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This Weekend I’ll Mostly be listening to… Young Marble Giants, Weekend and The Gist November 20, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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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

Wurlitzer Jukebox

Final Day

The Taxi

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

Summerdays

Weekend – live (Summerdays and Drumbeat for Baby)

Woman’s Eyes

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

Dark Shots

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).

Comments»

1. sonofstan - November 20, 2010

great stuff.

I’ve loved YMG for the best part of 30 years, but only came across a cheap copy of the Weekend LP last year in a shop in Waterford, and was blown away all over again.

Dunno about you, but I can’t remember the last time I played any records by the headline punk bands – Pistols, Clash, Jam, etc. – but some bands that often seemed marginal at the time have remained constants in my rotation: Subway Sect, (Early) Scritti, ATV, First few Mekons singles, Monochrome Set and obv. the Fall. ‘Punk’, in it’s generic form, now only seems important because of the space it opened up for other, much more interesting things. Which I guess is the argument of Reynolds book, which I haven’t read?

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WorldbyStorm - November 20, 2010

Yeah, I know that feeling entirely. I still give the Damned the odd spin, but mostly their slightly later stuff. For the rest they’re there in the background, important, but it’s the stuff in the cracks that worked away at it that’s more important – at least cumulatively, and more refreshing.

And re weekend, I’d heard the Gist many years ago but only in the last five years stumbled across Weekend. It’s what you say, great in its own right but it also reflects back on YMG in terms of making one think about the sound even further.

Reynolds is a great read, I went through it again at the Summer and it’s brilliant for dipping in and out.

BTW, would you be interested in doing a This Weekend?

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sonofstan - November 20, 2010

Funny you should mention that…..

I have one in mind, but a bit pressed for time at the minute, and some of what I wanted to feature isn’t up on youtube so I need to learn how to put stuff up. I’ll email when I have something more concrete?

Listening to the Weekend album now – one of those things you really have to wonder why it wasn’t hugely popular. Weren’t Working Week a further offshoot of this tree?

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2. Worldbystorm - November 20, 2010

Yes they were, I wonder were weekend too self-conscious perhaps? Or appeared to be so. No rush on This Weekend… In the meantime where is YourCousins monthly slice of Americana? 🙂

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3. Mark P - November 20, 2010

Thanks for this WbS.

I’ve always like Colossal Youth, but never knew anything about Weekend. I’m a bit concerned about the words “jazz trio” and even more so “samba” but I’ll certainly give them a listen.

I entirely agree with SoS on the “headline” punk bands thing. Give me the likes of Liliput any day over the Clash.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 20, 2010

Well I don’t know Liliput at all but on the Clash I have to say I still play their stuff regularly. The first album is an all-time classic. London Calling is definitely a desert island disc. Ok the second album was a bit shite with a few exceptions. Sandanista is a bit long maybe. Combat Rock has some good tunes.

How anyone could dismiss the Clash like that I don’t understand, sure you’d have to be a…

🙂

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sonofstan - November 20, 2010

I wouldn’t dismiss them exactly – to deny them would be to deny my younger self, but the 17 year old who bellowed along to Career Opportunities is long gone*, and, well, something like ‘The ‘Sweetest Girl'” seems both more sophisticated politically and with the bonus of being breathtakingly sung ….

*as are the opportunities

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WorldbyStorm - November 20, 2010

I’ve been thinking about this since SoS’s first comment. I find myself listening to individual tracks from the Pistols, Clash etc (rarely if ever the Jam, but I never was a huge fan in the first place) but never an album all the way through. So few things will convince me that Bodies or Holidays in the Sun or Spanish Bombs aren’t genius like works of art. But I can’t listen to Never Mind the Bollocks all the way through, or even London Calling (though that’s easier), whereas with post-punk albums I generally can.

Mark P, I too feel the chill when I hear jazz trio. Never, usually, a good sign.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 20, 2010

I know what you mean about Never Mind The Bollocks. The 3 tracks on the B-side, Anarchy in the Uk, Submission, and Pretty Vacant are worth listening to without skipping ahead though. On Submission, my first ever gig as a 14 year old (attending, not playing) was in teh Dandelion Market, DC Nien were headlining, their support act played Submission. I don’t know what the name of the band was, maybe they didn’t even have a name, but their rendition of the song stays with me to this day. Formative stuff. No idea what the lyrics are about mind you to this day…

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Mark P - November 20, 2010

I’m not dismissing the Clash, LATC.

I have all of their albums and, although I wasn’t born when they were starting out, I certainly listened to them a lot when I was younger. But I can’t remember the last time I deliberately put on a Clash album or for that matter Never Mind the Bollocks and listened to the whole thing.

On the other hand, I would quite happily put on Magazine or Liliput or Mission of Burma or Gang of Four or the Au Pairs or Wire or Cabaret Voltaire. Some of that stuff is still exciting in a way that the Clash aren’t.

Part of that’s just overfamiliarity of course. Who can really say that they are excited to hear the Beatles come on the radio? The fact that it’s been played to the point of tedium doesn’t mean that Beatles were shit.

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WorldbyStorm - November 20, 2010

That links into another thought. The commercialisation of so much music has really screwed it. Ad after ad with cracking tracks that just blur away after too much repetition. Same effect in a way as the Beatles point you make.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 20, 2010

We’ll have to disagree on the Clash Mark P, I still get that buzz when I hear “Police & Thieves” or “Armagideon Time”. I do take the point about repetition though.

On Magazine, yes, still very refreshing even now. And no matter how many times I hear “Song from under the floorboards” the bass line still does it for me. Timeless.

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4. sonofstan - November 20, 2010

You guys are going to hate my ‘This Weekend’ so…:)

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5. crocodile - November 20, 2010

That’s where the ipod set on ‘shuffle’ comes into its own. You never need to listen to ‘sandanista’ from start to finish – but something like ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ crashes through the headphones when you’re on the bus and reminds you how great it is. This happened to me on my way to work this morning.

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LeftAtTheCross - November 20, 2010

Police & Thieves is another one, play it loud, it’d make you feel young again…

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WorldbyStorm - November 20, 2010

Younger, surely?

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WorldbyStorm - November 20, 2010

crocodile, that’s true re ipods.

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6. yourcousin from his ps3 - November 20, 2010

It is funny as I was putting something together last night but then went and “fell asleep” on the couch instead

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Worldbystorm - November 20, 2010

Whenever you’re ready YourCousin… How’s things?

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7. sonofstan - November 20, 2010

Not to hijack the thread, but this just popped up on a comp I was listening to: a theme song for our times, if ever there was:

‘You thought you had it bad last year….’

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8. ec - November 20, 2010

Heartily recommend Rip it Up and Totally Wired by Simon Reynolds to SOS. Really excellent books both. I got into Cabaret Voltaire (and Red Mecca in particular) for the first time last year partially as a result of reading them.

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9. sonofstan - November 20, 2010

[i]On the other hand, I would quite happily put on Magazine or Liliput or Mission of Burma or[b] Gang of Four[/b] or the Au Pairs or Wire or Cabaret Voltaire. Some of that stuff is still exciting in a way that the Clash aren’t[/i]

Always had a problem with the Go4 – the song on the first EP about ‘the Armalite Rifle and the Holy Trinity’ and the one off Entertainment with the ‘H-Block, Long Kesh’ (Ether?) chant used to irritate me at the time. It wasn’t even clear what their stance was (sort of WRP-ish?) but it still sounded like tourism to me at the time……

These days, I don’t care about lyrics, of course….

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sonofstan - November 20, 2010

aargh it’s < and not [

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Mark P - November 20, 2010

Well, you can probably guess where I stand on armchair Provoism.

Doesn’t change the fact that Entertainment is a great record.

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10. John Green - November 21, 2010

I’m sure someone else has already mentioned this, but I notice Go4’s “Natural’s Not in It” being used to advertise the new Xbox Kinect.

http://slackbastard.anarchobase.com/?p=22206

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11. John O'Farrell - November 22, 2010

Weekend’s sublime album, which I haven’t heard in yonks, was less jazz trio and more affected by the ‘discovery’ of this sort of stuff:

Enjoy

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12. Young Marble Giants | foremothers - June 17, 2014

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