October 25, 2007

The Greatest Song of All Time: 001. Young Marble Giants ‘Brand – New – Life’

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:34 am by htshell

Welcome to “The Greatest Song of All Time.” With this column, I’ll be highlighting pieces through the ages that fit the mold the deities prescribed. Let’s partake in the sweetest nectar that was given us: SONG.
What’s in a great song? Obviously it’s a bit preposterous to have a recurring column called ‘The Greatest Song of All Time.’ But isn’t music journalism already filled with such ridiculous hyperbole? But more obviously, this column will simply be a platform for me to share my favorite music.
Also, I’d be remiss to not acknowledge the influence for the idea: the sadly no longer updated Greatest Band of All Time, a blog from the Pacific NW written by Zac Pennington of Parenthetical Girls and Steve Schroeder of States Rights Records.

young marble giants

GSOAT: #001
YEAR: 1980
LINK: here

Since Rough Trade is the Greatest Label of All Time, the Young Marble Giants seem like a fine starting point. While the label has had a great deal of “classic” bands (The Smiths, The Fall, The Go-Betweens, Stiff Little Fingers, Arthur Russell, more recently The Strokes and Belle and Sebastian), Young Marble Giants are indicative of what was and is truly special and revolutionary about Rough Trade.
In February 1980, the label released the band’s only album Colossal Youth. While the rest of the post-punk scene was trying to fuck shit up with dissonant guitars or disco-punk beats, YMG took a much different approach, throwing away all excesses for something soft, focused, and intense. Any of the group’s songs can have no more than four things going at once, because the three-piece played with a simple, boring drum machine behind them.
“Brand – New – Life” starts off with the drum machine that beats straight the whole song, acting as a metronome. Phil Moxham’s straight eighth-note bass plods along throughout the entire song, giving it the right amount of monotony. The vocals and lyrics reflect the monotony of the rhythmn: “When I hear the doorbell ring/I can never let them into me.” It’s a rumination of listlessness and depression, which are not hard to imagine considering the gloomy locale of Cardiff, Wales. The band realized that sometimes more effective statements can be made by what one removes from a song, rather than filling a song with unnecessary elements. Simplicity is beauty.

Young Marble Giants on Wikipedia

Young Marble Giants Web Archive

Domino Records 

Pitchfork review of Domino reissue by Douglas Wolk


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