No Sense of Sin (Expanded Edition)
The Lotus Eaters
Cherry Red Records
My long and winding musical journey was stopped dead in its track 35 years ago this month. That was when I stumbled upon a brand new album called NO SENSE OF SIN by a band that went by the name of The Lotus Eaters. Since this album was unavailable in the U.S., I stumbled across it in the ‘imports’ bin at a local record shop. I had seen their name somewhere before – NME? Melody Maker? Smash Hits? – but had never heard a note by them.
I had my record shopping money in my pocket and the higher import price meant that I could either choose this album or buy two domestic new releases or a small stack of used albums. Being a music fanatic always in search of something new, I plunked the wadded up bills on the counter and walked out with The Lotus Eaters cradled under my arm.
I was 21 years old and should have been plotting my future. Instead, I was feeding my soul with music. Years of being a kind but massively insecure kid meant that I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends at the time. So, what did I do? I found solace in my record collection. Every album meant something to me. From my junior high school days up through high school graduation, every heartbreak was mended by music. And yes, that is still true today.
Anyway, let’s get back to this album…
Suddenly, I found myself in 1984, still insecure and still taking in as much music as possible. Adults really shouldn’t behave the way I did… but alas, I still felt like a teenager looking for a thrill. Thankfully, instead of drugs and alcohol, I chose music. I’d buy things I’d never heard of just by digging the cover of the album, the label, the producer, whatever. Sometimes, I’d find a dud, but my success rate was around 85%, which isn’t bad when it came to buying an album I’d never heard before. All of that music still occupies a great deal of real estate in my heart.
I bought NO SENSE OF SIN because much of it was produced by Bob Sargeant, who had twiddled the knobs for Haircut 100, The English Beat, and others. Nigel Gray was listed as a producer as well – he had produced the first three albums by The Police plus Sixouxsie & The Banshees, Godley & Crème, etc. With that kind of production power, I told myself that this was going to be a corker of an album. But then I heard it…
The Lotus Eaters, as it turned out, was a Liverpudlian duo comprised of Peter Coyle on vocals and Jem Kelly (The Wild Swans) on guitar. There was a third official member of The Lotus Eaters – Gerard Quinn – but he departed before the release of the album. Apart from Coyle, Kelly, and Quinn, the band also featured Michael Dempsey, formerly of The Cure, on bass. With all this talent, how could The Lotus Eaters be anything less than ‘really good’, right?
NO SENSE OF SIN was unlike anything I’d heard before. It was very commercial and filled with lovely melodies but the vocals, the arrangements – everything was completely unique. A music review is supposed to clue the reader in to what the band sounds like… but this is an album that defied categorization. It was ethereal yet completely grounded. It jangled but didn’t necessarily ‘rock.’ It was soft and tender without being maudlin. It wasn’t Synthpop, but it did use synths. It took Pop into unique places. Most importantly, it was hopeful and life-affirming. It was an album that embraced joy and heartache in equal measures. Listening to the album was like falling in love. There was so much depth to Coyle’s lyrics, which were equally matched by the music that Jem and Gerard provided. Songs like “Love Still Flows,” “Out On Your Own,” and their signature song, “The First Picture Of You,” sounded like music created by angels and then filtered through this talented lot from Liverpool.
This was Pop music of a different kind. Containing elements of Folk, Jangle, and Electronic music, it was something much bigger than the sum of its parts. Some of the production polish does date the album a bit but since the songs are not of this earth, it is still a fresh listen three and a half decades later.
The Lotus Eaters created art from the heart… for the heart! They were unpretentious, they were honest, and they are still fondly remembered all over the world for the music they created. Oddly enough, NO SENSE OF SIN was not released in the U.S. even though they were signed to Arista Records. Shame on Clive Davis!
Cherry Red Records has reissued the album on CD featuring bonus material that include non-album tracks plus the fab post-album single “It Hurts.” The band, sadly, split before they could record a sophomore album.
Thankfully, Peter and Jem have reunited a few times, releasing the excellent SILENTSPACE album in 2002 and a 2010 acoustic album entitled DIFFERANCE that remains elusive to this longtime fan. There was a release scheduled by Jem and Peter a few years ago but the duo shelved it and went their separate ways again. One can only hope that they create magic together at least one more time. Until then, we have the memories!
(Note: This expanded CD is not a new release. This review was written to honor the 35th Anniversary of the original release of the album)