Terrorvision are best described as fun. No technical geniuses in their line up, but their infectious pop tinged brand of rock music has kept me entertained for the last 18 years amazingly without sounding old or tired, especially where the earlier material is concerned.
Formed in 1993 the band released 5 albums before splitting amicably in 2001. 10 years later they’re back with new album Super Delux and a tour to accompany it. It seems logical then that they should be the first subject of a new feature we’re calling Box Set – a look at an artist’s discography with thoughts on each album and highlighting a few stand out tracks you should hear.
1993 – Formaldehyde
Formaldehyde is probably the most ‘rock’ album of the entire discography. The songs are fairly simple rock and roll without too much of the overtly pop tinge of later records. It does have its poppier moments especially in slower tracks like ‘Killing Time’, though what Formaldehyde does is prove that song scribe Tony Wright knows how to write catchy tunes. While not threatening anyone with deep lyrical content, the songs are better formed than a lot of later material.
Many bands should consider contracts with a certain red-coloured fella for a first album this good. There are a few standout tracks as indicated below and even the tracks most would consider filler are really good even if they don’t make your ‘best of’ playlists. What’s great about this album is that even though the recording now sounds a little dated, the songs themselves don’t. Many tracks are live favourites and remain some of my favourite songs outright to this day.
Add to Playlist: American TV, New Policy One, My House
As enjoyable as Formaldehyde is, it’s second album How to Make Friends and Influence People where Terrorvision really come good. The short build up and kick into opener ‘Alice, What’s The Matter?’ makes me grin like an idiot. In fact, while writing this article I had all of Terrorvision shuffling on my iPod in the car. When ‘Alice’ started I couldn’t help the smile crawling across my face. When I think about it, it’s not so much that it’s a great track, more that it reminds me of the 54 minutes of pure entertainment that the album provides.
This album continues to get better as it goes on. And I guarantee you won’t be able to stop your head from bopping away on its own regardless of conscious thought. Lyrically it’s both comic and melancholy at times. There’s a trend in the lyrics that continues into later albums in the use of opposites and repetition. It’s difficult to write down what I mean exactly, but this is particularly prevalent in the excellent ‘Some People Say’ which is one of the few tracks that feels like there’s an emotional connection between lyrics and vocal delivery rather than the quick fire punch of many other songs.
I love this record. Its one of the albums that really got me into rock music in the first place and it’s earned an eternal place in my heart for that.
Add to Playlist: Oblivion, Discotheque Wreck, Pretend Best Friend, Some People Say
The follow-up to How To Make Friends… is another cracker. Opening track ‘Enteralterego’ is a really good tune which drags you right in. The repetition and opposites song writing is still there, but the lyrics are a bit madder this time round. “I’m wearing pigtails that my mother bought” begins 2nd track ‘Superchronic’. But you know, by this point you really don’t care about the lyrics as they’re still as sing-a-long-able as ever.
I suspect if you’ve never heard Terrorvision before, you’ve probably heard 3rd track ‘Perseverance’ at least. It was a firm favourite of compilation albums of the time and still pops up every so often on modern ones that try to capture the period. It also coined the lyric ‘Whales and Dolphins’ which later become the name of a best of album and is always sung along with crazy fervour by the entire crowd at gigs. Funny how one line can stick like that.
Regular Urban Survivors has a kind of ‘if it ain’t broke’ feel to it. It’s not wildly different from the previous record, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. ‘Bad Actress’ is very similar to the aforementioned ‘Some People Say’ in its sound and structure, but it is still one of the best songs on the album and again a live favourite. Near all the songs are just as entertainingly simple as before and the involuntary head bob returns in more than one song.
Add to Playlist: Perseverance, Hide the Dead Girl, Bad Actress, If I Was You
Sadly, things begin to go downhill around here. Although Shaving Peaches has its moments, it just doesn’t live up to the legacy create with the first three albums. I’m not saying it’s necessarily a bad album; just not that good an album if that makes sense.
There are too many tracks here that just don’t engage you. This album actually saw Terrorvision’s best chart success with ‘Tequila’ which reached number 2 in the charts (amazingly beaten by The Offspring – what a strange year that was). Sadly that single was a remix of the track which wasn’t even on the album. The album version is decent, but not a great song by any stretch of the imagination. Some tracks like ‘Day After Day’ sound too much like earlier album songs but without the polish.
The album also contains the abysmal tracks ‘Vegas’ and ’Babyface’. The less said about them the better.
Add to Playlist: III Wishes, Josephine, Left To the Right
In a recent interview Tony Wright said, “Ten years ago we didn’t have another album to make. It’s tempting to keep going so we can lean on bars and say, ‘Yeah, I play in a rock band,’ but we felt the best reason to play was to make great records”. I wish they’d stopped a year earlier. Good to Go is a pale imitation of the Terrorvision that once was. It’s clear in hindsight that they were running out of steam. Even the front cover is an assault on the eyes.
There’s a lot less pure rock content here with a lot of poppier and occasionally dance music-like content. I thought they’d replaced drummer Shutty with a machine, especially for album openers ‘D’ya Wanna Go Faster’ and ‘Come Home Beanie’. The drums could easily have been knocked up in a few minutes on a synthesiser. To his credit, Shutty playing this live was a thing to behold keeping absolutely perfect rhythm all the way. Sadly he’s no longer in the bands current lineup opting not to reclaim his place in the reformation.
The album as a whole feels disjointed. There are classic feeling tracks, heavy dance/pop like the openers and some instantly forgettable dross like ‘Unhappy Millionaire’. What’s odd though is that even though the album is generally arse, it does have a great redeeming factor in ‘Friends & Family’. With its sing-a-long opening and chorus of “Party over here, f—k you over there” it’s become a staple part of the live set as has the less appealing ‘Fists of Fury’, although that does have a great Madonna spoof video.
Good to Go should’ve went when it had the chance.
Add to Playlist: Friends & Family, Sometimes I’d Like To Kill Her
In closing, Terrorvision are still one of my favourite bands of all time despite the misfires of the last two albums. The early stuff is great no doubt, and the later stuff has its highlights too and I still love them to bits, especially live. I’m seeing them on March 6th and I’ve picked up the new album immediately on its release on February 24th. I’ve only managed to find the time to give it one run through so far and it recaptures the old material feeling, but I won’t comment properly until I’ve given it a few more whirls.
Like I said at the start, Terrorvision are best described as fun and long may they continue to live up to that description.
You can pick up these Terrorvision albums on Amazon.co.uk.