86 – Junk Ranchers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If this was one of those TV music shows that are all the rage these days this review would actually start with a 4 minute, sob story about how the band recorded this debut album in 1986 and promptly split up prior to releasing it. The video would be underscored with melancholic classical music and include plenty of shots of someone looking wistfully into the distance. Heart strings would be tugged, audiences would be in the band’s corner before hearing even one note and it would make for a great topic of conversation around the water cooler at work the next day.

Thankfully, this is not a TV show and this is not an unfamiliar story, not to us who walk along such grassroots artistic pathways but I’m glad that this neat collection has managed to find its way into the light, even if it has taken 34 years get there, as it is totally my sort of thing … and it should be yours too. And if you are expecting a hermetically sealed sonic slice echoing the sounds of the post-punk era, a time capsule which we can open and marvel at how the past is a foreign country, how they do things differently there, then you have come to the wrong place….and also the right place.

What I mean is that if you know that this is the product of the height of the post-punk period, something from the crucible that would be responsible for the birth of the indie sound, then you will hear plenty that is familiar. If you were told that this is the work of a new band, one just starting out, then you would have no need to question the situation either, though you may briefly stop to suggest that they seem to have raided their parents stack of old vinyls for inspiration. But when has that ever not been how the sonic torch gets passed on anyway?

After All is the perfect example of this ability to stand with feet both in the past and the present, a chiming wall of guitars, a dark undercurrent, the perfect blend of edge and energy and as right for today’s mainstream radio as it would have been at home from an act opening for REM when they were touring Reckoning. Shadows and also Drowning’s spiralling riffs touch on the sonic territory of early Cure’s agitated, art-pop and Remains The Same has that same shimmering sway and hypnotic grace that made me fall for bands such as The Church all those years ago.

But references aside, there is nothing dated or retro about the music found here and for every past comparison there are a dozen more moments of originality and modernity. Perhaps they were ahead of there time. Perhaps they just had an ability to write songs with inherent longevity. Perhaps they will have another crack at it. Perhaps….

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