Mass - Labour Of Love

Labour Of Love

Released 1981 on 4AD
Reviewed by Lawrence, 09/04/2006ce

I know this hath been reissued only recently but I really had to review this because this was always the Holy Grail of British Post-Punk for me. I first read about this in an old issue of The Offense fanzine with the review suggesting that it could literally cause bridges to collapse, which seemed like the band I've always wanted to hear. Alas, I never found a copy or knew where to look, and t'was never put on CD until now... Of course I did know this band was what was left over from noise-punk legends Rema Rema, and would eventually turn into the increasingly more indie-popish trio the Wolfgang Press -- most etched in my memory the grand-and-gripping orchestral epic "I Am the Crime" amongst others...

Hark! I got a taste of the Herald Angels finding the Natures Mortes collection second-hand, featuring the single "You And I" (appearing on the new CD version of Labour along with the b-side "Cabbage"...) Neither sounding like what came before or after, led by Mark Cox's Farfisa and drums sounding like things being thrown downstairs, and a bitter and plaintive Cockney vocal by Michael Allen barely masking severe disappointment and contempt. If you read the lyrics of "You And I" included in the insert of this CD it gives the hint that drug dependancy was involved. But one of the most beautiful things I've heard in a long time that made me still wish I could find that album!

But hearing the whole release for the first time this seems to pick-up from where Rema Rema's Wheel In The Roses left off, except a bit heavier and odd. Cox retains the EDP Wasp (I'm assuming) but the organ seems more like his signature instrument here, with Gary Asquith's glass-cutter guitar and Danny Briottet's gut-punching kick-drum abuse -- latter two to later form dance-rock outfit Renegrade Soundwave, but you wouldn't tell that from hearing this! There's elements of Bauhaus, PiL, Joy Division, Swell Maps and even Factrix if that's possible(!), and alot of moments -- jumping a couple of decades -- even remind me of Pengo of all things!

Most amazing is the starter simply called "Mass" -- no, not exactly "Hey Hey We're the Monkees"! More like Michale Graves playing another Con Job Punk fundraiser except someone's spiked the punchbowl with cough syrup, bad acid and heroin. It seems like four different songs on one track! Plenty of other noisy mayhem such as "Ill" (speaks for itself really), "Isn't Life Nice" and "Elephant Talk". Rounding it all off officially with "Innocence" -- sounding closer to 'You And I" but there's a hint at something quite uplifting and towards the sparse textures of the later Wolfgang Press album Burden Of Mules.

And after all that "You And I" sounds markedly different in the context of this reissue than on Natures Mortes. (What d'ya know!) And the racket of "Cabbage" is the LSD-laced icing on a hash-cake relic of post-punk noise...

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