Danielle Dax ‎– Dark Adapted Eye

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Cat# Artist Title (Format) Label Cat# Country Year
1-25818, 9 25818-1 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(LP, Comp) Sire, Sire 1-25818, 9 25818-1 US 1988 Sell This Version
9 25818-2 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp) Sire 9 25818-2 US 1988 Sell This Version
W2 25818 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp, Club) Sire W2 25818 US 1988 Sell This Version
92 58184 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(Cass, Comp) Sire 92 58184 Canada 1988 Sell This Version
9 25818-4, 4-25818 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(Cass, Comp, AR,) Sire, Sire 9 25818-4, 4-25818 US 1988 Sell This Version
92 58181 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(LP, Comp) Sire 92 58181 Canada 1988 Sell This Version
MRCD 3143 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp) Mega Records MRCD 3143 Denmark 1989 Sell This Version
RTD CD 112 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp) Rough Trade Germany RTD CD 112 Germany 1989 Sell This Version
RTD 112, RTD112 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(LP, Comp) Rough Trade, Rough Trade RTD 112, RTD112 Germany 1989 Sell This Version
MRLP 3143, 08-024775-1 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(LP, Comp) Mega Records MRLP 3143, 08-024775-1 Netherlands 1989 Sell This Version
NOT5018 Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp, RE) Noble Rot NOT5018 US 2008 Sell This Version
RUBY07CD Danielle Dax Dark Adapted Eye(CD, Comp, RE, RM) Rubellan Remasters RUBY07CD US 2019 Sell This Version

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IanPhillips1979

IanPhillips1979

May 9, 2016
referencing Dark Adapted Eye, CD, Comp, RE, NOT5018

While her albums had largely been experimental affairs, by 1987 Danielle Dax began making more accessible music - not necessarily commercial, but certainly records that really SHOULD have cracked the mainstream. Following her excellent 'Inky Bloaters' album, which again scored hot reviews from the music press (yet commercial stations like Radio 1, which could really make or break a record in terms of commercial success, continued to shun her apart from the odd late-night airings by more open-minded DJs) and another of her concerts being televised (this time in Japan), she unexpectedly signed to major record label, Sire, in 1988, after years of recording independently. The subject of this review, 'Dark Adapted Eye', was a compilation released to help break her through in America. Although not gaining widespread commerical recognition, she again amassed a cult following in the States through this release. In effect, it contains every track featured on her third solo album 'Inky Bloaters' (1987) bar 'Born To Be Bad' and a selection of offerings from her earlier experimental solo work.

Kicking off proceedings with a bang is her stomping underground club hit from 1988, 'Cathouse'. Set to a blistering, urgent beat, the track has psychedelic flourishes throughout, while the risque lyrics are riddled with sexual innuendo: "I'm gonna polish up your chrome and shine your treasure." Whatever could she mean??? Lol. Known for her wide vocal range, Dax sings in her medium range, her sexually-charged voice pouring with conviction and attitude. While 'Cathouse' became a huge underground hit and flew high on the independent charts (the UK Indie Singles Chart being one of them, where it embraced the top ten), it failed to crossover to the mainstream, possibly due to the commercial radio station's reluctance to play it because of its blatant sexual nature. Even so, it's still fondly remembered by those that were aware of it and is now something of a forgotten (and sadly overlooked) classic.

'Big Hollow Man' was another international underground club hit, yet got nowhere near the UK top forty. Packing a big punch like its predecessor, the lyrics may have been seen as less than conventional at the time by commercial radio, centered around organised religion and all its hypocrisies. Yet the arrangement is smacked with commercial potential, bearing such immediacy and carrying another sizzling beat. Dax fluctuates her vocals accordingly, beginning in high pitch that sounds a little like Cyndi Lauper, to her lower range where her vocals sound menacing, sarcastic and cynical. Such a pity this song wasn't a mainstream hit as it most certainly deserved to be.

The hard-hitting 'White Knuckle Ride' contains a thrashing indie-rock arrangement, and is a song based on the horrific Charles Manson murders. Released as a single in the UK, it swiftly topped the Indie Singles Chart yet got nowhere near the pop chart. She was far from a conventional recording artist and perhaps this was a factor in why songs like 'White Knuckle Ride' didn't crack the mainstream. Bizarrely, Sire Records' gimmicky promotional adverts hailed her as the British version of Madonna (Madonna was also signed to Sire) which was really an inaccurate description to say the least.

Things slow down on the more intricate ballad 'When I Was Young', bearing an acoustic-led arrangement and Dax showing her more sensitive side in a song about the simple pleasures of childhood. 'Yummer Yummer Man' was her first solo single, released back in 1985, which had been featured on 'Inky Bloaters' and boasts a quirky arrangement to say the least, entwining elements of punk, rock and indie rolled into one. 'Fizzing Human Bomb' hosts a gothic-like arrangement, with an impressive bongo solo and echoes of Arabic sounds dropped neatly into the mix, while the lyrics depict a woman's sexual repression!
'Whistling For His Love' is easily the most pop-flavoured and radio-friendly numbers in her entire catalogue. With a more universal theme, the track is sharp and punchy while Dax sounds at her most accessible vocally, proving she definitely had a knack for making good, credible pop music although it was a path she didn't want to venture down too much. This song was for the masses and if there was a case for her being the British equivalent of Madonna, this was most definitely it.

'Flashback' holds a sparse, yet nifty arrangement which packs a good punch and Dax singing in her lower range, while there is a neat injection of twangy country music set to a disco beat creeping in on 'Inky Bloaters', which is also the case with her sneering ode to Margaret Thatcher on 'Bad Miss M' (who, at the time of Dax recording, was the UK's Prime Minister). The lyrics could be described as controversial, depending on your view, with lines such as : We'll all have a party when you are gone/Spit on your grave and sing a song. These songs certainly show what an eclectic flair she has.

'Brimstone In A Barren Land' speaks of the devastating effects of post-nuclear war, which is wrapped in a trippy yet slick arrangement which lands somewhere between soul and indie and holds many ethereal sound effects weaving sporadically in and out of the mix. A slithery beat is highlighted by some stunning guitar work. 'Touch Piggy's Eyes' makes a good dance song, some wonderful harmonica interludes featured on the chorus, while 'House Cat' is an off-beat house music instrumental, which once again plays host to Middle Eastern sounds.

At this point the compilation delves further back into her earlier experimental work: 'Bed Caves', from her critically-lauded solo debut 'Pop Eyes', begins with four pulses before bursting into urgent, tribal-pounding drums. A fuzzy guitar kicks in, and across the layered arrangement which also includes a rumbling keyboard, she sings in a high soprano in the style of an Indian pop star. The same words are repeated over again: Today is not the same as before/Starting with a clean slate/Promises of a new reward, punctuated by a tinking xylophone. Utterly beguiling and though these lyrics sound full of optimism, there is just something under the surface that makes you think that all is not as it seems. There's a sinister air that lingers throughout the track and Dax sounds gleeful yet at the same time cynical and detached.

'Sleep Has No Property' sounds like it could have easily been from her second album 'Jesus Egg That Wept', as it was recorded around the time of its release, but had been added to her 'Inky Bloaters' album. A song about insomnia, tinkling electronics coat the adventurous arrangement which carries more Middle Eastern sounds. The swampy tribal stomp is from of Hammerheads is an earlier track, lifted from 'Jesus Egg That Wept', and is industrial music at its best and it was this song that she performed on Channel 4's 'The Tube' back in 1984.

'Pariah' is simply outstanding and one of her very, very best recordings. Another recording from 'Jesus Egg That Wept', 'Pariah' opens with a tidal wave of electric keyboards and captures a compelling vocal performance, which sways from high and soprano-like to a low, almost menacing sound. Depicting a disturbing tale of female immigrants used as prostitutes and slaves, lots of flutes and electronic sounds swirl around Dax's sombre vocal (well, given the subject matter, you could hardly expect it to be anything else). Dax truly gets to show what an incredible vocal range she has and here it's at its most mesmerising.

Winding things down are 'Where The Flies Are', which captures a startling and compelling fusion of Indian sounds mixed with a pop flavour, and the dark 'Funtime' is rich in percussion and sounds like its set in a desert - a song that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Quentin Tarintino flick 'From Dusk Till Dawn'. Bold, atmospheric and inventive, this is makes a perfect ending to this well-rounded compilation.

Yes, this music is strange and unearthly, and is often labelled "arty", but it was something new and fresh and Dax was way ahead of her time. Following this compilation, she released one major label studio project 'Blast The Human Flower' in 1990, which was again well-received but didn't do much in the commercial world. Sadly a debilitating illness resulted in her not being able to fulfill her contractual obligation to produce another album for Sire Records, and she was eventually dropped from the label. She re-surfaced in 1995 with an EP of experimental music, 'Timber Tongue', which saw her career come full circle. The same year she retired from the music scene once and for all, marking this with a compilation which she tellingly titled 'Comatose Non Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax'. A crying shame. Since then she's worked in interior design and was awarded the Designer of the Year Award by the BBC after taking part in the interior design show Homefront. She now concentrates on her art work in addition to interior design and has confirmed that she (sadly) has no plans to return to the music scene. However, when a short list of innovative, cutting-edge underground music artists of the 80s is drawn up, you can be sure Danielle Dax will be near the top! I live in hope that one day her music will be re-discovered on a wider level as she has been cited by many artists as having been a major influence, including Goldfrapp and Scissor Sisters. A unique, multi-talented genius!

Ian Phillips