The original line-up of Jazzateers met by coincidence seeing David Bowie give his legendary performance as The Elephant Man in New York, despite all coming from the (then slightly Wilder) West of the Central Belt of Scotland. Ah yes, this was a (nearly) Postcard band after all. Tall tales aside, the band had numerous singers through its existence from 1980 to 1986, Don’t Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Cowboy documenting their time fronted by Alison Gourlay, and her replacements, the sisters Rutkowski (later of This Mortal Coil); Paul Quinn was also in the Rutkowski-modified line-up but does not appear here and songwriter and guitarist Ian Burgoyne steps in to sing a couple of numbers too. One would expect a lack of cohesiveness as a result (this is a compilation, after all) but it doesn’t quite work out that way – there’s a definite split between the two bands, but it’s no less enjoyable as a result.
The first eleven (of eighteen) tracks concentrate on the Gourlay era and couldn’t start stronger, Natural Progression (Part I) sucks in you immediately, unquestionably taking the Velvet Underground’s Femme Fatale as a jumping off point. As Douglas MacIntyre’s personal and informative sleevenotes so appositely point out, there’s more than a hint of Nico and Astrud Gilberto to Gourlay’s vocals (also very reminiscent of Dolly Mixture’s Debsey Wykes), which occupy the first three minutes of the song before exploding into an instrumental four minute four chord clangingly clamorous coda. Four chords never sounded so good. There’s an unquestionably bossa/jazz informed groove to what follows, but there’s also plenty Velvets and a heavy dose of their nearly-labelmates on Postcard, especially early Orange Juice. Indeed Edwyn Collins produced five of the tracks on offer here, including the mock-sophisto, incredibly catchy, sleazily beautiful Moon Over Hawaii (Part I) – somewhere in the back of his head, those vibes (vibraphone, that is) were stored for later use (not thinking of any massive worldwide smashes of course, no siree).
This classic set of songs could happily exist as an album of its own, if a short one. The second part is patchier but not without its charms. The Burgoyne sung title track has an insistent attack, and is more than a little reminiscent of (consistently underrated New Jersey ‘college rock’ band) The Feelies, as well as their later Grahame Skinner-fronted incarnation. The Rutkowski sung Hey Mister and Different Feeling are less successful, particularly the former (something about the recurrent “Down in Carolina” line rings a little hollow) - nonetheless, there’s plenty to enjoy here, especially Lee and the second, less rough and ready, version of Can It Be. Natural Progression (Part II) fades out, this time letting those same four magic chords go on forever, albeit inaudibly. On DLYSGUTBAC, Jazzateers present another great lost body of Postcard-associated work (alongside those early recordings by Strawberry Switchblade, Aztec Camera, The Bluebells, etc.) – this is essential listening for anyone with an affinity for that melodically magical intersection of [post-]punk and disco, Byrdsian jangle and Velvets cool, in the Wild West three decades or so ago.
‘Don’t Let Your Son Grow Up To Be A Cowboy’ is out now on Cherry Red.
Andrew R. Hill