On Heavy Rotation: Young Marble Giants

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1980, the heyday of Post Punk and upcoming new wave and club music right around the corner. It was a pretty exciting time in pop music and the British music scene delivered new fav bands almost each and every week. Little Orcsi was in a strange phase of her life – of course, which 14 y/o teenie wasn’t? So this strange little band out of nowhere land Cardiff/Wales with their homebrew minimalistic sound were just the fitting soundtrack to accompany my lonely life.

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The Giants were basically a 3-piece of vocals, guitar and bass. Instead of a drummer they had a ultra cheap drum machine that sounded as if they had it hidden underneath a thick wooly blanket.

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YMG’s debut album exploded on the “alternative” music scene like a little bomb. Of course something like an alternative or indy music scene didn’t exist back then. You either had a record contract or you didn’t. And as a true musician you had a contract with either Rough Trade or 4AD. It was a wonder that YMG got a contract in the first place since to my knowledge they never had published even a 6″  single or an EP before they came out with their debut (and only) album COLOSSAL YOUTH.

Indeed the Giants apymg04peared out of the thin air, exploded for a much too short while, and disappeared again.

I know they are still – or again – playing concerts nowadays but I guess that’s more a hobby project than a real career.

What stayed behind of the phenomenon YMG were their songs. The whole Colossal Youth album was a collection of wonderfully unpretentious little pop pearls. Even in the States one of their best songs, Credit in the Straight World, was later, much later, covered by Curt Cobain’s widow Courtney Love’s band Hole. And even here in South Africa I heard a little amateurish 2-piece pub combo playing that song. The world is obviously a village. 😉

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And it’s fitting that an aggressive junkie like Courtney used a song by the relaxed backwoods combo YMG. Because, if you listen to the lyrics (which teenie girl Orca never did) you’ll notice all the YMG songs are angry songs, full of urgency and discontent. Most of them could easily be turned into louderfasterharder heavy metal songs with a different instrumentation and production.

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But we’re glad YMG didn’t go that route but cultivated their own amateurish trademark sound. You could hear every single tone that came out of their amplifiers. They didn’t use any effect pedals and gimmicks. Just two rather talented instrumentalists, the muffled drum machine and a singer with the insecure voice and intonation of a little girl. The drum machine was later replaced by a real drummer and they became a proper 4-piece rock band. But by then the time of YMG was already running out.

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I was lucky enough to see them live in Hamburg’s punk venue Markthalle, and live they were even better than on vinyl. Don’t ask me how a teeny girl all on her own got to be out in the streets so late at night. I guess very trusting and naive parents are to blame for that. I bet they didn’t even notice I wasn’t home. As I said it was a very strange period in my young life.

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Anyhoo, the whole phenomenon Young Marble Giants  was over rather quickly. It was also a locally confined phenomenon. I guess outside of the UK and northern Germany nobody knew this obscure little band. Only later did I learn that the Giants have indeed left their own little footprint also in the international pop world.

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YMG’s heritage shows in the number of videos on YouTube.  Many fans are obviously keen on keeping the old material alive. From their “greatest hits” to the full Colossal Youth Album and even a rare John Peel Session, YouTube’s got you covered. And here we go:

Courtney Love interprets YMG as she thought they were intended to sound.

The John Peel Session;

And here they are live in good quality:

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