From Leonard’s Lair.com:
History tells us that ‘Is Vic There?’ was the highlight of Department S’s career. A supposed one-hit wonder, the single found its way into the top 30 back in 1980 thanks to increased airplay for this hitherto underground hit. Not for the first time though, the commercial success killed the band.
Faced with the pressure of a record company clamouring for more hits, the members soon split; deciding to do what in modern terms would be to ‘keep it real’ rather than sell out. Until now the album remained unreleased but the ever-exhaustive LTM Records have seen fit to issue the whole album with various bonus tracks. Although never quite being at the top of the game in their two main forms of music i.e. post-punk and new wave, this is a skeleton worth retrieving from the cupboard. In front man Vaughn Toulouse they had a voice whose demeanour and monotone made him a charismatic figure. They successfully negotiated the usual morose routes by developing a knack for expediency and aggression. There’s the white-funk of ‘Fighting Irish’ and singles ‘I Want’ and ‘Going Left Right’ matched ‘Is Vic There?’ for swagger and military precision. The five live recordings even surpass the originals in some cases, ‘Clap Now’ in particular packs a much bigger punch than the Substance version. ‘Tell Me About It’ was their shot at a more commercial route and to be fair it does not compromise their earlier vigour at all. With B-sides of the calibre of ‘Put All The Crosses In The Right Boxes’ they make as competitive rivals for The Nightingales for lyrical bite and incisiveness. Happily, there’s enough material here to rank them above the usual ‘Where Are They Now?’ status.