As 4AD Records celebrates its thirteenth (l) anniversary, Fiona Shepherd talks to two of its most recent signings.
Six times last week. 250 people were shoehomed into London‘s compact but any lCA to celebrate the thirteenth birthday of one of this country‘s most esteemed labels in the best possible fashion — by watching the bands on the label perform. 4A1) and a select brood of London punterland were experiencing The l3 Year ltch. Reports that on one night 2000 others were marooned outside the lCA portals were unconfirmed as we went to press and all that . . . but you kinda believe they might be true.
This is. after all. the label which in the early 80s had a virtual monopoly on Brit wisp-rock via its bedrock alliance with The Cocteau Twins. punctuated by cantankerous Gothic outpourings by The Birthday Party. Bauhaus and X-mal Deutschland; which. in the late 80s. augmented this virtual monopoly on Brit wisp-rock by signing Lush and The Pale Saints; which. in between. got obtuse. neurotic. yet beguiling with American signings Throwing Muses. then cranky and crunchy with the pixilated Pixies. from which point 4A1) (art-)rocked with the best of them.
The label retains a cohesive visual identity through the peerless sleeve design of in-house artist Vaughan Oliver. but has neatly escaped its shackle as Mecca to which introspective dn'ps flock for their musical fix. Now Cocteau-less. 4AD embraces a whole battery of styles. from the magisterial tranquillity of the less- than-prolific Dead Can Dance. to the lurching danceability ofThe Wolfgang Press. to the shivery. shimmying Belly and straight-for-the-jugular Breeders.
Last year saw the formation of 4AD artery Guemica. The splinter label became home for two
acts shonly to visit Glasgow on consecutive nights —
Melbourne's Underground Lovers and Virginia‘s
: ‘l'm sure there‘s lots of people around who hate the
acts on 4AD.‘ says Underground Lover Maurice
. Argiro. ‘but I‘ve always had a great deal of respect
3 for the label simply because they seem to be
primarily concerned with the quality oftheir acts.
There‘s a theme which runs through which I think is
really special. lt‘s seen as one of those post-punk.
seminal [someone had Io use the word; I 'm just glad
i i! wasn '1 me/ labels. They're one of the last great
independents even though they're a lot larger now.‘ Unrest‘s Phil Krauth has a similar attitude. ‘We
respected the music and knew there was a certain
standard to what they put out. based on the album
cover artwork and everything. When you look at the
cover art for a lot ofthe artists you think ofthe label
being very mysterious.‘
THE UNDERGROUND LOVERS BIT:
‘l‘ve noticed.‘ begins bassist Maurice. ‘as we‘ve played this last week and a half that there‘s a curiosity there. People are willing to watch and listen. Perhaps if we weren‘t on 4AD it mightn‘t have been the same. I guess there are a lot of 4AD spotters out there who think “oh no. you missed with this one" or “that‘s great“.‘
Underground Lovers are 4Al)‘s hidden gems. Last year‘s Leaves Me Blind LP displays a sense of l exploration light years from the usual yucky l
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: TOM WILSON O GALLIANO O HILLIARO ENSEMBLE
2 (their most ‘famous‘ ditty). last single ‘lsabel' and a
‘traditional‘ rock values the Antipodes spews out. and closer to the spirit of British acts like The The. Underground Lovers enjoy a respectable standing in Australia. They enjoy utter obscurity in Britain. 1 don‘t get it either.
‘I think the band confuses a lot of people but we see diversity as a strength. We run the gamut ofquite raucous things to really soft mellow things.‘
THE UNREST BIT:
‘I don‘t know if people really know what to expect from us. period.‘ says Unrest‘s drummer. ruminating on whether the 4AD stamp of approval tags a band. Like Underground Lovers. Unrest had a recorded legacy before joining Guemica (they've now signed to 4AD proper). Cult favourites after four albums. Unrest belies the harsh connotations oftheir name with the hypnotic insistence of sparsely arranged plaintive songs like ‘Yes She Is My Skinhead Girl'
personal all-time favourite record ofall time ‘I Do ; Believe You Are Blushing‘. Not to instil any premature prejudices or anything. but Unrest are a bit like The Wedding Present. only propelled by ; childlike optimism and curiosity rather than stale cynicism. and forthcoming album Per/err 'I‘eerh is music to listen to behind the bike sheds.
Underground Lovers play Kng 'l'uls Wah Walt Hui.
(i/asgoii' on Sat 3/ .' Unrest play The (.‘aI/Iouse. Glasgow on Sun I. l
The List 30 July—l2 August I993 25