Pale Saints -The Comforts of Madness

What, oh what, happened to the Pale Saints?

 

What, oh what, happened to the Pale Saints? This lp came out to rave reviews, there was the inevitable tittle-tattle about the saviours of music being in our midst, and then? Well, their slip back into the shadows is sad in that it means that this record is not a major benchmark for "indie-music lurvers" everywhere. For it is a bona fide classic. And it stands the test of time in a way that few lps of this period have. Wonder Stuff, anyone?

 

Right. Lament over, time for review.

 

Side one creeps in on the back of a waspish guitar duel, then thumps into life with the first two songs; The Way the World Is  and You Tear the World in Two; both chock full of smashing, growling guitar and yearning vocals. The key and tempo changes in these two tracks is almost dizzying, great steel like razor sharp slices of guitar work contrast with THAT voice; almost the voice of a ghost, and the lyric snatches that you'd catch from the songs, (all of them seemed to be locked into hyper personal teenage subjects, 18 year old bedroom romances of quiet, psychotic, intensity). By contrast Sea of Sound is the most beautiful lullaby pop song, straight from the Velvets song book, but, dare I say it, more sonically achieving; eschewing all those hang-ups about not been seen to be seen as soft that you'd always feel on a Velvets love song. Only Spiritualized come close here.

 

Then it's smack! Thumped into submission by the bravura sound of True Coming Dream which whisks you up and around only to suddenly dump you into an acoustic led meditation on Little Hammer, a mawkish, "stare at the wallpaper" lament, redolent of dissatisfactory afternoons in your old bedroom at your parents...

 

Side two, (yes I've got this LP on vinyl), starts with more Faust Tapes-like dissonance evaporating as a guitar licks us into Insubstantial. Accentuated "choral" vocals don't prepare you for the dramatic, violent flashes of guitar noise that suddenly appear. A truly great, balanced, evocative piece of music; (thank you Lord Mayor)...

 

Yet another dissonant car crash produces a wreck with its wheels still spinning, then it's in to A Deep Sleep for Steven; akin to a dip in a pool, or floating downstream with only John Millais' "Ophelia" for company; it's so decadent. Once again Spiritualized are the only band in the same bracket. Then, as on side one, the new track, Language of Flowers, whirls around you, exhorting a dance in a meadow (or some similar pastoral pursuit). It could get gooey   but it's the sheer persistence of the guitar that saves it from dropping into ethereal wankery. Fell From the Sun (again announced by the thumping drums) is another high octane charge across the Greensward, propelled by vicious, dry guitars, interrupted now and again by meditational lyrics. It ends on a beautiful vocal harmony that segues into The Sight of You. The Sight of You, (the LP's single) is possibly the greatest lost classic single around; (find me better Incendiary readers). You CAN NOT get better. Unbelievably believable teenage love poem lyrics, great guitar hooks, a wobbly background noise reminiscent of Bring on the Dancing Horses or The 13th Floor Elevators, dum-dum bass; monstrous ending, thoroughly un-danceable. Perfect.

 

When I saw them play this at Newcastle Riverside around 1989-1990, the entire audience (made up, surprisingly, of football types), just thumped the living daylights out of each other.  In a strange and ugly way it was the perfect form of physical expression for this track. The last song, Time Thief, arrives on the wings of a drum cascade, swirling around, dipping and diving on a maelstrom of guitar sounds. A creepy tick-tock sound keeps the listener on their toes, waiting for the next guitar wave to wash over. And then it's over (save for a freaky animal like squeal)...

 

Buy this album if you can.