Crate Skimmers #12 The Passions – Thirty Thousand Feet over China

Owned since: 2016

Genre: Jangly dream pop

Where I bought it: De Plaatboef, Rotterdam

Year: 1981

Label/pressing: Polydor, Dutch pressing

Since as I write this we’re all still locked inside our houses, the idea of record shops is becoming increasingly foreign to me. Just being stuck in a room with, most of the time, bad air conditioning and no space to really move going through bins of dusty records feel like such an unhealthy thing to do. In the before times I used to do it quite frequently, my home town lacks a really record store. The main one is pretty eh in its selection and the secondhand focused one is pricey even though you tend to find some ok stuff over there. With the Netherlands being extremely tiny, it doesn’t take long to travel to other cities and visit other record shops.

Plaatboef is an institution and way too cramped. It’s just outside Rotterdam’s busy city center and a few doors down from the Rotown venue. It has two stories, three if you count the bargain bin basement in the back which has the most neck breaking steps you will ever encounter, which are packed with vinyl/CDs and movies. It’s pretty hard to navigate and it spots a staff that is pretty much as close you can get to High Fidelity . So that means it’s lovely, even more since they buy/sell a lot of secondhand vinyl. I’ve been going there since my mid-teens when I’m in Rotterdam and my last visit was in February 2020, just before the virus really reached our shores. I think the last things I bought were several 1 euro records, the YS band EP for a tenner and finally a copy of the Byrds’s Sweetheart of The Rodeo for 15 bucks. It’s a store that can be pricey, but normally their prices are solid. Even more with the heavy secondhand focus they got stuff mostly in the upstairs part. A lot of it focuses it on 80’s new wave/indie-rock also. I think of the records I own of that era, a lot of them hail from breaking my neck and going through the lowest bins of their records. A perfect record to showcase this is Thirty Thousand Feet Over China.

I wouldn’t call The Passions forgotten, but they never really get brought up in discussions of great British bands of the 80’s a lot. Which sucks honestly, their 3 records are all really solid. Their mix of more jangly dream pop with heavy slight post-punk overtones isn’t unique but extremely infectious. Thirty Thousand Feet Over China is their second record and contains by far their biggest hit: I’m in Love With a German Film Star. An extremely dreamy love song about being in love with, well a actor, not a film star but Clash roadie Steve “Roadent” Connelly who did appear on German TV. The heavily delayed and echoing guitars work so well with Barbara Gogan’s deadpan yet dreamy vocals. It’s absolutely one of my favorite singles of the early 80s and a song most of you know, it’s on the soundtrack for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories. It’s a bit more downbeat than most stuff on here because a lot of the time the Passions were getting the most out of Clive Timperley’s delayed Echoplex guitar playing. The Swimmer is also a film reference but is a bouncy little number that feels closer to The Banshees and early The Cure than anything else. It’s all so refined and good sounding stuff, just a band that knows 100% how they want to sound and it delivers a very strong record. The song writing might be a bit lacking in spots, Runaway is a bit of a throwaway, but the band’s layered dreamy sound really never makes it irritating. Highlights are pretty spread out also with the B-side, including the tremendous Alice’s Song and Skin Deep, compared against the hit heavy A-side.

Just an extremely good slice of early 1980s’ post-punk/new-wave that is heavily overlooked to this day. My copy is in a bit worn state for sure, the sides have shelf wear and there is a piece of the cover ripped off where there most likely used to be a sticker. But also the 2.50 Euro I paid for this is why record shops rule sometimes. For less then the price of a cheap burger, you can grab this great piece of slightly forgotten 80’s gold and it still sounds great. My advice as always is go through the cheap bins and second hand section because that is where most of the real gold is at. It’s not in the 40 bucks double lp etched sides re-issues for sure.

Thoughts de Slootçon: Quite liked this one, I had a passing familiarity with the album thanks to some algorithm recommending it to me, dated in the best kinda ways and a sucker for icy vocals like this. Liked it enough to try and track a CD copy and holy hell that’s expensive.