12. The Godfathers, More Songs About Love & Hate
The cover pictured above was not on the copy of the 1989 album from the Godfathers that we had at the radio station, but it damn well should have been. Could there be a better illustration for an album called More Songs About Love & Hate than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, posed together at the very beginning of their lengthy, tumultuous romantic journey? They are close but seemingly oblivious of one another, Taylor showing off her delicate, regal profile while Burton stares directly ahead with a look of mildly amused, confident challenge. Across two marriages, ten feature films, countless liquor bottles and enough real-life drama to keep the gossip columnists practically chained to their Underwoods, they offered a heightened Hollywood demonstration of the way love and hate could coil around one another. That image graced the cover for the release of the album in the band’s U.K. homeland. Elsewhere, we were stuck with really boring picture of the band.
The Godfathers had a modest hit in 1988 with the title cut to their major label debut, Birth, School, Work, Death. It was a song tailor-made for college radio programmers with its surly appraisal of the unrewarding cycle of human existence, lead singer Peter Coyne spitting out each of the words of the title with the sort of contempt that British rock bands at the time usually reserved for the word “Thatcher.” We were in college largely to delay jumping to the Work square of that ugly hopscotch drawing, after all. Playing the song was like validating a choice to extricate ourselves, if only temporarily, from the track laid out before us. We would have gladly pumped our fists in solidarity had they played the song in our favored local bar.
With a seeming new college rock standard secured, Epic Records made sure the Godfathers had their follow-up out in short order, and More Songs About Love & Hate arrived about a year later. They may have selected a comparatively cheery song as the lead single–the cynical but enraptured “She Gives Me Love”–but it was still unmistakable the same band that had crowded into the scene like a bunch of bully-boy bruisers. Their music was defined by a big, tough, churning guitar sound provided by Kris Dollimore and Mike Gibson. The album was filled with meaty rock songs that were often as basic as could be. There wasn’t much attempt at reinvention and the lyrics sometimes seemed like the were constructed during an initial pass writing out toughly cool bumper sticker sentiments (such as “Old James Dean jumped from his grave/Swore that black was white” on “I’m Lost and Then I’m Found”). The band apparently aspired to nothing more than punching out tight, potent rock songs like steel plates off a factory line. From one perspective, that represents an admirable consistency. That may be true, but it also makes listening to their albums feel a little like an exercise in redundancy.
But that very quality which undercuts the satisfaction to be had in listening to More Songs About Love & Hate straight through is precisely what made it such a great radio record. DJs could roam up and down the track listing and be assured to find a song that was exactly what they had in mind when they grabbed the album. There wasn’t a bit of deception to it. If a jock found some appeal to the single or some other random track they heard on another person’s shift, pulling the album from rotation themselves and dropping the needle anywhere was a safe bet. It let a DJ be adventurous–playing songs that they hadn’t heard–without actually running they risk they might be stuck with something they didn’t personally care for spilling from the studio speakers for a few minutes, therefore throwing a minor pall across their show (convincing DJs that playing music that didn’t appeal to their own taste was an important part of creating a good radio show has always been a colossally difficult task). There are some songs that may have surprised following a random needle drop on side two–the Small Faces stroll of “Life Has Passed Us By,” the honky-tonk roar of “Walking Talking Johnny Cash Blues” or the relatively quiet “Another You”–but nothing that would have made anyone double-check the spinning label to make sure that the wrong slab of vinyl wasn’t shoved in the sleeve by a harried DJ.
I used to enjoy back-selling songs played off this album by following the announcement of the title More Songs About Love & Hate with the comment, “…and, when you think about it, isn’t that what all albums should be called?” I still stand by that assertion. Maybe the album doesn’t live up to the grim brilliance of its title, but it’s still one of those records that was absolutely perfect for its time and place.
20. Bob Mould, Workbook
19. The Rainmakers, The Good News and the Bad News
18. The Mighty Lemon Drops, Laughter
17. Couch Flambeau, Ghostride
16. Robyn Hitchcock ‘n’ the Egyptians, Queen Elvis
15. The B-52’s, Cosmic Thing
14. Camper Van Beethoven, Key Lime Pie
13. The Sugarcubes, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week!