Sunday, November 16, 2008

Witnessing An Expression With Closed Eyes

The Australian band The Expression may never have scored a blockbuster hit single on the charts but in 1983 they backed their single ‘With Closed Eyes’ with a promotional video worthy of some of the great Hollywood epics in terms of its cinematic scope and emotional resonance. On the strength of the song itself, not to mention the sheer brilliance of the music video, The Expression should have scored not just an Australian top 10 hit, but made an impact overseas as well. But perhaps where they fell down was putting all their eggs in the one basket, with a dearth of high quality material to consolidate their early gains.

The Expression formed ranks in Sydney during 1981, but three of its members hailed previously from Western Australia. Tom Haran (vocals), Neville Dowling (keyboards, ex-Dave Warner Band), and Andrew Wong-Yen (guitar) had all played in the Perth band Visitor during the late 70s. By 1981 the trio had relocated to Sydney and formed The Expression, along with Stephen Manassah (bass) and Steve Hopes (drums). They quickly established themselves on the thriving Sydney live circuit, with a cutting edge brand of ‘new wave’ pop, combining sharp guitar riffs and haunting synthesizer melodies, topped off my Tom Haran’s unique vocal style. It was the early 80s and a slickly produced brand of pop-rock was in order if a band/artist wanted to break into the charts, and it’s not like there weren’t a throng of up and coming bands all jostling for record deals and chart action (think Eurogliders, Real Life, Machinations - see earlier posts). To stand out from the crowd would require something special.

Mushroom Records signed The Expression to a recording deal during 1982 and the band set about working on their debut album. The lead out single was the aforementioned ‘With Closed Eyes’. I can recall seeing the video on Countdown but I hadn’t really begun my 45’s buying odyssey, so initially had to make do with a copy of the song I recorded off the radio (no download options in those days). ‘With Closed Eyes’ hit the Australian charts in March of ‘83 and went on to peak at a very respectable #27 nationally (#18 in Melbourne). The band’s self titled album (#55), produced by Charles Fisher (worked with Moving Pictures - see earlier post) hit the stores later in 1983, and yielded two more singles in ‘Decisions’ (OZ#91) and ‘Total Eclipse’ (OZ#65 - #26 Melbourne), but a major hit continued to elude The Expression. During this period drummer Steve Hopes had been replaced by Guy Slingerland (ex-Renee Geyer Band), and soon after the live line-up of the band splintered, leaving the future of The Expression up in the air.

Vocalist Tom Haran and keyboardist Neville Dowling opted to continue to work under The Expression banner, and recruited several English based session players, including drummer Gary Burke and bassist Steve Greetham, to record material for a second album. In March ‘84 a new single ‘Present Communication’ was released but fell by the wayside quickly. A period of almost fifteen months elapsed before the next single from The Expression saw the light of day. ‘Small Brave Land’ was released in July ‘85 and was quickly followed by The Expression’s sophomore album ‘Conscience’, but neither managed to secure a new audience or even retain the band’s previous fan base to any great degree. Haran and Dowling recruited a new stage line-up but by late ‘85 the ever evolving contemporary music scene had left The Expression behind, and soon thereafter the band call it day. The Expression are one of those artists that represent a lost gem of the era that was the 80s, never quite fulfilling their promise and leaving us with the thought of ‘if only’.

In 2006 The Expression’s two original albums were finally released on CD. That was followed in 2007 by an album of previously unreleased live/demo material, with a bonus DVD which featured all five of the band’s music videos, including the extraordinary ‘With Closed Eyes’. If you'd like to hear one of the best Australian band's of the early/mid 80s, you can still purchase these CDs at Almacantar Records - (you'll find a few more Aussie gems there too) - many thanks to Andrew Wong Yen for the info.

Prepare to witness one of the best music videos produced during the 1980s as The Expression close their eyes to look into the sun:


Andrew Wong Yen said...

The Expression Albums are still available to purchase on CD from -

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Many thanks for the information Andrew. Have updated my post with those details.
Cheers :)

Sleepdriver said...

Hi Andrew, I was wondering which albums or singles were released by Visitor in the 70s and if there is a place to get'em...
cheers from Rome

A. FlockOfSeagulls AKA Rhys Jones said...

Hi Sleepdriver,
I'm not sure Andrew Wong Yen will check in to my site again to respond to your comment. But in response to your query, have you tried contacting the website that Andrew mentioned in his comment - Almacantar Records. Not sure if they're directly affiliated with The Expression or Visitor, but they might be able to point you in the right direction.

Andrew Wong Yen said...

Hi Sleepdriver - unfortunately Visitor never recorded any studio quality music - just some demos and live recordings through the front of house. I would have loved to record some of the stuff we were doing back then but the opportunity never arose.

Thanks Andrew