Obituary: Adrian Borland

Pierre Perrone
Monday 17 May 1999 23:02 BST

BEFORE THE New Romantics and MTV hijacked the Eighties, there was a wave of rock acts pioneering a sweeping atmospheric sound. U2 eventually went global while the Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Ex-plodes scored several hit singles and albums. Adrian Borland was the charismatic frontman of the Sound, a group who followed in their wake. Over the course of a career spanning 20 years, Borland issued as many albums, either with the Sound or as a solo artist, but without ever quite transcending his cult status.

Borland's first band, the Outsiders, belonged to the London scene which revolved around the Roxy and Vortex clubs. In 1977, the Outsiders released Calling On Youth, making them the first of the punk groups to produce a full-length album on their own label.

After the album Close Up and the EP One to Infinity, Borland made a bizarre record with the Dead Kennedys' leader Jello Biafra. By 1979, the bassist Graham Green and the drummer Michael Dudley had joined Borland to cut the independently financed EP Physical World, which came out on Torch and was credited to "The Sound" to stress the shift away from their punk roots. John Peel featured it on his radio show but the major labels and music press remained unimpressed. All this changed when, after the arrival of a keyboardist, Bi Marshall, to flesh out the Sound, Borland and his band signed to Korova Records.

Its name inspired by the Korova Bar in Clockwork Orange, the infamous Anthony Burgess book and subsequent Stanley Kubrick film, the label had been launched by Rob Dickins, then head of Warner Music Publishing. Having already achieved a modicum of success with the Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen, Dickins felt he could repeat the feat and the Sound opened for their labelmates just as the single "Heartland" and album Jeopardy appeared in 1980. Richard Williams, writing in The Times, declared the Sound to be "the most thoughtful of the recent gang of British doomsday rockers". "Missiles", the anthemic single which followed, chimed with the revived CND movement and the band looked well on their way.

Unfortunately, the British post-new wave scene shifted constantly and the Sound lost momentum. Max Mayers replaced Bi Marshall on keyboards and the producer Hugh Jones (who also worked with Simple Minds and the Undertones) masterminded From The Lion's Mouth (1981), the second album, and attendant single "Sense Of Purpose".

The group co-headlined a British tour with the Comsat Angels in the autumn of 1981 but, by the following year's album All Fall Down, the Sound were no longer being touted as the next big thing.

Borland and Green left Korova and revived another project of theirs, the electronic offshoot Second Layer, but still managed to record several singles and four albums (Shock of Daylight, 1984, Heads and Hearts and In the Hothouse, both 1985, and Thunder Up, 1987) with the Sound for the Statik label. The band finally broke up in 1988 but Borland had developed a cult following in France, Holland and Germany and persevered as a solo artist backed by the Citizens, issuing the album Alexandria on the Play It Again Sam label the next year.

By the early Nineties Borland had become more involved in record production. He had already helped the band the Servants and went on to produce the Dublin group Into Paradise, Australian punks Celibate Rifles and the singer- songwriter Ana Christensen. Borland released a further three solo albums, Beautiful Ammunition, Cinematic and 5.00am, and also worked with Carlo Van Putten on White Rose Transmission in 1995. A second collaborative album by the duo will be issued next month entitled 700 Miles of Desert.

Intense, intelligent, talkative, and yet a sensitive soul prone to melancholy, Adrian Borland often fell into deep depression. Lyrics from his recent compositions hint at the musician's gloomy state of mind before he took his own life.

Pierre Perrone

Adrian Borland, singer, guitarist, songwriter: born London 1958; died London 26 April 1999.

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