A deceptively good disc. The performances and Ash’s antics are abundant.

Daniel Ash, David J. and Kevin Haskins salvaged a working relationship once the Bauhaus were finished. There was still a fresh flow of material oozing out of Ash. To this day, Ash is releasing music as a solo artist and with Haskins and Haskin’s daughter Diva Dompe as POPTONE. Long time readers of this blog will remember the Great POPTONE Fiasco of 2017. Despite what Ash’s ‘management’ claims, I felt I wrote one of the best reviews of my life for that show (at the over-hyped Stone Pony) and I continue to stand by that review today. Frankly, I don’t care what the POPTONE camp has to say.  Would I have liked the band to see my review? Sure! I always want the band to see my review. I feel I can relate to them, they can identify with me, we speak the same lingo (you readers don’t really want me to go into hyper-specifics about key, chords, scales, nodes, technology, equipment, processes, so on, you’ve told me so).

But most musicians DO want to talk specifics.

None of that matters. This blog has recommitted itself to enjoying the process of composing reviews that lead to insight, glancing insider knowledge and minimal technical speak. That last one will resurface, I know it.

This is one from our soundboard recording specialist Craig. We’ll get to how you can own this nifty prize yourself later.

Now I had contemplated making this review as dry and devoid of humor as I possibly could. You see, I interjected aspects into the POPTONE review from my various influences that shaped the being that is me. Psychedelic references from the Beat Generation writing, kitschy, cutesy captions like they used to write in Creem Magazine. But most importantly, the music as I heard it that night. What I saw and what I heard.

That wasn’t good enough for ‘management’. I had put up promos for the tour, promos for that gig, telegraphed my punch, gotten a photo pass (if you hit up my Facebook page for this site, you can research some additional photos we put up, the local newspaper photographer was envious of Lynn’s eye for framing and light usage…we’re gonna load more in here), we did our part. If it wasn’t up to certain people’s expectations, they should research the kind of writer they are inviting to come into their camp. For fuck’s sake, I got tons of shit on this site, if you can’t find something to get a feel for my writing style, NOT. MY. PROBLEM.

One thing that is peculiar about this board recording. While on the back of the disc, there is clearly stamped something that says “Bootleg, I can, I will, I did” yet at the bottom, are text lines and a logo from Sire records. If this was ever released on Sire, I guess the challenge is on to find that release.

I am good with this live disc…

One note before I get into the disc. I am not going to try to give you which album each of these songs are from. The Tones On Tail catalog is so convoluted, mismatched, Euro/US/Japanese releases, I’m out!

The disc fades up to bring us in on “When You’re Smiling”. The album version is weird as it is. The percussion is great, and Haskins does a remarkable job replicating that live. The trigger samples are the same. But the bass seems restrained in the mix. Remember, board recordings, how it was in the house is how it is on these discs. But then there are voice samples in and among the reedy notes Ash is playing. David J. keeps the vocal-less, aimless song in check with a repeating riff that kind of holds the madness together.

On the 7.1 system, the guitar is swirling all over the room from channel to channel. But this sounds like a club audience instead of the huge throng it should be.

Always on the move, Ash is tough to capture live. On photo and audio. Photo by Lynn Vala

The bowling pin sample shines through right before the song morphs into between song sonics as “When Your Smiling” fades out, the pick slide down the strings is the actual count in to “War”. Now while I have never seen Tones On Tail in it’s prime, I did see the POPTONE version. Daniel Ash likes the sound bass heavy. So I am sensing some sonic limitation when it comes to the sound, as in, at this venue, if Ash was allowed to be as loud as he wants (he was pretty much given a green light to crank it at the Pony), the bass lines would have more affect on this mix. Shame because the members are performing admirably.

The synth outshines into the second verse. I can barely hear a bass drum. But the guitar and voice are right there. Ash screams a totally new ad-lib for the ‘Wow’ part into the solo section, and Ash’s guitar just takes full-on center stage. This is going to be tough going if the sonics stay like this.

I think this disc will be worth the performance from Ash. He’s already displayed that he’s into going off the map for this gig. Let’s buckle in and ride along.

When he gets into the next ‘Here comes trouble’ section, it’s all voice and guitar. All you Daniel Ash panty-creamers out there will love this one. The vocal ad-lib before the synth section is killer! The keys are full up in the mix and panning all over. More screaming from Ash as the song cuts off.

LL Goth D! (Ladies Love Goth Daniel) Photo by Lynn Vala

Some pick slide delay brings in “Performance”. I’m not going over the checked-naming-convention-history of this song. This is a very tremeloed version. The drums are almost there, but the after-touch keyboard is running rampant. The first verse vocal levels are up there. But I can’t hear ANY of Haskin’s bass drum. I just heard J. ‘s bass for the first time at a decent volume, but there is no-low end to it. This song is fairy under control. Even the tremoloed solo is contained to a degree. When they go into the whole-note break, the ‘shadows of masses’ part, for the vocal break down, I hear vocal, bass (the treble end any way), high hat and snare. Even a cymbal crash now and again.

I’d like to think this was a one-off, or the visuals were also something. Because damn, this is a really good gig, and the sound man left them out to dry. At least in terms of the bass drum.

They come back into the chorus, and a solo brings us out. The band themselves are very tight. The sound is not. They revive the ‘shakes’   chorus out to a whole note end.

Now that “Burning Skies” has started amid growing applause, I think it may have been Haskin’s trigger module that gave out, because I am hearing a bass drum single note intro. Ash calls it a silly love song. He then picks up the lead with sustained notes as the bass and bass drum sound continue on underneath Ash’s solo.

Then, as in now, Haskins makes heavy use of electronic percussion. Photo by Lynn Vala

They have a neat flange-delay on Ash’s voice for the first verse. Ash only picks the guitar up for those lead notes. On the second verse, Ash’s guitar feeds-back a little into the lyric. Haskins has upped his game on the drums now, to build into the first bridge. A very downbeat bridge into the verse, with Ash vocal ad-libbing ‘ch-ch-cha’s’ into a breakdown version of the chorus and the first go-round of ‘love you like you love me not’.

How Goth is that line???

The bass is trying to hold the melody until Ash brings in the guitar on the second bridge cycle. It’s firing on all cylinders on the third bridge repeat.

They fall back into the verse section seamlessly. Ash’s guitar overshadows the vocals on the next verse. He has that issue. Sometimes at the mic, he’s a mush-mouth. He needs to enunciate. All those fantastic words get lost on so many people. I’ve heard the albums, I know how the lyrics go.

They repeat the end of the verse, ‘time to exercise’ and Ash’s solos out with a chorused, sustained sound as both Haskins and J. wind the track down until Haskins is left keeping that same single note bass drum beat into the next song by changing up the single notes to double notes, as if to mimic the keyboard beats for the next track…

“Lions” is an amazing song, the recording any way. Ash and some friends yell ‘whoa’ to start a decent version of the song. As always, they need to turn Ash’s guitar down in the mix. J. is playing bass notes on the synth that are more full than his bass guitar.

Ash’s voice is right up front in this mix. So the song flows well into the second chorus. When Ash adds the harmonics guitar part with the vocals, the mix is good. Maybe they just needed to iron things out. One of the many joys of live recording… They build down on the verse and those double notes.

I am somewhat new to “The Never Never (Is Forever)”. I got it on Everything right before the Pony POPTONE gig, they played it there as well. I like it! Cymbals introduce the song with a delayed vocal, bass and drums with the vocals surrounding you. The song stops after verse one and the guitar comes in to feature up the song. Ash turns the guitar down and the vocals cut through the mix. He must have heard what was going on.

The song really starts to slither at the first bridge. They add delays to the vocal and everything is salacious at that point. The song rebuilds similar to the intro into the second verse. But Ash extends the building chords with delays repeating on a distorted guitar that devolves into notes. He is the horror-sonic king.

He cuts the guitar off for another bridge section. Now it is sounding like the bass is being brought up in the mix. But the song ends on a vocal delay.

The audience quiets down for a speedy version of “Happiness”. It sounds like Ash is playing the bass and J. is contributing drum accents on floor tom. With the bass back in the mix and the keys brought in, and Haskins bass drum brought up in the mix, now we got us a show! When Ash sings the next verse over the keys, he sounds young and swarthy! The keys are the meat of this song. Ash and J. split harmonies on the ‘doot doot doot doot doo doo’ section, as the track ends with a super tight flourish!

Now we’re cooking!

Now live, this next track, “Movement Of Fear”, is a tricky number. Ash fucked himself on this one. The bass IS the song. It’s the rhythm, it’s the melody outside the sax solo and the vocal melody. On the recording, there is an essential sax part, that is backed by an essential tremolo guitar part, chords. How’s he gonna pull this off? Let’s listen!

First, Ash verbally tells the audience, ‘I’m going to bring you down now’. Nothing less from the king of Goth-shlock. You can hear someone in the audience say ‘we’re already down’. Ahhh, Goth living…

The sax of the King of Goth. Photo by Lynn Vala

J. finally starts the track. Ash tells everyone to turn into a bat, and whips out the sax. No drums, save for the occasional brush sound accent. Sorry Daniel, but your vocals sound, too, dare I say it, happy??? WTF??? Haskins really delivers on the accent after the title utterance. Ash’s sax is chorused to a tremolo as Haskins gets more involved for the next verse. Adding a woodblock sound to bring the song together. Ash brings in the tremolo guitar towards the chorus bridge. Haskins adds tuned cowbells or ago-gos. Ash belabors the last chord.

Among the screaming drunkards, someone is getting a talking to about the heat, and sweating. Mmmm, juicy!

Ash finally begins “Slice Of Life” with the arpeggiated guitar. Haskins adds some high hat in the first verse. Can you guess these guys are minimalist? The band have started the song, but the people aren’t taking it seriously. The song takes better form in the second verse. The second verse leads to a pumped up change chorus, the ‘slice of life’ break. They repeat the opening structure but the song has taken better shape this time around.

They go into another verse after the chorus guitar break. They hit hold notes tightly into the ‘slice of life’ break and that repeats with vocals into another ‘slice of life’ bridge. They end the song after a couple of chord-down patterns, Ash proclaims after the song ends, ‘Straight away’!

Ash interacts with the crowd. Photo by Lynn Vala

But the guitar feeds back into the opening for the peppy track, “Go”. Bass needs to be turned up, but at this point…  Ash’s vocals get lost in the mix. J. and Haskins are tight and jamming! This is a really good version. For the second verse Ash pushes his voice into a higher register and with more power! Haskins adds the essential cowbell melody. The vocal performance on this is stunning! Here’s your money right here! Ash is trashing his voice at this stage. They end the song rather unceremoniously.

The rhythm track is simply thumping on this electrifying take of the classic, “There’s Only One”. Ash’s guitar is flying for this track, and Haskins is working over the high hats. This track is busting out and Ash hasn’t even started the vocals yet! When he does, its like a kick in the head! A really good fix on the mix, with Ash’s voice delayed nicely. It’s not a muddy mess.

For a change.

They are tight for the modulation and back. They have rehearsed this track and it shows. WOW! Ash levies off a space-solo that is literally out of this world, only to fall back into the structure tight as hell. The vocal break down, tight as hell. When they all rejoin, tight as hell. The energy is amazing on this track. If you buy this disc, it is worth Ash’s antics on stage, and for the performance quality.

And just when I think it can’t get any better, Ash starts chirping with feedback and they break into the opening structure, to end it on Ash’s scream of ‘one’ delaying into the haze. A quick fade down of crowd and guitar noise and we’re out.

Yes, I said this disc is a purchase. It’s raw, the mix is funky, but admit it; if you are a Tones On Tail, Daniel Ash, Bauhus collector/completist, you want this disc. And like most of our Off The Record series will be, it was supplied to us by our good friends at where you can order this and other selections by Tones On Tail, Bauhaus, all those good bands and more. Tell them Jeff Boule sent you. It won’t make a difference, but tell them anyway.


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