Stephen Pastel & Gavin Thomson This Is Memorial Device

Label
Geographic
Released
28th June 2024

Format Info

LP - monorail exclusive black vinyl with signed postcard
LP - monorail exclusive black LP w/ signed riso print
Signed Riso print by artist Annabel Wright, Stephen Pastel, Gavin Thomson, David Keenan and Graham Eatough
CD - signed postcard
with signed postcard by artist Annabel Wright, Stephen Pastel, Gavin Thomson, David Keenan and Graham Eatough

This Is Memorial Device is a cult novel by David Keenan. It’s “an hallucinated oral history of the post-punk scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and environs 1978-1986”. If you grew up in Glasgow you would probably be surprised to learn that such a vivid, adjacent world existed there, but it did. There’s a love in the book, an unreasonableness, and at its epicentre a brilliant original group called Memorial Device.

In 2019 I was asked by the theatre director, Graham Eatough, to provide music for a reading of it at the Edinburgh Book Festival. It was a modest budget and I dug out some home recordings I had from teenage Friday nights spent jamming and getting drunk and taking acid with a teenage pal, Corky. This music seemed to me very like the music in the book – maybe not Memorial Device’s own music but some other group from the same scene. David confirmed that one of our songs, ‘We Have Sex’ was indeed genius and “if the Tate or the Guggenheim truly knew what was up they would purchase it for their archive, amazing.”

When I was invited to take part in a full theatrical adaptation of This Is Memorial Device on a slightly bigger budget I was enthusiastic but also wary of undermining the myth around some of the music, particularly Memorial Device. So for the most part I wanted their music to be present but in peoples imaginations. I started work with Gavin Thomson (Pastels sound-person and multi-instrumentalist). We took as our starting point the teenage jams I had made all these years ago, writing new music as well. Gav and I worked quickly and we immediately got in sync with the rest of the team which was by now fronted by the brilliant actor, Paul Higgins. I’m really proud of what we made together. This Is Memorial Device won the Fringe First award which is the most prestigious accolade for new theatre at the Edinburgh Festival.

A few months later we decided we would try to make a record from what we had. We wondered if it was maybe lacking in some contrasts and over-representing the gnarliness of the book, when it is actually so many different things, many beautiful. Revisiting what we’d done we started looking for different colours and it became clear that we needed our Pastels cohorts to become part of it – mostly Katrina and Tom. In places it is now close to The Pastels, but in places not at all. It goes somewhere else – it’s like the train ride to Airdrie  – somewhere along the way an invisible line is drawn, you know you’re not in Glasgow.

What we’ve done runs parallel to the book and to the theatre production weaving in and out – a third voice. Very excited to be part of this brilliant cult.

Stephen Pastel, 2024

 

Geographic are proud to present the expanded soundtrack to Graham Eatough’s award-winning stage adaptation of David Keenan’s cult novel, This is Memorial Device. Subtitled “an hallucinated oral history of the post-punk scene in Airdrie, Coatbridge and environs 1978-1986”, This is Memorial Device tracked the joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats, of a clutch of musicians and hangers-on centred around the band Memorial Device, as the small town of Airdrie, Scotland, is transformed into a place of endless opportunity and impossible magic by their collective belief in the power of art.

This is Memorial Device: Music from the Stage Play comes across as a third iteration of the book, establishing a whole new angle on the myth of Memorial Device through reworked home recordings from the era and expanded versions of music originally scored for the theatre production that won a prestigious Fringe First award when it was staged in Edinburgh in 2023. Additionally, it features original readings from the book by Paul Higgins (The Thick of It/Line of Duty et al), who played the lead character Ross Raymond, alongside the rest of the cast of the original production.

Stephen Pastel and Gavin Thomson, working with a group of collaborators including Pastels alumni Katrina Mitchell, Tom Crossley and John Hogarty, returned to teenage recordings Pastel had made with his old pal Corky and came up with gold, uncovering amazing ‘lost’ original compositions like “We Have Sex”, which perfectly capture the affirmative joy and madman energy of two kids crazed on the possibilities of art, sex and music. These are set alongside contemporary recordings that are thick with small town romance and melancholy. Crucially, the album works as a standalone listen, telling the story of the group in episodic flashbacks that run from single-note Industrial scale drone works through caveman punk, lush, cinematic instrumentals, bare spoken word, and a final expanded reckoning of the last recording of Memorial Device vocalist Lucas Black that would end the theatre performance on a life-affirming high. The album comes with all-new artwork from Annabel Wright, who traces a map of Airdrie and summons the ghost of place through hazy renderings of the phantom topography of the book, while the book’s author, David Keenan, provides a track-by-track commentary on the music that expands the mythos of the group while providing new perspectives.

This is Memorial Device has become a huge cult since the book was first published in 2017 and won the London Magazine Prize for Debut Novels. There have been t-shirts, badges, beers, fan-fiction and audiobooks, as well as an unofficial Memorial Device twitter account that currently has nearly 50k followers and that has established a vibrant on-line community of Memorial Device Alternative National Treasures. But Stephen Pastel and Gavin Thomson’s LP represents the first attempt to capture what the world of the book actually sounds like. Fans of The Pastels will pick up on the classic Pastels romantic/DIY approach but there is so much else here, so many aspects of the world of possibility that the book unlocks, with a narrative thrust that comes on like an emotional rollercoaster, at points hilarious, at others heart-breakingly sad. This is the lost sound of Airdrie, which is the lost sound of small working class towns and villages all across the UK – and the world – at the moment when post-punk turned the streets into avant garde performance spaces. It captures the bold spirit of tribal musical communities in these small towns, and the daring it took to believe. Because after all, as the book says, “it’s not easy being Iggy Pop in Airdrie.”

In This is Memorial Device, the group’s guitarist, Big Patty, said that from now on, in the wake of punk rock, music had to sound like a building coming down, or forget it. In the hands of Stephen Pastel and Gavin Thomson it sounds like a whole town, a whole era, shaken to its foundations by a vision of new musical possibilities. 

David Keenan, 2024

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