January 9, 2008

The Pale Saints : Whaaaa Happened?

We hypothesized every possible angle over lunch yesterday. This is what my friend Bob and I like to do from time to time; we wonder why one band makes it and lasts the test of time where others fade into obscurity. The obvious answer would be the band must have sucked, right? But so many times this really isn't the case.

Why aren't The Pale Saints more widely recognized and respected?

People still talk about the nearly one hit wonder band Swervedriver (and their recent reunion doesn't hurt this point either) and the over hyped band from Oxford, Ride. Multiple reissues have been constructed for the ultimately hit or miss Slowdive and Chapterhouse. MBV have been practically placed into Sainthood. And yet the Pale Saints with all of their shimmering tremelo drenched layered melodies and complex dynamic shifts have fallen under the radar of fame. More realistically they have been dropped from it completely. How did this happen to a band that owned nearly all the trademark bedroom eyed tones of a classic 4AD artist?

I will get their basic stats out of the way first.

What: Pale Saints
Where: Leeds, England
When: 1987 - 1996
Who: Ian Masters - Bass, Vocals, Graeme Naysmith - Guitar, Chris Cooper - Drums
Then Who: Meriel Barham - Guitar, Vocals (Lush's 1st singer) Colleen Browne - Bass, Vocals
Discography (taken from Wikipedia) with comps excluded:

1990: The Comforts of Madness
1992: In Ribbons

1994: Slow Buildings

1988: Children Break
1989: Barging into the Presence of God
1990: Half-Life (12" contains a bonus spoken-word track "Colour of the Sky")
1991: Kinky Love
1991: Flesh Balloon
1991: Porpoise
1992: Throwing Back the Apple
1994: Fine Friend
1994: Fine Friend (US promo including "One Blue Hill" live acoustic @ KCRW)

So what went wrong between 1996 and now? Where is the much deserved torch for this band? Our conversation spanned from our car ride to the restaurant to in between bites of grilled cheese sandwiches and we still couldn't find an answer that satisfied us. They made beautiful icy bombastic sonic landscapes, they were on a well respected label, and they actually toured.

The best I can guess is they fell victim to poor timing . They were born into a time when you couldn't swing a stick and miss a Shoegaze band. During the early half of the 90's it seemed like every record out there was one big fuzzy blissed out cliche of super-maxed guitars and buried dreamy vocals.

And well, few bands should plod on without one of the key original members. When Ian left the band, the original vocalist and guitar player, I don't think the band ever fully recovered.

Perhaps it was the combination of both of these factors that helped to The Pale Saints live up to their ghostly name ten years after the fact. The band deserves at least one nice reissue package - maybe the classic Comfort of Madness remastered with bonus cuts partnered with a second disc compiling all their tracks scattered on various compilations.

Just throwing it out there.

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