My earliest experience of The Wake – whose first album of new studio material since 1994, A Light Far Out, is released this week – came a few years ago through a vinylphile friend, who arrived at my flat proudly clutching a copy of their 1987 EP Something That No One Else Could Bring, the rare spoils of a day of crate-digging.
I was in love from the first chiming bars of Gruesome Castle and Pale Spector – but how had such an exquisite band, a Scottish band at that, managed to evade my attention for so long? And what had New Order made of a group so audibly indebted to the sound of their first records?
A four-piece from Glasgow formed in 1981 by vocalist/guitarist Gerard ‘Caesar’ McInulty, ex-of-Altered Images (one early line-up featured future Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream member Bobby Gillespie on drums), The Wake’s signature sound was a doleful, dreamy, danceable blend of scratchy funk guitar and austere, understated vocals stretched across glacial, droning synth-string chords.
It spoke clearly of Mancunian post-punk legends New Order if they’d never travelled to New York, never discovered electronic dance music and never set Britain stomping to the drum machine/sequencer pulse of Blue Monday, but instead continued along the same post-Joy Division path set by the likes of Procession and Everything’s Gone Green, tracks which predicted a future flavour of indie-pop that The Wake would go on to perfect.
Far from deriding these new young pretenders as shameless copyists – and there might have been a touch of narcissism at work here – New Order were actually crucial in elevating The Wake to wider attention.
Their then-manager, the late Rob Gretton, signed the band to Factory Records in 1982 after members travelled down from Glasgow to Manchester to door-step him with a copy of their debut single, and the Scots would later tour with their Mancunian heroes.
The Wake released several singles and two albums on Factory, the latter of which, 1985’s Here Comes Everybody, is a criminally unheralded gem of Scottish post-punk. But they struggled to step out from their forbears’ growing shadow, and as popular enthusiasm for the group failed to take root Factory’s support eventually waned, prompting the band to depart the label for a swansong on Bristol’s Sarah Records prior to their dissolution in 1995, by which point they had been all but relegated to the footnotes of post-punk history.
Core members Caesar and keyboardist Carolyn Allen have since worked on theatre projects while continuing to sporadically make music as The Occasional Keepers.
Revisionists, meanwhile, have looked kindly on The Wake, raising them to the status of a definitive cult band, whose legacy and influence has come to greatly outstrip the band’s profile in their active years.
The Wake’s wan melodicism has practically proven the blueprint for a niche of contemporary American indie, centred particularly around Brooklyn label Captured Tracks.
Young bands such as Wild Nothing, Beach Fossils and Craft Spells seem locked-in a race to out-Wake each other, with the former pair even releasing a Record Store Day 2011 split 7” single of covers of The Wake’s Gruesome Castle and Plastic Flowers.
Another American band, much-hyped major-label signees The Drums, have taken a version of The Wake’s sound into the pop charts, and agreeably seem to have made it their mission to raise the band’s legend from obscurity.
“We really had the idea of completely ripping The Wake off, which proved to be impossible,” revealed frontman Jonathan Pierce in 2010 on the subject of his band’s earliest songwriting efforts; The Drums’ YouTube channel meanwhile carries a two-part video interview by guitarist Jacob Graham with Caesar and Allen that proudly claims to be the first ever such recording.
Burgeoning new interest in The Wake convinced the band to reform in 2009 for a handful of live shows and a return to the studio.
Captured Tracks’ debt to the Glaswegians was enshrined with a beautifully packaged box set – released last month, again to coincide with Record Store Day – assembling Here Comes Everybody and all of The Wake’s Factory-era singles on vinyl for the first time since their original pressings made between 1982 and 1987.
Taken together with the completion of A Light Far Out, their long-awaited fifth album (supporting live dates, possibly with The Pastels, have been mooted for later this year), it’s a celebratory return to the public eye for a band whose treasurable music and its enduring influence deserves to be much more storied.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West