The New Romantics
Posted by Bo Ellegaard on July 29, 2014 0 CommentsIn the heyday of "The New Romantics", the new wave that swelled in England around 1980 with groups like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran and Steve Strange´s Visage a young Scottish band Scars debuted in 1981 and was easily categorized as such just at a single glance at their (trendy/rediculous?) attire on the back of their debut album "Author, Author!" (see below)
...New Ro-man-ti....wait a minute! What the Hell was this?
Imagine that by now you had placed the vinyl record itself on your turntable and as "Leave Me In The Autumn" got started your usual boxing of bands, especially the new ones,(to feel safe should you be asked by your friends) now had to be re-categorized so to speak!
This was not pompous New Romantic synth-pop! What sounded from your speakers was a dark and dramatic sound with flanged cold, jangling guitars and with drumming heavy on the toms yet the songs were melodic and insisting with serious lyrics to match. Included was even a spoken version of (British author/poet) Peter Porter´s nuclear holocaust vision "Your Attention, Please!". It was after all the years of the cold war but,....where did this music come from?
In those days you either compared the new bands to "punk rock" or "post-punk". The next wave of punk was the oi-bands (named from Cockney Rejects´"Oi,Oi,Oi") like Sham 69 early on, 4 Skins, Infa-Riot etc....post-punk was Joy Division, Cure, Bauhaus, U2 even.....and The Scars (they later got rid of the The) sounded more like post-punk at least on their debut album "Author,Author!". A single released prior to the album on their hometown of Edinburgh´s Fast Product label showed a more aggressive almost punk-ish Scars still in their teens. Fast Product founded in 1977 had already released a number of interesting bands´ debut 7"s: Human League, Gang Of Four, Mekons and also The Scars´ "Horrorshow bw Adult/ery". Even Joy Division was included on a Fast Product compilation early on.
(I´ll look into the other Scottish label Postcard and the bands it spawned shortly so stay tuned!)
The major labels have always been ready to take over from the minor indie labels when they sense some new talent. Paying for the expenses of the all important debut album Virgin signed Human League and Mekons. EMI signed Gang Of Four and Phonogram signed The Scars for their Charisma/Pre imprint (Charisma´s new wave label Pre in England and Charisma in West Germany!). Charisma was originally known for releasing folk rock and prog rock. Now in 1981 they turned to post-punk with Scars and "Author, Author!"!!
Watch this nice little Scars documentary/video of the only Charisma 7" single culled from what was to become their only album as it happened:
How did they go on after this well received debut? They toured with all the interesting names of the time but relations within the band soured, the drummer Calumn Mackay went first and was replaced by Steve McLaughlin for the "Author, Author!" and then after five years of endless touring sometimes headlining the singer Robert King quitted and then it was soon to be the end of Scars.
I believe that a lot of bands didn´t make the cut with a follow up to their promising debut. You always have good songs to choose from for this but what about the next one? Then there is the chemistry within a band. If you are a group of friends forming a band you have to stay friends no matter how hard the pressure from being a band: touring/playing, writing new material, recording, rehearsing etc. in other words "work". If you only consider playing in a band as "work" then you still have to be able to work together and live close together when touring.
With a long awaited CD release in 2006 and the old vinyl still only available as second hand how has the music aged then?
Heard today Scars sure sounds early 1980´s trying a bit of this, U2-guitar only not as groundbreaking. A bit of that, Robert King has surely listened to both Bunnyman Ian McCulloch and Cure´s Robert Smith but gives a passionate go at being the great frontman of his band. He has partly an original voice that sometimes turn into a whine. But regarded as a record from the early 80´s it is interesting to compare Scars to other similar sounding bands of that period -already mentioned Echo And The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes and lesser known act Modern Eon (who all came from Liverpool, by the way).
If you are into "the 80´s" or post-punk or early Simple Minds don´t miss to give Scars a spin! X