Unsung Bands: #3 The Armoury Show

Russell Webb’s Bandcamp page sums up The Armoury Show to the average person. It’s one of the tags he uses promotes his own work and if you click on it, you’re met with:

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Armoury Show might be a footnote in musical history but they should have been so much more. As one comment under a video for Castles In Spain on YouTube noted, “They make U2 sound like pub rock band”.

Perhaps if the band invested in more Lithuanian shopping centres, they may have knocked U2 into a cocked hat.

What more do you need to know about The Armoury Show? Quite a bit, I suspect. Formed from the ashes of one of The Skids by Richard Jobson and Webb, joined by ex-Magazine cohorts, John Doyle and John McGeoch.

Doyle’s bombastic drums are were very much a 1980s sound but as with most bands that he played in, John McGeoch gave a distinctive guitar sound.

He has a staggering body of influential work: Magazine, Visage, Siouxsie and the Banshees, PiL, as well as Armoury Show. And that’s just the bands he was in, leaving out any collaborations.

It’s hard to immediately think of one musician who influenced so much of the punk and post-punk landscape.

At this point, a brief interlude with a short John McGeoch playlist is appropriate, albeit self-indulgent. A perk of the job, if you like.

As The Armoury Show Service announced, McGeoch “played guitar for every bastard” and left an indelible mark on all.

The Armoury Show surfaced in 1983 and left the world in 1987, one album and half-a-dozen singles later.

Their debut single Castles in Spain set the tone, charting at 69. Commercial success eluded TAS which inevitably played a part in their demise.

Around this time, they appeared on a Thames TV show – In Bed With Medinner or something similar – which was the first I recall coming across them. It was a mesmirising moment, breaching a musical gap after quite a few bands I liked split or took a different direction to one I wanted to follow.

I don’t recall seeing them in concert, more’s the pity. The strength of some of the songs is reflected by The Skids playing Castles in Spain on their reunion tour while Russell Webb by all accounts, continues to play tracks from the album.

The next single, We Can Be Brave Again, with its exhorting vocals reminiscent of Big Country, or maybe that was just the contemporary Scottish sound at the time.

The band’s inexorable rise to obscurity continued as We Can Be Brave Again peaked at 66.

It was the prelude to the release of the band’s only album, Waiting for the Floods. Criminally under-rated, the elpee, a rousing set of songs featured two stand-out tracks – Kyrie and Waiting for the Floods – which twisted and turned subtly, majestically.

The final single from the album, Glory of Love, scraped into the Top 100, peaking at 92.

Implosion wasn’t far from coming. Jobson’s love of art, modelling, broadcasting and acting began drawing on his time more frequently, and The Armoury Show as we knew them, were gone.

McGeoch left in ’86 to join John Lydon in PiL while Doyle left to join Pete Shelley. Jobson and Webb persevered with two more tracks, Love in Anger and New York City.

The feel was the same but less distinctive without McGeoch’s guitar. New York City spawned a dance remix but the unreleased second album never surfaced until 2013 as part of the repackaged and reissued Waiting for the Floods.

They never reached the stars, leaving a vapour trail which faded from view in 1987.

Disappointingly, the album nor any of the singles are on Spotify. Parlophone need to get their finger out on that one.

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