18 March 2009
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