Celebrating The Best Indiepop Records #4: "37°2 Le Matin; An Appraisal Of Razorcuts".
From a distance of 22 years now, I can't fully recall whether it was 'First Day' or 'I Heard You The First Time' that was my introduction to Razorcuts. It was one side of that single, I remember John Peel playing it and I thought it was just beautiful. The next day I bought it and it became a permanent fixture upon my turntable.....it must have been 'First Day' as that's the track that's on my favourite mix-tape from that period.
'First Day' begins with the gentlest 12-string strumming before the sharp, tambourine heavy drums crack in and we're swept up in a giddy whirl of optimism, "Oh can you feel the morning sun// Oh will it shine till evening comes" ....naive idealism?? Well...maybe, but the joy is so infectious you want to run naked through cornfields, jump off waterfalls, bristling with electric adolescent vigour!! Youth is wasted on the young? No, that's just something bitter old bastards say. Youth wasn't wasted on me and listening to this song again, I feel that fire..."That's when you say that you're going to change my mind// That's when you show me the world I never can find".
Surprisingly, 'First Day' was only the B-side....Side A's 'I Heard You The First Time' is an equally splendid piece, with backing vocalist Yvonne's voice prominent on the main lines "Oh I heard you the first time// You act like you've got something worth saying// But I'm still waiting for that day".
Razorcuts were sometimes a full band but mostly the duo of Gregory Webster and Tim Vass; Gregory wrote the music, did the vocals, and played the amazingly lustrous guitars. Tim played bass and wrote the incisive yet poignant lyrics.
They released a handful of singles and two proper albums, and it's their first album 'Storyteller', released in 1988 that we are here to discuss, containing as it does two of the most important songs of my lifetime.
'The Last Picture Show' shares that same heartfelt melancholia of it's cinematic namesake. Peter Bogdanovich's movie captures the disintegration of smalltown friends and lovers against the backdrop of the closing of the local cinema. It's a heartbreaking film, especially if you dwell within the kind of smalltown it presents.
The song is the longest track on the album and is the closing piece; I wish I had a lyric sheet as some of Tim's words are hard to make out, leaving mere snapshots hanging in the air; "The last picture show starts at eight", "Running as the curtain starts to rise// We're looking for the time of our lives", "The picture freezes on the final scene// And as the credits roll across the screen// We pick our[indecipherable] towards our seats// And walk out silently into the streets// The crowded streets", "Then we could stay together till sunrise// And this could be the time of our lives// And if it doesn't work out right// We'll change it all in time"
The structure of the song is wonderful; full chiming guitars, insistent hi-hats punctuating the rhythmns, wild hammond organ wig-outs, then in comes a gentle coda; "Something tells me// I won't forget this night// For a long long time// If memories are made this easily// That's fine by me".
This is a truly wondrous song and it reminds me of all the friends I no longer see, and all the radge things we did in our little town....
But there's a Razorcuts song that's even better, and one that is forever engraved upon my heart, all because of one special night. And as the album is called 'Storyteller', settle down children for we're in for a bit of a session.....
It was the Summer of 1988...I know it was Summer as it was around my Birthday therefore it was late July. For my Birthday that year I had gotten my first ever CD player as a present. It was in truth a music center complete with turntable, tape-decks and radio. I hadn't actually asked for a CD player as I still loved my vinyl, and didn't buy into the Yuppie nonsense about it sounding like the band were in the room with you, and anyway all those click and pops on my old Adam & The Ants records added some kind of nostalgic aura to the music. With my Birthday money I bought not a CD, but Razorcuts 'Storyteller' on good old 12" vinyl. I must have played it a couple of times for one or two songs stuck in my head as I set off at night for what my friends and I had planned.
Four of my friends and I were going to the local Art-house cinema to see 'Betty Blue'. It had played in Glasgow earlier in the year but this was the first time it played in any cinema near us. Some older friends sneered at us saying it was just pornography (un)dressed as art, but we'd heard so many good things about it, we HAD to go. It was still baking hot in the early evening as we made our way to the cinema, and the theatre itself was like an oven. My ex-girlfriend was there with her new boyfriend. She had dumped me because she thought I was getting a little too serious....she married the guy she was with that night less than six months later!! Oh well. So...I was already a little shaken, and, as we had not asked for a block of tickets when we entered the cinema we were all sat in diffrent seats. At first we all tried to sit in one row but as more people came in, we all got separated. I spent the beginning of the movie in the wrong seat worried the actual person whose seat it was would come in, but as I became absorbed in the wonders that danced before my eyes....I forgot all worries.
As the movie played out, I was transfixed!! I think every young male fell in love with Beatrice Dalle that Summer. The movie didn't strike me as being about sex....but about love, passion, art, cool, life, aesthetics.....the dreamy soundtrack washed over me, the images touched me deep inide, the story left me drained and emotional(I should point out this was the original 2 hour version, not the terrible 3 hour Director's Cut).
When the movie was over, I remember staggering out into the still-bright evening sun....I was dizzy, dazed, puchdrunk and somehow....changed. We drove to Stirling town center and poured into the Barnton Bistro where they sold Antonius and Furstenberg on draught and we huddled round a table. We jabbered enthusiastically about the film, about Beatrice, about the amazing soundtrack. As the beer calmed us down, I could feel myself drift off and become a little philosphical. Caroline was chattering madly about how she wished we lived like the characters in the film; free-spirited, sensual, passionate, parading about in a state of undress. "What's stopping us?" I replied, "Why can't we be more like that? There's absolutely nothing to prevent us" Already inside I could feel myself changing....nothing would ever be the same again after tonight. Out would go the agit-prop clothes to be replaced by blousey, polka-dotted or Paisley-patterned shirts, the unkempt hair would become an immaculately sculpted quiff, in would come drainpipe thin black Levis and pointed shoes. Battered copies of Proust, Kafka and Rimbaud would hang from my back pocket like a badge. My whole aesthetic changed that night...I was going to be a different person. Gone would be the obnoxious, bratty, loud mouthed over-opinionated punk-kid. In would come a more considrate, well-spoken, arty-type(pretensious?? Moi??).
When I got back home the sky had bruised to open-wound red and I sat by my window just gazing at the night sky. I remembered a track from the Razorcuts album which I thought would suit the mood of the moment.....
The stylus crackled a little before the beautiful sweep of strings and strummings welcomed us into 'Brighter Now'....I could feel the air changing around me, "Since that day// I haven't felt the same// And I'm not even sure if I can say// When I last thought about my life".....GULP!! How perceptive!! "It could be why// The lamp that lights my room// And the colours of the pictures on my wall// Seem to shine much brighter now".....Are they in my room? Are they spying on me?? No...it's just that this is the most beautiful and important song in the world right now, and when Gregory's pure, innocent, choirboy voice takes the refrain up...."Brighter Now...Brighter Now....I've got to make this last somehow" the world tilts on it's axis. By now the scales have fallen from my eyes, I'm ready to step out into world anew, the moon is hanging like a burning pumpkin, my mind is racing, my heart is pounding...."I don't know why// I never realised how long it takes for half an hour to pass// When you're waiting for someone// all aglow".....Yeah, I would spend hours standing at the bus stop waiting for girls, especially HER. I once waited 90 minutes straight for HER, she couldn't believe it, no-one had ever shown that level of patience and devotion....I was well thanked for it.
"And the rays of golden light that gently brush the curtains of my window"....they ARE here with me..."Every day is brighter now.....and I'm never coming down"......and for a long, LONG time, I never did.
I played the song over and over and over that night. Basking, smiling, dreaming....being!!
This song is so incredible, just SO INCREDIBLE.....so much so that 22 years later as I re-listen to it in my room on a cold, grey May evening, I feel that liberating ire I felt that night....I feel like burning my place of work to the ground, like kissing everyone I love and punching everyone I hate, like phoning up old friends just to hear their voice, like starting the revolution right here, right now. Matt Haynes was right.....this kind of music isn't about twee whimsy....it's the catalyst for an angry change that Joe Strummer could only dream about.
Nights like that stay with you forever....that night is a memory so strong, so strident, it has become a tattoo upon my soul.
Music does that.
Everything is brighter now.......and I'm never coming down....
And, you know, part of me never did!!
Unfortunately I've come up against a dearth of links to other Razorcuts songs, however you can hear clips from the other songs mentioned above here
Also, there appears to be no Razorcuts Myspace, however Gregory Webster does have here