If, as it could realistically be suggested, Fairnie’s recording career featured a whole host of highs made up of exciting albums and inspiring collaborations, then Songs for a Nervous World could be regarded as an anti-climax. Recorded in New York with a seasoned team of session musicians (including arranger George Small, John Lennon’s keyboard player on Woman, Just Like Starting Over et al.) and ace producer Joey Powers, the magic didn’t quite happen. Conditions were far from ideal – the kids were along from the ride, but suffering from jetlag and lack of baby-sitter. The Technos had less say in key production decisions, ultimately meaning that they were themselves disappointed, perhaps even disillusioned with the end-product. The album was released in 1988 on US label Refuge, and found a few happy homes in the States. It was never available in Europe.
The songs themselves are in-your-face late 80s fare, with enormous snare drums and synths that sound like saxes (or are they saxes that sound like synths? Difficult to tell…). Many of the songs just seem to be treading water – music by numbers – but there are occasional glimpses of brilliance. Dare to Dance features David Bowie brass stabs and the catchiest chorus on the album. Friends and Frontiers has a strong message about a European Soldier. Quite what the message is is open to interpretation, but there’s something visionary about it!
Paul Field had played cameo roles throughout Fairnie’s career (going way back he was a fellow student of Bev’s, and regularly crossed Fish Co’s path when he was one third of Nutshell) and a major nod in his direction came with the recording of War: One Voice which sounds as relevant now as it did then, and is one of Bev’s strongest vocal performances ever. Ironically enough, the one stand-out track is the very song that stands out… but like a sore thumb! Mechanical Ballet was written in 1981, featured on the Casual Tease album, and re-emerged here sounding as fresh and bizarre as ever. Fairnie’s vocals were somewhere in the no man’s land between singing, talking and shouting. It’s exciting, disturbing, moving, and all in all an astonishing slice of the Technos.
A frustrating collection, and an experience which led to the Technos promising themselves that never again would they find themselves in a situation of the like. Granted, their music was never the over-polished work of obsessive perfectionists, but Songs was so wide of the target established by their high standards that they decided that this was the first and last time that they would release something they did not believe in.
Produced by Joey Powers
Keyboards and arrangements: George Small
Drums: David Prater
Guitar: Ronnie Drayton
Sax: Cydell Carter
Background vocals: Bev Sage, Steve Fairnie, Martin Bass, Carolyn Nieto and Cynthia Rizas
Engineer: Doug Oberkirker
Assistant Engineer: Dan Rudin
Recorded at Grand Slam Studios, W. Orange, NJ