February 2008

The Only Ones - The Only Ones
CBS/Pure Pleasure Records 82830
Format: LP
Originally released: 1978
Reissue released: 2007

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***

One listen to the Only Ones and it’s easy to figure out why the British band wasn’t a hit in the US. Singer Peter Perrett’s south-London accent was prominent enough in his singing to make Ray Davies sound like he’s from Minneapolis. In addition, Perrett’s lyrics weren’t the stuff of greeting cards. As he sang on "Another Girl, Another Planet," the band’s best-known single, "I always flirt with death / I'll get killed but I don't care about it." In truth, the Only Ones weren’t even a big hit in England. Their most popular LP there reached number 37 on the charts. Yet, the band’s influence went far beyond its sales figures. The Replacements recorded "Another Girl, Another Planet" as a B side, and other songs have been covered by Belle and Sebastian and Blink-182.

Pure Pleasure Records, the vinyl reissue label based in England, has released the Only Ones’ 1978 debut on a 180-gram LP remastered by Ray Staff and Alan Mair -- the latter was the band’s bassist. They do a fine job on tracks like "Breaking Down" and "The Whole of the Law," where subtle instrumental detail enriches the songs. Other tunes, such as "City of Fun" and "Language Problem," were recorded with a fair amount of sonic clutter, appropriate for songs that are more in line with the punk/new wave movement that was gaining momentum at the time. Staff and Mair pull as much detail as they can from those tracks without compromising the music’s edginess.

The Only Ones is all analog, and it has the warm, musical qualities of the medium. The pressing is exemplary -- quiet and wonderfully detailed. Pure Pleasure calls vinyl "the most beautiful music format in the world." They give it the care it deserves.