Like every John Peel-listening Indie kid in 1979 I bought a copy of this single (still have it!), had a crush on lead singer Ramona, and had no idea what she was singing about.
I dressed a lot like Edwyn Collins back then. I had the vintage shirts, the bootlace tie, the Chelsea boots, the haircut. But somehow I never looked as cool as him.
This clip — the Human League’s first ever appearance on television I believe — is from a show called Mainstream which I have no memory of and can find no information about on the internets. I may have scrubbed it from my memory though because the presenter was such a smug prick, he’s like the most superior and condescending record shop clerk in the world.
I can’t say I was listening to much post-punk influenced music in 2001 (Trip Hop more my thing back then) so it’s not surprising I missed out on the album Any Other City by Scottish indie band Life Without Buildings. I wasn’t the only one either because it didn’t sell a lot and ended up being the only album they ever released — not counting a posthumous live set — as they amicably spit up a year later. But over the years it developed a cult following and has just been reissued after falling out of print for a while, which is how I came to hear it and fall under its spell too.
Any Other City is exactly the sort of idiosyncratic record that inspires cult devotion, especially when the band don’t make another one. The Young Marble Giants are another band like that who come to mind and Life Without Buildings do also sound like something you might have heard on the John Peel show in the late 70s, all scratchy and angular indie with a spiky charm that reminds me of other female-fronted post-punk bands like Delta 5 and The Raincoats.
What gives them distinction though is lead singer (and currently fine artist) Sue Tompkins who scats, free-associates, and rambles over the music, with words tumbling out of her like the hyper-active nutter you hope doesn’t sit next to you on the bus. I think she’s what you’d call a Marmite singer, you’ll either love her or hate her. I’m firmly in the former camp.
The version of A Forest they play at the start of this clip is from before they recorded the song and it was called At Night. I preferred The Cure when they made spiky pop like this and think it’s a shame that when they went into the studio to make the record Robert Smith said to the band “Nah, too fast. Make it more dreary.”
This popped up on one of my falls down the YouTube rabbit hole and made me realize it must be years since the lovely Clare made an appearance on this blog. This is my favourite single of theirs and the video is almost too delightful for words.
Download: She’s Artistic – The Photos (mp3)
The Photos were touted as the new Blondie with their New Wave pop hooks and pretty lead singer Wendy Wu, but they crashed and burned after just the one album for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. I bought it but didn’t think they lived up to the hype. They did record a second album but it never got a proper release.
Pictured: The talented, beautiful, tragic Pauline Boty.
Nice to see Talking Heads before they became a multimedia art project.