The too-cool-for-school metropolitan punk elite, who never felt any inclination to consult music press weathermen to tell them which way the wind blew, were left in a quandary when Adam Ant went pantopop. They needed a new champion. Diehard Ant loyalists transferred fealty to Bow Wow Wow, the sex gang Sioux went Bauhaus, but the alpha males – the psychobilly-literate, handy-fisted tattoo pioneers – embraced Theatre Of Hate.
Led by former Pack vocalist Kirk Brandon, TOH – all bleached flat-tops, Bundeswehr vests, tourniquet jeans and brothel-creeper sneers – were as anathema to the inkies as the Ants ever were. Derided and scorned, their outsider status chimed with a fanbase that pledged their devotion by cloning themselves Kirk-ish.
Now, with early-80s tribal allegiances as dead as an influential weekly music press, it’s possible to listen to TOH’s 1982 Westworld debut without prejudicial baggage, and it’s an extraordinary piece of work. Brandon’s unique post-punk vision set his soaring, passionate vocals and big, fat Gretsch against a widescreen Mick Jones production backdrop that’s spacious, evocative, cinematic and heroic.
Stan Stammers’s bass might well have been brought to the fore under reggae’s influence, but it accentuated clarity and intricacy over depth and repetition. John Lennard’s clarinet and sax rejected rock’n’roll convention, and Luke Rendle’s drums are topically tribal. TOH were pure testosterone – you danced with your fists.
Like Dirk Wears White Sox before it, Westworld didn’t live up to contemporary expectations. Any shortcomings could have been easily fixed in this expanded three-disc edition (live set, Peel sessions, alternative mixes) with the addition of non-album singles Rebel Without A Brain, Nero and Original Sin. But they weren’t. Which is a shame. Coulda been a nine, shoulda been a nine.