Finally reissued on vinyl! For their second album, first wave U.K. punks the Outsiders decided to move on from the home-recorded D.I.Y. sound of their first LP and ventured into a proper recording studio for the first time. However, they didn’t use the occasion to slather gloss on their music, and while 1978’s Close Up does sound cleaner, richer, and more precise than 1977’s Calling on Youth, the production is admirably lean and straightforward, and if anything, the arrangements are less tricked up than on the group’s debut, with fewer acoustic guitar overdubs and a sleek, speedier approach that makes room for Adrian Borland’s guitar heroics. By this point in the Outsiders’ career, Borland was reportedly growing tired of the confines of the punk template (he’d break up the band to form the Sound before the year was out), and in many respects, Close Up sounds as much post-punk as punk; there are a few straightforward pogo rockers like “Vital Hours,” “Count for Something,” and “Out of Place,” but the phase-shifted atmospherics and anti-racist lyrics of “White Dept.” point to a more musically ambitious vision, while the slower, blues-infused “Keep the Pain Inside” snubs its nose at punk orthodoxy, and the nervous social commentary of “Semi-Detached Life” and “Conspiracy of War” are short on sloganeering and long on thoughtful observations of an off-kilter world. While Borland was clearly feeling his oats as a soloist, his melodies here are smart, strong, and to the point, while his vocals are effective and free of pretense, and bassist Bob Lawrence and drummer Adrian James are a splendid rhythm section, adding just the right amount of texture and color while driving the songs with authority and no-frills style. Close Up hardly sounds like the work of a band on its last legs; this is powerful, efficient rock & roll that has aged far more gracefully than most of the bands in the U.K. punk class of 1978.

Label: Mad Butcher Records