Saturday, April 9, 2016

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth (AM8)

Despite its obscurity, Colossal Youth may well be the finest alternative album of the 70s as well as the progenitor of legions of postmodern electronic groups like Portishead, Depeche Mode, St. Etienne and LCD Sound Machine. The LP was originally released in 1979 as  punk began its tailspin and morphed into the the more commercially viable, far less angry (and some would say sophomoric) new wave. Colossal Youth abounds with minimalist production values, Eno-like electronic ambiance, and dark lyrical grace - framed by deceptively sunny melodies. The group represented a 3rd stream that was neither punk or new wave. Allison Statton's coolly detached waif-like vocals provided an exotic counterpoint to Stuart Moxham's cynical, world weary lyrics. Musically, Stuart Moxham alternated between power chord guitar and a keyboard parody of the inane pipe organ player at a sporting event or a church social. Stuart's brother, Phillip added simple and percussive bass lines which often carried the melodic content of the song. There were no drums, except the insistent beat of a drum machine ticking time like a metronome.

Tracks like, "Searching For Mr. Right" and "Man Amplifier" contain clever subtexts exposing the transparency of modern sexual relations. "Getting Credit In The Straight World" is a skillful subversion of our conventional understanding of success warning of the pitfalls in our achievement oriented culture. "The Final Day" may be the most eloquent statement on disarmament ever recorded. Many of the songs capture the banality of modern living and veneer of artifice we maintain to function in a cruel and uncaring world. The LP is a virtual soundtrack to tough times (particularly in the UK). Colossal Youth is the story of a band who came into our lives unceremoniously, and disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving behind a tiny jewel of immeasurable value.