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In this, Off the Rack's 100th entry, we move from a band who sounded like they should have been signed to 4AD in the 1980s to a band who actually was signed to 4AD in the 1980s. No, we've yet to get to the Cocteau Twins, but instead their labelmates Clan of Xymox (sometimes just Xymox).

Activate the WABAC machine: the year is 1985. Two years prior, Xymox had independently released a teaser EP entitled Subsequent Pleasures. 500 copies of the record were pressed, and apparently the band, dissatisfied with the result, destroyed as many as they could get their hands on not long afterwards. Of the five songs on the EP, "Moscovite Musquito" (retitled "Muscoviet Musquito") made it onto Clan of Xymox's 1985 self-titled debut (but only the compact disc). A decade later, the original EP would see a number of CD reissues with various additional tracks tacked on.

I don't remember when exactly I bought this disc, but I know I got it used online. My copy is actually a promo disc (you can tell because the UPC code has a hole punched in it – a typical label method of marking discs that aren't for retail). Despite that, it still has all of the liner notes, such as they are. Included in the two page booklet is a track listing and production and performance credits, all in a damn-near illegible font. Thankfully, the track listing is printed on the disc itself in a much more readable all-lowercase Times New Roman.

I see Clan of Xymox as a time capsule. What else came out in 1985? The list includes Low-Life by New Order, The Head on the Door by The Cure and First and Last and Always by The Sisters of Mercy. Siouxsie & the Banshees wouldn't release Tinderbox until 1986 (Hyaena came out in 1984) and the first full-length by Fields of the Nephilim wouldn't arrive for another year either. This self-titled debut by Clan of Xymox sounds like all of these albums!

So, the group can't be called original, but they did what any good pop band does: appropriate the best and most accessible of what has already been done by the innovative and serve it up for consumption by a mass audience. Of course, in this context, it's a bit odd to be using the term "mass audience," because Clan of Xymox is firmly planted in their niche. This is a Goth club record, no cutting it and serving it any other way.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. This is not a disc I can listen to all the way through. When the band fuses their influences with their pop sensibilities as on "A Day," "Cry in the Wind" and "Stranger," the results are nothing short of brilliant, even when you can pick apart the songs and identify what came from where. "7th Time" rightly got John Peel's personal seal of approval. Other tracks – "Stumble and Fall" and "Equal Ways" – sound like ABC if the duo had been abducted and forced, Clockwork Orange-style, to watch films of kittens being drowned.

The original vinyl LP had eight songs on it, with each side starting very strongly ("A Day" opens side A, "Stranger" opens side B). "No Human Can Drown" is a lovely bit of moodiness which originally closed the LP…and as far as I'm concerned, should have been about two minutes longer instead of fading out after only three and a half. However, the CD I have tacks three tracks onto the end: "Moscoviet Musquito" and two remixes. "Stranger" loses two minutes in remix form while "A Day" gains nearly three. The former is good for radio programmers, the latter good for club DJs needing a piss break. Neither remix was all that necessary of an addition.

My first introduction to Clan of Xymox was actually through a compilation I picked up on a whim: Gothic Club Classics, Vol. 1. "Louise," originally from the band's 1986 set Medusa was included on that compilation. While that song didn't inspire me to go out and grab the group's entire discography (or even the album it originally came from), it was enough that when Clan of Xymox released a live album in 2000 (simply entitled Live), I slotted it into WAIH's new music rotation.


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Seth Warren

May 2017

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