Tuesday, January 15, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 3)
I didn't write all of what follows. But I wish I did:-
In 1993, a miracle occurred among the perpetually rain-washed streets of Glasgow. After having been missing, presumed dead, since 1981, the Postcard label - once home of Orange Juice and the fabled Sound of Young Scotland, which heretically declared that punk's amphetamine logic could coexist with Velvet's-style art posturing, an abiding love for jangling 60s melodists and a profound respect for Chic - suddenly declared itself open for business again.
Run by Alan Horne from his tenement bedroom, the original Postcard had been uniquely true to punk's original manifesto. Fuelled by speed, booze, obnoxious arrogance, shortbread-tin kitsch and ear-bleeding treble, the label lived fast and died young, leaving a perfectly formed body of DIY work - 12 singles and one album recorded in a 12-month blur.
The resurrected Postcard left Young Scotland to its own devices, as Horne busied himself putting out records by faces from the old days (including ex-Fire Engines misanthrope Davy Henderson's Nectarine No.9, and the inspirational Vic Godard). Otherwise the game plan remain unchanged. By 1995, Postcard had vanished again, but it had gone down in flames, with the most audacious recording of its existence, Paul Quinn's swooning vampire-soul magnum opus, Will I Ever Be Inside Of You.
Just as Orange Juice had been Postcard's original raison d'etre, Quinn had been a major impetus in reviving the label. Cutting a figure suggestive of a smoke-enshrouded collision between Bryan Ferry, Nick Cave and Beatrice Dalle, and blessed with a voice that explored deep, dark places unplumbed since Scott Walker, the reserved Dundee-born singer should have conquered the world years before. Instead hed found himself lumbered with a career as one of UK pop's most undervalued natural resources, his dark light eclipsed by bad luck.
A peripheral Postcard presence from the first - as schoolkids Quinn and Edwyn Collins had bonded over Bowie - he initially came to prominence when his band Bourgie Bourgie released the tremendous 'Breaking Point' single before collapsing under the strain of not knowing who they were supposed to be. By then in London, Quinn had hooked up with Horne again. Banking on destroying the system from within, the Postcard supermo had joined London Records and set up his own subsidiary, Swamplands.
Horne envisaged great things: Quinn would team up with Arthur Baker to make the world's first white hip-hop. In the event, aside from two fragile singles with Collins and another with Vince Clarke, Quinn's career ran aground. While he dreamed of Thin White Dukes, London wanted him to be 'Paul Yound with street cred', and he and Horne sat out the 1980s while they engaged in protracted litigation to free him from the label.
Those years were not entirely wasted. During that period of reflection, Quinn conceived the brooding torch-noir sound that would prove the perfect setting for his voice. Back in Glasgow with Postcard resuscitated, he and Horne were on a mission. To support their cause The Independent Group was recruited Magnificent-Seven style from drifting members of the city's musical fraternity - former Commotions and ex-Aztec Cameramen were among those they enlisted. But most crucially, they signed up James Kirk whose Sterling-Morrison-gone-country guitar genius had previously flourished with Orange Juice.
Produced by Collins, their 1993 debut The Phantoms and The Archetypes, was a haunted masterpiece where bone-weary echoes of soul, pop and country comforted each other as Quinn's voice described regret on ballads like 'Punk Rock Hotel' (the theme to Postcard's never-filmed Super-8 movie) and exquisitely delicate covers, including The Carpenters 'Superstar'. It was the sound of old ghosts being laid to rest - and new ghosts appearing to goad its creators to further heights.
With their recklessly ambitious second album, the Group scaled Olympus. Postcard had never been lacking in self-belief, but Will I Ever Be Inside Of You carried itself with breathtaking confidence. Opening with Quinn's voice proclaiming "Woah" it sounded as if it amazed even itself.
The title track is a yearning, languorous but urgent nine-minute symphony, wrapped in chattering keyboards, harp slivers, dub technique, sampled movie fragments and brittle disco guitar. At one point, the song becomes an overture, previewing songs to come, then is obliterated by a deranged stratosphere-scraping middle eight. By now, the Group had been bolstered by ex-Bourgie guitarist Mick Slaven, his unhinged work (his own band, The Leopards, made a noise like the Voidoids fighting Gene Vincent) providing a a disturbed musical undercoat to their dark gloss.
Then when you think the track can't accommodate anything else, there's a heavenly touch as Jane Marie O'Brien appears singing "Sous Le Dome Epais", the lesbian love duet from Delibes' opera Lakme - which, somehow, the songs absorbs into itself. And throughout, there's Quinn's extraordinary voice, by turns cavernous and soaring, dealing in impressionistic splinters, starting out on Greek creation myth ("Time and again/ I dreamt of silver men") ending up pondering "Maybe, if I pray every night.... "
It's an astonishing opening. More astonishing is that - with Cowan and Horne contriving to give the impression that Angelo Badalmenti, Ennio Morricone and Daniel Lanois had commandeered the production - the rest of the album lives up to it. Built around ascending keyboards, country organ and chiming guitar shards, tambourines, deep-focused Bacharach moves and rockabilly roadhouse urges, muzak that sounds like something drifting in from Twin Peaks' Black Lodge, and assorted tortured swoons, this stormy lexicon of longing was a belated Cinemascope culmination of new pop dreaming.
Reviews were ecstatic - "Soul music at its purest," gasped the NME - but buried. For the umpteenth time, Quinn found no one was really listening. His glamorously gloomy sulk appeared against a landscape dominated by Blur and Oasis, and was out of place in Britpop's gurning universe.
The album came and went, and Postcard packed up its tent. Since then, silence. Quinn and Horne are still lying low in Glasgow. We probably don't deserve it, but we can only hope Postcard Part III is in pre-production. Keep watching the skies.
Released : January 1995*
Musicians : Paul Quinn (vocals), James Kirk (guitar), Mick Slaven (guitar), Campbell Owens (bass), Skip Reid (drums), Blair Cowan (keyboards), Andy Alston (keyboards), Jane Marie O'Brien (vocals)
Tracks : Will I Ever Be Inside Of You. You Have Been Seen. Lover, That's You All Over. Mooreeffoc (Misty Blue). A Passing Thought. Outre. Misty Blue. Stupid Thing. At The End Of The Night.
All of the above was courtesy of Damien Love in an article in Uncut magazine back in September 2003 which was part of a series on all-time classic albums. Not surprisingly, it remains one of my favourite pieces of rock-journalism despite the release date given in the magazine article being wrong. It was released in October 1994....
A pdf copy of the article, along with many other goodies relating to the career of Paul Quinn can be found over at Punk Rock Hotel, a magnificent use of the internet.....
All I will say is that Will I Ever Be Inside Of You has, since its release, been my most loved LP ever written, recorded and released by a Scottish act.
And since it is all but impossible to track down these days without paying an absolute fortune:-
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Will I Ever Be Inside Of You
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - You Have Been Seen
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Lover, That's You All Over
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Mooreeffoc (Misty Blue)
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - A Passing Thought
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Outre
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Misty Blue
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - Stupid Thing
mp3 : Paul Quinn & The Independent Group - At The End Of The Night.
Simply. Thrilling. Honeys.