LANDSCAPE A GO-GO / The Story Of Landscape 1977-83
BLITZED REVIEW by Imogen Bebb
Landscape … Landscape … now what was their song called … it came out in 1981, didn’t it … or maybe it was ’82 … I can never remember what it’s called … it’s always a question on PopMaster and I never get it right … Landscape … Landscape …
If you’re currently finding yourself muttering these exact words (or something very similar anyway), let me put you out of your misery.
Landscape was a group formed in London in the mid-70s by Richard James Burgess, Christopher Heaton, Andy Pask, Peter Thoms and John L. Walters. The song they recorded that you might currently be trying to remember the name of is the oddly beguiling ‘Einstein a GO-Go’ (UK number 5, 1981), although contrary to popular opinion this wasn’t the group’s only chart hit, with ‘Einstein a Go-Go’s follow-up ’Norman Bates’ hitting the lower echelons of the UK charts later in the year.
But although it’s likely that most people will consider Landscape to be nothing more than a footnote in a book about ’80s music or the subject of a slightly obscure question on Ken Bruce’s PopMaster, when you delve a little deeper it turns out that the group actually has a highly interesting, multifaceted history and a good deal of interesting, multifaceted music to go with it.
And this is exactly what this new 5CD collection – aptly titled Landscape A Go-Go – sets out to prove. Comprising 84 remastered tracks (with 22 of these never having been released before), it claims to collect ‘the seminal catalogue from the synth-pop pioneers who spearheaded a new electronic movement’, and also includes archive photos, press cuttings, original artwork and brand-new sleeve notes in the accompanying booklet.
It all sounds – and looks – pretty good so far. But what about the music? Is it worth listening to? Well, as one might expect from an ‘exhaustive’ box set such as this, there are some real gems to be found on here but also some real duds as well. As much as the band claim to have ‘pushed the boundaries of the hi-tech revolution in a way practically unrivalled elsewhere’, this boundary-pushing seems to have a very specific sound, the novelty of which could potentially wear off quite quickly.
As a result you’ll probably know immediately if the music is your bag from listening to just one or two tracks – the instrumental opener of the band’s eponymous 1979 debut album ‘Japan’ perhaps, which can only really be defined as quirky, bass-driven synth-pop that sounds like the theme tune to a sitcom set in space, or the minimal sleaze of ‘Manhattan Boogie-Woogie’, the title track of the band’s third and final album released in 1982.
However, if you’re already familiar with some of these more obscure tracks, or if you hear one or two and find it’s love at first listen, it’s quite likely you’ll get hours of listening pleasure out of this box set. Even if you simply went out and bought ‘Einstein a Go-Go’ back in 1981 and find that you still enjoy listening to it today, you’ll probably find something to love amongst these 84 tracks.
But the intriguing thing about this set is that it doesn’t lean on the band’s (admittedly brief) chart success to tempt buyers. It almost does the opposite, setting out to change listeners’ preconceptions about the band’s music by actively offering a detailed look at their back catalogue.
‘Think you know Landscape?’ this set seems to ask. ‘Well think again.’
Landscape A Go-Go: The Story Of Landscape 1977-83 is released 21 July via Cooking Vinyl