Department S live review – Clarendon Hotel, London – 24th January, 1981
One of the problems with being a critic is that one tends to look too objectively at bands. One doesn’t think about what they may be able to do in the future – a concert is too often treated as one complete act, rather than a reference point within a larger act. Although they are under-rehearsed, Dept S are tight and solid with some beautiful funk(y) guitar playing from Michael Herbage. He plays in a style that’s free flowing and breezy, creating a froth over the bass/drums rhythm section. The light wind that Herbage eases out of his guitar is marred only by the wooden and (over) simple synthesiser playing of Eddie Roxy.
The sounds that he drags out of his synth are totally superfluous to the music that Department S are/should be aiming for. The music has to grow more until a proper assessment can be made, but so far Department S are building something that could be worthwhile. Even though at the Clarendon they were faced with an audience of apathetic punks and puerile skinheads, interested only in pouring beer over each other’s heads, Department S fought on. Once again we find we are back to the problem of atrocious concert venues stunting the growth of bands who have yet to find themselves. They must be radical, and not rely on cover versions of Bolan and Roxy songs (although I love them) to gain audiences appreciation. Too safe. They are not quite strong enough, they are not breaking new ground. Yet they must break new ground, they must, they have to – if only to survive.
Chris Burkham – ‘Sounds’