The Sound – Unwritten Law

12th March 2023 · 1970s, 1979, Music

One of the great underappreciated bands of the postpunk era, The Sound not only erm, sounded like Joy Division but met a similar fate, with their singer taking his own life.

This atmospheric song, Unwritten Law, came from their debut EP, released in 1979. The title track, Physical World, betrayed another of their formative influences, Echo & The Bunnymen.

So far, so derivative, you might say – but there could be no two better bands at the time upon which to launch a music career. Countless bands (The Editors and The Murder Capital spring immediately to mind) are still at it.

It’s hard to understand just why The Sound failed to find a mass audience despite releasing five well-received and well-reviewed albums of emotional music and relatable lyrics. Perhaps the individuals simply didn’t project enough of an enigmatic personality to capture the interest of the music press.

The Sound formed in South London in 1979 from the ashes of a punk band called The Outsiders, whose 1977 album Calling On Youth was the first self-released British punk LP – four months after Buzzcocks released their Spiral Scratch EP.

They were made up of singer/songwriter and guitarist Adrian Borland, bassist Graham Bailey, drummer Mike Dudley, and multi-instrumentalist Bi Marshall on sax, clarinet and keyboards, with another former Outsider, Adrian Janes, collaborating with Borland on the lyrics.

At the same time, and flying even further under the radar, Borland was working with Bailey on a mostly electronic side project called Second Layer, whose only album, World Of Rubber, is well worth investigating today; the track Fixation stands out.

Moving on from demos recorded at the home of Borland’s father Bob, they signed to the Bunnymen’s label Korova (a subsidiary of WEA) for the release of their superb (but again underappreciated) debut album Jeopardy.

After five albums, and as many labels, they finally broke up in the late 80s.

Borland, who had always struggled with mental illness, remained prolific – and underappreciated – for another decade with new projects Honolulu Mountain Daffodils (as ‘Joachim Pimento’) and White Rose Transmission, until he took his life at Wimbledon Station in 1999.