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.Read More
BBC 6 Music DJ (and former member of The Fall) Marc Riley refers to Vic Godard as ‘The Greatest Living Englishman’ and after listening to 30 Odd Years quite a few times now, it’s hard to disagree (as far as songwriters go, anyway). His influence in the late-‘70s was significant and it resonates to this day. Godard (né Napper) took the emancipatory energy of punk and applied his inchoate yet sophisticated songwriting nous to it, filtering a variety of genres through both over the decades. From 1978’s Don’t Split It through to a 2012 rendition of 1992’s Johnny Thunders with Davey Henderson’s marvellous Sexual Objects, there’s no ‘Joey-punk’ knuckle-dragging and not a hint of flab.
The first disc is the more straightforward of the two, although it may raise the eyebrows of the hitherto uninitiated: it starts off punk (albeit with a smart, cutting, ‘60s garage edge), develops into Velvets-tinged pop, swings into full ‘Cole Porter’ mode in the middle, briefly turns off into the best Bond themes you’ve never heard (Spring is Grey and Stayin’ Outta View (Instrumental)) and ends with muscular Edwyn Collins-produced Northern Soul. All this could surprise even the seasoned fan with a full pre-existing familiarity with the individual songs.
The second disc initially follows naturally enough with We’ll Keep Our Chains from Godard’s second Collins-produced Long Term Side-Effect – melodic, tough, a bit off kilter and underpinned with that trademark Northern Soul swing. But then the generic twist-turns begin to emerge in ever more awe-inspiringly unexpected ways. First there are two infectious gospel songs from LTS-E and then we’re into turn-of-the-century urban with The Writer’s Slumped, which has more than a hint of Missy Elliott’s Get Yr Freak On about it (which came first, one wonders?). There’s even Godard classics such as Ambition with a distinct good-ole-fashioned-hoe-down bent, blackly funny music hall in the form of Blackpool (the theme to an ill-fated theatre collaboration with Irvine Welsh) and the jaunty, accordion-led, Brechtian number The Wedding Song. The most incredible thing about all of these diversions is how natural it all sounds – partly a testament to picking collaborators of the finest calibre but primarily due to being possessed of a songwriting talent, an authorial voice, so definite and distinct as to frequently leave one breathless.
The last song proper is the aforementioned live rendition of Johnny Thunders with The Sexual Objects. Recorded at Stereo in Glasgow in December 2012, it was a performance that was a part of a series of events dubbed VIC.ism, the weekend-long Glasgow leg of which celebrated Godard’s influences, influence and his special connection to the local music scene (his connection to Scotland is emphasised further by excerpts of the late Edinburgh poet Paul Reekie discussing Godard and Subway Sect on the short intro and outro tracks). 30 Odd Years reinforces the extent to which Godard’s back catalogue and fulsome talents deserve to be celebrated and emphatically so. Even the Godard/Sect aficionado is likely to uncover a fresh understanding, not least because of the wealth of alternative versions, radio sessions and live recordings on offer. The promise of a further Edwyn Collins-produced record, 1979 Now, later in the year is very exciting indeed, and if ever a 40 Odd Years appears, one could be confident it would be every bit as essential a listen as its predecessor.
'30 Odd Years' is available now on Gnu Inc Records on CD and download.
Andrew R. Hill
Dynamic, intelligent and 'damn good fun', POST's debut mini-album, cavalcade, is a ride worth taking, as Andrew R. Hill finds out.
POST began life as a solo songwriting vehicle for Graham Wann, former guitarist, singer and songwriter of Bricolage. The latter emerged in the early-mid aughts, a key part of the exciting Glasgow scene that also included the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Mother & The Addicts, 1990s and the Royal We. Their impact was nowhere near as great as it should’ve been, and their self-titled debut - essential for fans of Postcard and melodic, intelligent guitar music – served as a final testament rather than a first chapter. POST’s debut (mini-)album cavalcade shares many of the melodic and lyrical markers that made Bricolage (and numerous preceding singles) great, but approaches them with an expanded sonic palette, often highly reminiscent of Low-era Bowie.
From the off cavalcade is taut, a spartan arrangement on Monument to a Lost Cause centring around a cyclical guitar riff and Wann’s vocal, the latter of which provides much of the track’s build; this boldly positions both the song and the record in opposition to contemporary ‘more is more’ attitudes to production by eschewing extensive layering. That the song captivates from the first beat, even though its tempo is just slightly faster than mid-paced, demonstrates that an enhanced use of dynamics is at work, in addition to well-crafted songwriting flair.
New Play Thing is a catchy glam stomp underpinned by a monosynth bass note, while R.I.T.H. is the track that harks back most to Bricolage’s scene, a winding lead guitar line carrying along frantic disco drums and brittle, funk-infused rhythm guitar. New Built Fears Love brings to mind Orange Juice and Pulp in the in their respective balladeering modes (but somehow doesn’t sound particularly like either), and manages to be genuinely lovely without resorting to arrangement clichés.
Metro Camel sounds like a lost track from Low, no small compliment, and is overt in demonstrating that album’s influence, as well as revealing touches of the Krautrock/Kosmische acts that inspired Bowie, Eno and Pop so much in late-‘70s Berlin; Ring Binder mines much of the same territory, albeit in a more spacious, psychedelic manner, harnessing an off-kilter drumbeat to superb effect.
cavalcade whizzes by in just under twenty-five minutes (it is a mini-album, after all), it doesn’t hang around any longer than it has to and uses a variety of influences in an engaging and refreshing way. It’s confident, it’s sharp and, perhaps most importantly, it’s damn good fun without having to be utterly brainless – pretty rare qualities, all told. More please.