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Repomen - Seventeen Again

  by John Clarkson

published: 6 / 1 / 2003

Repomen - Seventeen Again
Label: RepoRecords
Format: CD


Excellent compilation from the eclectic and always independent-minded Sheffield group, the Repomen, which effectively charts their 12 year history together

Possibly Sheffield's best kept secret, the Repomen, although remaining little known outside their own area, have been a regular force on their local music scene for over twelve years. Too diverse to be easily slotted into a category, too independent-minded to ever be even remotely fashionable, they are a consistently solid studio and live act , and, in the last dozen years, have built up a rich and rewarding catalogue of songs. The Repomen, which in their original line-up featured Pennyblackmusic writer Denzil Watson on vocals ; guitarist and keyboardist Ric Bower ; bass player Simon Tiller and drummer Jason Wragg, first formed in 1990. They released on cassette only 'Burst', their first three track EP, in 1991, and then followed this with a second trio of songs, 'Omen' , in 1992, which again was put out just on cassette. The Repomen broke up at the end of that year, but reformed in 1996 with a new drummer, James Hughes, initially to play a one-off charity gig. When this was a success, they decided to make the reunion more permanent. The Repomen have since then put out two "double A-sided" CD EPs, 'Lights Out/She's in Love' which came out in 2000, and 'Reel Me Cuber/Eyes on the Road', which was released at the end of last year. They have a third CD EP, 'Save Yourself/Lauren Bacall', due out at the beginning of next year. 'Seventeen Again', which is available exclusively through Pennyblackmusic, collates together songs from all five of these EPs, and, as well as providing an excellent overview and retrospective of the band's career to date, culls together for both old and new fans alike material that has long been deleted and is otherwise unavailable. Rather than simply compile together 'Seventeen Again' in chronological order,the Repomen have chosen to mix up the running order, putting early material next to more recent material, and in the process have given their songs a fresh focus and slant. The first two CD EPs are still readily available, but, reproduced here, their tracks provide a timely reminder of exactly how diverse and eclectic the Repomen are. Amongst the "A sides", there is jangling Orange Juice-style new wave ('Lights Out') ; tantruming Buzzcocks influenced punk ('She's in Love'), exuberant Teenage Fanclub pop ('Reel Me Cuber'), and epic torch song piano balladry ('Eyes on the Road'). The "B sides", which were recorded live in the atrium of the college where Watson works, are similarly versatile. They find the band jumbling up their instrumentation, and Tiller swopping to the double bass and both Bower and Hughes appearing on acoustic guitars. We are given with these songs murky, melancholic blues ('TakeAway' and 'It's So Easy') ; Kinks whimsicality ('Stella') and thrashing corporate-bashing punk ('Grey Suits'). The Repomen have also put on 'Seventeen Again' the six songs from 'Burst' ('Behind the Mask', 'Yesterday's Heart' and 'No One But You' ) and 'Omen' '(So Unreal', 'Chasing the Girl' and 'God'), all of which have been otherwise unavailable for nearly a decade. 'Yesterday's Heart',the retrospective's one weak moment, is an honourable failure. Cloyingly twee in sound, and overtly sentimental with a lyric about a long lost love, it lacks the gutsiness that is the one constant factor of the band's other recordings. Although the songs from these early two sessions show a young band that is not yet at home and still finding its way around the studio, the remaining five songs from these sets,while equally experimental, prove to be more robust, and there a lot of good moments 'No One But You' finishes with a glorious guitar work-out in the style of that on the Velvet Underground's 'What Goes On' , while 'God' is reminiscent, with its ragged energy, of the Wedding Present and Cinerama. 'Chasing the Girl' meanwhile is more funky, and uses a clipped Talking Heads style bass line to impressive effect. As an added bonus, 'Seventeen Again' also features the two title tracks from the new EP. The abrasive, breathless 'Save Yourself' finds the Repomen putting their faith in rock 'n' roll rather than religion, while 'Lauren Bacall' is a gorgeous alt. country waltz, that has the band still, after all these years, reinventing their own rule book, and which features Bower in a rare turn on vocals and Watson playing shimmering piano. The Repomen are often described as punks, and many of the songs on this compilation-She's in Love', 'Save Yourself' and aggresive live track 'Falling' -do indeed have a punk sound. Yet the Repomen are also punks in that they are one-offs, and are unable to be pigeon-holed or to be fitted into a neat category or formula. Over a decade on, their energy is boundless. Each song has been written with a genuine emphasis on fun and with a youthful sense of enthusiasm. All in all, this retrospective really does make you feel like you are seventeen again.

Track Listing:-
1 Stella
2 Save Yourself
3 She's in Love
4 Lauren Bacall
5 Reel Me Cuber
6 Falling (Live)
7 Eyes on the Road
8 Yesterday's Heart
9 Behind the Mask
10 Grey Suits
11 So Unreal
12 Lights Out
13 No One But You
14 Takeaway
15 Chasing the Girl
16 It's So Easy
17 God

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