“Between The Lines”
It’s always great to hear a new local CD by guys who are around my age, but still sound vital and vibrant. Under Surveillance is a band that has existed in different incarnations since the 1970s. Whether it was The Score, or the original version of Under Surveillance, the team of Philip Hatfield writing and playing guitar and Randy Brown drumming provided a strong musical core that brought a hard-edged New Wave sound to life.
In 1989, Brown and original Under Surveillance bassist, Chris “Flair” Canfield, teamed up with ex-Defector John “Sham Voodoo” Estep to form Clownhole, and this short-lived comedy/punk powerhouse was a mainstay of the radio version of Radio Free Charleston (and they’ve even shown up on the video version in archival footage).
After nearly twenty-five years apart, Hatfield and Brown have reunited, adding Phil “X” Crace, from The Score, on bass and John Mullins on vocals. The resulting album, “Between The Lines” is a pure delight, displaying a level of craft in the songwriting and playing that only comes with years of experience.
Musically “Between The Lines” is anchored in the New Wave era. Their sound is solidly in the power pop school of Moon Mullins, Cheap Trick and The Knack. I think the best description might be that they sound like a very hard-edged version of The Shoes. Mullins’ vocals are perfectly suited to the material.
The musicianship is crisp and punchy throughout. This is really a solid collection of great tunes. One of the best things about “Between The Lines” is that it doesn’t sound contemporary. This CD has more of a timeless quality. It’d be perfectly at home nestled in your collection between The Replacements and The Payolas. This is a CD devoid of rap, auto-tuning, dance remixes, samples or drum programming. It is wonderful in that regard.
Standout songs are “All I Want,” “Between The Lines,” and “Rachel,” but to be honest, all the songs are pretty terrific. “All I Want” dates back to 1978 and “Rachel” to 1985, but except for one other oldie, the material is all newly-composed by Philip Hatfield. The songs from 1978 are co-written with Roy Clark (no, not THAT Roy Clark) and “Rachel,” from 1985, was written by the original line-up of Under Surveillance, with new lyrics by Hatfield.
Under Surveillance is still preparing to play out, so if want a copy of this CD,you can find it at Budget Tapes and Records or Fret ‘N Fiddle. It’s also available from all sorts of online sources that you can learn about on the Under Surveillance Facebook page.
“Between The Lines” is more than a blast from the past. It’s a great collection of songs performed with vigor and a sense of fun.
Recommended if you like: Cheap Trick, Time and Distance, The Knack, Blue Million, The Nanker Phelge, The Replacements