The Sound (of a Troubled Genius) – Part 1, Jeopardy





First, what a great name for a band! Second, what a great band!

Much as I love The Teardrop Explodes and Echo and the Bunnymen, The Sound are the band who should be mentioned in the same breath, who should have had the same success. That they didn’t is slightly puzzling though it was probably a combination of far darker lyrical terrain and a lack of cheekbones that both Ian McCullough and Julian Cope possessed. There was also the fact that they were initially signed to the same record company as the Bunnymen which meant that the time, money and resources went into the band that had the best likelihood of commercial success rather than The Sound who were very much the runts of the litter.

It is probably no coincidence that Adrian Borland, lead singer and songwriter for The Sound, named his first band The Outsiders, for that is the role he played throughout his tragically short life. If you listen to those early recordings, he already had some of the songwriting dynamics and introspective lyrical concerns  that would appear on The Sound’s debut LP, ‘Jeopardy.’ Unwittingly, and regrettably presciently, this record starts with ‘I Can’t Escape Myself’, a song whose themes would recur throughout Borland’s career: “So many feelings / Pent up in here / Left all alone, I’m with / The one I most fear.” These are words we can probably all relate to but for Borland it really was a matter of life and death. As time progressed, he would have regular periods of clinical mental illness, even being sectioned at one point, and he would frequently turn to this theme in his lyrics. That it is here so starkly formatted as track 1 on his band’s debut LP is an indication of the darkness at the heart of The Sound. The song itself is contained, scratchy, pent up, intense, with minimal instrumentation until the band explode into the chorus. It is a fine template for what would make this band so special. From the quiet, controlled opening track, the band  rip into track 2 ‘Heartland’, a song I always imagine to be Bruce Springsteen with a lightning rod up his arse. This song reveals two additional strings to The Sound’s bow: firstly, Adrian’s passion with him pleading over and over “You gotta believe / You gotta believe/ You gotta believe / You gotta believe / In a heartland.” Secondly, the song reveals a burgeoning axe hero with the guitar solos cutting through with venom and precision. ‘Hour of Need’ is another slowburner with Borland hating “the quiet times / I need some company / I miss the noise of life / The silence deafens me.” Over and over, the titles of the songs on this debut reflect a soul in trouble: ‘I Can’t Escape Myself,’ ‘Hour of Need,’ ‘Words Fail Me,’ ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Night Versus Day.’ The latter lyric displays a more literary expression to the same dilemma (Sleep guides unseen / Into new territitory every night; / Abandons us to what we keep /Enslaved within the hours of light”) while ‘Unwritten Law’ recognises the fragility of life and the ease with which it is ended (“A hand is a hand / A knife is a knife /Blood is blood / And life is life.”) And when Borland isn’t concerned with his own psyche, the lyrical concerns are no lighter: on ‘Missiles’ he writes about the proliferation of nuclear warheads.

‘Jeopardy’ did what a debut LP should do: it marked out the territory that Adrian Borland would become an expert in, an exploration of man’s place in the universe, set to a series of cracking tunes.

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9 Responses to The Sound (of a Troubled Genius) – Part 1, Jeopardy

  1. Ron

    I have to say, it took me some time to really get into this album. I Can’t Escape Myself was actually the first song I heard by The Sound. It instantly drew me in and it wasn’t long before I started seeking out their albums. It’s a great song that holds up fairly well, and it should have brought them to the mainstream. If I had to use a song for an example of a lost classic, I Can’t Help Myself is one song I would feel comfortable presenting.

    As for the rest of the album, I was initially disappointed that there weren’t any other songs as strong as I Can’t Help Myself, but that opinion has since changed. Heartland is another great one, and Unwritten Law is a personal favorite.


    • The opening two tracks were an immediate clincher for me and then, little by little, the rest of the LP came into focus with ‘Unwritten Law’ a definite highlight. ‘Missiles’ was evidently a constant live highlight throughout their existence.


  2. Ron

    I read a few reviews that praised Heyday, but I didn’t really pay much attention to the song until I caught myself humming it one day. I saw one live performance of the band performing Missiles, which involved Adrian throwing down his guitar and delivering a scolding about the dangers of nukes and technology.


  3. Ron

    Have you listened to the Propaganda stuff that was recorded before The Sound officially formed and recorded Jeopardy? There are a few really good songs on there that didn’t make it to The Jeopardy album for some reason.


    • Yes, I have the Propaganda LP though haven’t played it in a while. Another one to add to my list when I get home.


  4. Ron

    Off topic, but I was wondering if Radiohead is one of the bands that you would criticize as being overrated. I’m bringing them up because some of their influences seem to come from the post-punk sound of bands like The Sound and Joy Division. I’ve finally ordered a few Radiohead albums to start exploring their oeuvre, though I’m sure they won’t live up to the hype by diehard Radiohead fans, aka the founders of


    • Everyone goes on about OK Computer being one of the greatest albums of all time. It isn’t and it also has that overblown prog monstrosity Paranoid Android on it. For me their second album The Bends is wonderful and then it all went downhill after that. They are in danger of being the 21st century version of Pink Floyd – and I don’t mean that in a good way. And don’t get me started on Atoms For Peace.


  5. Ron

    I chose to pass on The Bends for now, and I went with OK Computer and Kid A to introduce myself to the band; however, I have heard most of the tracks on The Bend. Maybe it’s better to look at the albums within their time periods. I didn’t really discover them until There, There was released as a single, so I’m not really sure about the impact they had when those earlier albums came out.


  6. Ron

    Just listened to Kid A since it arrived first, and I don’t really see what the big deal is or was. I feel like the band just touched on a few things that other artist were already doing or had already done. One good thing, I think I came away with more appreciation for a bands like Talk Talk and Can.


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