“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.
1. Little Girl (With Blue Eyes)
2. Blue Glow
3. The Mark of the Devil
4. I Want You
5. Being Followed Home
7. There’s No Emotion
8. Life Must Be So Wonderful
9. They Suffocate At Night
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