‘Poptone’ by Poptone reviewed

Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets teams with Diva Dompé as Poptone.

There have been hundreds, nay thousands, of Heartbreak Hotel covers, many of them mournful, some of them brilliant, none of them are sexy. Luckily, Daniel Ash has a seductive nature to his voice and this version oozes in slick drums, enticing guitars and Diva Dompé’s funky distorted playing, seamlessly taking her uncle David J’s position as bass player on an album of Love and Rocket, Tones On Tail and Bauhaus re-imaginings. Close your eyes, picture that Trans-Atlantic hit So Alive and that’s what you’re getting. They’re here, they’re looking to the past to preserve and archive everything that was special about those three bands.

All three members are on flying form, none less so than Kevin Haskins, whose thunderous Mirror People rhythms are staggeringly present just as Slice of Life is small in stature, tribal in delivery. His stop-start style of percussive playing on lead single Go drives with tinselling trailing of timely tackles. There is a raw quality to these songs, begging to be heard onstage. Propelled by the notion to play live again, Ash and Haskins came together to play in their fourth band (they’ve beaten Jack White and Bernard Sumner for groups). “It’s been a real treat to revisit the unique and eclectic Tones catalogue,” Haskins explains. “I feel that there are many people who didn’t get a chance to see us back in the day and so I am excited for them to hear these weird and wonderful songs played live again. With the addition of Bauhaus and Love And Rockets material, it’s a veritable feast for the ears!”

He’s not wrong, post-punk fans are in for a feast, the group borrowing their name from Public Image Ltd’s Metal Box as they journey back to an age when eye liner and mullets were the sign of their times. Movement of Fear eerily rides through with sinister saxophone, flapper jazz toe tapper Happiness is enjoyably loungey. No Big Deal is a choppy chilling rocker, lovingly updated from the overtly eighties produced original. Doom-and-dance-pop cult favourite Lions is lovingly restored as pristine Parisienne café pop. Ash is as dynamic as he ever was, he may not match Peter Murphy for falsetto, but he has a pleasant quality to his voice, elegiac on the ballads, delightfully raucous on the rockers. His spacey guitar pyrotechnics on Love Me has that an air of vintage Joy Division/Cure late seventies style for it. It’s a repertoire they’ve harnessed over twenty-seven shows and will likely perfect over their impending American tour.

Poptone haven’t reinvented the wheel. This isn’t an attempt to make a grand artistic statement of indelible intent. But compared to the legion of Queen line-ups without Freddie Mercury or a lone Peter Hook disavowing of Joy Division and New Order by performing Joy Division and New Order albums in concert, there is integrity to these recordings, Haskins’s footing as drummer cementing Ash’s flighty vocals. And it’s something that Bauhaus, however influential and accomplished they could boast themselves to he, never were; frothy and fun.

Poptone’s self-titled LP is released by Cleopatra Records on 8 June 2018.

❉ Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/cleopatra-recs/go

Bandcamp: https://poptone.bandcamp.com/album/poptone

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