Last weekend I had a severe caffeine headache and an optician’s appointment. I’d countered the headache with more coffee, and whatever form of dough and animal fat I’d eaten was stemming the head spin. I was feeling alright, just about. Then a package came through with something I hadn’t expected to see this year. Complete with a note asking me to enjoy the memories, I had a physical copy of an official Dawn Parade album! My mood immediately heightened.
To clarify the above, the Dawn Parade was a major influence on me. Most music geeks have a few bands and artists that mean the world to them, and Greg McDonald’s project are up there in my estimation. Seeing them around 2002 left a huge impression and perhaps affected my opinions on what a band should be. They played completely commercial, heart on sleeve, anthemic rock’n’roll with substance. They had the ability to make a pub gig with fifteen people on a wet Wednesday night seem like a life affirming event which you were lucky to witness. John Peel loved them, and Rolling Stone‘s Michael Krugman and Jason Cohen showered them with praise on their “Well Hung at Dawn” column, instigating the 2005 incarnation of the band’s appearance at South by Southwest in Texas. For whatever reason, major labels and the UK music press didn’t want to know in 2002. After the first line up split in 2003, a second version continued with sporadic gigging and recording until an ill advised name change to the Visions in late 2005. In August of last year, unhappy with the new moniker, and aware that the spark was gone, the band called it quits.
This album is a mixture of recordings from the various line up’s over the past half decade. It’s a full CD of “Kopylefted” material designed to spread as much of the band’s music as far as possible. The majority of songs included date back to 2002 and earlier. “Hole In My Heart” makes like the Undertones via Richey Edwards. There are plenty of my favourite lyrics on The Dawn Parade, and my absolute favourite goes thusly:
“If I hear that just one more time, I’ll cut both my ears off, I swear…but I swear things all the time”
The Dawn Parade was both a High Fidelity list and an IPC end of year poll worthy band. Bono would be pleased with “Wider than the January Skies,” while “The Craving” is as glorious as listening to Pulp’s His N Hers on the way home with dirty hair on a bright Sunday. “The Dark Stuff” polishes 2AM alienation like Blood on the Tracks.
Admittedly, Greg occasionally misfires. “Morrissey’s Tongue” has some painful pith and hints at patronising all concerned under the weight of good intentions, while the Springsteen concern for Sierra Leone of “Look Ma I’m a Soldier” is a bridge too far for focus. These few cringeworthy moments are forgivable though, as the same unwavering intent pays glorious dividends. “The Passion” succeeds on pure hope, like the Church on stadium steroids. “The Underground” laughs in the face of obscurity with the demeanour of a desperate Pogues compilation.
Five years on, The Dawn Parade finally has a debut album. It’s a patchwork quilt, and about as cohesive as one could expect what was effectively the work of several bands to keep some very special songs alive. It hasn’t got all of their best songs on it (“Into the Fire” will make ears twitch when the re-issue market gets in swing), and makes the best of less fortunate circumstances than it deserves. There’s enough magic here to show the first time listener why they were special though. The album ends with a live version of “Good Look Olivia,” introduced by John Peel for BBC broadcast back in autumn 2002. It’s as though the Smiths and “Like a Rolling Stone” were ruptured by Idlewild.
I sat at a friend’s house with this album playing last week. He was impressed, and I explained how I’d never been able to persuade people to listen to The Dawn Parade while they were around.
“The strange thing,” he said, “is that it’s not strange music, you can’t get much more commercial than some of these songs without singing `buy me’ in tune.”
“Bad, isn’t it,” I replied.
He answered “it’s bad for them that no one has bought it, but at the same time, they’ve got two people listening to their music on a Tuesday night going `wow.'”
Even if they never out-sell Razorlight, the Dawn Parade still wins the war hands down. Keep believing Greg.
U2 – All that You Can’t Leave Behind
Pulp – His N Hers
The Undertones – The Best of the Undertones: Teenage Kicks
Available via Repeatfanzine.co.uk