❉ Kirk Brandon’s voice sounds as good if not stronger than it did 40 years ago.
Lockdown has been a busy time for Kirk Brandon, the man once dubbed by Smash Hits “a rebel with a brain”, what with fronting three bands (The Pack, Theatre of Hate and Spear of Destiny) and performing acoustically with celloist Sam Sansbury on the AkoustiK sessions as well as recording a new Theatre of Hate album (Utsukushi-sa) A Thing of Beauty, recorded in 2020 and released in this, their 40th anniversary year.
Theatre of Hate came to prominence in the early eighties with their post punk charisma, strident lyrics and blistering live shows. With their singles topping the indie charts, their first album Westworld (produced by Mick Jones of the Clash) going top 20 in the album charts and their song Do You Believe In The Westworld becoming a post punk classic “the Hate” were a strong favourite with punks and goths alike. The current Theatre of Hate line up is made up of Brandon himself, Stan Stammers, Adrian Portas, Chris Bell and Clive Osborne who currently deputises on saxophone for John Lennard. Kirk still seems to have the same charismatic attitude and his voice is a strong as ever.
There are a number of outstanding tracks on the album. The opening track A Thing of Beauty starts off with beautiful Japanese acoustic instrumentation leading into a haunting echoing saxophone reminiscent of Danny McCoslin’s on Bowie’s last album Blackstar. The saxophone playing is one of the major features on many of the coming tracks. On this track the bass guitar and drums are restrained leading to a rousing chorus.
The next track, Solace, is classic Theatre of Hate. Brandon’s voice sounds as good if not stronger than it did 40 years ago, and this would have been a strong record at the time. The best songs on the album show that Brandon hasn’t really lost his dystopian world view. The self-lacerating track Pariah seems to be about social inadequacy in a horror sci-fi world and has lyrics like “tonight will be another day at the waxworks.”
Girl (which the band released as a video) starts and ends with strange wind chime noises and has a beautiful echoing sax solo in the middle. The mellow acoustic opening chords on Roman Woman are also quite beautiful.
Night of the Demons and The Swarm seem to carry on Brandon’s dystopian view. Night of the Demons includes the lyric “No one listens to a man without a gun” and ends with a guitar that sounds like a police siren.
Red Star Shift has a strong chorus that you can imagine becoming a live standard when the band have a chance to tour the album which they hopefully will be doing in October and November. This is an album that should definitely sound great live.
❉ Theatre Of Hate – ‘A Thing Of Beauty’ out 30 April 2021 on Vinyl, CD and Digital formats. Visit kirkbrandon.com/athingofbeauty
❉ James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.