This post will look at the various releases of the Hard Corps compilation album, ‘Metal and Flesh’ and its multiple mixes and selections across a small but surprisingly varied releases. I have posted about Hard Corps before, they remain, even after all these years, a favourite. At a time when bands were increasingly content to rely on the clean gleam of the new digital instrumentation wave, Hard Corps were synthesising their own sounds from a variety of elements. In the rhythm department in particular, none of the obvious go-to sources of the era, save for a Roland TR-808 to provide a basic chassis in early stages of a track’s development, swapped out as they progressed for their urgent, hard, insistent pure electronic beats driving the music. Whether in the more in your face and up tempo signature pieces as ‘Metal and Flesh’, ‘Dirty’ or ‘Desolation Land’, or on the slower, more melancholic works such as ‘The Bell’ or ‘Respirer’. My goodness, how well did Regine Fetete’s abstractions describe in fragments such bittersweet worlds to marry with the music produced by Hugh Ashton, Robert Doran and Clive Pierce.
Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ 1990 CD
The CD was the first version of the album to appear, I received my copy by mail order on 19th September 1990 (having ordered it from an advert for Beat Route mail order back in August). The Discogs.com entry gives an earlier release date of 18th June 1990 though. I don’t know the background to the album and how it came to be. Seems to gather together earlier, harder and more melancholic tracks along with later period ones where the sound has softened a little over time. I have no idea if it is really as clear cut as that, but a I wonder if there was some kind of change, perhaps related to the period where the band’s period with Polydor must have soured and led to be a barren period of activity. 1986 in particular saw, for example, little if any live activity.
To the CD then, a gathering together in pristine sound quality of many tracks that to that point had only been heard on radio sessions or compilations, along with some versions from the single releases.
- ‘Des Hommes’ Previously unreleased at that point.
- ‘Respirer’ Not the original 1984 version but an otherwise unreleased French language version of the 1985 re-recording of ‘To Breathe’ – a unique 4’21” version here that as well as the obvious language difference also differs musically from the versions on the 7″ and 12″ releases.
- ‘For Pleasure’ Previously unreleased at this point – a track first aired on the 1984 Richard Skinner BBC Radio 1 session.
- ‘Porte Bonheur’ The short, Daniel Miller produced/remixed version in French language of ‘Lucky Charm’. Released in 1987, this mix clocking in at the 3’41” mark, was featured on the B side of both the French and UK 7″ singles. (The A side of the French 7″ single had a longer mix at 4’21” credited solely to Hard Corps as producers.
- ‘Dirty’ The full length 12″ version from the band’s first single in 1984.
- ‘Tu Te Trompes’ Previously unreleased at this point.
- ‘The Bell’ Previously unreleased at the time – first heard on 1985’s Janice Long BBC Radio 1 session.
- ‘Porte Bonheur’ (Remix) The French language 12″ version from 1987 that is nearly the same as the mix on the French 12″ single A side (on that single’s sleeve it is printed as ‘Mix Étendu’) and also included as the first track in side 2 of the UK 12″ single. The difference? It is about 30 seconds shorter on this CD due to fading out earlier at the end. On both versions of the release it is credited as being produced by Hard Corps alone. Not credited on the single sleeve originally, but the back case of the CD lists ‘mixed with Pascal Gabriel’.
- ‘Desolation Land’ First released on the ‘Funky Alternatives’ Volume 3 various artists compilation album a couple of years earlier in 1988 (which claimed to be a Remix, but I can’t hear much difference between that version and the one on the CD – anyone?). The first version I heard was 1985’s Janice Long radio session version, which is considerably longer duration than this take.
- ‘Je Suis Passée’ This is the French language 12″ mix, first released on the Immaculate Records 12″ single (12 IMMAC 2) in April 1985. It predates the regular ‘Sonoscope’ release by about two weeks or so, if I recall. (The Sonoscope 12″ had the English language 12″ mix on side A.)Â On the back sleeve and label of the Immaculate Records release it is described as ’12” Extended French Version’. The front cover has a title of ‘The Immaculate French Mix’ though, which I always thought sounded nicer – and the Canadian branch of Polydor must have thought so too as that’s the title they printed on sleeve and label. The long French language version also appeared, unsurprisingly, on the French released 12″ – though as the first track of side two, surprisingly. First heard on the 1984 Richard Skinner BBC Radio 1 session.
- ‘Metal and Flesh’ As released on the B side of 1985’s ‘To Breathe’ single. First heard on the 1984 John Peel BBC Radio 1 session.
Four tracks released for the first time then, as well as various versions from the single releases. ‘Respirer’ and ‘Porte Bonheur (Remix)’ are slightly different mixes from other familiar versions found elsewhere.
Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ 1991 LP
The vinyl pressing for the album didn’t get released until a good while after the CD. I can’t recall exactly the background to it, but I placed an order for it at my favourite local record shop (good old 1-UP, sadly long gone) and I think at first it was supposed to have been pressed up on clear vinyl(?), but I’m either possibly misremembering that or Fred at the shop was mixing it up with something else. Looking back at my notes from the time, it didn’t eventually appear until February 1991 (Monday 17th was when I was contacted about it having arrived and about collecting it from the shop.)
The vinyl version is radically different from the CD edition in both the selection of tracks and the cover design. Quite why the difference, I don’t know – an enticement to buy it again is an obvious ploy, but why is the cover design quite so different and so unlike anything else in their style? (I learned much later who had designed it and sounds like it was something of a rush job just bashed out.)
- Des Hommes The same opening track as found on the CD edition.
- C’est Pas Moi Previously unreleased at this point. This is the long version that is timed around the 5’33” duration mark. It would later appear on CD format on the ‘Alternator’ compilations in 1996 and in 1999, as well as the latter version being available as a digital download much later.
- For Pleasure The same track as found on the CD edition.
- Porte Bonheur The short, Daniel Miller produced/remixed version in French language of ‘Lucky Charm’, again found on the CD version.
- Dirty The same track as found on the CD edition.
- To Breathe (Instrumental) The 1985 re-recording of ‘To Breathe’ sans Regine’s vocals – this is the same recording as found on the 12″ releases of the 1985 ‘To Breathe’ single, at a duration of approx. 3’50”.
- Je Suis Passée (Club Mix) This is the mix that was first released on the B side of the Immaculate Records 12″ single (12 IMMAC 2) in April 1985. On the back sleeve and label of the Immaculate Records release it is described as ‘Club Dub Mix’. It was also released on all of the various other 12″ releases, where it is just referred to as ‘Dub Mix’, ‘Dub Version’ or just ‘Dub’. This version eventually got a CD release on the compilation ‘Trevor Jackson Presents Metal Dance’. It’s worth noting that the ‘Dub’ version is derived from ‘Clean Tables Have To Be Burnt’, the original arrangement of the track – that would eventually get a release in 2012 on the compilation album of the same name.
- Metal and Flesh The same track as found on the CD edition.
So, a good few differences there, the release of ‘C’est Pas Moi’ particularly of note – especially since this is just the first of three versions of the track that has appeared over the years on different releases. ‘C’est Pas Moi’ was apparently the last track recorded with Regine and involved some kind of production from Killing Joke’s Youth, though if that is so it is not credited on this release.
As stated boldly on the front cover of the album, only 1500 copies were pressed up. I’ve never come across for how many copies of the CD were produced, but after the initial release, Hard Corps would solely begin to be recognised for their work and in time both CD and LP would fetch high prices for anyone looking to add them to their collection.
Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ 2009 Print On Demand CD
High prices indeed were asked for original copies of the album over the years – so, when a new version appeared for sale, it was a welcome move. Offered by Amazon as a ‘print in demand’ release, you’ll see from the photos it isn’t a like for like reissue of the original CD by any manner of means. Packaging wise, definitely a very minimal offer. Sleeve notes, credits, lyrics – all gone. On the music front, the original CD tracks were retained, though swapped around with in the playing order, and an additional track was added by way of a much shorter version of ‘C’est Pas Moi’, the track that had hitherto been found on the vinyl version of the album. This significantly shorter version clocks in at a 3’12” duration and is a different mix altogether, not just an early fade-out or the like.
- Metal and Flesh
- Porte Bonheur
- Je Suis Passée;
- For Pleasure
- The Bell
- Desolation Land
- Tu Te Trompes
- Porte Bonheur (Remix)
- Des Hommes
- C’est Pas Moi
All of the track versions are the same as the original CD except for the version of ‘C’est Pas Moi’, which is exclusive to this CD and the equivalent digital download version. Other than the time printed alongside the track, there is nothing else to indicate that it is a different mix compared to the vinyl LP.
Hard Corps ‘Metal and Flesh’ Digital Download
I’m a bit sketchy on when it first appeared online as a digital download via iTunes and the like, though it seems to be 17 March 2009 according to the iTunes page itself. 8th February 2013 saw the album made available, as a digital download version across various online platforms, via Sub Culture records. The digital download version stuck to the same revised track list as the print on demand CD version.
Hard Corps legacy reappraised
The good news for fans has been the ever increasing profile of the sorely neglected band which has, since about 2007 onwards when a MySpace presence appeared and hitherto unavailable recordings started to be shared online, has led to a series of releases of those recordings, by way of the Minimal Wave label releases, ‘Clean Tables Have To Be Burnt’ and ‘Rarities’ and my own particular favourite, the online-only ‘Radio Sessions’ collection from April 2015.
I guess that ‘Metal and Flesh’, in whichever form, remains the go-to point though – it always seemed something of a collection as opposed to their debut album proper, but nevertheless, how great it was to finally abandon the hissy, crackly tapes of radio sessions of those tracks that had never made it on to the singles to finally hear them as they should be.