Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Durutti Column - The Return of the Durutti Column

The Durutti Column, "Sketch For Summer" (YSI link)

The Durutti Column, "Lips That Would Kiss" (YSI link)

Tony Wilson is rightly remembered for his support and discovery of Joy Division and New Order, two brilliant and original acts. But, I think the real tribute to the man is to look at the lesser known acts that he championed and see just how brilliant his ear was and how much he was willing to take a chance on something new and different.

I can't think of a better description of The Durutti Column, the English post-punk band. Named after a Situationist poster which was in honor of a group of fighters in the Spanish Civil War, Durutti Column was/is really guitarist Vini Reilly. What had been a sizeable band formed from another band, Fast Breeder, broke apart as a result of a fight with Tony Wilson (there's that name again!) and the choice of Martin Hannett as producer for the upcoming album. Reilly stayed on and made this his band for the past 25 years.

He worked with Hannett to put out The Return of the Durutti Column in 1980 on Factory Records, a truly original and ballsy record if I may say so. While Reilly had played in punk bands prior, this album is about as far from that sound as possible. It's basically a solo guitar album, capturing Reilly playing beautiful, ephemeral guitar music which touches on jazz, classical, some ambient, very little straight rock sounds. The real star of the show is Hannett, as he adds the electronic manipulations, found sounds and occasional beats to give the album both a freshness and ahead-of-its-time feel. This takes a few listens to get used to, but once you do, I think you will really get into the beauty and minimalism of the music; it has much more in common with the experimental music scene and jazz world than it does with punk or new wave. Go in with open ears and I think you'll hear a beautiful album. Oh, one cool note, the original record cover was made of sandpaper, a nod to the cover of Guy Debord's The Society of the Spectacle and the Situationist joke/desire to use the book to destroy all of the other ones around it.

It's amazing to think that this was coming out at the same time as Joy Division's dark post-punk on the same label. That is what should be the tribute to Tony Wilson and Factory Records, that they were able to hear the brilliance of different music. They supported artists they loved and respected, regardless of genre or popularity or profit. A pretty good philosophy, no? I highly recommend picking up your own copy of the reissue, which features 6 bonus tracks that are excellent.


aTom Ten said...

It's worth mentioning that Vini Reilly collaborated with Morrissey on his debut solo album, Viva Hate, where his distinctive style and arrangements forged a unique and complex collection of songs.

beatmaster23 said...

funny trivia: the guys of joy division were paid by toni wilson to help with this sandpaper record in a way that no one would imagine, which is basically placing the disc inside the sleeve (they needed the money). as a result of the sandpaper sleeve, their fingers ended up looking quite badly.