This is a pretty great British post punk record, one of the numerous post punk debuts to come out in 1980 but with enough strengths to recommend it.
The songs are definitely better than average – they are catchier than many contemporaries’ songs and there is definitely a greater percentage of hooks. Some of that likely has to do with, ahem, the sound of the record.
This is a relatively conventional band, and you could argue they are closer in, ahem, sound new wave or even, at times, punk, than post punk. Their songwriter is a little more traditional compared to their contemporaries at times, but it’s also the performances. They weren’t the only post punk group to make use of a saxophone, for example, but when they use it they sound closer to X Ray Spex – albeit more competent – than they do the Psychedelic Furs. It depends upon the song, of course.
One of the things that really gets them lumped in with post punk, I think, is Borland’s voice, which is a classic post punk voice – almost to the point of being cliche, though. He certainly sounds like plenty of other post punk singers who had already debuted. (It was a thing, singing like this.)
The production is somewhat typical of the era but has dated better, in part because there’s little to no echo and the sound of the band is fuller than many. It works in the album’s favour and makes up for some of the shortcomings in terms of the musical evolution, or lack thereof.
I like this album – I like the songs and I of course like the style of music. (And I definitely like the, ahem, sound of the record.) But biggest quibble is that there were a million of these bands like this at this point. And many of them had already debuted by late 1980. Moreover, many of them had already put out more than one record. There just isn’t anything new here. But it’s good enough for me.