1981, Music

Happy Birthday (1981) by Altered Images

Post-punk was really evolving by 1981, and I think it’s safe to say that a number of bands were starting to realize they didn’t have to sound like Joy Division. Altered Images’ obvious influence is the Banshees but Grogan does not sound like Siouxsie Sioux (and she really isn’t on her level, as a singer, either). It’s Grogan’s distinct delivery – which I think has been rather influential on a certain type of singer – plus the almost “twee post punk” sound of the band that gives them enough of a distinct sound to standout in what was a really, really big field of bands.

The songs are pretty simplistic for post punk at this point, but you could argue that they’re in some way closer to the original inspiration. The songs feel sort of naive at times. At their barest and simplest, they remind me a little bit of a much more obviously post punk Young Marble Giants, albeit with a far less conventional singer and more instruments. (They have a drummer for one thing. And there is the occasional overdub.)

The band are competent enough and rockier than most things described as “twee.” (There are guitar solos! Though they are brief…)They feel like a classic early post punk band around ’78 before ambition really got into most of them. Whether or not you think that’s a good thing…

I guess a lot of how you feel about this depends on Grogan. She has definitely been inspired by her fellow British women punks, though she’s gentler than Poly Styrene or Ari Up and she’s more conventional than the girls in the Raincoats. As I said before, though the music the band is playing sometimes reminds me of a simpler Banshees, Grogan doesn’t sound anything like Siouxsie Sioux. I can’t remember her name right now, but there’s a British post punk revival singer (or “post post punk” as I like to call it) from the turn of the millennium who definitely owes something to Grogan. Probably some others.

I quite like this. But I have two nits to pick with this. The first is, well, it’s 1981 and all they’ve really added to post punk is that they’re a little more twee. It’s not really that distinct a thing to do and they don’t commit to the tweeness like true twee pop groups.

The second is that I do wish it was higher energy. There’s energy but there’s less than I would like for something like this. I’m not sure the ballads are necessary. Grogan’s voice is better when the band is up-tempo, and the whole thing is more fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.