This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… The Wake April 2, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
When I first heard, or more accurately read, about The Wake it was courtesy of Maxim Jakubowski’s Rock year book – 1982 I think, but it could have been 1983. As someone all too eager to ferret out stuff on Factory – having fallen for Joy Division and early New Order it was depressing to see groups like The Wake, Crispy Ambulance and others written off as JD/NO copyists. Thing was, there was an element of truth in this. For all that Factory had its successes, Durutti Column, Stockholm Monsters, Happy Mondays, there was a period where they were signing acts that did owe quite some debt to Joy Division and New Order. And if you shudder to hear names like Crispy Ambulance then chances are you’re not going to much like The Wake either or at least not their earliest incarnation.
Spidery guitar lines. one note bass lines, keyboards, martial drumming, and glum vocals. Sleeve design by Peter Saville (riffing on East German aesthetics, no less), none more tinny production. It’s all there. One Bobby Gillespie provided bass before going to the Jesus and Mary Chain and on to Primal Scream later.
Their early stuff is very much Factory by the numbers. It’s not difficult to envisage Bernard Sumner on the phone on a continuous basis calling for some of his guitar lines back – and maybe the vocals too – having heard their first album ‘Harmony’. Yet, yet, there’s something in there. Sure, it’s very very close to the late Joy Division, very early New Order template, but there’s something about the keyboards from Carolyn Allen which lifts it somewhat – An Immaculate Conception is a perfect example but there are many others. I’m reminded in parts of OMD’s earlier work too. And Gerard “Caesar” McInulty’s guitar and vocals are oddly haunting. Playing it this week again the comment was made to me that there was that strange post-punk sparseness about it that one hears in many groups from that time – a sound that despite many attempting to recapture subsequently has somehow never quite been equalled
Gillespie went – replaced by Alex McPerhson – and there was a striking shift of direction. By 1985 and their second album ‘Here Comes Everybody” it is as if they have taken the melancholy and atmospherics, added in a dash of New Order, another dash of pop, and off they went in a completely different direction.
Now, for the cynics this was indicative of yet further insincerity – having emulated one group they were now emulating their next iteration. But that’s too limited a view because the guitars owed as much to the Byrds as they do to post-punk. More perhaps. And yet it’s the blend of guitars, keyboards and vocals that make it sound both entirely of the mid-1980s and yet it quite different.
Melancholy Man is near perfect. Fast paced, shimmering guitars, yet undeniably reflective and caught somewhere between joyful and, well, yeah, melancholy, it sounds as fresh today as the day it was written. The odd thing is that groups like the Church were taking a not dissimilar approach albeit in the quite different genre of neo-psychedelia. And other tracks like Torn Calendar sound oddly like Prefab Sprout. All I Asked You To Do is stunning. A great swooning verse and chorus underpinned by the keyboards. Or Carolyn Allen’s vocals on the poppy Pale Spectre. They were clearly running in a different direction again. Perhaps too different a direction for they were dropped by Factory.
However, in 1989 Sarah Records, home of all that was twee pop, asked them to produce a new album on that label. The founders were, apparently, huge fans of Here Comes Everybody. And so “Make It Loud” appeared – which carried on where Here Comes Everybody left off. Curiously opening cut English Rain has an slightly (this was Sarah Records after all) belligerent approach in the vocals – perhaps some sort of in-joke. And there’s an hint of Madchester keyboards in some of the sounds too. Glider has a fantastic rousing chorus as does Firestone Tyres. And so on…
They’ve also continued to release albums fairly intermittently – five albums between 1982 and 2012, albeit they broke up for some years after 1994. And yet they’ve all been in their own way excellent with many mid to later career highlights – such as Starry Day (where Carolyn Allen takes lead vocal duties and as with all those songs where she does so is pretty terrific) or the stately keyboard and bass driven ‘If the ravens leave’ where McInulty provides a particularly melancholy vocal. And that haunting quality is evident from the off.
They found a patch of the musical terrain almost uniquely their own, and provided a bridge from that post-punk experimentation right the way through into the 2010s.
So, in no particular order, some highlights from their career.
All I asked You to Do
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5fbb_0cLxgPale Spectre vCA
Cheer Up Ferdinand
The Back of Beyond
Starry Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XgteKjag0s
If the ravens leave
An Immaculate Conception