Propaganda, The University, Salford
Frankie may have been ZTT’s vision of the quintessential pop band. Propaganda may have begun as little more than a string to the bow, a credible diversion. But has the bubble burst? Will Holly and cohorts ever be more than venerable has-beens? I doubt it somehow.
Propaganda then may burgeon into the next jewels in the crown. Presumably they’ll have a duel on their hands; a duel other than a song title. The resolute Germanic streak versus the peek along Brit-pop’s dark corridors. With ‘Doctor Mabuse’ and ‘Jewel’/’Duel’, Propaganda opened the door. The comparative failure of ‘P-Machinery’ has left it swinging by the hinges.
The beginning of the first Propaganda tour proper was eons away from the media saturation which surrounded FGTH. From a prestigious fortnight’s residence at the Ambassadors Theatre to a chilly Sunday night in a somewhat less than packed Salford University. Where? Well, quite. It all seemed remotely incongruous.
If ‘Dream Within A Dream’ is the highlight of Propaganda’s debut LP, it was a dire disappointment as a live curtain-raiser. The belligerent but beguiling conversational tone lost all its impact as Suzanne battled to escape from the murky mix. ZTT hearts must have been palpitating. The soundman subsequently took a firm grasp on proceedings, allowing Suzanne to more than compensate with er… a shrieking quasi-John Cooper Clarke rendition of ‘Duel’. Wild!
And was that really an eminent Scots rhythm section of yore? Brian McGhee turned out booming, thunderous peals of drum solos and dour-faced Derek Forbes plucked his bass, beamed and positively pogoed. “Eee. Simple Minds was never like this, eh Bri?”
Suzanne and Claudia interchanged frequently. If there’s a power struggle over supremacy at the mike, they kept it under wraps and concentrated on purveying a complete entertainment package. Very visual, very buoyant and very foreign. If Propaganda hailed from Solihull or some other salubrious setting, I have a feeling the Maxwell Hall would have boasted an audience of minuscule proportions.
Without meaning to sound disparaging, I’d say Propaganda are a show band. The songs are pure pop theatre and impeccably acted, as such. The cover of Lou Reed’s classic, ‘Femme Fatale’, invited a slating but cleverly side-stepped one. It presumably came as a welcome concession to the punters there for curiosity purposes only. In any case, it was hardly essential to be familiar with the players in order to appreciate the play. Green but keen. Pleasure gleaned.