18 March 2009

Heart Of Darkness by Positive Noise

Brave New Scotland. That was the name given to the host of bands that emerged in the wake of the punk explosion of the late seventies, bands such as The Skids, Altered Images, The Fire Engines, or perhaps most famously, those on the roster of the Post Card label, Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, and Joseph K. In fact, it was from an Orange Juice album that Simon Reynolds lifted the title of his influential history of Post Punk, Rip It Up and Start Again. The Scottish bands, perhaps more than any others, seemed most sensible to the potential of punk, and most willing to abuse it, to turn it inside out and, well, start again.

Positive Noise are the forgotten sons of this legendary host of Scottish groups looking to reimagine pop music in the early eighties. Led by Ross Middleton (vocals/guitar) with brothers Fraser Middleton (bass) and Graham Middleton (keyboards) and Les Gaff (drums), they came out of the same fertile Glasgow music scene that gave the world Post Card Records. But where Orange Juice wedded jangly, Byrds-inspired pop with grooves borrowed from Chic, Positive Noise seemed closer in spirit to some of the Manchester bands on the Factory Records label, with stentorian vocals declaimed over splintered guitars and thunderous drums. This was heavy music, which had it been more dubby might have sounded rather like Joy Division, or if more funky, like A Certain Ratio. But, in truth, Positive Noise were more squarely in the pop mold than either of their Mancunian counterparts, with strong bass lines and memorable choruses. Ross Middleton chants rather than sings, intoning his words with a manic passion, and the album as a whole seems to heave itself from song to song as if it were Sisyphus pushing a great rock up the side of a mountain. It just never gives up. Keith Levene of PIL guests on the opening track, and Gary Barnacle, the celebrated horn player who played with just about every act of note in the eighties, adds some terrific brass touches to two tracks.

Ross Middleton left Positive Noise following the release of Heart Of Darkness, joining up with Gary Barnacle and scoring some dance hits as Leisure Process. Positive Noise soldiered on, with Russell Blackstock taking on the vocal duties for the radio-friendly follow up, Change Of Heart, a respectable entry in the white boy funk canon, but one that one pales in comparison to the sheer vitality of Heart of Darkness. No more blood and soil!

--Crash The Driver


Positive Noise - Heart Of Darkness

01 Darkness Visible
02 Hypnosis
03 No More Blood And Soil
04 . . . And Yet Again
05 Down There
06 Treachery!
07 Warlords
08 Love Is A Many-Splintered Thing
09 Refugees
10 Ghosts

France LP Statik [Stat LP1] 1981


  1. What? No comments? This is a fantastic album, especially for fans of early Simple Minds. I was hoping there would be choruses of exhaltation, so we'd be forced to post the rare single tracks as well.

  2. Positve Noise should have been more successful but they where probably a bit ahead of their time, just like Be Bop Deluxe where. John Peel was a lover of them and that's where i first heard them when he played Ghosts from a seession in 1980.

  3. This is fantastic - thanks very much! And by all means, post more of Positive Noise, like "Charm" and "Positive Negative" for instance.

  4. Great band! Have been trawling the web for a while looking for info on them . . .remember buying Heart of Darkness on Oxford Street and wondering why the band never broke through . . . the fundamentals were there . ..if their producers had pushed more toward Joy Division or in the other direction toward the Skids . . . as it were, they never really found a place . . .bummer

  5. Used to have all their stuff on vinyl and then got rid of it all. Great to hear it again - thanks for posting.

  6. This really is a fabulous album. I don't understand why no one (as far as I'm aware) has bothered to reissue it.

  7. Thanx for posting this I've been looking for it for ages. I purchased this when it first came out but long ago lost it. My new favorite blog. Keep up the good work

  8. Wow, didn't realise that there was a download here! Brilliant! I bought the thing on vinyl way back when and probably haven't played since I went over to CD in 1992! It was one of my fave LPs at the time and I was wondering what to do with it (and the rest of my record collection!).


    Peter J Knight

  9. that is one of my favourite british post punk albums, i found the single (12 inch) too with a cover taken by a grave in Staglieno Cemetery...
    Greetings from Greece SMM.
    I started a blog just a month ago dealing with greek independent scene especially in the 80's and some of the 90's era. PLease visit us and you might find interesting stuff. Music posts are in both Greek and English.
    the link is: http://dekaxiliadesmatia.blogspot.com/
    (it means Ten thousand Eyes)
    thank you anyway for all those beautifully written posts. You are an insipiration.
    --ten thousand eyes team

  10. thank you for sharing this sir, just downloaded it and listened to it for the first time in maybe 25 years...still sounds great