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The Wee CherubsOptic Nerve
The Merry-Makers Signed
Released: 24th August 2020
|LP - Signed||£18.99||Out of Stock|
|CD - Signed||£10.99||Buy Now||In Stock. Dispatched today.|
GREEN VINYL LP WITH PRINTED LYRIC INNER.
Early Eighties Glasgow is now so shrouded in mystique and shoddy glamour, so well-documented and excavated that surely there are no secrets left. Like any other big music city ours operates with a cyclical cultural economy. There are periods where almost every young kid has the midas touch, dashing out brilliant art or 7”s that become cult classics, occasionally breaking through to the mainstream. Think of the halcyon days of the mid 90s, or the pop renaissance in the early naughties. Hell, maybe we’re due another exciting spring. Arguably though, there’s no period / scene in Glasgow’s history more celebrated than the early 80s. With a new host of youngsters making transitions from bedrooms to the world-at-large, Glasgow seemed to be brimming with excitement and new ideas. Orange Juice, The Wake, Aztec Camera, The Pastels, Strawberry Switchblade, or looking further afield The Jesus & Mary Chain, Primal Scream were also kicking the embers of punk into new forms. Norman Blake and Gerry Love were starting their first bands, Glasgow was cementing its reputation as a destination for heartbroken and inspired kids to make stuff. But who were The Wee Cherubs?
The Wee Cherubs’ sole recorded output until August of this year was a 7” single, Dreaming, recorded in 1983 at Park Lane studios in the south of the city. In connoisseur indie-pop circles, Dreaming is a rare gem with only half of the pressing reportedly being sold, the rest being scrapped. That was that. The band’s Martin Cotter graduated to writing fiery, pscyhe-tipped garage music with The Batchelor Pad, taking drummer Graham Adam with him while Christine Gibson returned to civil life. Dreaming remained a curio of mid 80s Glasgow and the UK indie scene in general. The untold story is that The Wee Cherubs recorded an album’s worth of music and, let’s not mince words, the music here constitutes a lost classic of the scene and we’re really happy the picture is a little more filled out, that there are still secrets hiding off Woodlands Road.
Dreaming is pure Orange Juice filtered through Johnny Marr shimmering guitar chords. The musicianship is a cut above the raw distorted sound of some of their peers, with an elastic bass line that almost feels like a lead guitar and a drum sound that’s swimming in slapback echo. Cotter’s vocals are paired with higher register female vocals in a harmony style not dis-similar to Strawberry Switchblade. It’s a faintly winsome song with augmented chord changes and an exciting arrangement but when The Merry Makers progresses into uncharted and unreleased territory there’s an abundance of surprises. Pastures New features an upbeat walking bass and shuffle rhythm that recalls the rockabilly flavours of The Smiths, with a song that draws richly on Cotter’s west of Scotland accent. Waiting continues the shuffle beat but adds swirling keyboards that recall both 60s garage pop and The Stranglers, it’s a fast paced song with an almost kaleidoscopic range of influences from fast picked guitars and Joe Meek affectations in the production.
The Wee Cherubs seemed, in the 2 years of their existence to be bursting with ideas and hooks. Two Things At One Time feels like a smashing together of Teardrop Explodes and New Romantic glamour, yet still firmly rooted in the fragile dynamics of Cotter’s songwriting. Even at this early stage his skill is evident everywhere on The Merry Makers. Flame is a definite highlight, reminiscent of several different contemporaries - Felt springs to mind - but with a shfiting dynamic that continually flashes glistening light onto dark, murky surfaces. Cotter’s vocal is fragile here, almost singing above his natural range; the effect is a perfect counterpoint to the uncertain, dark chord changes. There’s an experimental feel that also reminds us of Martin Newell’s many 80s twists and turns. Listening to a song like Poor Little Soul, you have to wonder why this band had to do to get included in the original indie pop canon. It’s almost perfect, rough pop music.
The recordings on The Merry Makers stretch different styles, with the time period of the records almost cataloging technology changes as they happen. What unites the recordings across the few short years of the bands’ existence is a restless eccentricity, the feeling of a band trying new things, having fun in the studio, breathing life into their lives the only way a lot of us know how. For reasons yet unknown The Wee Cherubs never made it past simply dreaming. A footnote in the music history we as a shop and as individuals are intricately part of, a lot of us hadn’t even heard of The Wee Cherubs until Optic Nerve reissued Dreaming. We’re looking forward to finding out more to this secret history. The first step was tracking down the members of The Wee Cherubs. We’re delighted to have got in touch with the band; they’ve agreed to meet up and sign copies of their album that never was and now is.