Not that I’m complaining, but I always seem to get the reviews of ’80s reissues. One explanation is that I adamantly claim them, so I have no one to blame but myself. Yet another explanation might be that I am one of the few Treble writers who were alive through all of the decade and actually remember the music. Despite my years (as Trashcan Sinatras sang, I’m “long in the tooth and short of wisdom”), many bands escaped my clutches and later discoveries become like unearthed treasure troves, opening up new doors to worlds I didn’t think existed. Earlier last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing Orange Juice’s Glasgow School, now often cited as the Glasgow band that most influenced Franz Ferdinand. The music of the `double F’ itself kicked off a massive look into the history of Scottish music including everyone from Orange Juice to Belle & Sebastian, Aztec Camera to Travis and much more. One of those `lost’ bands that had had an extremely limited cult following, baffling due to their fantastic albums, was APB.
APB hail from Aberdeen, Scotland, mostly known as the birthplace of Annie Lennox, or for its American namesake town, the birthplace of Kurt Cobain. In the early ’80s, APB released a series of 12″ singles that captured the hearts of club kids on both sides of the Atlantic. The initial run of singles were then collected in the album, Something to Believe In, originally on Link Records in the UK, which preceded what would be their debut album, Cure for the Blues. Songs by APB are simply constructed, with a driving funk bassline, angular siren like guitars that are echoed in today’s acts such as Bloc Party, and a steady danceable backbeat, but that simplicity is what makes these songs sound as fresh today as they must have sounded twenty-one years ago. Iain Slater provides the vocals and the pre-Flea funky bass, his brother Glenn the guitar sound that was prevalent in bands like Haircut 100, Aztec Camera, Josef K and Wire. Drummer George Cheyne sits behind the kit, setting the tone with his impeccable rhythm perfect for a club dance party.
This anniversary collection not only reissues the classic collection of singles, but also adds a fourteen-track bonus disc of unreleased and live material of very good quality. The original disc starts with “Shoot You Down,” a song that can still be heard as played by New York DJs. “Palace Filled With Love” is just as catchy with its “Just me and you” chorus. “Rainy Day” laments the Scottish weather years before Travis would with “Why Does It Always Rain On Me?” APB found its fanbase more in the dance category than in post-punk, though the music of Something to Believe In walks the tightrope of both genres. The guitars were certainly aggressive, tense and taut enough to have originated from the ashes of punk, but Iain Slater’s bass brought a dub reggae funk that went beyond the more laid-back Jamaican influenced songs of the Clash and into the dance halls and clubs. Post-punk / dance bands such as Radio 4, Hot Hot Heat and VHS or Beta owe a great debt to APB whether they’ve heard the Aberdeen band or not.
Thirty songs is a lot to take in considering that most thought a collection of sixteen A-sides was lengthy, but the anniversary package is indeed rewarding. When listening to unreleased song “Repetition,” you can hear definite likenesses to the vocals of Ian McCulloch. Collectors were paying up to a c-note to get their hands on not just original, but out of print 1996 reissues of this original album. Now we can all see what the fuss was about thanks to Young American Recordings. Because of them, and their introducing me to the infectious music of APB, they have given this aging ’80s music fan Something to Believe In.
Haircut 100- Pelican West
Franz Ferdinand- Franz Ferdinand
Blondie- Eat to the Beat