This was another in what has been a long string of early 1980s electro/synth scores I’ve made in the New Arrivals section of Seattle’s Georgetown Records over the last year or so. I need to get to the bottom of this – are all these from one big collection that just gets slowly seeded into the new arrivals, or do all the people into weird 1980s stuff congregate in Georgetown? Either possibility is viable. I almost passed initially because the cover is pretty beat up but the vinyl itself turned out to be surprisingly clean, which is the most important part for me, so I picked it up.
Phantom Limb were from Belgium, though many people assume they were Dutch because their only release, the five-song Dance of the Guilty, came out on a Netherlands-based label. As near as I can tell this comprises most of the music they ever released, and song called “She Dances” was on a four-song Belgian comp back in 1993 called 4 On 1. Six songs. That’s it. But man are they good.
The first time I played this Holly gave it the immediate thumbs up, and rightfully so. As a people who came of age in the 1980s Phantom Limb’s sound has a certain familiarity, though a bit edgier than anything that either of us were listening to at the time. There’s an undercurrent of post-punk transitioning to new wave – the guitars still have that dark, reverb-y quality and the vocals a bit of that melancholy Cure-like texture. The title track is particularly intriguing, incorporating some strange bell-like sounds that jingle around in the background while the rest of the music moves forward deliberately, almost mechanically. The closer, “Deep In Mines”, is probably the best song on the album, snapping drums setting the pace and giving everyone else room to roam and the vocals fbreak out and soar at times.
Fortunately Dance of the Guilty was re-released on vinyl in 2015 as a split release with a band called The Happy Hunting Ground, and it looks to still be available HERE if you’re interested. Original copies are a little pricey and tough to find in the wild, especially here in the US, so this is a good option if you just want the tunes.