I’ve appropriated the title of my friend Iain’s first-class blog for this piece about a band who maybe should have been more famous than they are. ‘Influential’ is a word that damns with faint praise, and is usually applied to artists like the Velvet Underground or the Stooges, who made little commercial impact in their time, but who are discovered and copied by others.
So it is with the Pastels. Hailing from Glasgow, the band have been described as an ‘almost’ pop group by Wikipedia, and have certainly gone to some lengths to deny kinship with any musical movement: one of their founder members, Stephen McRobbie, said,
Please don’t think of us as an ‘indie band’, as it was never meant to be a genre, and anyway we are far too outward looking for that sad tag.
The reason for this is that they were labelled ‘anorak pop’, a label meant to indicate a sound indebted to punk but with pop melodies (a name which they hated). They added Aggi Wright, the keyboard player from the Shop Assistants, to their fluid and constantly evolving line-up in 1986 for, amongst other releases, the single Train Truck Tractor (FF 1986 #23). The song itself has a kind of primitive, buzzing feel, backed by Annabel Wright’s punchy drumming, and this endeared them to Sonic Youth, Nirvana and, in particular, Tallulah Gosh. That year saw them appear on the C-86 compilation with Breaking Lines, which in view of the consequent media backlash, may have been more of a curse than a blessing. Their first album, an acquired taste apparently, was released the following year.
They apparently still exist as a trio, working with Jarvis Cocker and My Bloody Valentine among others, and operate their own Geographic Music label.