Thursday, July 26, 2018


One might well question quite what medicine the band had in their pockets as you listen to this slow and dreamy waltz. Less the second coming of the Velvet Underground, as the british press cited them, this sounds more like the Shadows spaced out on quaaludes, with a brief hint of klezmer in the side streets. In a good way. I was a fan back in the day, their day, mid 90s, the band bigger in Europe than at home, the breakthrough being their UK Reading festival performance in 1993. (Now ain't that a line-up?!) Hell, you can even hear that performance here.

So who or what were Madder Rose? The brainchild of Billy Cote, songwriter and guitarist, and Mary Lorson, singer and frontperson, they came together in 1991 New York, an archetypal Greenwich Village loft band. Languor was very much a watchword for those days, and, although not perceived as bedfellows then, I can latterly see parallels with Mazzy Star and the Cowboy Junkies, as well as the Dandy Warhols and Low. This track, an instrumental closer, appears on their major label debut, 'Bring It Down', in 1993. Thanks to the support of John Peel, the UK underground through to alternative DJ I reference frequently, they secured that festival slot, selling 10k copies of that record in the UK as that took place.

Those of you, if any, who have access to this debut, may query, the featured song apart, my comparisons, but, as each successive album dropped, so the more energetic indie-isms became ever more reined in, the songs becoming more thoughtfully arranged, latterly adding even some restrained electronica to the mix. 1999's "Hello June Fool" was as far as this iteration got, sadly, the band then breaking up. It was, however, good to see their brand get a hearing on "The Sopranos" in 2007, from the same valedictory album. Remember it?

But the story didn't end there, both Cote and Lorson following through on solo works. I need here to discuss how and why I became drawn in. Cooking Vinyl, their eventual  record label, were a company that gave a good guarantee of quality. In the early 80s through 90s I was a huge fan of their roster, Oyster Band, Michelle Shocked, Jackie Leven, all sorts of left field fare. And they had a club deal: join, some sort of yearly fee, and they discounted hugely their product, provided enough was bought. That was how I caught Madder Rose and, better still, how I caught Mary Lorson's next project, Saint Low. You could argue this whole piece a shallow artifice around the presentation of a single song. To which I would respond: And?

Lorson's first solo album in this name, with some added Cote guitar duties, is the terrific, 2000's eponymous 'St. Low." And this is the closing track. Sure, she has done more since but, in my book, I rest my case. This always makes me feel a whole lot better. Try it. Sometimes I just want to play a song. That's all. Trust me. I am a doctor. If you can't love this, you don't have a heart.

Madder Rose
Saint Low

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