Paul Ess. | Holywell, N.Wales,UK. | 05/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Unfairly lumped in with 'Wimp-Rockers' like March Violets and April Showers - the Glasgow effete, led magnificently by The Pastels, livened up a pretty dreary time for us sensitive student types in the mid-80's.
Heavily influenced by the Velvet Underground, fey young Steven Pastel and his fluctuating unit made a magical, slightly off-key jingle-jangle rock music with clever words and modest arrangements.
As a live 'act' they were mediocre at best, their debut album was a mess, but here, a collection of early singles and b-sides, from their time with Creation Records, shows the Pastels at their shimmering best.
The guitar work is extraordinary, (I'm obsessed with loud guitars at the moment, that damned Dr Feelgood album started me off...) it's got a Marr style spikiness to it, an almost painful thrum and Steven's quiet monotone delivery, shorn of any pretension, reaches quite high heights.
Anti-stars is a good way to describe the Pastels, never destined for mass exposure, no chance even of an unlikely one-hit-wonder. Though the critics raved, the anti-rockist brigade are STILL cheering and small venues across the country reaped miniscule rewards for booking them.
'Baby Honey' is the standout on 'Suck On..' An insistent Reedian riff, flat vocals = utterly irresistible on a grand scale - all 7 minutes of it(Though why we need 2 versions is beyond me - maybe the Creation well had run dry). It's given a run by other tasties such as 'Surprise Me' and the jaunty 'Million Tears', both displaying the Pastels laconic humour, and at the same time, flagrant disregard for anything vaguely resembling 'fashionable' or 'elite'.
An ambiguous shrug of the shoulders, a modernist anti-romanticism, yet words on occasion that go way beneath the surface sheen and crashing, scything guitars to genuinely move...
Sniggering little siblings of the bigger but inferior Bluebells, the Pastels deserved more from life. They seemed to flit from one record label to another in a mad, artistically disruptive flux. Every-one knew they were good, except perhaps them.
'Suck on the Pastels' is a super little compilation from a band that emerged from the mid-80's indecision maelstrom with huge credit and not much else.
On the down side, the albums a bit short. We don't need two versions of 'Baby Honey' however good it is, and some of the later songs seem to veer into Mary Chain territory. Not really an area for the mighty Pastels, but a minor quibble.
Rock needs groups like this, if only to counter-balance the macho dinosaurs and the laser-lightshow geeks, who, for all their millions and technology, couldn't come up with a hook to match 'Surprise Me' if they strived and strained for a year.
"Oh if I can't have you, I don't want nobody else,
Oh if I can't have you, I'll be terminally depressed.."
It's not me you have to convince..."