Psych album of the week: Blue Sunshine by the Glove (1983)

Once upon a time, two postpunk titans made one of the trippiest LPs of the 1980s

The Glove, Blue Sunshine

0

The English band Spacemen 3 once released an album called Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To, which is an amusing title and probably pretty accurate as far as Spacemen 3 was concerned. Of course, you don’t have to take any drugs to enjoy music; music is arguably its own kind of mind-altering substance. For those so inclined, however, we offer the following as a must-hear.

The year 1983 brought Steven Severin, archetypal postpunk bass player and creative foil to the ever-mercurial Siouxsie Sioux, something he had long wanted: a creative partnership with Robert Smith of the Cure.  The two had worked together as far back as 1979 (Smith temporarily helping the Banshees on guitar during a joint tour with the Cure) and continued into 1981 when the Cure brought Severin and Lydia Lunch’s 1313 project (labelled by Smith as “atrocious”) on tour.  In 1982 Severin helped Smith record an early version of “Lament” released under the name the Cure for Flexipop magazine. 

By late ’82 Smith had rejoined the Banshees, who were soon to begin work on their next album Hyaena.  Before those sessions could begin in earnest, Siouxsie and her romantic partner and Banshees percussionist Budgie made their own album as the Creatures.  This gave Smith and Severin the opportunity to indulge themselves in their own project, the Glove (named after the murder mitten in the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film), which was recorded over several sessions between March and May 1983. 

Blue Sunshine is an underappreciated gem and bears many of the hallmarks of the postpunk era: chorus-laden, upper-register bass guitar lines, buzzing string synthesizers, and tortured, flanged guitar hooks.  Using a small selection of additional players including auxiliary Cure drummer Andy Anderson and future Banshees keyboardist Martin McCarrick, the album’s sound is diverse, augmenting standard rock instrumentation with stringed instruments, sequencers, drum machines, and all manner of sounds ranging from whimsical to terrifying.  Several tracks are instrumental (“Relax”, “A Blues in Drag”, “The Tightrope”) allowing the album ample freedom to explore moods and textures.

Interestingly for an album featuring one of postpunk’s leading figureheads (ahem) in Smith, the Cure’s lead vocalist sings on only two songs due to conflicts with record label Polydor.  As a result, another contemporary, a former girlfriend of Budgie’s, Jeanette Landray—who had never sung before but looked the part—was enlisted to provide most of the lead vocals.  Landray’s voice is assured and competent if not transcendent but completes the sonic collage of the eclectic effort.  To this day Blue Sunshine remains a one-off event.  After its release and the completion of the Hyaena sessions, Smith returned to the Cure full-time and Severin stuck with Siouxsie.  The 2006 two-disc reissue of Blue Sunshine collects demo versions, many with Robert Smith’s voice instead of Landray’s, however it is rumoured these vocal tracks were all recorded for the reissue and do not date back to pre-album release. 

Rooted in Smith and Severin’s long friendship and realized during a particularly fertile and manic period for both artists, Blue Sunshine is a psychedelic success from the mid 1980s that still holds up today and remains a cult favourite for fans of the era. 

Standout tracks: The swooning and gorgeous “Like an Animal”, the stately “Punish Me With Kisses”, the bleak strains of “Mouth to Mouth”, and the Middle-Eastern-themed twisted self-hatred of “Orgy”.

Sonic psych-out

“Orgy” explodes with lustful anger and turns around a wiry stringed instrument figure, contrapuntal flutes, and pounding, tribal drums.  Landray’s Teutonic vocals drive home the themes of eroticism and loss of control. 

Trippiest lyrics

Where to begin?  Here’s the top three in no particular order. 

“A million fat girls and a million fat men
Couldn’t put me back together again”  (“Mouth to Mouth”)

“The casino man is laughing
He wears a shivering hat
We peel away like tinsel
Stick like splinters to the wall”    (“Looking Glass Girl”)

“Stairs fall like jewels
As we near the door
You fold through my neck
Arms like crystal
So black with charm breath
We turn to face the dying sun…”  (“This Green City”)

In their own words

“We chose Britannia Row (for demos) out of irony.  It was Pink Floyd’s studio and the album was psychedelic.…I was out of my head the whole time—I didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.” (Robert Smith)

Discussion


  • Andrew Collis May 31, 2020 10:51 PM

    Trippy lyrics indeed. Nice work Greg!

  • Etienne June 6, 2020 03:30 AM

    Her name was Landray, not Landry! Unfortunately….a common mistake.

    • John Lucas June 9, 2020 03:34 PM

      Right you are! I will correct it. Thanks.

Leave your opinion for the editor...We read everything!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *