It Bites: Whole New World: The Virgin Albums 1986-1991

The 1980s at its smuggest.

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There’s a gulf the size of the Grand Canyon separating the reputation and reality of It Bites, and from it rises the stench of crushing disappointment. Coming to this bafflingly celebrated cult band a quarter of a century after their initial burst of micro-fame is a dispiriting experience.

The established narrative is that the Cumbrian four-piece were a prog band in pop clothes, smuggling clever-clever time changes and arch lyrical conceits into more acceptable musical forms. Utter bollocks. As this collection of the four albums recorded during their original incarnation proves, they were just Level 42 with a superiority complex and, in Francis Dunnery, a singer with the most grating enunciation this side of Loyd Grossman.

Rarely has a band sounded so pleased with itself, and their first two albums – 1986’s The Big Lad In The Windmill and 1988’s Once Around The World – were guiltiest of all: the crass yuppie-pop of Calling All The Heroes and plasticated horns of Whole New World couldn’t sound more godawfully 80s if they came booming out of an Audi Quattro driven by a member of Johnny Hates Jazz.

Their studio swansong, 1989’s jagged Eat Me In St Louis (also included here, along with the live album Thankyou And Goodnight), belatedly located the band’s guts, too late for all involved.

It’s all here, if you fancy donning red braces and ambling down Memory Lane. Thankfully for everyone else, the 1990s were just around the corner./o:p