There might even be a surprise or two for This Heat fans.
In 1983, Charles Bullen knew that his band, This Heat, was over. The group issued two wildly imaginative and politically charged postpunk records in 1979 and 1981 and split up as the malaise of Reagan, Thatcher and the arms race took hold. There was war in the Falklands, a declining middle class and, just as there had been in 1976, no future. Bullen stared hopelessness square in the eye and recorded six tunes that comprise the Lifetones sole album.
Originally marked as a reggae record, the album’s roots run deeper. Sure, the mind-altering, soul-expanding instrumental “Decide” retains a Jamaican flavor with loads of guitar echo and organ bathed in otherworldly reverb. But its taut form and driving, progressive rhythms could have just easily come from the land of Can.
Bullen had barely listened to rock music during the run up to This Heat, and his interest in sounds that came from mountains and villages all over Africa shows. “Travelling” relies on droning folk instruments as it fuses continental influences with sounds that veer toward the East. That’s especially true when Bullen’s voice enters the picture late. In the final moments he sings a few hazy, mystical lines and carries us out of that most hypnotic and smoke-filled dream. It is, in the end, a distinctly British resolution, and perhaps unsurprising coming from a man who was born in Liverpool but moved to Brixton.
Not everything’s golden. “Distance No Object” sounds like street musicians trying to jam on an ace idea but falling victim to the limited technology of department store keyboards and the boundaries of their own imaginations. “Patience” test that very virtue despite its resemblance to Bullen’s other, better tendencies. It collapses into a smorgasbord of indifference with only Bullen’s guitar anchoring us to sanity.
If opener “For A Reason” resonates with a reggae audience, “Good Side” will appease listeners looking for the artist’s rock side. Both show the band’s remarkable promise. Unfortunately, that promise never bore fruit.
Upon its initial release, For A Reason sank without a trace. Bullen released it himself and did little in the way of promotion. In the decades since, the record has grown a small but appreciative following. Along with that has come all sorts of legend, including the rumor that drummer Julius Cornelius Samuel was none other than Bullen himself. That idea’s squashed in this version’s brief but informative liner notes. Still, it’s fun to listen and concoct our own stories about what went down in the studio more than 30 years ago.
Bullen more fully spread his wings on 1998 release under the Circadian Rhythms moniker, Internal Clock. There’s enough here, though, to stir interest in further exploration. There might even be a surprise or two for This Heat fans who thought they knew the whole story.