Spawned from an Irish artistic movement that also birthed some rock band called U2, Virgin Prunes were a brilliantly bonkers early-'80s outfit. Commonly lumped into the goth bin, this group's idiot-savant-garde dadaism was far more experimental and adventurous than most bat-cave denizens'; if anything, the Prunes helped invent the goth genre while simultaneously transcending it. Now Mute Records and key Prune Gavin Friday have opted to reissue the VP catalog via five CDs. While some discs are more immediately accessible, e.g., If I Die, I Die (produced by Wire's Colin Newman), the double-CD A New Form of Beauty is paradoxically the most difficult and rewarding. The first disc is equal parts lumbering ear-worm riff-songs, childishly keening vocals, unholy aesthetics, and baffling moments galore, with a lyric sheet deciphering the Prunes' most psycho of babble. Disc two segues from madness-inducing audio collage to a live recording that's strange even by Virgin Prunes standards. Nearly a quarter-century after its release, A New Form of Beauty still serves as a masterpiece of utterly twisted genius.
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