Lowlife

Permanent Sleep + Rain

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

The combined reissue of the band's debut EP and first full-length -- plus one bonus track, a strong version of Diminuendo's "From Side to Side" that first appeared on the Vain Delights EP -- is an incredible blast of atmospheric post-punk that surges from strength to strength. Part of the sheer confidence audible throughout doubtless derives from the experience most of the group already had under its belt -- singer Craig Lauritson, guitarist Stuart Everest, and drummer Grant McDowell had already been playing together in Dead Neighbours, while bassist Will Heggie had already gained fame as one of the original Cocteau Twins. Their working together proved to be lightning in a bottle, with Lauritson's dramatic but inviting croon and Everest's guitar heroics contrasting perfectly with the steady, powerful rhythm section. The six-song Rain made for a striking start to the group, with a lot of tense energy bubbling up throughout, perhaps most strikingly on the fierce "Sense of Fondness." As strong as Rain is, Permanent Sleep might even be more so, with any number of songs rivaling the contemporaneous efforts on that landmark of '80s U.K. rock, the Chameleons' Strange Times. The dark, almost waltz-time swing of "Cowards Way," which leads off both the original album and the combined CD, is the first of eight uniformly fine tracks. If a similarity in pace makes them all blend into each other a bit too much, the individual flair of Lauritson and Everest helps make each more distinct, from the gentler chime of "Wild Swan" to the more openly heroic "Permanent Sleep." A number of songs on both releases hint back to Heggie's Cocteau days in particular, including "Mother Tongue" and "Again and Again," but transformed into a different atmosphere thanks to Lauritson's singing. Brian Guthrie's liner notes top off this striking and very welcome reissue.

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