Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Old Music: Thrum - So Glad

As I suggested in this post here, whilst new music is at the heart of Breaking More Waves, this year I’m also drifting into other areas. Today, a piece about an old tune / band and why the internet is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Recently on BBC 6 Music DJ Steve Lamacq has been running a feature where he plays records from the past that you never hear on the radio these days. It got me thinking about all the long lost ‘classics’ by bands from yesteryear that never made it. I use the word ‘classics’ with caution, because rather like some ex-partners you loved, or haircuts and clothes you sported whilst you were still finding yourself, as you get older and you revisit memories of those things, they’re not always as good as you thought the first time round. History teaches us that often the hipster of today can become tomorrow’s laughing stock and sometimes things that we thought were naff years ago end up being very cool and vice versa.

One such forgotten band that was very much on my radar in the early to mid-90’s was Scottish rockers Thrum. They formed in 1992 and split just three years later after one album. Now of course in pre-internet days once a group ended all you were left with was whatever they’d put out physically, be it CD’s, records, cassettes or video tapes and a bunch of memories. Then the internet changed everything. So  I don’t even need to describe to you how I first came across the band on Channel 4’s show The Word, because you can see it for yourself on You Tube, albeit a very poorly recorded version where the sound goes muffled for part of the stream (bear with it, it gets better after about 1.50).

Thrum - So Glad (From Channel 4's The Word)

What the internet doesn’t tell you is how I felt watching Thrum perform So Glad, although of course I could have left a comment on You Tube. 

I fell instantly in love with lead singer Monica Queen. Her voice was to die for – part Maria McKee (from American country rockers Lone Justice who went on to have a UK solo number one with Show Me Heaven from the film Days Of Thunder) and part Tammy Wynette, boy could she sing. I loved the way that as she belted out the words her faced seemed to beam. So Glad had a gritty explosive energy that made me feel alive. It became, for a short while, ‘my song'.  I probably wanted to marry Monica. OK, that's a bit stalker / scary, but sometimes, when you're young, songs make you fall into a weird sort of love with the singers. 

One thing I was absolutely sure of was that Thrum was going to be huge.

They never were.

However looking at the comments on the You Tube clip it seems that I wasn’t the only one;

“I saw them support Grant Lee Buffalo at the Leadmill in Sheffield. One of the best gigs I've ever been to. They should have been so much more successful.”

“Why weren't this band huge? When I was reading Espedair Street I imagined them sounding a bit like Thrum.”

“It was my dream band and I thought it would be everyone else's too...I wouldn’t have minded if the songs had been weaker, but they were also fantastic!”

A couple of years later, after Thrum had split, another Scottish band that I had fallen for, Belle and Sebastian (I'm sure you know them?) released their latest EP. And there on the sleeve were words that made my heart pound again. “Special guest vocalist…. Monica Queen.”

The song, Lazy Line Painter Jane, was a peach and to this day remains my favourite Belle And Sebastian tune. It needs a whole blog post on its own. Actually, it already has several, like this one (here). But frankly any pop song that contains the lyrics: “Tossing a coin to decide, whether you should tell your folks, about a dose of thrush, you got when licking railings,” gets my vote. Those lyrics are even quoted on Urban Dictionary if you look up licking railings. And Monica's vocal? Absolute goosebumps. Even now.

And that was it. I never heard of Monica Queen again. She seemed to vanish. Until recently, when the internet became my best friend. Again. Thrum’s entry on Wikipedia tells me that in 2011 the band reformed and not only that, released a second album. Monica has also put out some solo records. I was completely unaware of all of this until one simple Google search. Within seconds I was on Spotify, listening to that second Thrum album. Wow.

Imagine if the world wide web didn’t exist. I’d have never known any of this, and the chances of tracking down that second album would have probably been near impossible, even if I had known about it. If anything the internet makes things too easy, but in this case I'm glad.

And the good news? Monica’s voice is still wonderful. The second album (called Elettrorama) is mighty fine. Even better, So Glad is on Spotify (on a compilation called Fire Is Good rather than the first Thrum album) and despite, by today's standards, its poor recording quality, it still effervesces with spirit and soul. Sadly it has just over 1,000 plays. Go find it, I've linked to it below, take a listen and if you do fall in love, consider this blog your go to nostalgic dating site.


Anonymous said...

No, you certainly aren't the only one ...

Anonymous said...

Great band I also saw them at that legendary Sheffield Leadmill gig

Would love to see them play the odd gig in Northern England someday...

Anonymous said...

I loved Thrum too. I had forgotten that they had been on the Word and just loved the single.

Unknown said...

I have good news Thrum are as sparkling as ever and have a new record on the cooked soon. Follow Monica Queen and Thrum on Facebook.