William Blake famously observed that the fool who persists in his folly shall become wise. Pouting peroxide post-punk Kirk Brandon represented a pretty stiff challenge to that weighty maxim.

Brandon’s brooding sense of self-importance was exemplified by the name of this, his second major band: the Spear of Destiny was said to be the sword with which Roman centurion Longinus killed Christ on the cross. Brandon’s music, an epic quest for rock power and glory, palpably craved similar significance.

He got away with his daftness because he wrote a lot of killer tunes. This 3CD compilation of their three albums for Epic Records, with 12″ mixes, B-sides and live tracks, confirms that if you kept a straight face through their bluster, fine songs lay within.

Their 1983 debut, Grapes Of Wrath, was originally to be an album for Brandon’s previous group, Theatre Of Hate, and retained that band’s key elements of barbed guitar, tribal drums and vague mysticism.

Its 1984 follow-up, One Eyed Jacks, was the same again, only more so: propulsive rock noir, histrionic vocals, strained drama. Prisoner Of Love twanged like a new wave Dick Dale, yet the standout track was the cyclical, portentous Liberator. We get four versions of it here.

If anything, Brandon’s mock-heroic shtick was more pronounced on 1985’s World Service. The reliably anthemic Come Back sounded like a sermon delivered from the mount. The album nearly went Top 10: bonus tracks here include thundering B-side Last Card.

They later nabbed a proper hit single in 1987’s Never Take Me Alive and supported U2 at Wembley Stadium, but Kirk Brandon was not to become the prophet he longed to be. No matter. Even jesters can write great tunes.

6/10

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Ian Gittins

 

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