Monday 15 February 2016

Life Without Buildings

Some dates stick in your mind. February 28, 2000. Steve Lamacq played New Town by Life Without Buildings on the radio.

I could recognise some of the influences - The Raincoats, Talking Heads, The Go-Betweens’ Send Me A Lullaby - but no one had been doing the punk-funk thing since the mid-90s. New Town was the finest example of that sound since the Nectarine No 9’s This Arsehole’s Been Burned Too Many Times Before 6 years previously.

Better still, this was a new band. Looking back, it’s easy to say that this date was when 21st century music - or 10 years of early 80s post-punk influenced music - started. At the time, despite occasional national radio play, Life Without Buildings were a thrilling secret.

I saw them soon afterwards in London. They played on the floor rather than the stage and captivated me and a handful of others. I left when they finished. Anything else would have been a disappointment.

There were 2 more singles that year, both mesmerising and dervish-like. They were ahead of everyone else. But very few seemed to notice.

About a year after hearing them on the radio that first time, they supported The Strokes at their debut London gig. The Strokes were the hottest ticket in town, but it was obvious that night that they were the sound of the present (style over substance, hype over delivery) and Life Without Buildings were the sound of the future.

Press and radio were mostly interested in The Strokes. It made sense. They were an easily digestible, if unchallenging, rework of Blondie and The Kinks. Life Without Building’s anger and joy - I’m never sure which is which when I listen to them - is a much more difficult, but infinitely more rewarding, concept. They sound like they’re sprinting headfirst into the darkness, trying to find new ways to confront madness.

2001’s Any Other City got the reissue treatment in 2014. It was long overdue to recognise them as pioneers, as the ignition to the post-punk revival. That didn’t happen. To this day, I know very little about Life Without Buildings. They stopped after 3 singles and an album. They remain an enigma. I’m still uncertain about what some of the lyrics are or even if I know what they are then what they mean.

I like it that way. What I am absolutely certain of is that Any Other City is easily one of the greatest and most important British albums of the 21st century.


  1. All agreed. I went back to the album a couple of years back and liked it even more than I did when it was released! Came across this live album on bandcamp a while back which was a nice surprise

  2. Yeah, the live album is also worth having. I was in Australia about 3 years ago and came across loads of Life Without Buildings t-shirts in a charity shop. All medium and small (I'm neither) sadly.

  3. Classic, classic album. Well deserving of any and all recognition.