Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youthby Jason Gross
Les Disques Du Crepuscle
Even in the heyday of off-the-wall post-punk, which generally prided itself on its weirdness, the Wales-based combo Young Marble Giants stood out. Recording for Rough Trade Records and sharing bills with Rough Trade labelmates got them lumped in with the post-punk clan, but what they created on their now-reissued first and only album, Colossal Youth (1980), was a music all its own that still stands as a wonderful curiosity, a path that few have followed.
Leader/guitarist/songwriter Stuart Moxham teamed up with his brother Phil on bass and singer Alison Statton— that was the whole damn band, save for a primitive homemade drum machine that made later 808’s sound like orchestras. This was music even more "minimal" than the most stripped-down punk group, and even further removed from what most people’s notions of a rock band were.
The YMG world was a desolate place. The old jazz adage of listening to the notes that weren’t played made sense here, as the group gave you few things to concentrate on: Statton’s lithe voice, the Moxham brothers’ tense/strident guitars, and Stuart’s ghostly organ floating now and then over the occasional little beatbox thumps. No climaxes or dips but a steady, quiet stream and flow. When you bent an ear to hear her words, Statton would tell you of lost loves, alienation, machinations, the end of the world, and other gloomy, enigmatic scenarios. Since she wasn’t over-the-top about her worries, you couldn’t brand this as goth. Maybe the depressed subject matter and barely-there beats were a precursor to New Order. The modern femme synth-duo the Capricorns likely took solace from the YMG playbook but made it into a more elaborate brand of pop. Strangely enough, the most famous propagator of the YMG’s music would be no less than Courtney Love, who would cover their "Credit In The Straight World" on Hole’s Live Through This, likely picking up on images of dismemberment and desperation in the lyrics.
It’s appropriate that other than a few singles and compilation cuts (also collected on this reissue), Colossal Youth would be the YMG’s only statement. It’s of a piece, by itself. Its time or place wasn’t quite then or now but somewhere out there for the curious to find and lose themselves in.
Jason Gross is the editor/perpetrator of the online magazine Perfect Sound Forever (www.perfectsoundforever.com). When he isn't writing for other folks or working on post-punk reissues (Essential Logic out now on the Kill Rock Stars label), he can be found crocheting and making his own ammo.