Tom Mahler was a fictional character; the protagonist of Calvert's only published novel, Hype.
Much of this album could be understood as being a soundtrack to that novel, which is a nice twist on the familiar film related package; but then, Robert Calvert liked to twist the familiar.
In this, the first of Calvert's albums to heavily rely on electronica, his detached, staccato, sometimes machine-like, ethereal vocal brought enormous amounts of authentic feeling to these songs.
His mini-anthems - narratives inspired as much by Astounding Stories magazine as Bob Dylan - trip along to accompaniment Devo-like with its use of percussive synths and rhythmic stun-guitar.
His gorgeous couplets; sometimes funny ('We Like To be Frightened'), metaphysically freaky ('Greenfly and the Rose'), or damn-right odd ('The Luminous Dial of the Dashboard') always catch you out; and like much great poetry, every encounter seems fresh, new: alive.
He can even make a rainy afternoon in Margate seem like a cosmic experience ('Hanging Out on the Seafront').
To accompany Calvert's new direction, he needed a new wave sounding band, and he called on an old Hawkwind connection, Bethnal; a band who had toured with the Hawks back in seventy-seven, when Hawkwind began associating themselves with young punk acts.
Bethnal had been doing 'punk' since the early seventies, and by seventy-six, seventy-seven they were already well on their way to becoming a prog band, or post-punk as it became known.
By eighty-one they were perfectly primed to accompany Calvert's take on the new wave; and they do a great job; and along with slots from Michael Moorcock (12 string), Simon house (elctronica), Nik turner (sax) and Pete Pavli (cello), Calvert couldn't have asked for better musicianship.
The best comes last on this album, as it closes with one of Calvert's finest anthemic epics: 'Lord of the Hornets', one of his live highlights.
Listening to this I can still envisage him on stage, and no matter how big his audience, he always flogged his guts out; giving it everything he had; all in the name of art; in the name of rock n roll.
And we liked it.
Robert Calvert - Hype (1981)
Over My Head
It's the Same
Hanging Out on the Seafront
We Like to be Frightened
Teen Ballard of Deano
The Luminous Dial of the Dashboard
Greenfly and the rose
Lord of the Hornets
Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Catch the Hype here