Customer Review

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A most welcome return to form!!, 22 May 2012
This review is from: A Light Far Out (Audio CD)
After The Wake stopped in 1995, as their previous label, the irrepressibly maverick Sarah Records, folded for the last time, my assumption was that we would never hear another note from Caesar and chums again, given that their 1994 swansong "Tidal Wave Of Hype" came across as an somewhat bittersweet statement with which to finish. Some people in the know would always remember The Wake as being the Glaswegian answer to Joy Division / New Order who spent a few years on Factory Records with a handful of releases that owed as much to their more illustrious mentors (1982's debut LP "Harmony" and 1984's indie smash "Talk About The Past" respectively) as it did to the melodic post-jangle scene of young Scotland (their lovely but criminally undervalued/overlooked 1987 EP "Something That No One Else Could Bring"). However, to think of them as mere copyists would be lazy in the extreme: their influences also spanned post-punk, Postcard, The Fall and The Go-Betweens to name but a few others.

Sarah torchbearers The Field Mice owed a lot of their sound during their late 80s/early 90s heyday to The Wake, so much so that the bands often toured together, along with fellow Glaswegian comrades The Orchids, with whom The Wake even shared band members at various points. This fraternal association suggested a very interesting Sarah supergroup would be a possibility, so to speak, and indeed several years later, former Field Mouse / Trembling Blue Stars mainstay Bob Wratten hooked up with Caesar and Carolyn from The Wake for a collaboration as The Occasional Keepers, releasing two atmospherically ambient albums "The Beauty Of The Empty Vessel" and "True North", both featuring singing contributions from all parties involved.

This latter project appears to have galvanised Caesar and Carolyn into coming out of semi-retirement: for they soon started writing new material again, from which this new release has been compiled. 18 years after their last record, The Wake have returned, against all possible expectations. What is notable about this new album though, is the fact that, although there are eight new songs, only six of them are actually new and previously unheard; two of the songs have featured on previous releases: "If The Ravens Leave" was actually the lead track from the second Occasional Keepers album from 2008, "True North", and has been included here in exactly the same version/ mix as before. The other 'old' song is "The Back Of Beyond" which is exactly the same track as the token instrumental from 1994's "Tidal Wave Of Hype" album, only this time there are now vocals recorded on top of the original track.

These two niggles aside, this album is an impressive achievement, easily improving on the patchy "TWOH" which was strewn with a number of nondescript fillers amongst the pop gems. The opener "Stockport" (not since Frankie Vaughan in the 1960s has the town Stockport - where I live incidentally, ha! - even found itself namechecked on a song) is a typically wry observation-cum-eulogy that continues The Wake's habit of reflecting back on their time with Factory Records: this time it appears to mention the very street [Waterloo Road] on which the legendary 10cc-owned Strawberry Studios was located: where indeed The Wake did record when they were on Factory. "Ravens" is actually a bloody good song - one of the best things they have done: over a clicking, static-strewn percussion track and vintage-sounding bassline, an untypically distorted Caesar vocal presides over an ode to a fallen kingdom (Britain, in all probability...) and it really sounds like The Wake have distilled the best moments from their two 1990s Sarah albums into this one reassuringly melodic whole.

"Methodist" harks back to the gentle melancholia of their gorgeous 1985 masterpiece "Here Comes Everybody", with its atmospheric synths and pitter patter of drum machine, whilst Carolyn's vocal turn on "Starry Day" sounds not unlike a modern take on contemporary folk, accompanied by understated acoustic guitar strums and flutes - it's a beautifully reflective moment whose pastoral charm brings to mind the folk tunes from the soundtrack to cult 70s flick "The Wicker Man". Instrumental interludes arrive with "Faintness" and the lengthy title track which gently evolves over its 9 minutes taking its somnambulant cue from The Occasional Keepers: Caesar's hushed poetry at the beginning makes way for a gorgeously evocative instrumental interlude - bringing to mind images of sailing out across a calm sea, leaving land behind, until eventually land is spotted once more, the track concluding with the revelation that "there is a light far out, over there, over there...."

Closing track "The Sands" only ups the tempo slightly, bringing to an end a journey of discovery that for me at least, is a pleasingly welcome return to form for a band who appear to have gained more admirers now than they ever had during their long-lost years at Factory records....and if that isn't a sweet vindication of their true worth, then I don't know what is.
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