If I Die, I Die is the Virgin Prunes' proper debut album. The first three (of seven) parts of a conceptual work entitled A New Form of Beauty, issued as 7", 10", and 12" singles preceded it in the same calendar year. Produced by Wire's Colin Newman, the album's 14 tracks are the epitome of post-punk adventurism. Here, tribal drums and edgy, spooky, detuned guitars and bouzoukis cross paths and meld with synthesizers and primitive drum machines in an onslaught of off-kilter creativity where everyone from the Fall, PIL, New Order, Siouxsie & the Banshees, and even Bruce Springsteen are called in for reference in a brew that is dangerous, primal, and excessive. Two androgynous frontmen in the foppish Gavin Friday and alluring Guggi create alternate ambiences from warped yet sweet Irish balladry to shrieked poetry. And while the set is messy to be sure, it is far from off-putting. In fact, it is easily the band's most consistent and enduring effort. The albums opens with the haunting, nocturnal minimalism of "Ulankulot," an intro with tom toms and drifting keyboards layered carefully in the background, wordless chanted backing vocals and an electric bouzouki courtesy of guitarist Dik. It immediately gives way to its antecedent "Decline Sand Fall." It's the same tune, only Friday is out in front of it digging deep into the temporality of childhood and what remains of it. Its effect is startling, nocturnal, and tense. In "Sweethome Under White Clouds," the theme is given dimension as Guggi and Friday wail like muzzeins over a reverbed guitar coming from the netherworld and augmented by a soprano saxophone and a synth bassline. "Pagan Lovesong," the album's proper single, is one of the most angular cuts on the set. Here, the Prunes employ a riff straight out of early Gang of Four, chant their refrains, and swirl the keyboards and drum machines à la Devo yet keep everything so gothic and strange; it's not only compelling, it's infectious. The rest of the album follows suit, with the raucous new wave of "Baby Turns Blue," and the mainstream rockist "Ballad of the Man" that sounds like a wrong-speed outtake, Springsteen's The River and the Mott the Hoople version of "Sweet Jane!" This is a wonderfully confounding and sometimes campy and often disturbing exercise in unfettered creativity that has stood the test of time very well. It is the most necessary Virgin Prunes record of all and captures best what they were capable of when focused.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek