In the Nursery

Prelude (1983-1985)

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"Formative" is indeed the word here, as the sheer symphonic sweep of ITN in future years is all but absent here. Instead, this collection of the early EP When Cherished Dreams Come True and various singles tracks showcases a band much more in line with dank, hardscrabble, post-punk than with orchestral power. Many of the tracks sound fairly anonymous in comparison to later works, but strong examples of the brothers' ability with a dramatic song crop up more than once, as with the compelling "Mystery," which builds to a frenzied climax while retaining the same quietly forceful singing tone throughout. Unusual arrangements also appear from time to time, as with the heavily produced guitar line on "A to I," which initially sounds like a keyboard melody more than anything else, and "Lost Prayer" and "And Your Eyes," both of which mostly eschew guitars for a synth-heavy approach (the latter is especially compelling, very much a taste of where ITN would go next). The brothers' singing ability varies from cleaner if at-times strained vocals to much more darkly ominous efforts that, combined with the definite post-Joy Division feel of much of the music, especially with the strong Peter Hook-style basslines, calls to mind similarly energetic gloomsters as And Also the Trees or Crispy Ambulance. Ant Bennet's live drumming does the trick fairly well, on tracks like "Witness (To a Scream)" and "Sentient" already showing shades of the militaristic percussion which would become central to future ITN releases, and the Humberstones' work on guitar and bass is more than serviceable, adding touches like saxophone and bells from time to time to introduce some welcome, unexpected variety amidst the sometimes-overwhelming gloom. Still, while hardly a problem to listen to, Prelude very much has the feel of a work in progress -- an interesting snapshot of a band's early days, but not much more.

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