Young Marble Giants : Colossal Youth & Collected Works

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Young Marble Giants Colossal Youth review

During the post-punk era, as genres began cross-pollinating and sonic experimentation from abrasive, guitar-based bands hit a new high, Young Marble Giants were still something of an anomaly. While New York had gone new wave and Leeds was immersed in a wave of political dance punk, this Welsh trio had taken on a different approach completely, mixing buzzing organs, chugging, percussive guitars, fluid and funky basslines, and the heavenly vocals of Alison Statton. The band had recorded only one proper album in their time together, the 1980 breakthrough Colossal Youth. But that album was as innovative as defining artistic statements get. Very little sounded anything like it at the time, and even today, those who most explicitly honed in on its unique sound belong to a fairly exclusive club. There have been a few groups, notably Pram and Broadcast, who have constructed their own spooky atmospheric pop from similar textures, but not with the same punk rawness in which the Young Marble Giants did. And since I’m obligated to mention it, Kurt Cobain was a fan.

Nearly three decades later, Domino Records reissued the landmark Colossal Youth as a, fittingly, colossal three-disc set featuring their collected single and compilation releases, peel sessions, and the early, home-recorded Salad Days compilation. Disc one covers the proper album release, which sounds as innovative and eerie today as it must have in 1980. Tracks like “Searching For Mr. Right” and “Include Me Out” have a melodic, yet punk-influenced simplicity about them, basic drum machine thuds driving their stripped-down arrangements. Even cooler still are the organ-fueled tracks like “N.I.T.A.” and “The Taxi,” which are as spooky as they are stylish.

The title track has a playful groove about it, while “The Man Amplifier” is a space-age lounge number. The surf-inspired guitar of “Choci Loni” is particularly awesome, slicing through an ambient cloud of analog effects, and “Wurlitzer Jukebox,” which even had a record label named after it, is something of an anthem here. Its jangly chords cascade over the taut, flexing basslines, and Statton’s vocals sound their most angelic. After being reminded of Hole’s 1994 cover of “Credit in the Straight World,” it’s refreshing to hear the original here, which gets by much more successfully on subtlety and streamlined cool.

The extras included on the expanded edition, and they are numerous, are no doubt what make this reissue release such an exciting collection. The second disc begins with the Testcard EP, featuring several short, instrumental tracks like “This Way,” “Posed by Models,” and “The Clock.” The “Final Day” single is a sing-songy standout, while b-sides “Cakewalking” and “Radio Silents” are pretty solid themselves. And Salad Days, which features several early versions of tracks from Colossal Youth stands as an essential artifact as well, its rawness coming through loud and crackly. Likewise, the Peel Sessions disc, though quite brief at only five tracks, is not to be missed, if for no other reason than an even punchier mix of the band’s minimal anti-punk.

Young Marble Giants are a unique band who earned their acclaim for standing apart in a time of wild innovation and following a unique artistic vision, one both influential and far ahead of its time. While manyhave taken cues from YMG’s atmospheric new wave sound, their style remains distinctive and largely without many peers. Its sound might be subtle, even muted, but the influence of Colossal Youth more than lives up to its name

Label: Domino

Year: 1980/2007

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