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Photo (c) Jos Van Vliet. Going back to Garry Mulhollandís This is Uncool for a moment, some analysis suggests that 50% of the singles he includes are ones that are dearly loved in this household. One of these is 'Final Day' by Young Marble Giants, which is exquisite. 'Final Day' was covered many years ago now by Galaxie 500, appropriately. Appropriately as Naomi Yangís singing is as frail and vulnerable as YMGís very wonderful Alison Stattonís. It is also part of a great tradition of cover versions (letís rather say song interpretations) by Galaxie 500 which has been gloriously carried through into their later work by Damon and Naomi.

Weíre being spoilt this month. First we have a new Sam Prekop set, and now hot on its heels there is a new Damon and Naomi record which is just as exceptionally beautiful. It is only officially available in the UK on import, which may excuse to some extent the paucity of reviews. Credit (in the straight world? Oh stop it!) however should go to the free paper Metro for a terrific review. Indeed, strangely enough, the Metro often carries the best record reviews around, and those by Clare Allfree are particularly astute. So just after reading the This Life cartoon strip (the best around) and my stars (the most readable ones around) itís the reviews I check out. In fact Kevin McCardle sneaked in a rousing write up of the Doris Duke Iím A Loser set of collaborations with Swamp Dogg, of which the actual Iím A Loser LP is described as the greatest record ever by the dear departed Dave Godin.

So, The Earth Is Blue by Damon and Naomi. Itís colossal. Itís also positively and boldly baroque by their spartan standards. In a musical climate where people are getting very worked up by stripped-down folk primitivism Damon and Naomi may have been rapturously received. Instead they have gone all Mamas and Papas on us. Or rather opaquely Opal-ish. There is an esential compilation around of the early recordings by Opal which every home should have to heal heartaches. Opal were Kendra Smith and David Roback (between stints with the great Rain Parade and the better known Mazzy Star) and they produced a set of absolutely achingly lovely ballads which had crackles of intrusive guitar weaving their way the melancholy magic. Though steer clear of the awful Happy Nightmare Baby set please!

So the new Damon and Naomi has Michio Kurihara of Ghost performing that David Roback role, and it just perfectly off-sets the beauty of these recordings. The cover versions this time round are of Caetano Velosoís 'Araca Azul' and the Beatlesí 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. The former is of course completely cool, and appropriately so cool that it comes from an LP I can never find but I am sure I would NOT have been one of those record numbers that demanded a refund on its release after the success of Transa, which is a record I do have and love dearly. Now the cover of the George Harrison song really should not work. But it does. It works perfectly. And it sounds like Alison Statton singing the most stripped-down primitive version of what I guess we can easily forget is a beautiful ballad. And didnít Caetano start one of his songs with the lines: ďWoke up this morning singing an old, old Beatles song ÖĒ?

Galaxie 500 like the Young Marble Giants is a group we can love too much as an entity, and thus ignore future developments. The Young Marble Giants in fact have all sorts of wonderful repercussions, and indeed I am sitting here listening the Maple Snow live set by Alison Statton and Spike (who played together in Weekend, the wonderful outfit Alison participated in after the brief glory of the YMGs). The set is a live one recorded in Japan in the early Ď90s, with contributions too from the Moxham family (not Stuart though), and is utterly wonderful. There are diversions into folk/latin/highlife/spanish guitar extemporisation, but itís the haunting loveliness of Alisonís singing that wins the day. And indeed any recording featuring Alisonís singing is an absolute must, especially the indefinable Shady Tree set she made with Spike.

Oddly the main creative force behind the YMGs, Stuart Moxham, had perhaps the most orthodox outings after the work he did with The Gist. He is however featured on the essential Ana da Silva Lighthouse set, and produced one of my favourite ever records, which is Butterfly Kiss by Lois. Though itís not too hard to work out the logic of getting Stuart Moxham in to produce such a raw, haunting and quietly confrontational record. That sort of logic doesnít always work though does it? Itís a bit like great football players not often making great managers and coaches. They are often oblivious to what made them so special, and canít communicate that on.

Anyway, perhaps itís not too much of surprise Stuart Moxham turned out to be the orthodox one ≠ look at Dean from Galaxie 500 and the awful conventional records he went on to make with Luna. There is an absolutely essential DVD out on Cherry Red of the Young Marble Giants captured live at Hurrahs in New York, and itís hilarious watching Stuart stalking the stage with lit cigarette in mouth throughout the sets like some Keith Richards cartoon. Who am I kidding? You have this absolute priceless piece of history preserved for posterity, and Iíll be blowed if I am going to even notice the guitarist when Alisonís standing there singing away, eyes closed, looking so Ö

Looking so perfect. And weíre talking fashion here. Quality cast-offs. How people dressed in 1980 when they had no money but could look fantastic by salvaging quality cast-offs. The groups, the fans, the writers, the film makers, the chancers, the romancers, the alchemists, the rarely kissed, the deeply missed, the vanquished, the quashed, the quick and the well read. But only Alison could have looked right in that sparkling dress.

And the last song in each of the sets featured on this DVD is 'Final Day'. One of the great pop moments.

© 2005 John Carney