Saturday, May 02, 2009

ATP: Young Marble Giants

Young Marble Giants soundcheck at HAU2, Berlin; photo by Val PhoenixNext week Young Marble Giants will take the stage at All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead. Knowing the Great British Weather, it will probably rain. But, that's OK. YMG are probably more suited to a rainy day than a sun-kissed summer festival.

When I saw the re-formed band earlier this year in Berlin, they received a rapturous reception, running through most of the songs on their 1980 debut, Colossal Youth, and then, for their encores, re-playing the ones they'd messed up earlier. Few bands could get away with that, but they have such laid-back charm and such good will from having been away so long, that it worked. And the encored songs were better the second time around.

These days YMG don't get out much, their appearances limited to the odd invite. For their gig at ATP, they will perform Colossal Youth in its entirety, as part of the fan-curated programme.

ATP will mark the first time the whole record has been played live, as the Berlin set list left off a few songs that guitarist Stuart Moxham still needed to re-learn. The product of youth, insecurity and vivid imagination, the record still astonishes after 29 years, full of open space that allows the songs to breathe. Melancholia ages better than anger, and the record is full of wist and longing.

As a young band, they weren't so keen on performing live, being wracked with insecurity. Bassist Philip Moxham confessed to staring at the wall during gigs, while singer Alison Statton said she lacked confidence in life, let alone music.
Backstage before the Berlin gig, I asked them about their reunion and playing live.

KB: Why are you back?
Stuart Moxham: For the money.
Alison laughs.

So, it's a big post-punk minimalist sell-out?

SM: We originally thought it would be a good idea to try and do another album. We said whatever we do, we won't come back and be an '80s comeback band. But, as it happens, that is what we're doing.

Philip Moxham: It's largely, as well, because of the unprecedented enthusiasm for the record. People who have been listening to it for the last 30 years or so have said they are quite pleased to see us playing. Plus, there are a lot of younger people who are into the band.

Are there particular challenges to playing live?
SM: There are for me, because all the keyboard stuff is kind of difficult to work out. "What is that chord?" And the same with the guitar, because since this group I haven't played electric guitar, really. That's a long time ago.

How do you feel now performing the songs? Does it mean something different?
Alison Statton: It definitely means something different. In one sense it feels as if we never stopped playing and we're just a few months on, but in another way we're much more relaxed about it all. Just appreciating the music for what it is more, because we've had that time and that separation.

Young Marble Giants perform Colossal Youth at All Tomorrow's Parties, Butlin's, Minehead, Somerset, on 9 May.

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