14 October 2020

This Final Frame - The Diary/ Discontent


Brassy Scouse post-punk with an appropriately filmic edge

Label: Scratch
Year of Release: 1982

The almighty box set "Revolutionary Spirit" was released a few years back, which across five CDs lovingly detailed the comings and goings of the Liverpudlian post-punk scene. It found space for the great (Teardrop Explodes, Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD), the good (Wild Swans, Icicle Works, It's Immaterial) and the perplexing (The Chuddy Nuddies, Those Naughty Lumps) but somehow managed to overlook This Final Frame entirely.

The group, consisting of Paul Skillen on vocals, Peter McAsey on bass, Jim Short on trumpet, Eamonn Sale on keyboards on vocals and Carl Henry on drums, had a somewhat restless career, leaping from label to label in search of the elusive breakthrough moment. This, their debut 45, came out on the RCA subsidiary Scratch Records - home also to the divisive comedian Jim Davidson, who provided them with their only charting record in "Too Risky" - and was largely ignored, resulting in all their future releases either being handled by independent or European labels. It's a daring first outing to say the least. While all the components (such as the airy wash of synthesisers, those Teardrop trumpets and the heavy, bending basslines) were compatible with the sound of 1982, the song itself is total post-punk despondency, an atmosphere rather than a catchy pop tune. While the track was enthusiastically picked up by local radio, the rest of the country proved immune to its charms.

The flipside "Discontent" ups the ante further and shows the group flying their discordant freak flag up the longest pole they could fathom. Tribal drums pound, backing vocalists let out war cries, trumpets screech, and the singer hollers "DISCONTENT!" repeatedly. You wouldn't open your door to them if they came calling at 3am, put it that way.

Following the failure of the debut 45 they leapt to the Liverpool indie Direct in 1985 for the track "Take No Prisoners", then on to the German label Intercord in the same year for the single "Stories". This is where things take a very peculiar turn indeed - "Stories" somehow found its way into the hands of numerous influential New Wave DJs in the Phillipines who played it enthusiastically, but were so keen to cover their source material that they refused to name it for fear that rival jocks would pick up the track on import as well. Those who had it referred to it as "Ten Portraits of a Jew", making it impossible for impressed listeners to track it down and arguably also stamping out any hope it had of proper success in that country.  

The truth came out eventually, and as a result the group are still recording and issuing material. Their most recent highly limited compilation LP "The Story of This Final Frame" cobbles together most of the essential early material, and their website delves much deeper into the group story.

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