The Early Years

Fra Lippo Lippi

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The Early Years Review

by François Couture

Most of Fra Lippo Lippi's catalog is own by Virgin, but leader Rune Kristoffersen still holds the rights to the group's first two LPs, In Silence (1981) and Small Mercies (1983). Both are integrally reissued here as part of a CD filled to the rim, the first release on Rune Arkiv, a sub-label of Kristoffersen's own, Rune Grammofon. The rift between these two albums and Fra Lippo Lippi's later more mainstream outings has been stressed elsewhere. As is, this collection (which also includes two B-side tracks from 1982, "In a Little Room" and "An Idea") offers a nice epochal slab of Gothic-pop. Bauhaus and The Stranglers obviously had a strong influence on Kristoffersen (guitar, keyboards, bass, and vocals) and Morten Sjøberg (drums), especially on the debut album, oddly presented after their sophomore on this CD. The acoustic, cavernous drums and skeleton-like electric guitar give songs like "Recession," "Quiet," and "Out of the Ruins" a resolutely gloomy feel. For In Silence, the duo added a more charismatic lead singer in Per Oystein Sorensen, while Kristoffersen focused mainly on keyboards, and the drums became clinical-sounding (ha, new wave production values), resulting in less claustrophobic songs that were more appealing to the masses. They evoke Peter Murphy's later solo efforts, and already show a strong pop sensibility (witness "Sense of Doubt"). The material remains heavier in atmosphere and emotion than most new wave hits, making this collection a must-have for fans of the darker side of the era.

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