This foursome from Leeds worked really hard for a couple of years in the late 1980s, playing small hometown shows. As a jangle-pop band, things weren’t really working out. The changed their style and became a dream-pop/shoegaze band. Instead, though, of using lots of feedback and noise that would later become the defining characteristics of shoegaze, they focused more on the dreamy aspect of the dream-pop. Airy, foggy textures. Angelic vocals. And of course, a bit of distortion. They recorded and released a couple of EPs, which they distributed themselves. On cassette. And they continued to work hard.
They got a break and booked a show in London. Ivo Watts-Russell, the czar of 4AD Records, was there and signed the band to a contract on his label. They immediately gave the EPs a proper release and also issued a Japan-only compliation of those EPs, which they titled Mrs. Dolphin. They also quickly released the band’s first proper album —The Comforts of Madness— which did well in the UK, but was available only as an import in the US. By now, they had also acquired Meriel Barham, who was one of the founding members of Lush.
Two years later, they released In Ribbons, which didn’t do as well in the UK, but it got them on the map in the US, where they would tour with Lush. On that record, they did a really brilliant cover of the Mazzy Star interpretation of the Slapp Happy song “Blue Flower”. It’s not to be missed. Here’s the video for that. In case you want to listen to two songs today. It also featured a newer, cleaner version of one of their older songs — “Baby Maker”.
After In Ribbons, frontman Ian Masters left the band to pursue other musical endeavors. They continued with Barham taking over as frontwoman. Their subsequent release — Slow Buildings (1994) was okay, but the band just wasn’t the same without Masters. That was pretty much it for them, and they officially called it quits in 1996.
“Sight of You” originally appeared on their Barging Into The Presence Of God EP, which they self-released in 1988. 4AD issued it in 1989, then included it as part of that Japanese compilation Mrs. Dolphin. A slightly different, ever-so-slightly faster, slightly muddier, slightly shorter version of the song appeared on the debut album The Comforts of Madness in 1990. I prefer this, which is the original version:
“Sight Of You” by Pale Saints
It’s a song about the basest of things. The guy’s been dumped. While he’s busy having his feelings hurt, his gal has moved along to another guy. He wishes the new guy dead.
I really like the bass guitar throughout the song. I’m not usually keen on bass, but it really works for me on this song. I also like that while everything is really fuzzy, it’s not a wall of sound. I do love the wall of sound, but I also like being able to discern what’s what. After the second verse, there’s a bit where it almost gets too raucous to tell what’s what, but they rein it in at just the right moment. It’s great.
Barging Into The Presence of God is out of print and harder to find on CD than on 12″ vinyl. Mrs. Dolphin is out of print, and the existing copies sell for anywhere between $35 and $80. Digital copies are available, though, at a fraction of the price. Since the 4AD page doesn’t have it, you’ll have to see the amazon page to download it.