Destiny Stopped Screaming. The Life and Times of Adrian Borland, Simon Heavisides (499pp, Stichting Opposite Direction)

There will always be second tier bands, bands who are – especially to their fans – as good as if not better than others who make it big, bands who struggle to achieve success, have the wrong image, the wrong music at the wrong time, or don’t know the right people.

For me The Sound, are one such band, along with Dub Sex, Doll by Doll, Fischer Z,  Punishment of Luxury, Random Hold, The Passage, Spherical Objects and Eyeless in Gaza. All with a great live presence and some albums that have endured the test of time, indeed even attained a kind of cult status for music obsessives, along with reissues and compilations. However, I don’t worry about the fact the general public, or even my mates, don’t share my musical enthusiasm; nor do I constantly obsess about their music.

Simon Heavisides, however, is an obsessive, a fan who seems to take it personally that The Sound, and especially their front man Adrian Borland, weren’t massive, and that people weren’t and aren’t listening. To the point where he has written this sprawling and longwinded biography, which is mostly an emotional paean to the person he regards as a musical and lyrical genius.

It’s an unsubstantiated and uncritical work that also suffers from various problems with formatting and inconsistency of style, a zealous (mis)use of both double and single quote marks, and a plethora of brief paragraphs, some of which break off only to reappear later on the page. It’s a bit of a mess production-wise and content-wise.

Heavisides has little critical material to work with. I have no idea if there is more out there, quite possibly not, but he returns to the same few sources over and over again, and otherwise relies on his own opinion and conjecture. Nowhere, of course, does the book claim to be academic or critical (which is fortunate, as it is neither), but biographies are strange beasts anyway and this one does not help the genre.

Whatever Borland or any other songwriter says about being true to themselves, only singing what they mean, how their songs are heartfelt, listeners will not be able to tell that. Lyrics, like most written genres, are full of stories, characters and fiction; I don’t expect H.G. Wells or Ray Bradbury to have gone to Mars, so why would I expect Borland and The Sound to be sharing their emotional and psychic secrets with us?

I don’t. There is a reason academia distrusts authors when they speak about their own work, and instead turn to audience theory, critical deconstruction and close reading, focussing on the text, not any ideals or motivation behind it. Knowing that an author was miserable when writing their poem or song does not necessarily mean the work was informed by that misery, there is no automatic cause and effect. What we can do is read, or in this case listen to The Sound’s albums.

Heavisides, of course, does write about each and every song, often briefly, always in adoring and reverential tone, never offering anything new or interesting to what we can hear. He starts from his love of the band and simply works with that, constantly returning to how brilliant the band were and how they should have been massive, especially in contrast to the likes of U2 and Echo & the Bunnymen, who he mentions almost as much as reviewers and critics did at the time.

Truth be told, it’s not a bad comparison, and early on The Sound could quite comfortably be put alongside those two groups. Both of those, of course, made excellent albums before moving on to fame, fortune and stadium rock. The Sound however, didn’t: if you play Jeopardy (1980), their first album back to back with Thunder Up (1987), their seventh if you count a live release, it is clearly the same band singing very similar songs with a very similar sound and attitude. There may have been personal and musical development, but it hasn’t changed anything musically or lyrically.

Not that I’m suggesting they should have gone disco or pop, just that there’s little sense of aspiration, and certainly nothing new for any press officers or record companies to work with to convince a disinterested music industry. What is blurbed as ‘creative passion’ and ‘inner demons’ on the back cover have never been enough to make great music, although they have formed the basis of much bullshit publicity and pretentious music writing.

Thankfully, at the time, The Sound, or indeed Adrian Borland himself, did not market the music they produced as the product of depression or alcohol abuse and addiction, instead concentrating on writing, recording and playing live, which is possibly where they excelled. But Heavisides fails to convince me that either his book, or indeed the music of The Sound and Adrian Borland’s lyrics are what the blurb excitedly calls ‘a journey through the complexities of the human soul’.

There are too many maybes in this book, too many unconnected dots, too much fan worship and adulation, too many assumptions about how life and art interconnect, too much reliance on the idea of neglected genius with mental health issues. This book is way too long, way too uncritical and will not encourage anyone who doesn’t know the music to listen to it. The Sound weren’t the best band in the world, but they deserve better than this self-satisfied, badly written and poorly researched offering.


Rupert Loydell




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