Lonely Is an Eyesore – Various Artists (1986)

Lonely Is An Eyesore album cover
Lonely Is An Eyesore album cover

The coming of spring and the Easter holiday season is usually not the ideal time for moping about to sad contemplative music. Nevertheless, the music of the 4AD label reminds me of of either Christmas or Easter. Besides being the two times of the year that many people will go to church, the imagery the label conjures up is one of sacred music and ancient religious rites.  All of that is condensed in one album with neo-ancient cover art that could have easily have been featured in a art gallery.

I seldom pay attention to record label compilations. The few that I own, have done a good job of capturing a movement at a particular time in its development. None have done that as well as Lonely Is An Eyesore. Released by 4AD to aquatint listeners to the labels influential roster of goth and dark wave artists.

I’d already heard of the Cocteau Twins, by far the English labels biggest act. In addition to being a primer to other bands, the inner sleeve featured exquisitely designed liner notes and artwork from 23 Envelope, the graphic design counterpart to 4AD musical ambitions. The almost surreal statements about each band did little to quench the need to know more, instead enshrouding the label further into the murk of mystery that the label would be known for.

The combination of sound plus image was responsible for one of alternative rocks’ most influential movements. 4AD was immensely influential in its heyday. By the second half of the ’80s nearly every marjor label had some subsidy that tried to cash in on the 4AD/23 Envelope craze.

Lonely Is An Eyesore featured the well worn tracks of the establish dark art bands of Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil. The Throwing Muses with their guitar rock may have been the most conventional sounding band on the compilation. To balance the dark brooding music of Wolfgang Press and Dead Can Dance, Lonely Is An Eyesore balanced the heavy with the light etherical sounds of The Cocteau Twins and the contemplative beauty of This Mortal Coil.

To show that not everything was rooted in 16th century church music, the compilation opens with the bright dance pop of Colourbox. Colorbox was one of the first bands to use the cut and paste method of song making and represented the cutting edge of dance pop circa 1984. It might have sounded out of place on this album had it not been for Throwing Muses and Clan of Xymox filling in the gaps.

With only 9 songs, Lonely Is An Eyesore was painfully short, considering that when first released the individual albums that these songs were on would have cost around $25 or more as imports. They were (for me) carefully planned acquisitions typical of a 20 something who spent more on music than food (ah those were they days).

Every penny was worth if if only for the booklet alone. Lonely Is An Eyesore can be found for cheap on the internet as a download, but its worth seeking out as physical media if you can get your hands on it. Better yet, a rare video companion exists that is more difficult to find, but I’m sure it would be worth seeking out (or just ask YouTube). Either way, this might be the best record label sampler sense…well Lonely Is An Eyesore.

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