Razorcuts - R Is For Razorcuts

matcd012  /  October 2002
Razorcuts - R Is For Razorcuts
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Razorcuts - R Is For Razorcuts

matcd012  /  October 2002

At last, the long awaited definitive collection from the pivotal UK indiepop legends. Ask any indiepop aficionado about the genre-defining acts from the British 80's music scene and a name you'll soon hear a lot is Razorcuts. Raised on punk rock and groomed at Alan McGee's Living Room club, Razorcuts emerged with the likes of Primal Scream and the Shop Assistants, combining a sunblasted 60's beat jangle with the DIY ethics of punk. A glorious riot of singles followed before Razorcuts signed to McGee's Creation Records and switched into long-playing mode; then retired, integrity intact, at the turn of the 90's. The UK scene Razorcuts represented led onto the staunchly anti-rock scene epitomized by Sarah Records, and helped set the parameters for much of the global indiepop scene we know today in the US, Japan, Sweden, Australia, and elsewhere. This definitive collection includes 21 tracks selected by the band (most previously available only at inflated import/collector prices in the US, plus previously unreleased material) with the signature Razorcuts chiming 12 string guitar, harmonies, Hammond organ and tambourines. This lovingly prepared package includes a 12-page booklet with extensive archive photos, plus sleevenotes from the band and two early Razorcuts champions - St Etienne's Bob Stanley and legendary British music writer Everett True.

  1. I'll Still Be There
  2. Big Pink Cake
  3. Summer in Your Heart
  4. Mary Day
  5. Sorry to Embarrass You
  6. A is for Alphabet
  7. 8 Times Around The World
  8. I Heard You The First Time
  9. Jade
  10. A Contract With God
  11. Brighter Now
  12. Storyteller
  13. Everyday Eyes
  14. Try
  15. Across The Meadow
  16. I Won't Let You Down
  17. The World Keeps Turning
  18. The Last Picture Show
  19. Sad Kaleidoscope
  20. The Horror of Party Beach
  21. I'll Still Be There (single version)


The Razorcuts were one of the best and most influential indie pop groups to come out of the aftereffects of the C86 scene in the U.K. in the mid-'80s. They combined classic songcraft with chiming guitars and heartfelt vocals to create a prototypical indie sound. They recorded the obligatory flexi-disc tracks, a batch of singles for Subway Organisation and two wonderful LPs for Creation, all of which were impossible to find on CD until now. The fine folks at Matinée have put together a compilation that gathers tracks from throughout their career and makes a strong case for the Razorcuts as one of the great British bands of the 1980s. Starting off with the beautiful "I'll Still Be There," the disc charts the Razorcuts (who consisted of Gregory Webster on guitar and vocals, Tim Vass on bass and vocals, and a revolving cast of other musicians) as their sound progressed from lo-fi indie pop to full and majestic folk-rock-tinged balladry by the end of their career. Along the way are such classic songs as the aching "Sorry to Embarrass You," "Brighter Now," "Contract With God" (a tune the Byrds would have been glad to call their own), and Tim Vass' fave, "I Won't Let You Down." A nice inclusion at the end of the disc are three bonus-track rarities: the 1986 flexi-disc track "Sad Kaleidoscope"; the surf pastiche demo from 1985, "The Horror of Party Beach"; and the single version of "I'll Still Be There." The liner notes are another treat, with reminiscences from both Webster and Vass as well as essays by Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne and the Legend (aka Everett True). The disc is a wonderful exercise in nostalgia for fans lucky enough to have heard the Razorcuts when they were active and is a must-have for anyone who is a fan of the current crop of indie pop groups who use the Razorcuts as one of the blocks their sound is built on. Many, many thanks to Matinée for telling the Razorcuts' story -- it makes for one of the best reissues of 2002.   --All Music Guide
Razorcuts, at their finest, were the sounds of innocent abandon on acid; naiveté on speed. Or alternatively the music of a heaven where the headline band is Curt Boettcher jamming with Joey and Dee Dee. That good. That special.   --Careless Talk Costs Lives #6
Razorcuts (who took their name from a Buzzcocks lyric) churned out a small but sparkling archive of chiming indie over a period of five years. The core of the Razorcuts were Tim Vass and Gregory Webster, two working-class scamps from Luton. Like so many of their shambling, C86 contemporaries, the band excited an ardent following, and this long-awaited 21-track retrospective should convince any doubters. Razorcuts were better songwriters than Talulah Gosh (with whom they had a split single) and had more immediate tunes than the Television Personalities (who covered Razorcuts “Sorry To Embarrass You”). Although they favoured the standard three chords played in a jangly fashion, this band had a gift for making those standard chords sound different. From the glorious “I’ll Still Be There” to the Phil Spector-esque opening to “Big Pink Cake,” this set is filled with Byrds-inspired harmonies (the collection is dedicated to Gene Clark) and various sounds of the 60s. The fact that the main men really couldn’t sing only adds to the charm. “Summer In Your Heart” is an excellent DIY ditty, and just as “Mary Day” seems destined to sink into putrid wetness, out comes a well-placed keyboard part and you’re back in twee heaven. There are also two ultra rarities in “The Horror of Party Beach” (a 1985 demo) and “Sad Kaleidoscope” (a 1986 flexi). Ideally, Razorcuts music should come on a scuffed cassette, preferably with smiley faces, flowers and love hearts drawn on it, from some girl you had a crush on back in ’89. Still, this is a much-needed retrospective, containing colourful snippets of brilliance.   --Record Collector Magazine
Razorcuts existed in an all-too-brief moment in time when the fallout of post-punk allowed anyone, anywhere to mine the fertile fields of rock's past and recast it all as genuine wonder. In 1985, Luton, England, lads Gregory Webster and Tim Vass discovered a marvelously inept way to appropriate Byrds riffs and set them up with lyrics about all of their teenage obsessions: Andy Warhol, B movies, the sky and, mostly, girls. In the process, they helped invent a dubious genre—twee—that, impossibly fey and demure as it was, just might have been the very last iteration of punk. Because, like so many of their British brethren (Primal Scream and Tallulah Gosh appeared at roughly the same time), Razorcuts were all about the single, the three-minute confection that flies in the face of anyone who ever suggested that rock & roll could ever possibly be anything other than very fast and very cheap thrills. During their run, Razorcuts recorded for both Subway and Creation, and their slightly dazed but irrepressible jangle-pop defines those labels' early aesthetics: nasal schoolboy harmonies, simple DIY melodies and everywhere the feeling of that moment in '60s pop when drugs were not quite there, yet everyone seemed to know they were on the way. By 1986, the bedsit scene that Razorcuts traveled in went mega for a moment courtesy of the New Musical Express' infamous C86 comp; the band itself wasn't on it, though. But Vass could have been speaking for the entire scene when he told the NME that year, "I don't think that pop music is about creating perfect records—it's about creating perfect moments." Do I even have to tell you that their toil was in near-complete obscurity? R Is for...Razorcuts comes as a rescue effort, compiling just about everything the band ever recorded and featuring liner notes by Webster, Vass, Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne and, um, legendary fanzine scribe The Legend! (a.k.a. Everett True). As such, this CD is one of the more compelling time capsules of that era currently available.   --Time Out New York
If you were lucky enough to know Razorcuts during their brief late-’80s existence, they became inextricably entwined with your own everyday being. Their songs became your life, and you heard your life in their songs. The Byrds without their undertow of wasted despair, Belle and Sebastian if they were too engaged in actually living to sit inside reading books—Razorcuts always sounded like the greatest summer of your life, three minutes at a time. Listening to R is for…, a 21-track collection of the group’s recordings (largely drawn from their two sublime LPs for a then-burgeoning Creation Records), one can scarcely believe the songwriting partnership of Tim Vass and Gregory Webster was a product of such an aesthetically unforgiving era; but this, too, is why it now transcends it. “You have to remember that there was no large-scale crossover of guitar pop into the mainstream at that time,” says Webster. Adds Vass: “We never set out to change the face of pop music. Our main aim was to make music which would mean something special to people like us; people with similar record collections and, perhaps, a similar worldview.” If your worldview still grants you the ability to be awed by notions of romantic surrender (“Brighter Now,” “Jade”), rare glimpses of unaffected beauty (“The World Keeps Turning”) and the comfort of willful naiveté (“Storyteller”), Razorcuts will mean as much to you as pop music ever could.   --Exclaim!
This is the release Razorcuts fans have been waiting for. R is for . . . Razorcuts contains almost every recognizable track from the early days of Big Pink Cake when this underground indie-pop outfit, along with the likes of Primal Scream and the Shop Assistants, were working to establish the now time-honored ethics of do-it-yourself punk. This album, though, is a real hodge-podge of musical styles, from punk to '60s psychedelia and '80s rock. It's chock-full of excellent material (the best of which being pop classics "I'll Still Be There" from Big Pink Cake, "Sorry to Embarrass You" from the EP of the same name and "Brighter Now" from Storyteller) that works so very well as a trip down memory lane leading up to the release of yet another retrospective piece for the band, A Is for Alphabet, due later this year. Hardcore fans will appreciate the addition of three bonus tracks on the CD including a demo of "The Horror at Party Beach" and the rare single edit of "I'll Still Be There".   --Pop Matters
You know you're getting old when you start buying albums for the second and third time. Between snagging Matador's Soft Boys and Pavement reissues, mooning over Merge's double-disc Clean Anthology and reveling in my recent acquisition of what I'm fairly certain is my fifth copy of the Repo Man soundtrack, I've done a fair bit of nostalgia-purchasing lately; perhaps it's only a matter of time 'til I buy a Lincoln Town Car, listen to conservative talk-radio and accumulate a small army of pills, salves and lotions for the bits of me that no longer work properly. Still, R is for...Razorcuts is brilliant. The Razorcuts were among the best of the trebly beat combos that came out of the C86 era, touting a back-to-basics musical aesthetic and a sugary-sweet sound. Their bubblegum pop stopped short of (the as-yet undefined) twee, their folkier tunes glittered with streamlined twelve-string guitar melodies, and they weren't afraid to pillage rock's storied history for effect -- an organ here, a trumpet there, and Phil Spectoresque drums as needed. R is for... bundles much of their best material -- a gaggle of hard-to-find singles, EP and album tracks, with a couple of rarities thrown in for good measure. It's music that can make you happy at an almost unconscious level, creating that marvelous little giggle-thrill-shudder of delight in your chest; you can actually feel your cares lifting away like a sheet, giving way to visions of warm summer days, green lawns and near-motionless time. Yes, this is magical stuff -- and if you were old enough to be into British indie bands in the mid-eighties, it'll sound very familiar, as the Razorcuts were scenemates and spiritual kin to bands like Television Personalities (Indeed, the TVPs covered Razorcuts' "Sorry to Embarrass You" long after Dan Treacy's trip down the long and winding road of Syd Barrettishness took a detour up his own heavily medicated arse). Razorcut Gregory Webster was a quintessential UK indiepop vocalist -- wan, nasal and occasionally a little off-key, but capable of singing his heart out as and when needed. Third-generation twee-pop has allowed these affectations to evolve into excesses, but here they're controlled -- a little ad-hoc, perhaps, but never sloppy. DIY, in this instance, implies a certain facile immediacy: Webster's glittering twelve-string melodies are seldom far beyond the abilities of an average guitar student, and Tim Vass's bass rhythms suggest a self-taught player with a greater understanding of his instrument's purpose than its performance mechanics. Listen to any song here -- "I'll Still Be There" with its Byrdsian clap-along chorus, "I Heard You the First Time" and its peculiar slurred-meter chorus, or the effervescent "Storyteller" -- and you'll find ample proof. They're simple songs, they're beautiful songs, and they invariably sound, in the best possible sense, like you've heard them before. And that's the only downside -- by R is for...'s halfway mark, you'll begin to feel uncomfortably like you have heard these songs before -- perhaps within the last hour. Strip away "I Won't Let You Down"'s wall-of-sound orch-pop enhancements, "Sorry To Embarrass You"'s exquisite awkwardness, "A is for Alphabet"'s female backup singers or even "The Horror of Party B"'s low-fi drum machine drone, and you'll find the same basic sort of song underneath -- but you'd have to be the worst sort of curmudgeon to fault the band for their use of such a template. Don't forget, this is an outfit that released material on Creation and Flying Nun UK; if they sound familiar, it's probably because of their modest but pervasive influence on the generation of acts that followed them. They're also a band that had the good sense to stop before they ran out of ideas -- a rare bit of mature restraint that far more bands should embrace. R is for...Razorcuts is a delight in the purest sense. Buy it for any reason you can justify -- the band's influence on current music, your fascination with C86 acts, eighties nostalgia, whatever. You'll listen to it again and again, because...well, it's lovely and simple and satisfying. Reissues may be for old fogeys, but the Razorcuts will make you feel young.   --Splendid
I didn't have a clue. I didn't know a thing. I used to walk up the stairwell of the Virgin store opposite Glasgow Central to the singles floor. I used to climb the stairs with a million daydreams leaping around in my head and a million tears welling up in my eyes, the dams all ready to burst through despair or joy, I really didn't know which and I really didn't care. Like I said, I didn't have a clue. The first thing that caught my eye was the big black heart, roughly drawn as if by a frantic five year old clutching a crayon. The second was the name, similarly scrawled. It said 'Razorcuts'. In my head I heard those Buzzcocks lines. You know the ones. You must. And I knew right then that this record simply had to become part of my collection, had to become part of my life. It did. And it did. Of course it did. How could it not? How could a record that sounded like the bastard off-spring of those Mancunian speedfreakheartbreakers breeding with the Millennium not? Not that I knew anything about the Millennium at the time of course. Because not having a clue all I DID know was that those two songs were like grenades hurled into my life from who-knows-where, and that the explosions sent sherbert shrapnel deep into my jugular, burning, burning, burning with the most heavenly pain imaginable. I pored over the sleeve for weeks. I almost wanted to still be in school so I could have scribbled 'gyrating, beat-happy, a real outta sight sound!' and 'heartbeats up love… AGAIN!' in bright red marker on my book covers. Instead I sat on a train to Glasgow every day and in my minds eye watched my old peers still there listen to their Dire Straits whilst I frothed at the mouth and sang 'I'll still be there' in my head every waking minute of every day. Later, there came more songs to colour my world in Warhol hues. 'Summer In Your Heart' was simply awesome. It carved delicious slices across my heart for a minute and fifty seconds, and sprinkled space dust on the scars. The release was so addictive I had to repeat the experience as many times a day as I possibly could. These were days when a single song could change the world, and frequently did. 'Sorry To Embarrass You' made me break in two. I bought a copy for someone and sent it with a single white rose. Don't ask how or why, these things are not important. What is important is the dried petals in a bag pinned to the wall; a letter that starts ' the hardest way to start' and a photograph of the sky with the words 'on a clear day you can see the Pentland Firth, or the whole world' written on the back in pencil. 'I Heard You The First Time' came in a sleeve with winter trees on and was all trembling ferocity; it sounded like standing up to the school bully armed with a liquorice stick laced with razorblades. It was also on the ultra-cool Flying Nun records' UK imprint, which led to them touring as support to the mighty Chills; a twin-set of pearls I was lucky enough to catch up with in Glasgow Rooftoops and which left me breathless of course. Later, there was an album (Storyteller) on Creation, at a time when I didn't really like albums. It wasn't the thrill of the singles, but it hit me hard in all the different ways it ought to have, it being Autumn and all. The songs sounded all ochre and pale yellow, like 'Brighter Now' which was like desolation angels breathing softly on the junkyard of life. Or the wondrous 'The Last Picture Show' which swirled like the leaves that skirl in their dervish dances as October winds whip up a storm off the hillsides. And still does. Later still there was another album (The World Keeps Turning), also on Creation when that was the most unfashionable thing imaginable. I never even heard it, but the couple of tracks that surface here, like the gentle mild-psych pop of its title track are pretty fine and make me wish I had bothered to pick it up at the time. But really at their finest, Razorcuts were a singles band, which is all any great Pop group should ever want to be, after all. Really, Razorcuts, at their finest, were the sounds of innocent abandon on acid; naiveté on speed. Or alternatively the music of a heaven where the headline band is Curt Boettcher jamming with Joey and Dee Dee. That good. That special. Razorcuts: R Is For Razorcuts is out now on the Matinée label.   --Tangents
The number of legendary bands that I've never heard of before just astounds me, not because I feel like I know it all but because it makes me aware of how many amazing musicians likely exist right around us at all times, without us knowing about them. The UK band Razorcuts meant a lot to a lot of people in the 1980s, though they're new to me. Their sound is like one part brash rock in the style of both The Kinks and the Buzzcocks and two parts sensitive, graceful pop. Their songs are pretty, emotive and relaxed, but have an edgier rock side underneath. R Is For…Razorcuts, which puts together 21 tracks from the group's career (selected by the band), is a class-A retrospective, with essays and photos to give us unaware a great sense of both the band's history and the context from which they arose.   --Erasing Clouds
Pop music is like a mine; sometimes you find gold on the surface, but mostly you have to contend with dirt and mud and crap in order to produce the smallest little nugget. When it comes to rare pop music, Ebay is the new California gold rush, and sometimes what's deemed as treasure is utterly surprising. Little records that you didn't think would have much value will go for extremely high prices. Tiny, obscure labels such as Sarah and Subway have seen even their worst-selling records going for prices that could easily keep a label in business. Unfortunately, many of these bands will never be anything more than a collector's curiosity, heard by only those with the money to buy them--and justification to keep the highly suspect download culture alive. R Is For...Razorcuts is a nice overview of what Razorcuts did in their six years of making music. While the notes aren't terribly descriptive when it comes to what records they come from (perhaps this records only flaw!), R Is For...Razorcuts is pretty comprehensive, containing (I'm assuming) most of their singles and choice album cuts, with three bonus tracks tacked on to boot. Until I heard R Is For...Razorcuts, I'd never heard anything by this long-lost British group. Talked about with wonder and praise from those who remembered them the first time around, it was near impossible for those who were interested in them to actually hear them. Sure, their members went on to form better-known bands such as Sportique and Heavenly, but those groups really don't tell much of the Razorcuts story. What's their story? Well, it's rather simple. Two music-loving friends, Gregory Webster and Tim Vass, wanted to make music, and so they did. That's a great story, isn't it? Is there really any need to know any more? Razorcuts made a great racket, though--jingle-jangle pop, with lovely harmonies and a hint of the mid-60s Byrds. Of course, in the fickle-minded music world, sheer love is often not enough, and by the time that the music audience obtained Nirvana, Razorcuts' fate had been determined, and they passed on quietly, mourned by the few that heard them. On first listen, it's painfully obvious that those who spoke so highly of them were right. There's something wonderfully charming about a band that's dirty-faced, making imperfectly perfect pop that's hard not to like. My personal favorite, and possibly their best record, are tracks 6-8, which were released as the I Heard You The First Time EP. These songs have a warm, shimmery jangle, hinting not only at the greatness of a time earlier, but also a foretaste as to what was about to happen with the Stone Roses, The La's, and bands of that ilk. By the time they recorded their albums for Creation, (including such excellent numbers as "Across the Meadow," "I Won't Let You Down," and "Everyday Eyes") they had struck gold with a warm, fuzzy, slightly cinammon-spiced sound. Warm and inviting, creamy and sweet, Razorcuts were making beautiful pop music--but the world wasn't listening. Razorcuts weren't the saviors of pop music, and expecting that would be too much. Their obscurity is equally unfair, and R Is For...Razorcuts certainly proves that Razorcuts deserve a rethink. They might not have sold many records, but I'm pretty sure that those who did buy their records bought everything they released. That's the kind of band that Razorcuts were. Matinée should be commended for allowing the rest of the world in on the Razorcuts secret.   --Mundane Sounds
Nothin' wrong with the 18th member of our grapho-lexical system, of course--nor, indeed, with the typically ragged ‘Cuts classic "A Is for Alphabet." But this best-of is really brought to us by the letter B: If anyone else from late-‘80s Luton combined Buzzcocks and Byrds better, I wanna know about it.   --Washington City Paper
Being of a certain age, I only vaguely remember the C-86..well, I was gonna say explosion, but it was never really that. At the time I seemed to immersed in my personal holy trinity of The Smiths, The Housemartins and The Cure to worry about bands like Razorcuts who were never gonna get in the proper charts and were, by definition, a bit rubbish. I wish I knew then what I knew now, that’s all I can say...This beautifully packaged Razorcuts compilation has hardly left my stereo for the last month. So this is what was happening whilst I was in the gap between ‘The Head on the Door’ and ‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’, and whilst I was swirling to ‘The Queen is Dead’ Razorcuts were using the twelve string with more guile than Johnny Marr. Each one of the 21 one tracks here is marvellous. And that’s the truth. From the mad, joyous rush of ‘Big Pink Cake’ to the very deep beauty of ‘Try’ to possibly the jangliest song ever in ‘Jade’, each of these tracks are treasures, that in such a desolate musical climate, it is a joy to discover. Sure, this is pure nostalgia, for a time I remember that was both pure and exciting. But listen to some of the later tracks here and you’ll hear where The Stone Roses learned their trade, and where most of those who still hold indie-pop so dear today have taken their lead from. Pioneers? Maybe not. Inspirational? Definitely.   --Tasty