They most certainly are giants
August 26, 2015 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Young Marble Giants was a dawn-of-the-80s three-piece Welsh band that released just three records - one LP and two EPs. With virtually no sales and deeply diffident about touring, YMG should by rights have vanished without trace like so many of their one shot post-punk peers. But no. Tomorrow, they're the star turn at fanboy David Byrne's Meltdown festival at the Royal Festival Hall.

The absolute quintessence of a cult band, YMG took a love of Eno and minimalist ingredients - a drum machine built by a former band member from plans in a UK hobbyist magazine, sparse guitar and bass, and Farfisa-esque organ lines - and combined them with the vulnerable, oblique sounds of vocalist Alison Statton. Short, stark and sublime, but not without subtle wit, the songs on that singleton LP Colossal Youth were recorded - of course - in a front room.

But you can read all that in the first link. The best explanation fpr the peculiar, intense love so many people still have for the band is the music itself, and the purpose of this post is to introduce it to those who may not have heard it before. As you can hear the band's entire career in not much more than an hour, this modest investment of your time that may reap a lifetime's rewards.

Colossal Youth

Searching For Mr Right
Include Me Out
The Taxi
Eating Noddemix
Constantly Changing
Colossal Youth
Music For Evenings
The Man Amplifier
Choci Loni
Wurlitzer Jukebox (live)
Salad Days
Credit In The Straight World
Brand - New - Life (live)
Wind In The Rigging

Final Day:

Final Day
Radio Silents
Cake Walking

Ode to Booker T (live 2013)


Zebra Trucks
Sporting Life
This Way
Posed BY Models
The Clock


1980 Peel Session

Previously (bitrotted).
posted by Devonian (25 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I love Young Marble Giants, although for years I had them confused with the Marine Girls because I'd gotten a badly mislabeled hand-copied cassette from someone.
posted by Frowner at 9:21 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't remember which interview it is, otherwise I'd link to it, but there was a thing where They Might Be Giants were talking about the early part of their career (like, right around when Flood came out, I think Birdhouse was beginning to get a bit of traction), and most of the reviewers would think they were talking to YMG, and their first question was always "so what happened to the girl".

It took TMBG a while to figure out what was going on, so it was always kind of weird for them to keep being asked "where's the girl" or "what happened to the girl".
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 9:45 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

love, love, love!
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:02 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I didn't put these in the fpp because they tend to auto-rot, but there have been a couple of interviews on BBC 6 Music prior to the Meltdown show - Tom Robinson with Stuart Moxham (interview starts around 35:00, programme available for six more days) and Stuart Maconie talking to Phil Moxham and Alison Statton today (this is the interview as a clip from Radcliffe and Maconie, so may not decay).

That last link is what inspired the post, and I had so much fun listening to the clips as I built it. Maconie is unashamedly enthusiastic when talking to them; he's good at being positive and engaged about the music he plays (and it's very noticeable when he pointedly isn't), but here he's just bubbling over with genuine fannish joy. I also learned what Noddemix is...
posted by Devonian at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I discovered YMG when I was 14, reading these sidebars in Spin's Alternative Record Guide like "Courtney Love's Top 10 Favourite Albums." Colossal Youth was on at least half of those lists.
posted by Beardman at 10:35 AM on August 26, 2015


I discovered YMG when I was 14, reading these sidebars in Spin's Alternative Record Guide like "Courtney Love's Top 10 Favourite Albums."

Hole recorded a shit ton of covers, among them this one, a last-minute addition to Live Through This, which was my introduction to Young Marble Giants.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Colossal Youth is the bomb. YMG may be a cult band, but all the better for those who succumb and join the cult.
posted by blucevalo at 10:45 AM on August 26, 2015

I've been lucky enough to see them twice (not going tomorrow, for some reason) - at Dingwall's and Union Chapel. Wonderful, wonderful band, and an opportunity to cross another one off my list of Singers I Must See Live (I've seen them all, now, apart from Scott Walker which isn't going to happen).

One of those records that never seems to sound old, like Nick Drake's Five Leaves Left. In 1980, I thought YMG were what the 80s were going to sound like. Another way that decade let me down badly.

the songs on that singleton LP Colossal Youth were recorded - of course - in a front room.

Are you sure? I thought they were recorded at Foel Studios.

A record that was recorded in a front room was Flying Lizards' Money. And It's a Fine Day by Jane and Barton was recorded in someone's kitchen, I think.
posted by Grangousier at 10:48 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Won't make it to Meltdown but there's plenty of good stuff to listen to here. After YMG they kind of split into Weekend and The Gist, both of whom are well worth checking out. (I'm on the run, otherwise I'd go digging for pertinent links.) Nice post, thanks.
posted by El Brendano at 11:18 AM on August 26, 2015

I've been obsessed with this song from Stuart Moxham for a while.
posted by maggiemaggie at 11:27 AM on August 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Grangousier - I've read various accounts (front room, shop window...) and it may have been the first couple of tracks that were on a compilation LP before the band got picked up (and were conseuqently re-recorded) but they do talk about recording in one of the member's front rooms as if it was the whole LP. I'm on the run at the moment (they can't pin anything on me), but I'll try and cite that later, if I can.
posted by Devonian at 11:34 AM on August 26, 2015

Stuart Moxham released a lovely solo acoustic LP, "Fine Tuning", in '95 that seems to have been completely overlooked. Among other things, it includes a run at "Credit in the Straight World".
posted by ryanshepard at 12:36 PM on August 26, 2015

i'm always struck by how contemporary they sound. I just discovered them a few years ago and was really shocked that they were an old band...from an era i thought i knew. great links!
posted by th3ph17 at 1:39 PM on August 26, 2015

I came to Young Marble Giants pretty late in life but once I got Colossal Youth, it was a case of "WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN MY ENTIRE LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE?" The sound is so sparse and open and Alison's voice is beautifully unaffected. There is something so personal and intimate about it. It really does sound like they're just all hanging out in a room together doing this thing, without caring if anyone else hears it.

"Brand - New - Life" basically became an instant favorite song. I think I played it about 5 times in a row when I got the album. I've made many jokes about covering it eventually (I've also joked I would change "sit at home and watch the tube" to "sit at home and watch YouTube" because ... well, obviously. You're welcome to steal if you want to cover it yourself).
posted by darksong at 2:11 PM on August 26, 2015

"Final Day" is one of the most chilling songs I have ever heard about nuclear armageddon. I'm pretty sure the line "Put a blanket up on the window pane/When the baby cries, lullaby again" is a reference to the Protect and Survive booklet, which was thought by many to contain no practical information, but rather advice to the public that would make it seem like they could actually survive a nuclear attack (and possibly also intended to make it easier to dispose of irradiated corpses).

Then, of course, there is Hole's very different interpretation of "Credit in the Straight World."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:19 PM on August 26, 2015

(Sorry, that was a bit aggressive, wasn't it... It was a time when I was a bit too attentive of things like recording studios. For example Berry Street studios, which is where Scritti Politti recorded Songs to Remember, Michael Nyman recorded The Draughtsman's Contract and I spent a day recording a bunch of songs in about 1998. I couldn't bear to listen to the recording more than once, but it was the first studio I'd ever been in, and it was nice that it was one that had been the source of so many of my favourite records.

Not that this record was one of them, favourite though it might have been.

Anyway, sorry. The pedantry just slipped out.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:45 PM on August 26, 2015

Weekend - The End of the Affair
posted by klausness at 3:26 PM on August 26, 2015

The Gist - Fretting Away
posted by klausness at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2015

Yes. Time with Colossal Youth is time well spent. Still sounds so fresh, no matter how many times I listen to it. I never get tired of the way the songs inch, amble, or sway into being.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 4:26 PM on August 26, 2015

I spent the better part of an entire year bewitched by this Stuart Moxham / The Gist track on repeat: Fool for a Valentine.
posted by progosk at 4:42 PM on August 26, 2015

I don't think there's any occasion to apologise for pedantry on Metafilter. At least, my god, I hope not!
posted by Devonian at 6:37 PM on August 26, 2015

That lyrics page lasted twelve years -- amazing...
posted by y2karl at 7:40 PM on August 26, 2015

Makes me wonder if this did not influence Mike Doughty's Skittish

And I can't help thinking of: "There are, in fact, only so many notes the ear can hear ... just cut a few and it'll be perfect."
posted by eustacescrubb at 7:40 PM on August 26, 2015

Stuart Moxham's "Cars in the Grass" from the Stuart Moxham and the Original Artists LP of the same title is one of the most incredible things I've ever heard.
posted by escabeche at 5:36 AM on August 27, 2015

Well, you've convinced me. I'm going to the RFH tonight.
posted by Optamystic at 7:13 AM on August 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

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