In a bigger story The Illustrations would be that mythical band that everyone pretends they were into and trade anecdotes about in a real “Pistols play The Lesser Free Trade Hall sort of way.” If either of its main protagonists make it big, it could still happen. But for now the band are a wonderful piece of local musical history, the sound of young men learning their musical trade and creating some bedroom band, lo-fi gems along the way. I remember being impressed with the song 18th Century Romantic Poets when it was sent out into the wide world, possibly as much for the wonderfully pretentious title as anything else. I’m a big fan of knowing pretension, when done right it can be a lot of fun, not that there is anything pretentious about the music, except perhaps the tongue in cheek nod and wink of the use of the words greatest and hits in the title.
I saw the band play a couple of times but sadly all the things that make this collection of songs so great seemed to be drenched in walls of indie guitar and musical trend, everything that this record is not. So it seems that the best way to experience The Illustrations and what they could have been is to listen to Two Parts. Great music normally reminds you of other music you like and the threads that spin out of The Illustrations are more about things other than music. There is a wonderfully collection of attitudes at work, the effortless, lo-fi cool of Nikki Sudden, the avant gardening of Neutral Milk Hotel, another band whose legend was much more than the sum of their actual career parts and any number of 80’s new wave/new pop explorers.
It’s great to imagine what might have become of the band had these songs found live traction but the music industry is littered with such stories, it’s a world of what ifs and maybes, that is what makes it so exciting. It could be that on the success of subsequent musical vehicles that either Sam or Matt are involved in people will look back and claim retrospective ownership, it’s just the way of the world, but for now the songs remain our wonderful little secret.