End of Part Two (an Audience Participation Special)

23 Mar

“It was recorded for £600 – in one week. The producer disowned it: he didn’t want his name on it! This was the low point, emotionally, of my life. It’s such a depressing album. There’s some decent songs but they’re badly done.” – Jarvis in Record Collector, December 1994

‘Freaks’, the long-awaited culmination of nearly five years of the band’s work, was quietly released on the 11th of May, 1987. The songs on it, bar the singles, had already been dropped from the group’s set, the sound-defining rhythm section had been replaced, and what little publicity it received was muted, especially when it came to interviews with Jarvis and Russell, who had already shifted their attention to newer, more exciting projects. Since then its reputation has, if anything, worsened. Reviews of reissues range from ‘terrible’ to ‘flawed but interesting’ and Jarvis has consistently expressed embarrassment at the “depressing” feel and the amateurish production.

The problem is that these sweeping dismissals mean we miss some fundamental things about the album. Yes, it’s depressing in parts, but why shouldn’t it be? Leonard Cohen and The Cure seem to have made a career out of producing depressing albums and don’t tend to castigate themselves for it. The production is poor in places, yes, but it’s more rushed than ruined, and some pretty special performances have survived intact. The real problem is the mix of songs. With such a varied selection available to them, it’s a mystery why they chose all the slowest ballads and all the wackiest novelties rather than any of the upbeat or experimental tracks we’ve seen on the singles. It’s not that the songs are bad, but piling them all together like this gives the listener a growing sense of catatonic madness – and not (always) in a good way.

Here’s my suggestion for a better track listing. I’ve had to lose some of my favourite songs, and have included a couple I’m not particularly keen on, simply because these seem to fit together better than other combinations.

Side A

1. Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)
2. Blue Glow
3. The Mark of the Devil
4. I Want You
5. Being Followed Home

Side B
6. Aborigine
7. There’s No Emotion
8. Life Must Be So Wonderful
9. They Suffocate At Night
10. Tunnel

I’ve made a youtube playlist of this new order, which you can find here.
What would your idea track listing for ‘Freaks’ be? Please let me know in the comments below

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7 Responses to “End of Part Two (an Audience Participation Special)”

  1. Tricia 23/03/2013 at 3:08 am #

    just the mark of the devil 10 times would be all right.

  2. Ian 23/03/2013 at 4:36 am #

    I would have probably got them to do a proper recording of “Take You Back” (one of their finest if you ask me) and put that on it. Not sure where though… probably between “Don’t You Know” and “They Suffocate at Night”.

    • haonowshaokao 26/03/2013 at 1:54 am #

      I wasn’t including demos, simply because I wanted a tracklisting that I could actually listen to. If we get into the unreleased stuff there are quite a few other possible inclusions.

  3. saw119 23/03/2013 at 3:04 pm #

    You know I’ve had a good thought about this and I don’t think I’d change Freaks at all. I just can’t imagine it any other way. Sure it’s flawed but not in a bad way (apart from technical aspects such as production, mixing & mastering) in my opinion. It is what it is and I think it is actually a fairly coherent set of songs.

    • haonowshaokao 26/03/2013 at 1:55 am #

      It does sort of work, but I think to be fair I’ve learned to love it despite its flaws. Music journalists and casual listeners don’t tend to be so forgiving.

  4. Tafka Wac 28/03/2013 at 4:19 am #

    I’m far too lazy and uncreative to make an alternate setlist, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate this blog, in fact, quite the opposite. I love this blog.

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