Should the World Fail to Fall Apart finds Murphy not entirely moving away from the entanglements of his former group, elaborating on the musical styles explored in Dalis Car. The musical stylings of his debut were problematic for me on its original release, enamored as I was of Bauhaus. Still, over the years, it has grown to become one of my personal favorites of his solo works despite it often being deemed one of his less worthy offerings. The album is reminiscent of a transition period, but the reissue is a reminder of his brilliance.
On his debut, Murphy continues to take cues from the romantics through passionate vocal delivery, lyrics, and melody, toning down the Bowie influence but maintaining a dramatic delivery. While he would gain a wider solo audience with Love Hysteria and Deep, it's astounding a man not yet out of his twenties seems a wiser and more practiced fifties, further supported by a fantastic cast of musicians. Guitar work from former bandmate Daniel Ash, Turkish fretless master Erkan Oƒüur, and co-producer Howard Hughes bring strength to the tracks, with Magazine's own John McGeoch providing guitar on Murphy's inspired cover of "The Light Pours Out of Me," with the interpretation of Pere Ubu's "Final Solution" only somewhat less inspired. A driving bassline from Eddie Branch is the central force behind "Blue Heart." Former bandmate Daniel Ash provides indeed "manic" guitar on "The Answer is Clear" over tribal drum programming and sweeping orchestral arrangements.
Yet, it is the Murphy-penned tracks that reveal him as a maturing songwriter. He touches on his aging in "Confessions" and the pitfalls inherent in using one's image to sell music. "Lyrics sung from pretty looks / Can on the reader feed / Be strong to check and recognize / The pretty face is all / But being used to sell you songs / That never say it all." "God Sends" is more than a memorable melody, encouraging the listener to stop looking for a "superstar" outside of oneself and find the one within. "Tell my friends they're all potential / They're all potential Godsends." "Jemal" is based on a traditional du'a (prayer) in Islam that seeks peace for all things, backed by gorgeous piano. Turkish lyrics "Nefret olan yere sevgi, yaralanma olan yere affedicilik / Ku≈üku olan yere inan√ß, √ºmitsizlik olan yere √ºmit" translate to "Love where there is hate, forgiveness where there is injury / Faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair," echoing the Sufi tradition of contradiction in prayer.
Murphy doesn't discard his past entirely but cleverly reminds listeners that new beginnings are afoot. He has long been a wordsmith, crafting stories amongst a poetic backdrop. The album's title track provides a circuitous path between lack of sleep, smoking ruins, and never men: "Can't hear for lack of sleep / Breathing in the smoking ruins / The rockets in the shadows whispering / Singing in the underground / Love and the never men / Can't hear for lack of sleep." The track immediately following, "Never Man," maintains some of his musical past with its ominous melody and background of haunting vocals, tieing the never man back to the preceding track and smoking ruins, continuing a story for the listener to untangle. "The love of the Never man / Can't breathe for smoking ruins / Third eye glimpses a second thought / Is blocked and returns / Can't breath for smoking ruins / Contains a story he / Never being heard / When better days will mean / Can't breath for smoking ruins Love of the Never man / Jumps through the blackest heat."
This reissue offers no new tracks, choosing instead to align to the original release. A good turntable and stereo system will showcase the lush production of John Fryer (This Mortal Coil) pressed to blue vinyl. While this release may not be a universal fan favorite, it displays the talent from which Murphy came and the creativity he would continue to evolve.
Many thanks to my friend and uberfan Chris Mason for assistance.