Sunday, 25 May 2014

The Rose of Avalanche

Of all of the alternative bands to come out of Leeds in the mid 1980s, none were as controversial in their home town as The Rose of Avalanche. Like many people, the first I had heard of them was when John Peel  frequently played their debut single “L.A Rain” in the Spring of 1985. Although there some features that marked them out as a Leeds band – the drum machine, the twin guitar assault, the referencing of early 1970’s US pre-punk rock – their most distinctive feature was vocalist Philip Morris’ delivery, half-spoken à la Lou Reed and more California than Call Lane. Rather risibly, he kept up the mid-Atlantic drawl for his inter-song banter at live shows, which did little to endear him to an already sceptical music press. Their second single later in the year, “Goddess”, also made the indie top 20, but although it had more obvious appeal to those seduced by The Cult’s new “rawk” direction, the fact that again the sleeve featured the band’s name in a familiar font and little other information meant that it also appealed to the ever-growing Sisters following. “L.A. Rain” featured at number 26 in 1985’s “Festive Fifty”, well above the two TSOM entries (the stand-out tracks overlooked as singles which close the two sides of FALAA). I for one was certainly drawn in, and recall that I actually bought a copy of their first compilation (“First Avalanche”, still on the Leeds Independent Label, produced by Neil Ferguson who later became a member of Chumbawamba) on the first day of release, and fired off a hugely positive review in Leeds Student, the campus newspaper for whom I was one of several music correspondents (I believe I called opener Stick In The Works as “a punchy statement of intent” in the pompous music press vernacular of the day), and continued to fill my column inches with positive coverage of what were frankly lacklustre live appearances supporting the likes of Balaam and The Angel. Although they went on to have greater success with “Goddess” style rockers like “Too Many Castles In The Sky”, I always personally preferred the slightly hippyish, more psychedelic “L.A. Rain” influenced tracks such a “A Thousand Landscapes” and “Never Another Sunset”. Last week a cover of one of the slower burners, “Velveteen” (with a guitar riff seemingly “borrowed”  the following year by no less than Guns’n’Roses), was released by Carnival Star, and I’ve spent a very pleasant week re-discovering the long-forgotten joys of T’Rose.