1 September 2010

Breeze - Volume One (EP)

Breeze - Volume One

Label: Spaceward
Year of Release: 1976

"Why," I suspect you've sometimes wondered to yourselves, "do so few recording studios have successful labels?"  And you'd be right - this is indeed a puzzler.  Recording studio managers should, by rights, be among the first people to be aware of the local talent passing through their doors, and what possible heights they may be able to climb to.  Sadly, it doesn't really work that way.  Most of the small indie labels out there run by studio managers have been, it's not unkind to say, awful.  The two I've had the closest awareness of (who I'm not prepared to name) mainly issued rock bands indulging in the most OTT forms of fretboard wankery.

It figures that the majority of studio owners are techy-geeks and musos, and many of those people tend to favour technical proficiency over imagination or artistry.  If that weren't enough of a minus point, studio labels also tend to be regarded by guys and girls with asymmetrical haircuts and world domination on their minds as dusty, cobwebby little projects run by middle-aged people with more keys on their belt than they have high-ranking industry contacts.  Releasing a single through Wooden Horse Studio Records of Kent sounds utterly lacking in aspiration - why do that when you could create your own, thrusting DIY label and pretend to be no-strings-attached freewheeling anarchists about town instead (even though your manager works for EMI music)?  But there again, there's an exception to every rule - Oak Records, for example, were tied to RG Jones studios in South London and issued many cult beat singles in the sixties.  Spaceward, on the other hand, have apparently developed a bit of a reputation in some circles for issuing some fairly nice rock and prog records during the seventies.  And guess what?  This isn't one of them.

It's not that this EP is bad, it's just that - despite the fact that it's frequently advertised as "prog pop" on ebay - it's closer to being enjoyably facile guitar-based pop of the strictly-under-three minutes variety.  These are tunes your grandmother could whistle, tunes the milkman would sing whilst being made redundant, tunes the chirpy Merseybeat chaps of yore would have happily performed down the Cavern club.  It's just they were recorded in a very hippy-ish studio in Cambridge in the seventies, a whole decade too late.

For all their quaint, out-of-time desire to keep songs cute, short and simple, there is something slightly ahead of 1976 about Breeze too.  Shoot forward five years to the birth of the janglier end of indie-pop, and compare and contrast.  You too may agree that, with slightly plugged ears, there's a flowery whiff of the emerging twee boys about Breeze - a slight quaver around the vocals which is vaguely reminiscent of the as-yet-undiscovered (and probably at-that-moment-doing-his-homework) Edwyn Collins, and the foot-tapping innocence of The Farmer's Boys.  The simple joyfulness of the melodies is also faintly rebellious at a time when the emerging sounds were either aggressive and jagged, or ridiculously elaborate.  It's difficult to say which 1976 audience Breeze were going for, apart from perhaps one that didn't actually exist yet.

As for who they were and what became of them, we will possibly never know unless one of them sees this blog entry and chooses to comment.  They were either some very strange kids with minds of their own, or ageing sixties musicians refusing to change their stripes.  Place your bets.

1. Things To Make You Change Your Mind
2. Hey Girl
3. Do A Little
4. Hooked On You

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