12 O'Clock Track: In honor of Rough Trade coming stateside, Young Marble Giants' "Salad Days" | Bleader

12 O'Clock Track: In honor of Rough Trade coming stateside, Young Marble Giants' "Salad Days"

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My go-to album of late has been Wanna Buy a Bridge?, a 1980 compilation by British record store and label Rough Trade that collected choice singles from the imprint's stellar roster. (It's odd timing, since my relistening to Wanna Buy a Bridge? coincides with the recent opening of a Brooklyn outpost for Rough Trade's retail business.) Though it's an eclectic mix of funk, punk, noise, early industrial, and singer-songwriter prog, Wanna Buy a Bridge? is probably best known as one of the finest, if not the finest, collection of British postpunk music. It's prompted me to revisit albums by some of the artists on the compilation, in particular Young Marble Giants' sole LP, 1980's Colossal Youth.

YMG are a Welsh trio who emphasize simplicity and concision over embellishment and digression—the band consists of little more than singer Alison Statton and brothers Philip (bass) and Stuart (guitar and organ) Moxham; percussion is provided by possibly the thinnest drum machine in recorded history. The longest song on Colossal Youth is three and a half minutes, and the shortest is just under two. "Salad Days" comes towards the end, and one listen to it gives you an ideal introduction to YMG's sound. There are Statton's sweet yet eerie vocals; Philip's funky, frenetic, thick bass; and Stuart's guitar playing, which alternates between elegant strumming and chippy, percussive tapping. Here are the lyrics for "Salad Days": "Think of salad days / They were folly and fun / They were good/ They were young." That's it! But what an apt, simple message, one that forms the foundation of so many pop songs. And while most bands render that kind of triumphant feeling in busy arrangements and high volume, YMG elect to make the youthful nostalgia ring loud through gestures as effortless and significant as a head on your shoulder. In that way, their version of pop-music uplift feels honest, as it reflects the fleeting nature of young love and adolescent joy more accurately. They released only one album, but YMG are one of a rare breed: minor bands who made a major statement. Check out today's 12 O'Clock Track below.

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