Young Marble Giants and The XX – Discuss

I remember the exact moment I first heard Young Marble Giants.  I was listening to Marc Riley (one of the many former members of The Fall) on his BBC 6 Music radio show back in 2014.  He played this track called Brand New Life.  My ears pricked and I marvelled at it, thinking how fresh and modern it sounded – who could this new beat combo be?  Was I about to stumble upon the next big thing?  I was totally gobsmacked when I looked them up and found they have only ever released one album called Colossal Youth in 1980.  1980!!!!  Colossal Youth is a minimal masterpiece.  It’s so pared back yet Alison’s sweet vocals seem to lift it.  The music itself feels quite fresh, there are plenty of bands now working with that kind of under-production feel where less seems to be more (think; Sleaford Mods), so it was no wonder I thought it was a new release.

The other week, I stumbled across a comment somewhere comparing Young Marble Giants to The XX and I was like “YOU WHAT??! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??”  I don’t mind The XX, in fact I sort of quite like them, but really?  They are not even on the same level in my opinion, despite their Mercury Prize win.

It did get me thinking though.  Who can you compare Young Marble Giants to?  Maybe Bauhaus?  Possibly Joy Division to a certain extent.  Perhaps those suggestions are too obvious and tells you everything about the lack of depth to my musical knowledge.  And what do we really think of this Young Marble Giants/The XX comparison?  Is it fair?

Yet again ‘Spillers I come to you to fill in the gaps in my musical knowledge.  What can you tell me about all this and who else should I be tracking down?

19 thoughts on “Young Marble Giants and The XX – Discuss

  1. To be honest, I can’t really remember what Young Marble Giants sound like, not having heard them since they had their brief moment in the limelight.

    I’ll have to listen to them first before I can comment.

  2. I’d heard of Young Marble Giants, but never heard them – I liked that. She does sound a bit like the singer from the xx, and there is a similar minimalist aesthetic. I quite like the xx, but it’s always seemed a bit background music-y. Probably why they were so ubiquitous on TV trailers for a while.

    So I don’t know anything about the scene YMG emerged from. But here’s a couple of female vocalists with a tripped back aesthetic – one long-time favourite, one recent discovery – that may be somewhere in the same arena as the xx:

    Leslie Winer – 5

    From one of the great lost albums of the early 90s, by the “godmother of trip-hop”:

    Dillon – Thirteen Thirtyfive

    Brazilian-German singer whose sound I love:

    I’ve probably departed quite a long way from Young Marble Giants, but wanted to share these.

    • I really like this and have listened to more than just the one you posted here. There’s a hint of Sarah Cracknell about her voice I think.

  3. How about Drugstore ? Used to love them 20 years ago and their debut album is a neglected classic.Seem to have a similar vibe to YMG although I’m not really familiar with YMG’s stuff !

    • Ah ha! I do have Songs For The Jet Set somewhere and I really like El President, but they didn’t immediately come to mind when I was thinking about this. Thanks for the reminder. I have their Best of on in the background now.

  4. I did buy the Final Day single at the time but not their album. Never saw then live until they played at the Royal Festival Hall as part of David Byrne’s Meltdown Festival – in 2015.

    They originally split up in 1981 (and Alison formed Weekend) but got together again in 2007 and started playing a couple of gigs per year.
    I know they had a home-made drum machine/rhythm generator and another British combo I can think of from the time who did the same were (predictably) Adrian Borland’s Second Layer. Very different vocal style of course!

    • Wow, that sounds bleak! Thanks for the background info. Interested to know what they were like at Meltdown. RFH is a great venue for acoustics. Incidentally, have you seen that the first artists have been announced for this year curated by MIA? Very different style of line up. Tickets due soon I think. I will probably try to catch a few acts. I really enjoyed it last year.

      • The music was great – for those of us who like them in the first place. You could argue that it wasn’t too different to playing the album but nobody was expecting extended solos or anything like that. It was kind of unreal just to see them actually on a stage in 2015.
        The band seemed almost shy, as if they were just starting out and were not sure what kind of reception they would get. The audience, on the other hand, went bonkers over every song, sometimes applauding the intros. Final Day, at the end got a standing ovation. And quite rightly so in my opinion.

        I have had a look at this years Meltdown line-up and I don’t know most of the artists. Not sure whether to take a punt.

  5. OK, so I’ve listened to their album now, and I do remember them. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly impressed, but I do see some similarities between them and The xx (who are a band that I really like a lot).

    YMG are definitely of their time, there is that DIY post-punk ethos there, very stripped back, very sparse. Occasionally it works fine but the rest of the time it sounds, to my ears, with hindsight, very much a bit of a musical dead end. To contrast that, I think that over the course of their three albums, The xx have shown a growing musical and emotional maturity, and a willingness to stretch themselves and expand their tonal palette. I wonder if YMG would have been able to do that? Obviously, we will never know.

    • I’m getting the feeling there is not a lot of love for YMG amongst ‘Spillers Carole! Perhaps I’ve overestimated their significance – I wasn’t even really listening to music when they were first around as I was only 8 (!) but I guess in my mind, I’ve built them up because of my first reaction to their sound when I heard it initially.
      I really like The XX and have done since they first appeared on the scene. I was really quite offended when a friend, who I turn to for musical opinion, recently dissed them completely.

      • When the first album by The xx came out I played it all the time. To be honest, I think I became a bit obsessed by them.

        The thing I remember about YMG was the way that the NME really pushed them hard at the time. They were one of the hip bands of 1980, especially among those NME writers who suddenly affected to hate guitar bands but weren’t embracing the New Romantics and the clubby dancing scene.

  6. Having not quite connected at the time, I bought a set of YMG stuff that was released in 2007. I didn’t quite connect then either…..
    ‘Colossal Youth is a minimal masterpiece’ is the kind of comment that piqued my interest and turned out to be untrue, imho. Some interesting noodliness but a whole lot of less interesting noodliness too. I can’t remember when I played it last. File with the likes of Guided By Voices?

    I do still lend an ear to the Drugstore fb69 mentions. That is definitely groovy.

      • The xx is one of a large and inexorably increasing number of bands I haven’t checked out, Sarah. To my jaundiced ears, this track is fine yet not exactly earth-shattering….

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