It seems peculiar that the Box should have fallen so dramatically off the radar given how they were, roughly speaking, the best version of Clock DVA but with different people on bass and vocals; and by the best version of Clock DVA I mean the line-up which recorded Thirst. Even without the patronage of Cabaret Voltaire, that has to count for something, surely? Maybe they just weren't sufficiently industrial - whatever the hell that really means - or maybe their legend has endured in places other than those in which I've been looking.
For anyone who might not be sure, the Box refute the hypothesis that traditional instrumentation is necessarily a barrier to innovation, that guitar, bass, drums, and vocals recorded pretty much without perfumery or embellishment need yield prosaic results. Okay, so there's also saxophone, but the principal still stands. These are songs with verses and choruses, sure enough, but considering that this is the same basic instrumentation of Rock Around The Clock, this be some weird angular shit right here, lemme tell ya. There are touches of rockabilly, slide guitar, jazz, swing, all chopped up and stapled back together in screeching and yet nevertheless elegantly synchronised chaos, a spiky groove with tunes which get right into your veins before you've even noticed that there are tunes to be had. A slightly less wanky way of putting it would be, I suppose, just to say that the Box remind you just how great music can be when it's done right by people who know what they're doing; and who have the confidence to play without hiding behind walls of effects. The guitar is in particular beautiful and crunchy, funky and elastic, like a jazzier Steve Albini. The whole reminds me superficially of the Cravats at their wildest, although the resemblance isn't particularly strong, and I might find better examples were I to extend my listening habits back further than 1977.
You remember that glut of slightly sweaty new wave dance bands who showed up around 1982, always with some bloke in a fedora and a vest playing the trumpet and a flat-topped singer who had always been into Coltrane, presumably even back when he was the more conspicuously safety-pinned Simon Bollock of the Barking Toilets? Anyway, the Box were what those bands always thought they sounded like but sadly never did.
...and here we have some of the material they recorded for Cabaret Voltaire's Doublevision label, eight tracks and a couple of different versions bearing no resemblance to the work of either Mallinder or Kirk, and yet sounding somehow perfectly attuned to the general vibe of at least Red Mecca and 2X45. The remixes are, quite naturally, longer, pared-down versions with a ton of echo because it was the eighties, and yet they succeed where almost everyone else failed with the same tricks, again I suppose due to the sheer potency of the source material.
This is a fucking fantastic collection. Now all we need is a reissue of the material they recorded for Go! Discs.
Available here, but don't wait around as it may not be for much longer.