Graded on a Curve:
The Searchers,
Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979–1981

Far too frequently, when pop acts and rock bands attempt comebacks, the results register as disappointing. By extension, sometimes even good examples benefit from diminished expectations. This is not the case with The Searchers’ unexpected return to studio activity, the fruits of which are collected on Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981. Utterly avoiding nostalgia without straining for the new, they simply tapped into the period’s melodic-rock upsurge, and the albums’ meager commercial fortunes remain something of a stumper. No matter; they’ve aged quite well, and they’re out on 2CD with bonus cuts December 8 through Omnivore Recordings.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; Rhino’s DIY compilation series, which emerged in one nine-volume splat back in 1993, delivered a consistently killer ride, and the four pop entries (two each for the US and UK) additionally served as an education for ears that’d missed out on much of the melodic action situated between ’75 and ’83. For one example, Starry Eyes – UK Pop II (1978-79) included the Yachts, Joe Jackson, Bram Tchaikovsky, Mo-Dettes, and naturally, The Records (as their classic titled the set) along with an intriguing track by The Searchers.

While familiar with and quite fond of the band’s ’60s material for the Pye label (released by Kapp in the US), I initially thought this was some other Searchers, as there isn’t another ’60s-era outfit on any of the DIY discs. Discarding the shrink wrap clarified matters, and listening to “Hearts in Her Eyes,” which opened the band’s ’79 LP The Searchers (just Searchers in the UK) drove home the wisdom of their inclusion, as they mingled with a younger generation without a snag (the song was written by The Records’ Will Birch and John Wicks) and sounded not at all like a dusted-off, reanimated relic.

Fact is, The Searchers never quit. Instead, after numerous attempts to put platters into the racks faltered post-’60s heyday, they just set their sights on the cabaret circuit, which, if far from glamourous, was preferable to desperately jumping onto a series of stylistic bandwagons in hopes of regaining lost success. That they didn’t soil their public image by going psych or hard rock or glam surely helped stoke Seymour Stein’s interest in getting them back into the studio.

But as noted in Scott Schinder’s liners for Another Night, Stein did want a contemporarily pertinent Searchers, though his desire entailed no drastic revamping; historically, the group had always been reliant on outside material, and for the Sire LPs they happened to be largely choosing songs by writers in bands that were to varying degrees impacted by The Searchers’ precedent.

“Hearts in Her Eyes” is loaded with energy, chiming guitars and vocal harmonies; in short, it’s a power pop gem. Sensibly, it was released as a single, but as noted above, it didn’t sell. Taking it down a notch is a solid version of Mickey Jupp’s “Switchboard Susan,” a tune many will recall through its cover by Nick Lowe from the same year, and then “Feeling Fine” kicks the pace right back up again.

From there, band original “This Kind of Love Affair” presents a cozy fit for rock radio playlists circa ’79, if only DJs would’ve played it. Amplifying this circumstance considerably is “Lost in Your Eyes,” a song notable for it’s authorship by Tom Petty (he recorded it with Mudcrutch), though the high school couples slow dance atmosphere ends side one on a decidedly lesser note.

The flip opens with the rocking “It’s too Late” (like “Feeling Fine” penned by John David, an associate of Dave Edmunds going back to Love Sculpture) and then shifts into high gear with the flailing and even pogo suitable “No Dancing.” It’s an album standout, and the anthemic and significantly less fiery “Coming from the Heart” (a Bob Dylan tune) suffers in comparison.

The other Searchers’ original “Don’t Hang On” gets matters back on track, and the riffy “Love’s Gonna Be Strong” delivers an appealing finale. Overall, The Searchers is mostly ups and a couple of downs, which in full-length terms moves them toward the front of the melodic rock class of ’79. Now, this would’ve been achievement enough, but the follow-up album Love’s Melodies (issued as Play for Today in the UK) is even better.

Again, they chose to open with chiming guitars, catchiness and harmony, but “Silver”’s secret weapon is the rhythmic gusto of a veteran band, with this attribute also strengthening the crisp jangle pop of “Infatuation” as a swaggering reading of Moon Martin’s “She’s Made a Fool of You” offers up another should’ve been radio hit. This descriptor could also apply to their version of John Fogerty’s “Another Saturday Night,” in this case due to the splendid guitar.

As on The Searchers, their own material is up to snuff, with “Little Bit of Heaven” loaded with ingredients redolent of the era’s melodic rock happenings without coming off as pastiche. Of course, it was only a matter of time before things took a turn for the balladic, but there’s a rousing quality to “You Are the New Day” (another song by John David) that’s fitting for the end of the side.

A spirited take of the Ducks Deluxe nugget “Love’s Melody” begins the flip’s especially robust run of tunes, leading into a pair of songs borrowed from Will Birch and John Wicks’ pre-Records band the Kursaal Flyers, with “Everything but a Heartbeat” and “Radio Romance” solidifying the power pop bona fides. In fact, side two doesn’t let up at all, as the catchy toughness of “Murder in My Heart” leads into a superb reading of Big Star’s “September Gurls” and another engaging self-penned number “Another Night.”

That tune wrapped up the original LP, but both discs here are padded with bonus tracks. The first has three worthy alternate mixes, but ‘tis the second where the real action is located, offering a boisterous blast of R&B via Chris Kenner’s “Sick an Tired” (which was on Play for Today but not Love’s Melodies), another sturdy band original “Changing” (it was the B-side to the “Love’s Melody” 45) and swell renderings of two songs by John Hiatt, “Back to the War” and “Ambulance Chaser.”

They cap a helluva studio return, the contents well-produced by Pat Moran with Ed Stasium assisting on Love’s Melodies. Don’t know if I concur with some assessments that it’s the best stuff they ever waxed, but it’s certainly close, and it’s a cinch that power pop fans will want these tunes near at hand.

The Searchers
B+

Love’s Melodies
A-

Another Night: The Sire Recordings 1979-1981
A-

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