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Sad Lovers and Giants are a UK group that rose to prominence during the post punk era. In their first incarnation they put out two stellar records and then dissolved for a few years before reforming with new members. Their sound is densely rich and was described early on as sounding like a ‘pastoral Pink Floyd.’ They are perhaps the perfect cross between the urgency of Factory Records and the ethereal side of 4AD Records. This long overdue reissue compiles the band’s first album, Epic Garden Music, along with their first three singles.
“Imagination” was the first single that the band released and it is a nearly six minute anthem that builds upon analogue keyboards, oceanic guitar lines and a fluid train in motion bassline. By their third single, “Lost in a Moment,” their songs became extremely well crafted. The title track along with its b-side, “The Tightrope Touch,” are an engaging couple of songs that bridge David Bowie’s late 70s experimental pop with a darker early 80s sound similar to The Chameleons and The Cure.
Epic Garden Music, the first proper LP is an impressive eight track debut that rivals just about anything else that was coming out at the time. Here vocalist Garce Allard’s voice really starts taking shape as well. Opening with “Echoplay,” the gears are immediately rolling and the band is a succinct and cohesive unit. The rhythm section is absolutely solid and the lead guitar work plays out like electric folk. The following track, “Clocktower Lodge,” is slower and more atmospheric, recalling some kind of damp and foggy winter day. Despite this, the bass continues to chug along and drives the song down the dimly lit, soggy motorway. “Lope” is another surreal take on some kind of galvanized folk merged with gothic jazz. “Maybe we could play a part and not know we played it,” sings Allard and the lines fit the melody so well.
The intriguingly titled “Alice (Isn’t Playing)” is one of the record’s highlights. The guitar and keyboards play off of each other, creating a thunderous and dizzying echo of sound. An ambience of open space is created yet once again, the drums and bass guitar keep the song grounded. Lyrically, a dreamlike state is suggested with the final lines “In the light you can disappear without a trace/In the night every shadow seems to burn your face.” Finally, the album closes with the nearly instrumental song “Far From the Sea,” and that is exactly the mood that is evoked through the flanged guitar, droning saxophone and indecipherable spoken word vocals. At the end, the listener is left wondering why on earth this release was left out of print for nearly twenty years.
Sad Lovers and Giants disappeared into obscurity at some point along the way and it is quite hard to figure out why. Their music is miles ahead of many of their contemporaries who went on to become well-known and even legendary (by independent music standards). Sadly, their original record label, Midnight Music, was a shambolic outfit that seemed to squander the bands potential for financial and commercial success. The wonderful Cherry Red Records now owns the rights to their catalogue and let’s hope that they continue to release further LPs by the group. Their second album, Feeding the Flame, is probably their best. It is a more realized and properly recorded affair that even tops this incredible debut. At the bare minimum, it is begging to be properly released once more as well.