I was a teenager in the 80’s. Younger friends tend to exercise their chuckle muscles at my expense as they associate me with big hair, shoulder pads and dreadful England football teams losing to all and sundry as their fans wrecked the latest tiny country to exact revenge. It was all so odd and made worse by radio stations who could not decide between the bleeps and bloops of synth-pop or the smooth lusciousness of various nw romantic type acts.
However, for some those in the know, bands like The Pastels and indeed the C86 movement in general, provided the perfect comeback for when the giggles reach a crescendo. For The Pastels were, are and probably always will be, the perfect retort to 80’s ridicule.
So what makes them so defiantly cool? Initially tracks such as Crawl Babies (see below), I’m Alright With You and Automatically Yours have that Martin Newell / Cleaners From Venus aesthetic that not only embraces all things lo-fi, but also has full blown intercourse with it, in the quest for ‘maximal amateurish’.
It the sort of indefinable cool that the naughty kid achieves when finishing top of the class despite never listening or studying. Essentially it is indie-pop with minimum effort and maximum impact as typified by the fluttering, unobtrusive jangle-pop that is off the key points remembered in each track.
However, unlike Newell’s shining amateurism, The Pastels also had a weird sense of adventure that could have been described as overtly eccentric if the word anomalous was not entirely more appropriate.
As such we see tracks such as Baby Honey suffocate all things pop, with a strange freak out alongside literal bells and whistles, the shambling almost rockabilly gallop of Up For a Bit (see below) ricochet about like a demented pinball machine behind Stephen Pastels’s deadpan vocals and the opening track, Ride, drone, moan and mither as if to immediately introduce the listener to the possibility that this one could get obtuse.
The Pastels went onto similar brilliance in later albums, but Up For A Bit…is the one that provides a summation of their overall brilliance and is the one I still play most consistently today.