Review: Department S - Is Vic There? CD
In the future, every band will have their 15 minutes of website. There are two cd collections of Department S tunes, the longer one with live tracks called Sub-Stance. Mine is this one - Is Vic There? The band history is worth reading as an example of the spirit of the day - especially the spirit of Stiff Records. Here's a good post-mortem interview with guitarist Mike Herbage. I'd take the swindle aspects of their tale with a shaker of salt because everyone's filled to the hat-line with poo.
Department S are best known for their 1980 single "Is Vic There?", but I remember 1981's "Going Left Right" being just as popular were I was standing. Hearing this collection it's obvious they did most things right but did drift into the shallower end of the new wave pool, culminating with band members wanting to copy ABC. They cut their loses just in time. Is Vic There? collects the 12 tracks from the recorded but non-released album Sub-Stance and adds single b-sides. The album tracks start with post-punk new wave and drifts into funky dance numbers. The best songs are front-loaded but the last two tracks are solid. The b-sides go left right too.
At their best you can compare them to The Teardrop Explodes, The Psychedelic Furs and Wall Of Voodoo. Herbage's guitar is killer but I still prefer WOV's Marc Moreland. At their weakest they're Haircut 100, Duran Duran and Bow Wow Wow. As a low-point they blow disco whistles on "Somewhere Between Heaven And Tesco's".
Department S deserve more recognition than they probably get and for fans of post-punk new wave I highly recommend this. The keeper tracks are fairly mandatory.