This Weekend I’ll Mostly be listening to… Young Marble Giants, Weekend and The Gist November 20, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
Weekend? The name may not be familiar, but if I mention Young Marble Giants? We’ll get back to Weekend in a moment or so beneath the YouTube clips for YMG and likewise with The Gist.
Let’s think about Young Marble Giants. I’m almost hesitant to post this up, they’re now so well known and well regarded, but perhaps by adding in their less heard of spin-offs… YMG were one of the most influential, though initially least known bands of their time, a trio who rather than going loud in the post-punk era, and they were early post-punk, to put it mildly, forming in 1978 and whose only album – Colossal Youth, went quiet as it explored the space between the notes so to speak. Alison Statton, Stuart Moxham and Philip Moxham created a curiously tenuous sound, bass, guitar, organ and almost fragile vocals.
Which isn’t to say it turned it’s back on the energy of punk, listen to Credit in the Straight World’s strummed guitar and pulsing bass and while skeletal you can trace the lineal connection to all manner of bands during the period. But it’s that skeletal aspect which affords it real power, stripping away all excess, much as punk did before it, to reveal the fundamentals of the music beneath. By the way, it’s said that along with the Vaselines YMG were Kurt Cobain’s favourite band, and Courtney Love later covered Credit in the Straight World in her band Hole. As you do. And there are hints of that rockier aspect in the choppy chords of Brand New life. One of the things I like best about their approach is how the tracks open up, take Searching for Mr. Right, which starts of mid-pace and then just before the end increases in speed and volume before returning to the original tempo. It’s small but highly effective tricks like that that infuse the music
Or take Wurlitzer Jukebox with that disturbingly funky bass/guitar line. Foreshadowing future developments. Then there’s Final Day, an impassioned but minimal cry against nuclear war with a one note background whine that goes through all 1 minute and 14 seconds of the track. Key to their sound was the simple repetition of their drum machine, clicking away in the background underpinning every track with a curious regularity that cools the music down further. It’s all austere stuff, not passionless but detached. And yet somehow moving, for all that.
You’ll still hear echoes of them today here and there. Simon Reynolds excellent Rip it Up And Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 has a good two or three pages on them. Worth a read.
NITA (Kind of like this fan made video. Simple but effective).
Credit in the Straight World
Brand New Life
Searching for Mr. Right
Now imagine, if you will, that after Joy Division fell apart that the remaining members had reconvened subsequently as a dance act with a sound radically different to their original one. Wait… wait, what’s that you’re telling me?
One listen to the voice in the following YouTube tracks more or less immediately makes the connection with Alison Statton, lead singer of the YMG, who, sans the rest of the band, went on to form Weekend.
Were they any good? Well, yesish. They were certainly eclectic. That voice, incisive, clear, memorable, which, as with Young Marble Giants, drifts somehow almost detached from the music around it. The album La Variete is almost the inverse of the YMG sound, instead of the grays and blacks in terms of shading it’s all bright colours and flourishes. Pop, samba, afrobeat and more.
According to All Music they regarded themselves as a jazz trio, which is all very well. But this remains an off kilter jazz pop sound steeped in melancholy, and in all that there’s a hint and more of the off kilter new wave sound steeped in melancholy that was YMG (and the name Monochrome Set forces its way into my mind). From the none more pop (or twee), ‘Summerdays’, to more reflective outings such as ‘Past Meets Present’ (which surely was the template for any number of 1990s and early 2000s fey indiepop – no?) there’s an interesting range. That it only lasted a couple of years perhaps speaks of just how wide that range was. It sounds on album and disc as if there are at least two or three separate groups vying for control of the sound (and there’s a curiosity in the shape of the track “Carnival Headache’ on the album which was written by Statton’s former YMG bandmate Stuart Moxham and appears on his own The Gist’s album, as well as another track co-written with him and his brother). Scroll close to the end for more on Moxham’s post-YMG output.
So, Weekend, we start with perhaps the most YMG like track from them… Drum Beat for Baby
Weekend – live (Summerdays and Drumbeat for Baby)
The End of An Affair
Past Meets Present
Anyhow, Moxham went on to The Gist whose Love at First Sight is so achingly Cherry Red Records that it’s almost painful. And yet, pretty damn good with it (by the way Lush, who in their early years – and particularly their first two or three EPs – were great, covered it in a curiously reverential way… scroll to the end). There’s an awful lot going on here and again the name Monochrome Set, and even the peerless Eyeless in Gaza (at least their more poppier incarnation) come to mind.
Love at First Sight – The Gist
Problem Attics – or so it says on YouTube, in actual fact it’s Light Aircraft, B-side to Love at First Sight.
Love at First Sight (The Gist), covered by Lush
And YMG have reformed at least once since the 1980s, as can be seen with this track here…
Searching for Mr. Right (2007 reunion, YMG).