Friday, August 29, 2008

From the Vaults :Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Here's another review that never was published. I'm quite proud of it. Before the reissue I already had a Belgian import so it was a breeze writing down the review.

Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth ( REISSUE)


Sometimes patience is a virtue. Unfortunately in my case I lack it completely. If a band possesses me I will do all that I can in order to seek out the album. Take the case of Young Marble Giants. I heard one track on a compilation then I spent 3 long years looking for the album. Finally after shelling out quite a bit on a Belgian import, which was only available on an American website, I finally received the cd.

Now in 2007 Domino have decided to reissue this album, with a whopping 16 extra tracks more than the Belgian import.

Whereas the import version squished everything together, Domino have done the wise thing and divided the whole project into 2 cds ; The Band’s debut album, a second disc with their one off ep tracks and rounds up demos and outtakes. Needless to say this is fascinating stuff from beginning to end.

Wales’ Young Marble Giants were one of the products of the extremely fertile post punk scene of 1978 -1984 (roughly) however out of all the top bands out there YMG stood out as they took the concept of minimalism to new height. Armed with a bass guitar , guitar and a keyboard, the band made barely three minute long songs ( in fact not even one goes past the three and a half minute mark here) Sure Wire were doing the same thing but a Wire song would be a noisy spurt and a YMG song would creep along at a leisurely pace without any urgency at all with a bass anchoring everything down. The group also had one major trick up their sleeve though. The fact that their lead vocalist Alison Statton had a voice that would make butter melt. Honey sweet and mellifluous it would wrap itself around the chikka chikka sounds of the keyboard and give the songs direction. The band soldered on for a couple of years but split up in 1980 due to pressure. Each of the band members pursued musical careers, Stuart Moxham probably being the most successful as he produced Beat Happening’s fifth album, You Turn Me on and Marine Girls Lazy Ways – both landmarks of the indiepop genre. Although Statton’s post YMG bands were great in their own way as well.

Like I mentioned earlier the cd is divided into two parts. The first being the album ‘Colossal Youth’ Needless to say that it’s a bona fide masterpiece. Track after track of minimalist goodness just flows. Whether it’s the quirky Eating Noddemix , the slightly bouncy ‘Brand –New - Life’ or the creepy Wurlitzer Jukebox, each song is a mini classic on its own. Memorable in every aspect. Also more importantly, it gives one a sense of the type of mentality that was prominent during the late 70’s it’s a deconstruction of music but with an arty sensibility.

The e.p tracks which dominate disc two are high in quality ‘Cakewalking’, ‘The Clock’ and their best song ‘Final Day’ are all present. Maybe a little bit more frivolous than the ‘Colossal Youth’ tracks , it shows that the band were moving into a more funky and cheery direction.

The material on Disc 2 is really for collectors and aficionados of the group. There aren’t too many differences between the record tracks and the demos except that the sound is murkier and Statton’s voice doesn’t shine through but the three extra tracks on this c.d. are really for completeness sake.

A cynic might say that this post punk nostalgia is greedy record companies want to exploit a movement but when you have a collection as lovingly compiled and collected. You cannot help but admire way things worked back then. Music in itself tells a story and the one we have here is a band using DIY skills and creating a musical highpoint. Definitely THE quintessential reissue.

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