Island of Jewels

THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS

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Cover ImageRelease date and tracklist

1986
BE LP/CS/CD Play It Again Sam BIAS41

1987
GR LP Penguin Records 30016

side a

  1. Tower Six – [MP3]
  2. The Red And The Black – [MP3]
  3. The Dairy – [MP3]
  4. Emblem Parade – [MP3]
  5. Jewel On An Island – [MP3]
  6. Rattlesnake Arena – [MP3]

side b

  1. The Shock Of Contact – [MP3]
  2. Jewel In The Crown – [MP3]
  3. Our Lady In Chambers – [MP3]
  4. Our Lady In Kharki – [MP3]
  5. Our Lady In Darkness – [MP3]
  6. The Guardians Of Eden – [MP3]

***

2002
US CD Cacciocavallo CAD16
PL CD Big Blue SPV-L 0092 (different cover)

27 November 2012
NL Remastered MP3 self-released on Bandcamp

  1. Tower Six
  2. The Red And The Black
  3. The Dairy
  4. Emblem Parade
  5. Jewel On An Island
  6. Rattlesnake Arena
  7. The Shock Of Contact
  8. Jewel In The Crown
  9. Our Lady In Chambers
  10. Our Lady In Kharki
  11. Our Lady In Darkness
  12. The Guardians Of Eden

Credits

Percii Pylchardd – bass guitar, percussion
The Silver Man – silverscapes, samplescopes, and keyboards
Patrick Q – violins, keyboards, rhythm programmes, mandolin
Stret Majest – acoustic and electric guitars
«i» – keyboards, piano, backing vocals
Edward Ka-Spel – voice, occ. keyboards, electronix
Hans Meyer – saxophone

Produced by Hanz Myre and the LPDs, engineered by Hanz Myre
Cover art- Stephen Barbary


Notes

LP:
The first 5000 copies of the P.I.A.S. LP edition and all copies of the Penguin edition have a gatefold sleeve with printed lyrics.

EDENZH VERKYLZHDE

Bandcamp:
The review said it all……..
“There’s a market for this kind of thing and I suspect it exists on a remote part of the coast of Sardinia”.  For years, The Dots felt the same way. Was this ambitious album the ultimate sacrifice on the altar of artistic tension? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Medieval Industrial music” or how about a small piece for home-made orchestra and drum machine?
Now after remastering the album it feels like one of the best albums The Dots ever made. I confess it had been slowly growing.
It was our first album under contract for the Play it Again Sam label and were they ever nervous when we delivered the master…
They shouldn’t have been, this one stands the test of time… at least for me.
-EK


Review

To my ears, this is the moment when everything really came together for the Legendary Pink Dots.  In a way, though, it’s hard to know what to make of the album.  It’s easy to see it as the end of an era for the band — the last album with drum machines, and a natural extension and refinement of the experimentation of 1985’s Asylum.  At the same time, it feels in some ways like a transitional album, bridging the gap between Asylum‘s craziness and Any Day Now‘s much calmer (and, to these ears, blander) mix of late 80’s post-psychedelic pop and almost-symphonic prog.  And bridging it very successfully, too: here are all the wild ideas of the previous album without any of the missteps, and the fuller, more satisfying textures of its successor without its sense of being too “pretty.”  The songs are short, too — a very good thing, since the concision emphasizes the album’s dramatic structure and prevents it from rambling like some of the Dots’ later work does.

Like many LPD albums, Island of Jewels is split in two halves, the first more experimental and the second more lyrical.  The first half may be the best album side the Dots have ever done. (Well, OK, I’ll admit that the brief intro, “Tower 6,” is fairly disposable.) It has an enormous stylistic range, from the clanging, gothic “Jewel on an Island” to “Emblem Parade,” a dissonant piece for string orchestra and drum machine.  There are also two industrial pieces: side one closes with “Rattlesnake Arena,” in which two synth notes an octave apart oscillate relentlessly for nearly the entire song, while Edward Ka-Spel sings modal melodies accompanied by what can only be called melodic noise.  The song ends with a chilling passage in which distorted  voices cry “glory glory, hallelujah,” while the pitch bend knob is spun rapidly. Then there’s “The Dairy,” complete with harsh violin tremolos, a surprisingly danceable beat, and clever but repulsive lyrics about making a porn movie — lines like “Keep them creaming at the dairy / Pumping lonesome ‘cross the prairie” and “Russians do it best, well don’t they, Jerkov?”  Lest you think that sounds stupid, what makes the song great (aside from the incisiveness of the music) is Ka-Spel’s pronounciation: he sounds disgusted with his own lyrics, spitting them out to create what may be the epitome of contempt in music.

Most surprising of all, though, is “The Red and the Black,” which is unique even in the Dots’ varied output.  The vocals are half-spoken, half-sung, and the tonality is obscured by the accompaniment, which consists of a seemingly random but deliciously effective string of jazzy runs for piano and saxophone — avant-lounge, perhaps?  If this weren’t strange enough, it’s interrupted halfway through with about five seconds of post-Baroque harpsichord playing and electronic crash-and-bang, before turning into a clean, beautiful psychedelic pop song, accompanied by drum machines of early 80s vintage.  In a way, the song sums up what makes this album so good:  the band’s melodic sensibilities and their avant-gardist tendencies are perfectly in balance.

And then there’s side two.  As mentioned, this is (mostly) a showcase of the band’s more melodic side, although it’s about as “normal” as the second half of Kate Bush’s The Dreaming.  In the area of tunes, the Dots have improved dramatically since Asylum. Except for the rather awkward “The Shock of Contact,” which is unquestionably the nadir of the album, the melodies have become more elaborate, more sophisticated, more interesting and, oddly, more sensuous.  The arrangements are much fuller than the typically stark synth + drum machine + violin of previous albums, and the songs are absolutely teeming with texturally beautiful moments like the staccato guitar-and-violin counterpoint in “Our Lady in Chambers,” or the dissonant plinks suspended over drone chords that outline the rhythm of “Our Lady in Darkness.”  The latter song ends with one of the “proggiest” sections the Dots have ever done, a beautiful pseudo-classical instrumental passage in 7/8 that almost sounds like an alternate-universe take on Gentle Giant.  At the same time, these songs have a lot more edge to them than a song like “Laguna Beach” from Any Day Now.  “Nice” melodies are undermined by creepy bass notes, or interrupted by  dissonant piano chords.  Even “The Guardians of Eden,” a very tonal and conventionally tuneful piece, keeps itself out of the realm of the merely pretty by maintaining an unsettling major-minor ambiguity and ending just a bit too abruptly to let the listener feel truly calm.

I have to warn anyone reading this review that there’s a decent chance you won’t like this album as much as I do.  It’s hard to argue with the compositions here — they’re probably the most perfect in the entire LPD catalogue — or with Ka-Spel’s absolutely brilliant use of accent and pronounciation for dramatic effect, particularly in the terrifying “Our Lady in Kharki.”  But the arrangements really do sound very dated, rife with digital pianos, drum machines and, on “Jewel in the Crown,” a slightly cheesy guitar tone.  For me, that only adds to the appeal; I like 80s-sounding stuff, and the tension between high art and low production has intrigued me for years.  But if you’re the type to find those sounds really bothersome, you might want to give this a pass.

– Alex Temple [February 2002]


Lyrics

The Red & The Black

Reflecting on the Empire after eight… pig’s head on a plate white wine… The mint imperials circulated… Captain sips his brandy, curses Ghandi, dreams Napoleon and Delhi turns to jelly; Bombay ducks; Calcutta shivers down in its hole… Old England is out to rule the waves again – banging on the table! Routing the reds and the browns and the yellows. Black sky… the missles blast home! (It’s half for me, half for my company)

My union’s name is Jack, and it’s a ripper! hammers her head with a sickle, nails monkey to the tree. The lasers, they beam from the stars and Moscow is charred. Peking is leaking. Tripoli’s stripped (ha! ha!) – Mohammed, he flees from his mountain, counting the corpses in the stadiums with his shades on cos the white light hurts his eyes. And Captain, he cries, Captain, he screams, falls out of bed. It’s only a dream (?) Nightnurse wipes his forehead, whispers “try to sleep… back to sleep…”

The Dairy

Peeling paint, dead cigarettes… old cobwebs on the ceiling. Feeling faint, the spider fled – the flies played hide ‘n’ seek. We wrestled cheek to cheek, pink naked on the sheets. A feel was cheap, a deeper thrill was steeper. Camera peeped, director leaping, screaming, shouting, louder “Roll ’em, hold ’em, hole ’em, Close up. ART! Prepetual motion. Higher! Ram it home now cowboy. Down Boy. Showdown! Shoot that crazy foam across the duvet…” Get them creaming at the dairy, pumping lonesome ‘cross the prairies. Hats spin on their laps. The hotsprings gushing. Play roulette. The Russians do it best – well, don’t they, Jerkov?

Jewel On An Island

Bills were mailed express, black borders ordered PAY. Across the page the figures were laying and laughing… Jenny ripped them up. She ran the bath. Called her daughter, told her “Count to three, then throw the toaster – Mummy’s ghost will watch you from a better place. Be brave!” She braced herself but plugs were pulled. No power, so she crawled into the kitchen, tried the oven. Slipped her head in sideways, raised a hand, switched on the gas… No hiss, alas! She snapped. She snatched the safety razor, slid it across her wrist. She snapped a dozen plastic knives. She tried a dive through double glazing. Taps kept dripping. Rats were running. Vermin squirming in their holes, the neighbours banging on the walls. Outside the sirens were blaring. Babies screamed. The jailer was staring at her nakedness; smiled from the mirror with a key tied on a string. She can’t get out, he won’t come in… Round and round we go. Her tower. MY TOWER!

Rattlesnake Arena

In Cut Throat Lane the chains were swinging. Iron boots with blades on springs were lancing. Silver dance. The ghetto ballerinas tiptoed, blasting. Rattlesnake Arena burning red black red black. The gutter snipeser gasped beneath their melting mask’s that kept on smiling. Dead eyed. Dog’s Breath. Choke! Rattlesnake Arena burning red black red black. The stakes were low, the winner takes a wall to lean on, scrawl his name on for a night. The story starts again.

The Shock of Contact

Astrid, do you recall the Sundays at the Spa with double straws from a carton with a heart on. Who could ask for more? You’d assure me you’d support me as I tried to write that novel in the hovel we called home (OUR home). You’d mow the lawn you’d pay the bills. You touched me there. The Shock of Contact kept us warm. And Astrid, you kept your word, you never said a word, as I ripped up the pages, spent your wages, entertaining friends you hated, making bombs and planting them in galleries. Your salary was wasted (oh how criminal)… They cut the power, they pulled the plugs – they took away the phone. We’re quite alone. We share a candle in the cellar – oooh you touched me there. The shock of contact kept us warm. And Astrid, as sure as blue skies always turn to grey – they came with guns. I tried to run and you took all the blame. They took you and I never said a word – and now you never say a word as I lean through the bars. I whisper my apologies, oh Jezus you stare clean through me. You cut me down, I touch you there.. The shock of contact keeps me warm.

Jewel in the Crown

Give the boy a uniform, a unicorn, a horn, a sawn off shotgun and a cause… an ORDER. Cross a border. Tell him “Heads must roll!” Can fetch them back on poles. No rules except “Amuse yourself, abuse at leisure. Steal the treasure. Screw and sweat. She’ll swear in another alphabet. It’s meaningless… no soul.” You’ll reap and you shall sow. You’ll rape, you’ll know that God’s will is mysterious. Delirious. The fire burns inside. Outside the napalm forms a molten tower. Fit for Kings! FOR YOU! You’re everything. You’re golden. Take your role in history. Maybe you’re just a number but WE know your name and we’ll remember. Yes, we’ll remember ’til the end of time (so back in line you asshole!)

Our Lady In Chambers

Our lady on the Bleeding Ground, her satin gown is trailing in the mud. She ducks a football cos it’s Christmas Day and the shells are duds. And Tom and Jerry drink their Bovril, crawl out from the trenches swap their wives, and swap addresses til Our Lady’s calling time. Then back in line behind your pistols. Swines in schnitzels. Zyklon Tea. You hear him plea, you watch him grovel. Give it to him right between the eyes…

Our Lady In Kharki

Our lady on the wall selling poppies for Our Boys. Our price. Our choice. we bought one-watched Our Lady fly confetti fly the city die in flames as tanks spat amber at the Odeon. A soldier on the podium. One leg, a face that’s splashed with egg… a roadmap stained by cherry brandy, cracking jokes about The Jerry. And we snatched his helmet, pissed and blew our whistles with the steam. The kettle boiling, so we stamped and screamed for China tea. Were playing Shanghai in the cloisters, sucking oysters, dipping fingers, finding pearls the size of avocado pears. The treasure’s there – a shame there’s nowhere left to spend it… Shall we share the powdered milk and wait for God?

Our Lady In Darkness

Our lady in the abattoir. She’s hanging headless, charred. Baby on her breast – there’s nothing left, the milk turned to powder, Twist her, she’s an hour glass – but time has died. The blast was final. Captain’s flat down in the urinal fixing cos he’s sick of shooting shadows.

The Guardians of Eden

With supple hands and iron will, we’ll shape the land – we shall rebuild. We’ll make the world a garden – we’ll only scatter seed. We’ll turn the weeds to wine. We’ll count to nine whenever we are angry. We’ll see our kingdom come. We’re the Guardians of Eden.

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