitar joins in too, bringing some solace to Woods' world weary resignation - it is easily an album highlight. 'Just like Stingray' is huge like the Violins doing Scott via the Chameleons in cinemascope, a song to put me on a high. 'I am My Mirror' is mid paced, jangly, fresh as morning rain pouring down introspection and self-doubt, (the Violins covered the Velvet Underground's 'I’ll Be Your Mirror' so maybe this is the sequel). 'Mad Professor' is a big, psychedelic keyboard number, a pop song of neurotic self-deprecation like the Violins and totally wonderful. 'Don't Wait at the Gates for Me' begins like doomy era Cure with lyrics sharpened with the broken glass of a soul incarcerated. 'Spoil the Child' is a slow burner in a parched landscape, a lot like Suede's 'The Killing of a Flash Boy'. Guitars burn, lyrics flow, all-consuming and arid. 'Before I Stop, Let Me Start' contains the lyrics from which the album title is taken. John's vocal is huge here with Walker Bros harmonies, making the album's final statement. The music is like mid-album Cure, moody, lonely, a faint glimmer of hope for personal self-realisation. My hope is for the Chrysalids to finally emerge and remain on in there, that the project is just not unfinished business. We have lived too long alone with John's poetry nowhere to be heard.

Track Listing:-

Picture Gallery:-
Chrysalids - Neither Love Nor Money

Chrysalids - Neither Love Nor Money

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Interview (2012)
Chrysalids - Interview
Anthony Strutt discusses with John Wood both his 80's bands One Thousand Violins and the Chrysalids, the latter of whom have recently released their debut album, 'Neither Love Nor Money', over twenty years after they recorded most of its songs

live reviews

The Castle, Manchester, 5/8/2012
Chrysalids - The Castle, Manchester, 5/8/2012
At The Castle in Manchester, Dizie Ernill watches ill-fated indie guitar duo the Chrysalids play an emotive and intimate gig to launch their debut album, 'Neither Love Nor Money', which has finally come out nearly twenty five years after they first formed

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