Album Review: Poptone – “Poptone”
It’s safe to say that if they’d wanted to, Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins could have easily rested on their laurels as having been one half of goth pioneers Bauhaus, but it’s to their credit that they actually managed to build out a career for close to another decade following Northampton’s spookiest’s decision to split in 1983, first with the angular Tones On Tail, then reuniting with Bauhaus bassist David J to form the psychedelia infused Love & Rockets. Even more impressive is that they managed to keep the high quality levels of their old outfit intact pretty much throughout all of this.
The news that in 2018 with Bauhaus currently in hibernation, Ash and Haskins have reunited for a new project Poptone, was something this correspondent was pretty excited about. This album sees Ash and Haskins revisiting some of the songs of their three previous bands, aided and abetted by new bassist Diva Dompe. These aren’t straight-up re-recordings though, as the speeded-up take on L&R’s Mirror People sets out early on – it’s definitely recognisable as the same song, but it’s a different twist to the formula which works well.
It helps of course that both Tones On Tail and Love & Rockets have strong back catalogues and the material on here still sounds good today, from the fuzzed-up claustrophobia of No Big Deal through the sparse Lions and Movement of Fear, and the almost big band stylings of Happiness to the giddy post-punk disco rhythms of Go!. However, Ash and Haskins have done a good job of making sure these new versions have enough of their own identity to differentiate them from the original, but keep enough of the original spirit of the song – L&R’s Love Me and ToT’s Performance have both been given what effectively amounts to a big surround sound remake which works really well. Meanwhile, Christian Says and Ball Of Confusion (originally L&R’s Temptations cover) have been given a straight guitar-bass-drums remake rather than the electronica-based nature of the originals, which is as excellent as it is unexpected.
It ends with a big widescreen take on Slice of Life, sung by Ash on Bauhaus’ final album Burning From The Inside which signs this one off nicely. A tricky one to pull off, but Poptone deserve a lot of credit for pretty much nailing it.
Albums featuring re-recorded versions of old songs are always a hazardous beast to attempt, but Ash and Haskins have done well here - Poptone sees them staying just faithful enough to the old songs to retain their feel, while giving them a good coat of 21st century paint. Definitely well worth a listen for the curious.