Monday, July 23, 2007

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth


Well, we've had Lou Reed performing Berlin and various artists playing old albums under the Don't Look Back banner. But the one nod to the past I would surely welcome would be Young Marble Giants performing their masterpiece, Colossal Youth. How about a Young Marble DLB at the Union Chapel? Or maybe the Capitol Theater in Olympia, Washington.

It almost happened. They were scheduled to do a reunion show with the Raincoats for Rough Trade's 25th anniversary, if memory serves, but illness put paid to that. And the group did reunite for a gig at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival some months back. But I have yet to see them play live.

Until that time, Colossal Youth has been reissued as part of a three-CD package collecting demos and a 1980 Peel session. And it is great. The album stands the test of time, as much a glorious oddity now as it was in the heyday of post-punk in 1980.

The Cardiff band combined the disparate elements of songwriter Stuart Moxham's choppy guitar and swirly organ, Philip Moxham's melodic bass and Alison Statton's dispassionate vocals to create an original, minimalist treasure.

Just about every Olympia band in the early '90s paid homage to YMG but they are still massively under-rated. Theirs was a delicate, anti-macho sound which didn't fit into the aggression of the times. Stuart describes their music as repressed while Simon Reynolds says in his liner notes that it was music by introverts for introverts. Were they the original quiet storm band? "Brand-New-Life" was about as rock as the band got, with its driving guitar. But they also made the Testcard EP, six instrumentals inspired by breaks in TV transmissions.

The Peel Sessions are a delightful find, almost a YMG greatest hits, including the apocalyptic "Final Day" and "Brand-New-Life". Alison's voice sounds particularly edgy on this session.

It's interesting to read that the band were adopted by the Raincoats on their arrival in London back in the day. How intriguing to imagine the two outsider bands with their cryptic lyrics, unusual arrangements and tense, prickly music palling around the grey, rainy capital. Let's hope that reunion gig happens.

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