One of the extremely rare priviledges afforded by the various lockdowns is/was extra ‘time’, a commodity that people used in different way. Many fittered it by posting eleventy squillion daily pictures of their food, triumphant exercise routines, videos of them strumming along to Oasis tracks and most importantly, pictures of their families doing group dances.
This was only marginally less interesting than those explaining the onset of COVID with communist conspiracies and the new found depressives who moaned about not being able to pop down to Lidl / Tescos / Walmart / Woolworths when they fancied, much more than medical key workers who were actually faced with ‘real pandemic problems’.
It was not all bad though. Certainly there were some, like Carl Thien, who used the increased level of time to rediscover archived brilliance. As such the Bandcamp bio for this release summates that Vial for Life were…
Carl Thien’s 1982 band in Sound Beach, Long Island, NY before moving to Boston. These are the first recordings of tracks that became staples of GingerBread Men and Gull Boy in later years
In this world of lengthy explanations (thus the demise of Twitter) the above explanation is as ‘too succinct’ as it is ‘actually perfect’. It does not have a label telling you what to expect in the music, it just says what it is and leaves the rest to the listener. How bizarrely refreshing?
Essentially the Vial of Life aesthetic is another example of the crossover/development between/of post-punk and jangle-pop that occured in the first half of the 80’s. Tracks such as the sublime Light Purple and Lychee, Green Tea, Almond Cookie chops spindly jangled riffs, through twinkling Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cod-oriental inferences, whereas Moscow era Orange Juice nods an appreciation to the era’s Postcard Records domination in F.I.R.
The very best of the album shifts the post-punk aesthetic towards the more anxious, incessant jangled riffs of The Feelies with What I Can’t See and Years of Your Life that sound ridiculously accomplished, considering this is an album of ‘first versions’.
Most of the tracks went onto receive more acclaim with Thien’s Gull Boy project, but there is a sense of raw and history to this album that more than justifies it’s inclusion in any jangle-pop fans collection.