Living Links – Gathering The Forces (FULL ALBUM STREAM)

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    Track List –
    1. I Live In Here
    2. Gathering The Forces
    3. I’m Awake When I Should Be Asleep
    4. Remember The Battle
    5. For The Paramecium
    6. Do You Dream In Color (Or Black And White)
    7. Two Girls
    8. Like An Animal
    9. I’m Not Streetwise
    10. Manger (bonus track)
    11. Every Sad Night (bonus track)
    12. You And The Unkown (bonus track)
    13. I Stop Short (bonus track)

    Living Links
    Gathering The Forces

    Even the most ardent fans of the early 80s post-punk underground explosion would be forgiven for never having heard Living Links. The band effortlessly combines the art-funk of Talking Heads with the threadbare melodies of Joy Division, and explored a compelling variety of ideas on their lone album Gathering The Forces. But their music didn’t make it far outside of their Baton Rouge, LA home, until now.

    The obscure duo of husband and wife Hans and Margie VanBrackle released just one album and 2 singles between 1983-1985, though the pair wrote and performed live together for a longer period. However, Living Links was mostly a side project for the two singer/guitarists: Hans played guitar in punky locals US Times and Margie played & sang in the all-girl band the ParalElles.

    Living Links played out locally during their heyday, occasionally with a live drummer, sometimes with a drum machine, or both. They often headlined shows over touring acts, no doubt due to Margie’s training in opera and musical theater and Hans’ ripping guitar work. But at the time, despite the impact that the Sex Pistols had on their 1978 tour through the area, “New Wave” music remained essentially an underground phenomenon.

    Like the southern gothic undercurrent of contemporaries like the B-52s, R.E.M. or Atlanta’s The Brains (“Money Changes Everything”), there’s a playful feel to Living Links’ music that eschews the dour posturing of more urban post-punk fare. And where the Talking Heads remained ensconced in David Byrne’s intellectual existentialism, the duo’s music is often more fun as it bops through numbers like “I’m Not Streetwise” and “I’m Awake When I Should Be Asleep.”

    RidingEasy Records’ reissue of Gathering The Forces combines the band’s full discography, the 9-song album — originally released on Skratch Records in 1985 — plus 2 7” singles (the 3-song Every Sad Night and “Manger”/“I’m Not Streetwise” single) for a comprehensive introduction to this long overlooked band. Album opener “I Live in Here” perhaps most directly echoes their Joy Division influence, with Hans’ lead vocals nodding to Ian Curtis’ cold baritone delivery, and his guitar lines referencing Bernard Sumner’s infectious single notes. But it’s not mere imitation — the chorus lifts to a soaring melody with hazy synths and Hans delivering an impassioned croon. The title track shifts the mood to a Gang Of Four style dance track replete with handclaps and funky guitar bouncing along as the duo sings the anti-war anthem, “we’re all awaiting orders.” Meanwhile, “Like an Animal” and “Two Girls” share the 60s-retro charm of the B-52s, with true earworm melodies. Elsewhere, “Every Sad Night”, from their debut 7” EP wouldn’t sound out of place next to a Young Marble Giants or other early Rough Trade release, with its stripped down instrumentation and Margie affecting a semi-British accent.

    While Gathering The Forces might seem all over the map on paper, the duo pulls all of their influences together into a very cohesive whole. Listeners can hear the mood of the times that barely bubbled to the surface on college radio stations in small pockets of the country, beneath the weight of the Cougar Mellencamps, Michael Jacksons and Huey Lewises that dominated the mainstream.

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