Home Read Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: The Armoury Show | Waiting For The...

Area Resident’s Classic Album Review: The Armoury Show | Waiting For The Floods

Once upon a time, some ex-Banshees, PiL and Skids members made a great album.

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My buddy John, who runs The Record Centre in Ottawa, not only knows how to make a buck selling wax, but he goes above and beyond to make sure everyone has access to it — as makers, fans or both.

Full disclosure: Three of my own albums came out on John’s in-house record label, Record Centre Records. He has helped dozens of indie artists get their own records made — affordably and easily — by one of the industry’s top manufacturers. And then he helps you sell them, too!

John gives to the food bank in his neighbourhood, sends superfluous records to the neighbourhood charity thrift shop, takes part in fundraisers and local business initiatives and even brings free doughnuts to the folks who line up outside his shop on Record Store Day. Plus he’s just a sweet dude, you know? A character. Likeable, knowledgeable and recognizable.

So when John shouted from the back of the store, “Hey, you know what record you should review?” — I was ready to go along with whatever he suggested. I’ve done it before. I asked if the record currently playing in the store was the one he was about to suggest, because I was really enjoying it and had no idea what it was. “Yeah,” he says, handing me the sleeve. “Do you know The Armoury Show?” I did not. “It’s like Simple Minds, but better,” he says. OK, John. Let me do the damn review.

What brought John to this record is the same thing that brought him to Magazine and Siouxsie & The Banshees: Guitarist John McGeoch. McGeoch is one of John’s favourite guitarists; he buys anything and everything the man is on. You gotta respect someone who lists a relatively obscure ’80s guitarist as tops instead of Jeff Beck, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or Ritchie Blackmore.

This from a jazz guy, too. If I remember correctly, among the records I know John loves are Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones, Waltz For Debbie by Bill Evans, Something Else by Cannonball Adderly and Aja by Steely Dan.

And now this: The Armoury Show’s only LP. When I first entered the shop the other day, Chelsea Girl by Nico was playing. John took it off mid-song and put this on. I didn’t know what it was then, but needless to say, it was impossible not to notice the change.

This album, released in 1985 on EMI America in the States and Parlophone in the U.K., is absolutely stellar from every angle — no matter if you try to judge it purely on its songwriting and musicianship, or if you take it as it comes. By that I mean, unequivocally ’80s-sounding. And really well produced. The man responsible for that is Nick Launay, who was probably best known at the time for his work with Public Image Ltd. but has since made incredible albums with Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Silverchair, Kate Bush, Midnight Oil, INXS and Talking Heads.

The songs are all credited to each member of the band, which actually was never meant to be a proper “band” but rather a songwriting collective who put their ideas to tape in the studio. But McGeoch convinced the others to do a show and from that, they got signed to Parlophone.

McGeoch was fresh from his band Magazine and a stint with Siousxie & The Banshees, as well as sitting in with The Skids for a Peel Session before they broke up. McGeoch stood in for guitarist/founder Stuart Adamson, who had left to form Big Country. McGeoch had left Siousxie & co. at the end of a 1982 tour due to a nervous breakdown caused by stress and too much booze.

Armoury Show’s lead vocalist was Richard Jobson, who had been Skids’ frontman. Bass player Russell Webb also came from Skids, along with Public Image Ltd., which explains the alliance with Launay. Filling out the quartet was drummer John Doyle, who simple came along with McGeoch from Magazine. So the band is basically Skidazine Ltd.

Every song on the first side could have been a hit. Two of them were released as singles (Castles In Spain and We Can Be Brave Again), along with Glory of Love, from Side 2.

They didn’t stay together long — McGeoch and Doyle quit after a tour to promote this album. Jobson went to China to be a model. When he came back, there was an attempt to make another album but the band broke up after two new singles featuring Dave Lockwood on guitar and Ray Weston on drums. McGeoch went on to join Public Image Ltd. because he needed the cash, staying with them until the early ’90s before retiring from music to become a nurse.

He’s not only one of my pal John’s favourite guitarists, but Siouxsie Sioux’s as well. “John McGeoch was my favourite guitarist of all time. He was into sound in an almost abstract way. I loved the fact that I could say, ‘I want this to sound like a horse falling off a cliff,’ and he would know exactly what I meant. He was easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the most creative guitarist The Banshees ever had.”

The songs on this record are catchy and cool, potent, big and well-crafted. It’s been re-released three times, with a remastered and expanded version on a two-CD set in 2013. There’s not a bad song on the album. If they had only had one smash hit, everyone would know them. It might also help if the album was on Spotify.


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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.