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Tunes

Eighties’ best 100 redux: #99 Young Marble Giants “Brand – new – life” (1980)

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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.

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Live music galleries

Live music galleries: Interpol [2015]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

Interpol live at Bluesfest 2015

Artist: Interpol
When: July 18, 2015
Where: Claridge Homes stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa
Context: I had been following this New York-based indie rock band for well over a decade by the time 2015 rolled around. Interpol were easily my preferred out of all the post-punk revivalists and their first two records are still among my favourite of the 2000s. Founding bassist, Carlos Dengler had left the band five years prior (in 2010) but the remaining trio of Paul Banks (vocals, guitar), Daniel Kessler (guitars), and Sam Fogarino (drums)* were still (and still are) very much a going concern. In fact, they had just put out “El pintor” the previous year, perhaps their best album in a decade. After initial a wave here and a smile there, pleasantries dispensed, they started in like gangbusters, a sonic assault of angular guitars and booming basslines, and Paul Banks’ iconic deep vocals, often lying in wait in the weeds and layers of synths. It was a powerful set and loud, mixing new and old seamlessly. Interestingly, they went to the well of 2004’s “Antics” quite often, digging out favourites like “Narc”, “Evil”, “Take you on a cruise”, “C’mere”, “Not even jail”, and finishing off the whole works with “Slow hands”. I especially appreciated the passionate and crazed rendition of recent single, “All the rage back home”, a personal favourite. I think my only critique of the set was that at around fifty minutes, partially due to an act finishing up late on the other stage, it all felt way too short. Still, Interpol!!!!

Point of reference song: All the rage back home

Sam Fogarino of Interpol
Daniel Kessler of Interpol
Paul Banks of Interpol
Brandon Curtis and Brad Truax, touring members
Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino

*They were joined on stage by touring bassist Brad Truax and Brandon Curtis (formerly of Secret Machines) on keys.

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Tunes

Best tunes of 2003: #25 The Stills “Still in love song”

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“We were lovers
We were kissers
We were holders of hands
We were make believers
Just losing time”

The four original members of Montreal’s The Stills – vocalist and guitarist Tim Fletcher, guitarist Gregory Paquet, bassist Olivier Corbeil, and drummer Dave Hamelin – met when they were all still teenagers. Each performed in various bands prior to forming The Stills in 2000 and perhaps because of these previous experiences, they quickly gained a following based on their heavy duty live show. They finally released their debut album, “Logic will break your heart”, late in 2003 to critical acclaim*, earning favourable comparisons to Echo & the Bunnymen and fellow post-punk revivalists Interpol. They would go on to release two further albums before amicably splitting up in 2011. The band’s members continue to work in the industry, in other bands, and doing session or production work for other great Canadian acts.

It’s unfortunate to me that the quartet didn’t have more success and longevity, given the promise of their outstanding debut. I remember being super excited when I first heard “Logic will break your heart”, right around the time that I heard “Turn on the bright lights”. I admit that I didn’t feel the same way about those latter albums but that original excitement never waned and I often found myself putting on the debut when I felt the urge to be dark and sombre and angsty.

The third single off that debut would forever remain my favourite by the quartet. “Still in love song” can be universally understood by all but those who have never had a love crushed by someone over whom that person chose someone else, a career, or whatever other passion.

“And you said you’d rather live in TV land
Than say that you care
But you don’t
That’s heartless and I will not cry”

Musically, the tune is – purely and simply – post punk revival at its best. Sinister, arpeggiating guitars, menacing bassline that won’t quit, punishing and bass heavy drum rhythms, snarling vocals, and all this captured in stasis in a vacuous and hermetically sealed wind tunnel. It’s a song that begs repeat plays, tailor made for ear phones and closed eyes and all sorts of other mopery.

*Discounting, of course, the lambasting they received from Pitchfork.. and I always will.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.