May 06, 2004

Revenge "One True Passion"

Improbable, really, that I would be singing the praises of this record. When Revenge released its debut, One True Passion, back in 1990, I hated it. I was seventeen, I was really into bands like Erasure and New Order, and I just hated this record. It was bland. Boring. Plodding. Overwhelming. Overproduced. The songs just seemed to go on and on too long, and they didn't seem to say anything. Revenge just sounded like another bland British alternative group, and I simply hoped that this band wasn't going to be the new New Order. I think I listened to it two times before I traded it off for something 'better' (Jesus Jones, anyone?).

A few years later, I heard the song "Jesus..I Love You" at the record store where I worked and was impresssed. Didn't sound nearly as bad as I remembered. So I went over to the dollar bin where this record was in abundant supply, but further listens did nothing. This song was great; it had a really great, New Order-style beat, yet it was different enough to be something that wasn't an imitation of his past glories, but the album still sounded bland and bloated, so I just put it back in the dollar bin. When I learned that Peter Hook and LTM were set to reissue this collection, all I could think to say was "Why?"

In case you didn't know, Revenge was a band put together by Peter Hook after New Order split in 1989. He recruited a few people from some bands he had been working with, and he set about making music. In starting over, though, he decided to hide his trademark bass line, so as to not be compared to New Order. They released two singles, an album, and a mini-album, Gun World Porn, before fizzling out when New Order did their big comeback with Republic. While the liner notes say that they gathered some great reviews in Europe, I do recall most of the reviews in the US were not so positive. Revenge didn't last, and it was no great loss, really. (Hook and Revenge's David Potts would reunite in 1997 as Monaco, and would have several hits.)

I will admit right now that I was wrong, and that as a teenage music snob, I wasn't really prepared for anything different. Making it even more annoying was the fact that the other side projects were infinitely better. Bernard formed Electronic with Johnny Marr, and it was great, and the other two formed The Other Two, and they were good. At the time, I read interviews where Hook said that starting this band was as exciting as when he started Joy Division, and I took it to mean that the band was going to be as good as Joy Division. It wasn't. I hope you can understand why I was a snoot about it, but over the past few years, I've learned that I wasn't alone in my feelings of this side-project.

The first disc is a reworked version of One True Passion. The running order has been expanded; the music has been remixed and remastered, several songs from the Gun World Porn mini-album have been added, as have a few B-sides. The first two numbers, "Televive" and "The Wilding," are actually newly-recorded songs. These two were previously unrecorded numbers from the band's final days. "Televive" has an upbeat feel that's reminiscent of New Order and "The Wilding" is a gentle, acoustic-based number that's one of Hook's more tender songs. They're good songs, but they do feel a bit out of time compared to the rest of this set.

And what a set this new version of One True Passion is! It's amazing how great the band sounds now. Even if they didn't realize it, Revenge had some really great pop songs in their catalog. The pulsing "Jesus..I Love You" sounds great in 2004. "Bleachman" and "Slave" should have been huge club hits, their beats simply screaming to be
pumped over club dancefloors to the blissed-out dancing masses below. "Pineapple Face" could have been a wonderful collaboration with Electronic, for it seems to want Bernard Sumner's touch. "State of Shock," taken from Gun World Porn is my favorite; its mellow groove is seductive, and it's easily one of the Peter Hook's greatest songs.

The second disc, entitled Be Careful What You Wish For, is a surprising treat. Looking for the big New Order beat? You'll find it here in numerous remixes. While a few of these remixes unsurprisingly sound dated, for the most pat it's interesting to hear how fresh Revenge still sounds, and the power of remixing mediocre material. In fact, "Pineapple Face" (offered here in three different mixes) sounds like a long-lost New Order hit. "The Trouble With Girls," a previously unreleased song, also has a New Order feel, but it's much more sedate, even though it's a full-blown production, complete with female backing vocals and a great dance beat.

Not all of the songs on this disc are stellar--two of the lesser songs from One True Passion are regulated to here, almost out of obligation. Some of the songs are merely minute-long snippets of songs, such as "Surf Bass." Still, the quality of the material on this second disc is high enough to safely dismiss any claims that the material is second rate. If only the original One True Passion had been as consistently good as the material on the second disc, then Revenge might have fared been treated a bit better than 'crap side project from someone who is capable of better.'

Revenge's ultimate revenge was proving just how good they really were. One True Passion V 2.0 is a surprising rethink for this once-misaligned side project. If you've never heard Revenge, you're in for a real surprise; if you do remember them, then you'll be shocked to learn that Revenge was much better than you thought, and thisalbum is a downright stunning collection of songs. It's not a stretch of the imagination to say that this critical rethink is quite possibly the reissue of the year.

Essential? Who knew?

--Joseph Kyle

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