At number ninety-eight on this Eighties’ best 100 redux, we have the first of two songs that weren’t on the original edition of this list, because at the time, I hadn’t heard of either of them.
Young Marble Giants’ “Brand – new – life” came to me late last year, sometime in October or November 2021. Around that time, I was spending a lot of time listening to Spotify playlists ‘made especially for me’ based on my previous listening history and after weeding through the chaff, I actually discovered quite a bit of good new music in this way. One of the mixes that I returned to pretty often was an ‘Early alternative’ mix that mined a lot of the post-punk of the early 1980s, most of which I was already familiar with and some of which will appear later in this list. But the first time I heard this particular track, I was arrested by its atmospheric and haunting sound and had me reaching for my iPad to learn who was behind it.
If you’ve never heard tell of the Cardiff, Wales trio before, you could have been forgiven, given their extremely short lifespan and their minimal output. In the two to three years from their inception out of the remains of a previous band to their dispersement to various projects, brothers Stuart and Philip Moxham and Alison Statton released one full-length album, a couple of EPs, and appeared on a handful of compilations. In spite of this, they had a huge influence on a swathe of indie rock, especially on those future musicians that would be lumped under the so-called ‘twee’ umbrella. They’ve been cited by artists as varied as Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love and Belle and Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel.
“Brand – new – life” is track number fourteen of fifteen on “Colossal youth”, the aforementioned, lone LP by the group. Recorded in a handful of days, the songs on the album all range in the two to three minute mark and rely on little studio trickery. In spite of this austere approach, their songs burst forth with just as much energy as their angrier and darker contemporaries. “Brand – new – life” begins with the insistent and almost unrecognizable rhythm of a homemade drum machine, but this is quickly joined by a tight rickenbacker and a muscular bass, duelling and cavorting with the beat. And Alison Statton’s vocals are just there, like a soft croon, not assuming anything, not demanding anything.
All of this adds up to this infectious piece of joy that I didn’t know I was missing in my life.
Original Eighties best 100 position: n/a
Favourite lyric: “And now we are a lonely two / Sit at home and watch the tube.” Boob tube, YouTube, it’s a pretty universal and dare I say, timeless sentiment and reaction to heartbreak.
Where are they now?: After reforming with the three original members in the early 2000s and playing numerous gigs at festivals and the like, Young Marble Giants were announced as “no more” on Facebook in 2016.
For the rest of the Eighties’ best 100 redux list, click here.