The snapshot quality in the b&w cover photo of Long Time Gone
/To Beat Or Not To Beat
by Paul Collins' Beat is hardly a visual corollary to the immediacy of the music. Nor does it correspond to the clarity in the prose the bandleader composed for the CD combining these two EP's recorded in the early to mid-eighties; in fact, the visceral impact of his writing on both fronts is comparable to the passion Collins displays in leading his his band as they play and sing on all ten pieces here.
A member of proto-punk Los Angeles band, The Nerves (with Jack Lee
, iconoclastic author of Blondie's hit "Hangin' on the Telephone" and Peter Case
, leader of The Plimsouls
and later in his career the arguable father of Americana as we know it), that indefatigable soul that is Paul Collins kept writing, playing, recording and performing his version of rebel music long after he had to acquiesce to the English Beat on the name of his band. The guitarist/composer currently continues his quest to create rock and roll as combination of blueprint for life and mirror of it, even though anywhere but the U. S.Europe and Japan primarily, with his residence in Spainturns out to be the only place he can survive at it.
But, no matter. Because the tunes and the musicianship conjure up a world of their own, even when a bit derivative as is "Burning Desire," a music-loving listener with just a a smattering of Collins' courage can make his or her way in his tough but tender songs. Wittily combined on this single compact disc as 'Side 1' and 'Side 2,' Long Time Gone
and To Beat or Not to Beat
, released in 1983 and 1985 respectively, complement each other in such a way the work in sum echoes and reaffirms the continuity within Paul's career as a whole, including but hardly limited to the aptly titled Feel the Noise
(Alive Naturalsound, 2014). Tuneful as are cuts like "Broken Hearted," chiming guitar figures are the hooks here, over which Collins and bassist Steven Huff harmonize in a full-throated glee that totally belies the title refrain.
This is one of those collections on which, during a cursory listen, every track sounds the same. Yet repeated hearing reveals how, on this title tune, Paul Collins turns this potential drawback into a virtue: he is so deeply committed to this music, literally via "Always Got You On My Mind," it's not possible for him to sound jaded. Clearly, the writing playing and recording is its own intrinsic reward. And, furthermore, knowing full well of fakers and poseurs of the late Seventies and Eighties who (shall go nameless) reaped rewards from co-opting the punk/New Wave style for the sake of fad and fashion , there's no other course to take except to call a halt to a life's vocation.
But even "Find Somebody Else" posits the author as ever the eternal optimist and, perhaps not coincidentally in the least, the eternal youth. Recorded in the rush of confidence and limited finances as described in the liner notes, this DIY mono sound is the naturally rough-hewn quality high-tech of today aims to replicate. Yet the simplicity of the arrangements on a track like the doleful "Standing In The Rain" is such all the instruments and voices come through clearly and in proper proportion to each other.
So when the band rushes forward through "All Over the World," alternately lifted by Jim Barber's guitar and driven by Paul Bultitude's drums, it's as if Collins and company are carried on the presumption that what they're doing is, in fact, being heard and felt globally. Truthfully, given the timeline of these original recordings, this combination release and the longevity of Paul Collins and his fans in 'The Beat Army' community on social media, who's to argue?