“We enjoy each other’s company so much, that really it was enough to be in the studio making music.”
Some albums suffer from the passing of time. Releases that once were magnificent audio adventures, lose their sheen in this new age of overpowering digital technology. On the other hand of course, there are albums that have remained timeless over the decades since their release. Works of such scale that they slot right into those categories of ‘timeless’ and dare I say ‘classic’ – phrases which are handed out all too easily nowadays without the substance to back them up.
One such album that defines both those categories is Working With Fire And Steel – Possible Pop Songs Volume Two by the eloquent China Crisis. Indeed it is an album that is four decades old this year, and still manages to challenge our expectations and illuminate our turntables. Crammed with intelligent Pop and augmented by flourishes of Jazz wrapped in a perfect tapestry of synth, this album is uniquely inspired and destined to outlive us all.
It is fitting then that this year China Crisis are celebrating that momentous release with the Working With Fire & Steel 40th Anniversary Tour. A tour that involves the band playing the complete album from start to finish. Nowadays the album acts as a snapshot not just into the youth of its creators, but into the United Kingdom in 1983, something that both Eddie Lundon and Gary Daly discuss further. As Gary states, “I think that you can hear (on the album) that Eddie and me are young lads, who have been brought up working class and we are now experiencing girlfriends and being in love. The whole mystery and beauty of nature (sounds on the album), because we were surrounded by it in Kirkby. We were not really in it as much as young lads, until later on as teenagers and you would be experiencing it in a completely different way. It becomes part of your lyrical experience; you are writing your experiences down. All of it is a sort of positive melancholic really, that is the way I think of it – happy, sad, happy, sad.”
Eddie continues on that thread; “I think at the time you are kind of rebellious and you do these political social statements a lot more. So all the things you are feeling at the time or that your neighbourhood is feeling – the unemployment and all that. So there is the Working With Fire And Steel and the Thatcher years, it all comes through in the lyrics. They are just social documentaries really.” Gary expands further on the premise of Working With Fire And Steel; “We grew up with our Dads going on the industrial estate – we were next door to Yorkshire Imperial Metals. If you went past there and looked in, it was the furnaces, it was the metal, it was all of that, it was working with fire and steel. That is what we would have seen as kids, and we would have thought; “That is where we go!”, growing up in this little town – you go to the school and when you finish school you go on the industrial estate, and you would be doing something there. And I did for a year or so. It is all in the lyrics, and I think that is why I love those first three albums so much, because I can hear our lives really, in all of it so much.”
Eddie points to the nostalgic aspects that comes from listening back to an album from back then; “Funny enough I was listening to Jim Kerr (Simple Minds) picking the tracks of his years on BBC Radio 2, and he said a similar thing. He picked a Kinks song – ‘Waterloo Sunset’ or something like that. He said he could actually physically smell when heard the song, and he is right back there, and he gets the smell of where he was – the local fish and chip shop and all that. It brings him right back to that place. I think that music does that.”
China Crisis formed in the aforementioned Kirkby (Liverpool) at the end of the seventies by the two school friends. As they progressed, they expanded their sound with drummer Dave Reilly, and their first single ‘African And White’ (Inevitable) held a glimpse of what was to come. Although failing to make an impact on the charts. Their first album on the Virgin label Difficult Shapes & Passive Rhythms, Some People Think It’s Fun to Entertain, was a more structured affair. The single ‘Christian’ charted highly, reaching #12 on the UK charts with the album settling at #21. Both helped by supporting Simple Minds on their New Gold Dream Tour. Without a doubt, China Crisis was a product of the excitement, the experimentation and the possibilities of new technology at the dawn of the eighties. Originally an outfit which concentrated on instrumental passages, it was an almost an afterthought that turned them into the China Crisis we know today. And Eddie clarifies this; “We started off like that, we were a songwriting duo. We had big influences from the likes of Brian Eno – a lot of ambient music, and we kind of learnt the craft later on for songwriting.” Eddie continues; “How to self-edit so to speak. Some of the instrumentals were quite lengthy, and we were playing with the technology of the time, experimenting really.” Gary comes in with; “Cassette, the technology of the time, which was cassette!”
Read the full China Crisis interview in the latest issue of Blitzed: https://shorturl.at/mwyT8
China Crisis are touring the UK. Venue and ticket info: https://www.facebook.com/chinacrisisofficial
Photo by Isabella Rubin