Within the cannon of early Post-Punk gestures, there are a few which have crossed the decades with me, remaining as close to my aging heart as they were to its teenage version. Wire’s first three albums, P.I.L’s first four, The Raincoats first two, and The Fall, not only possess a striking beauty which has endured the years, but they deserve credit for the foundations of all that I have become. They defined me, opened doors, and set challenges. Most importantly they have continued to evolve within my ears. The longer I listen, the more I hear. Nowhere is this more true than with This Heat. Anyone with a record collection stretching into the many thousands knows how impossible it is to pick favorites, but This Heat is a contender for my favorite band of all time. Fifteen years after discovering them, their sway over me was still so strong that one of the first things I did when I moved to London in 2005, was take a starry eyed pilgrimage to Camberwell to see Charles Hayward play in the back room of a pub.
This Heat’s thin discography is the concise distillation of my musical tastes – Punk, Jazz, Dub, cross cultural musical sources, and outright experimentation. They were perfect. An aural bridge which defies definition. Even calling them Post-Punk is lazy, relying more on association than sound. For anyone unaware, Light in the Attic has recently reissued their primary three documents, This Heat, Deceit, and Health And Efficiency on vinyl for the first time in more than 25 years. Something that should be celebrated as a momentous occasion.
Most music fans are familiar with that desperate desire, upon rapidly consuming a favorite band’s discography, to hear more. In the early days of discovery, there were whispers of strange extensions which had risen from This Heat’s unfortunate demise – a band called Camberwell Now, a cassette named Flaming Tunes, and something about Lifetones. This Heat’s discography has never been readily available (at least not on Vinyl), and though Charles Hayward’s wonderful post This Heat releases in Camberwell Now proved relatively easy to track down, Charles Bullen and Gareth Williams’ efforts became among the most elusive I’ve ever known. The hours I have spent hunting for them are impossible to tally. For much of that time, I labored in faith, not having heard the objects of my desire. When they eventually reached my ears, I fell so deeply in love that I doubled my failing efforts. Gareth Williams’ Flaming Tunes was finally released as an LP in 2012, but Charles Bullen’s Lifetones has remained at the top of my want list for endless years.
Lifetones – For A Reason (1983/2016)
Lifetones’ For A Reason was Charles Bullen’s first release after the demise of This Heat. It is essentially a solo gesture made in collaboration with Julius Cornelius Samuel. In all the years I’ve been hunting for it, I have only seen one copy. It was discovered by a close friend stuffed in a New Age bin in Philadelphia. It cost him a dollar. I’ve resented his luck ever since. Finally I can forgive him. A few weeks ago, I noticed that Light in the Attic had announced they would be returning Lifetones to circulation in March. I jumped out of my skin, immediately per-ordering a copy. I’ve been singing the label’s praises for years. A full profile is long overdue. Let’s say for now, I could kiss them.
If you peel back the skin of This Heat, particularly as they progress, what you discover is surprising. What at first listen can feel aggressive, abrasive, and challenging, is actually extremely bent pop music. This thread was followed with more clarity by all three members in their later efforts. Camberwell Now is possibly the closest in resemblance to This Heat. Hayward maintained many of his former band’s rough edges, while William’s and Bullen’s struck down stranger, and more overtly pop oriented paths. For A Reason is an album very much of its era. It shares territory with Ari Up’s post-Slits project The New Age Steppers, The Pop Group, P.I.L., and The Raincoats, all of whom drew on diverse sonic reference points, particularity Dub, to sculpt their sounds. The record’s pallet is largely built around synthesizers, which might explain why a lazy record store clerk, quickly tracking through it, might confuse it with New Age. It doesn’t take long to figure out how far from that world it is. I guess you could call it a synth drenched Dub record, but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s weird, wonderful, and like so many of the things I love, defies definition. It has all the hallmarks of Dub, the rhythms, and delay, etc, but it never allows itself to be just that. Charles Bullen’s bent, deadpan vocals hold it at bay and transport it into uncharted territory. His delivery and phrasing call directly back to his days in This Heat, making the sounds which carry them feel bent and challenging. It’s a beautiful and wonderful thing. Though Bullen went on to collaborate with Hayward in Camberwell Now, and with Gareth Williams on his Flaming Tunes release, as well as participating in diverse projects such as Family Fodder, and the incredible but short lived People In Control, and also issued other solo recordings under Circadian Rhythms, For A Reason has always been the closest to my heart and struck me as his definitive gesture. It is an album that might take a little while to sink into, but I can’t recommend enough.
You can pick it up directly from Light in the Attic here
and have a listen bellow: