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Servants - Small Time/Hey Hey We're the Manques

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 12 / 1 / 2013

Servants - Small Time/Hey Hey We're the Manques
Label: Cherry Red Records
Format: CD X2


Fabulous second album from underrated late 80’s and early 90’s indie band the Servants, which has finally been released twenty one years after it was recorded

The Servants were a great band, but pretty much an indie secret. I only happened to come across them when I saw them live in 1986 when they were first on a bill that also included Pink Military from Liverpool, Sonic Youth, whom had only been releasing records since the previous year, and the headliners the Jesus And Mary Chain, whom were starting to develop their sound and to finally play longer sets which didn't end up in riots. It was my first Jesus and Mary Chain gig, but it was the Servants with their unique English take on the Velvet Underground's sound, and particularly ‘Loaded’, that blew me away. At the time, there wasn't much to buy by them. Their 7” inch debut single, ‘She’s Always Hiding’, had just come out, and their 12 inch second single, ‘The Sun, a Small Star’, followed on later that year. The gap was finally filled by a John Peel Session which I taped and played to death. The following year in 1987 their front man David Westlake released a solo LP, ‘Westlake’, which appeared on Creation and featured the Triffids’ rhythm section. I saw the Servants again towards the end of the 1980s at the Sir Walter Scott in the back streets of Finsbury Park. By then they had a new line up, which featured Luke Haines and Alice Readman from the then still-to-be-formed Auteurs. This line-up of the band was still good, but the original band was to my ears slicker and more polished. This line-up of the Servants recorded ‘Disinterest’ in 1989, which was the only album that the group released in their lifetime. It is a record that was difficult to find, but, yes, I did get one, which is now something of a golden nugget. The group recorded a second album, ‘Small Time’, in 1991 but it was never released and they broke up later on that year. ‘Small Time’ has now finally come out on Cherry Red as the late follow-up to Disinterest, which was released on tiny indie label, Paperhouse Records. ‘Disinterest’ speaks of indie and major labels’ lack of response to the band, but, if you look at the times and the late 1980s and early 1990s pre-Brit pop, grunge was kicking in doors then very slowly, while baggy and shoegaze were both on the horizon, so an English Velvets-influenced band was going to have to try even harder to reach an audience. It all took it out on the band, and Luke started the Auteurs while David, who released a final solo album, ‘Play Dusty for Me’ in 2002, studied and has since become a solicitor. ‘Small Time is the first CD of a two CD set, the other disc being demos for ‘Disinterest’. By the time the band started ‘Small Time’, they were down to just David Westlake and Luke Haines. All the songs on both CDs here are unreleased, but four tracks on the second CD, which is called ‘Hey Hey We're The Manqués’, were released in other forms. ‘Small Time’ starts with ‘Everybody Has a Dream’ and sounds like the Go-Betweens covering the Velvet Underground. It is also reminiscent of Hefner, although it would be many years before Hefner formed. It is limited in its instrumentation, but very affective. ‘Don't Leave Town’ has a rough and ready sound, and some strong guitars work from the young Luke Haines. ‘People Going Places’ is like a film soundtrack, and ‘Complete Works’ in contrast has a strong and deep acoustic vibe. ‘Dating Then Waiting’ (Well, we have all been there, haven't we?) is another hard-edged acoustic track, while ‘Born to Dance’ and Motivation’ both sound like The Cure at their most bizarre and eccentric. ‘Let's Live a Little’ is a fiery acoustic track, and ‘Aim in Life’ features oddball guitar work and a surprising high-pitched vocal from David. ‘Rejection’ has a jangly New York drive too it, and is catchy in its late 80’s indie feel. ‘Fear Eats the Soul’ has sinister keyboard work Luke, while the completely-the- opposite ‘The Thrill of It All’ sounds like an upbeat Jonathan Richman. ‘All Talk’ is reminiscent of the Cure of ‘The Caterpillar’, and ‘Out of Your Life’ is an acoustic beauty whch is stripped down and slow. Short and sharp guitar lines cut in deep while David’s vocals have a mystical element. ‘Slow Dancing’, the final track on the original album, has a relaxed and summery Velvet Underground vibe. There are also four extra demo tracks. ‘Born to Dance (2)’ and ‘The Thrill of It All (2)’ are both lo-fi garage rock numbers. ‘All Talk (2)’ is short and sharp, while a second version of ‘Out of Your Life’ is very garage rock sounding like the Velvets played on a tinny cassette player. ‘Hey Hey We're the Manques’, as well as David and Luke, also features Alice Readman and on its first few tracks Hugh Whitaker, who was the original drummer in the Housemartins. It opens with ‘The Word around Town’. It was a song that I played to death at the time, and this version is more Velvets then the Velvets could ever be. This is a very tinny version, and the backing vocals on it give it the edge of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’. ‘She Whom I Once Dreamt Of’ has a slow-core Velvet Underground feel, but is not as polished as the original album version. ‘You Do Me Good Again’ has a laidback air to it. ‘She Grew and She Grew’ is jingle-jangle guitar heaven, and sounds like an early Bunnymen demo. ‘She's Always Hiding’ is another of my favourite early numbers by the band, but here is given a completely different arrangement to the original number. ‘Look Like a Girl’, sounds like a garage or back room rehearsal, and with its raw, glorious guitar sound, is reminiscent of a pre-fame Beatles in 1961 Hamburg. ‘Third Wheel’ is another rough-sounding number. The bass here works well, while the drums hold it all together. ‘Thin Skinned’ has a muddy garage-like feel, while the vocal here fights to be heard. ‘Hey, Mrs John’is very slow and trippy, and sounds like it was recorded live. ‘They Should Make a Statue’ is a tight and groovy number, while ‘Move Out’ recalls an early new wave Talking Heads. ‘Big Future’ has chunky riffs, and the second guitar weaves in and out between the first upon it, while the bass assists nicely. ‘Restless’ is a slick guitar piece, while ‘The Power of Woman’has a great workman- like groove and recollects the Shadows. ‘Hush Now’ sounds musically very modern. It could almost be Coldplay if it did not have so muddy a mix and such brooding vocals. ‘Afterglow’ is jangly, but again the vocals are lost in the mix. ‘Self Destruction’ ends this album and is a quirky odd- sounding jam. The Servants are excellent listening if you want to hear the flip side of what was happening musically in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A great lost band worth your attention.

Track Listing:-
1 Everybody Has a Dream
2 Don't Leave Town
3 People Going Places
4 Complete Works
5 Dating Then Waiting
6 Born to Dance
7 Motivation
8 Let's Live a Little
9 Aim in Life
10 Rejection
11 Fear Eats the Soul
12 The Thrill of It All
13 All Talk
14 Out of Your Life
15 Slow Dancing
16 Born to Dance (Alternative Version)
17 The Thrill of It All (Alternative Version)
18 All Talk (Alternative Version)
19 Out of Your Life (Alternative Version)
20 The Word Around Town
21 She Whom Once I Dreamt Of
22 You'd Do Me Good
23 She Grew and She Grew
24 She's Always Hiding
25 Look Like a Girl
26 Third Wheel
27 Thin-Skinned
28 Hey, Mrs. John
29 They Should Make a Statue
30 Move Out
31 Big Future
32 Restless
33 The Power of Woman
34 Hush Now
35 Afterglow
36 Self-Destruction

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