22 Beaches Recordings 1980-1984

Label
Seated Records
Released
31st May 2024

Format Info

LP - black vinyl

Glasgow based Seated Records return with more 1980s Scottish Post-Punk / New Wave material. In this 8-track mini compilation the label introduces the work of Stirling band 22 Beaches, offering a deep dive into music recorded between 1980-1984 – the majority of which has never seen the light of day!

22 Beaches formed in Stirling in the late 1970s as an evolution of the short lived group ‘Alone at Last’ – drummer Fred Parson’s and guitarist Stephen Hunter being the two who spanned the divide. Out of the six members of 22 Beaches, many were school friends, and the rest naturally fell together. The band toured extensively and played at a truly diverse set of venues across the UK: from a local swimming pool boiler room, to small nightclubs and university parties, to several fundraisers for the miners strike. Maybe most notably of all, drummer Fred Parsons described playing at what he calls “the Grangemouth International”, organised by local promoter Brian Guthrie and which featured an all-star lineup of 22 Beaches, The Exploited and the first incarnation of The Cocteau Twins. A coach was hired to ship the audience to Grangemouth from Stirling, the cost of which was included in the ticket. The gig then paused halfway through for a ‘help yourself’ buffet. Young promoters take heed. This is how it’s done!

Over the course of the 80s the band released music on three different, and now sought after, various artists compilation cassettes. “What Day Is It?” and “Sadie When She Died” were released on a compilation of local Stirling artists ‘The A.N.K.L.E File’. The track from which the current record takes its namesake – “Dust” – was initially released on a compilation-tape for the fanzine ‘Another Spark’. And ‘‘Zoo” (also featured on this record) was first released on Glasgow label Pleasantly Surprised via compilation, ‘An Hour Of Eloquent Sounds’, where 22 Beaches rubbed shoulders with early music from Scottish names Primal Scream, Cocteau Twins, The Wake and Sunset Gun. Unfortunately, 22 Beaches never met the same level of commercial success as these others and decided to retire the project in 1984 – leaving their recordings and demos to gather dust (hehe)…until now!

This compilation, “Dust: recordings 1980-1984” follows the band’s journey and the changes in their sound over the years. It moves from the raw, punk energy of early DIY recordings through to the A Certain Ratio style Balearica of their later pieces. The record’s opener and title track “Dust” is perhaps the most shining example of the latter. Characterised by the plenitude of sonic space in the mix, “Dust” has an almost dub sensibility that is communicated through centrality of Parsons’ drums, McChord’s percussion, and Fildes’ Bass while the harmonising vocals of Sharkey and McGregor chant over the top to give the track its distinctive psychedelic edge. This is an atmosphere only exacerbated by the lofi quality of the recording which sits the vocals in the same aural realm as much 1960s psych-folk. On “Cartoon Boy”, the band strips things down further. A droning bass line persists through the tape fuzz and is accompanied by the sounds of a sole looping guitar chord sequence and McGregor and Sharkey’s vocals – respectively and carefully dancing around one another before harmonising in the most beautiful way. The result is a haunting and abstract Marine Girls style heartbreaker. ‘That Girl’ again delivers a dub adjacent rhythm section similar to that of “Dust”. However, on this instance crisp guitar chords, a distant, phased organ and blue-eyed soul vocal delivery, produce a track that could easily have been a lost Orange Juice recording from their sessions with Dennis Bovel. On “Somebody Got It Wrong” and “One Of Us” the band employ a more macro approach where a jangling guitar with an almost highlife-influenced tone, vocal ad-libs and syncopated percussion give the music a Talking Heads-esque swagger.

Taken together these tracks illustrate a clear trajectory in the band’s sound, moving from from the high energy no-wave quality of early recordings towards a more dub influenced, and stripped-back sound – a sonic trajectory followed by so many bands of the time, not least those emerging from the diaspora of Manchester’s Factory Records.

On “Breathing’’ we hear the beginning of this transition, with the strong influence of the oddball NYC disco styles of Was (Not Was) and ZE records. All of this is meshed together with the residual punk rock energy of 1980s UK. This combination is employed to excellent effect with the addition of the distinctly Scottish (and what the band confirmed to me to be spontaneous) vocal delivery of: “Do you love me? Do you want me?” “Aye!” “Do you love me? Do you need me?” “Naw!”.

On the record’s closing tracks, “Zoo” and “Talent Show”, we hear early examples of the band’s work, playing with their rawest all-in-one-take live energy where Hunter’s spiralling guitar riffs and McGregor’s distorted vocal exclamations lead the charge. The band recalls that these initial-forays did not always translate so well into multitrack recording and overdubbing: “the deconstruction took away some of the band’s natural feel”. On “Talent Show” the record ends with Sharkey delivering an almost unintelligible spoken word section over the top of the track, making for one final, disorientating, almost manic slice of post-punk.

These tracks from 1980-1984 chart the progress of a unique contribution to the world of Scottish Post-Punk and New Wave, encapsulating not only the musical trajectory of 22 Beaches but also echoing the broader sonic landscape of 1980s UK, a testament to the adaptability and creativity of the UK’s underground music of the time.