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Memory Span

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Album Review

Always ahead of their time, the Lines were post-punk while the first wave of British punk was still finding its feet in 1977, and just as their wiry, minimal approach to pop began to mesh with the mainstream, their music became even leaner and more muscular, stripping back the melodies and giving the rhythms greater prominence. By the time the Lines called it quits in 1983, their sound had evolved into dance-oriented rock dominated by cool, sinewy grooves and minimalist percussion accents, while the guitar was used more for texture than as a melodic framework. The Lines released two albums during their lifespan (1981's Therapy and 1983's Ultramarine), but it's the four singles and two EPs they recorded that provide a more telling portrait of the band's creative growth and stylistic shapeshifting, and Acute Records has compiled a near-definitive history of the Lines with Memory Span, which collects all their non-LP material (along with two unreleased demos) onto one CD. Memory Span presents these 18 tracks in chronological order (except for one song — "Barbican," the B-side to their first single, is the last song on the disc) and the band's growth is so graceful that at first spin one almost doesn't notice how different the music near the end of the disc is from that at the beginning, especially with "Barbican" bringing the songs full circle at the close. Rico Conning's voice suggests some odd fusion of Ray Davies and Pete Shelley, while the edgy insistence of his lyrics is the ideal match for his razor's-edge guitar work and that of Mick Lineham, while Nicholas Cash and Jo Forty were a tremendous rhythm section. The Lines never quite reached the audience they deserved, partly because they were signed to a small label and disliked self-promotion, but the music on Memory Span also makes it clear that these guys were a few steps ahead of what their colleagues were doing at all times, and while it wasn't much good for their bank accounts, it helps much of the music on this disc to sound fresh and keenly intelligent decades after it was first recorded. (Acute have also released the material from Therapy and Ultramarine on a sister compilation, Flood Bank.)


Formed: 1977 in England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s

English post-punk band the Lines first recorded in 1977 and released their last material in 1983, quietly leaving a pair of albums -- Therapy (October 1981) and Ultramarine (March 1983) -- and a handful of singles and EPs in their wake. Fairly indifferent to the press, affiliated with a very small label, and, despite connections to Alternative TV, Prag Vec, and Fad Gadget, not part of any scene, the Lines gained a small and fervent following, and their releases remained obscure until the Acute label's...
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Memory Span, The Lines
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