Thursday, 13 June 2013

East Village: Drop Out reissued

East Village stood out in Britain's late 80s post-indiepop wasteland (back then, there were a lot of bands who were pretty ordinary, who celebrated their ordinariness, who thought that just because they could do it meant that they should). East Village wrote classic songs that, 25 years on, have lasted. Not many bands have done that.

Just their two EPs in 1988, Back Between Places and Cubans In The Bluefields, would have been enough to secure their place in whatever personal music pantheon I’ve created since then. I know they inspired similar devotion in others.

There was no other British band doing anything like this then - mod’s second-wave immediacy (The Jam, say, but Paul and Martin Kelly insist they were only influenced by their own obsession, Slough’s The Onlookers) by way of Aztec Camera’s High Land, Hard Rain's dramatic intimacy, the menacing beauty of Dylan’s Highway 61 and The Byrds’ ringing guitars. Remember, this was the year of The Go-Betweens’ 16 Lovers Lane and that’s the closest contemporary reference point.

You should’ve seen them live. Like their records, they burned with an intensity found only in a band with three songwriters. I saw some great gigs when I was 15 (My Bloody Valentine weren’t too shabby then, you know) but East Village trumps them all. When anyone asks me what my favourite-ever gig was, that night when they blew McCarthy off stage comes to mind.

Whether you bought East Village’s one album, Drop Out, in 1993 or when it was reissued in Japan a decade later, I’m certain that you hold it to close to your heart. Dear friends, if you’re reading this and you don’t love Drop Out then I’ll be unable to look at you in quite the same way again.

And here’s the press release, written by Bob Stanley (who financed Drop Out’s original release and wrote the sleeve notes for it):

East Village

Announce re-release of debut album – August 19th 2013. Heavenly Recordings.

East Village were perfectly named, reminiscent of both New York's sixties boho scene and somewhere secluded, somewhere down a b-road in Bucks. Twenty years ago they released their sole album, Drop Out, a nest of chest-high guitars and chiming melancholia. By the time it came out, the four-piece had broken up and moved on. Listening to it now, it feels like an elegy for a particular brand of eighties guitar music, sweet minor chords and Dylanesque lyrics, the kind practised by the Go Betweens, the Weather Prophets, the kind that was caught between stools then and is much missed now.

Guitarist Paul Kelly was a trained pilot. He was also a trained carpenter. This doesn't seem that surprising - East Village's guitar lines sounded wood-carved. Their most mysterious member, and primary songwriter, was called John Wood, like the architect behind Bath. There is classicism at work here too.

East Village's output was small but faultless. Four singles, the first as Episode Four, a flexidisc, the posthumous Drop Out, and a compilation of odds and ends called Hotrod Hotel. All of the original records go for silly money; the Episode Four EP will set you back at least £200. Their last single, Circles, was arguably their best with its two chord organ underpinning autumnal guitar lines that build and build, not unlike of New Order's Ceremony. It may be cold outside, but here's something decidedly warm.

Paul Kelly has gone on to become a respected film-maker, with screenings at the BFI, the London Film Festival and, this year, a retrospective in New York. Bassist Martin Kelly set up Heavenly Recordings with Jeff Barrett, managed Saint Etienne, and now runs Heavenly Films. Drummer Spencer Smith set his heart on becoming the Jason King of Dorset, and is often to be found at his local club. John Wood was rumoured to be living in Japan, where East Village are talked about with great seriousness.

A reunion toured of the far east was recently offered but rejected. This was a place, and a point in time; East Village found somewhere of their own, a neglected spot on the map between the scratchiness of eighties indie and the rise of house. If you ever passed through it, you wouldn't forget it.

Bob Stanley 2013


  1. John Wood lives in China

  2. I know. EV also released more than 4 singles. The press release is published verbatim.

  3. John Wood lives in China you sure?

  4. According to Paul Kelly last time it was mentioned. Of course he might have moved. I'm not his stalker.

  5. hi ben ... thanks for your review and comments. johnny

    p.s. to my would-be stalker - yes i live in the far east still, same place.

  6. Hi Johnny. Thanks for dropping by. If you're ever back in the UK think about an East Village reunion please! Really enjoyed Quiet Storm and there's always a spot for you at the hangover lounge (where Birdie have played) if you fancy an acoustic set.

  7. ben ... in some ways i'd love to do a re-union, but i don't think its gonna happen. its been so long, y'know?
    anyway its not down to me alone, so don't hang it on my shoulders.
    as for an acoustic set - again i'd love to, but its been so long .... i'm not sure anyone would be interested ina solo set from me.

  8. It has been a long time for EV, but it would light up the world...Plenty of people would come along for your solo set, you know. Paul only lives 5 minutes' walk away, for a start! It's really informal and relaxed - if you're coming to London at any point, get in touch and we'll sort something out.

  9. i'll be back in august ... so if i have time i'll come down!

  10. Great! I bumped into Paul yesterday - he mentioned £25,000 for an EV reunion, which is just out of my reach.

  11. Replies
    1. do you remember Bournmouth 83

  12. 我真的好喜欢Hotrod Hotel啊TAT