mon 24/06/2024

Music Reissues Weekly: Linda Smith - I So Liked Spring, Nothing Else Matters | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: Linda Smith - I So Liked Spring, Nothing Else Matters

Music Reissues Weekly: Linda Smith - I So Liked Spring, Nothing Else Matters

The reappearance of two obscure - and great - albums by the American musical auteur

Linda Smith does her best to resist analysisPatrick Lears

Three years ago, the release of Till Another Time 1988-1996 generated a thumbs up. A compilation of recordings by the Baltimore and/or New York-based Linda Smith it was, according to this column, “stunning” and “significant.” Until this point, knowledge of Smith had “largely been the province of the do-it-yourself world of music.”

Now, two Linda Smith albums are reissued. Nothing Else Matters originally came out on CD-only in 1995. I So Liked Spring was its follow-up, appearing on cassette in 1996. Nothing Else Matters had been preceded by four cassette-only albums which remain un-reissued.

Linda Smith_Nothing Else MattersTill Another Time raised the question of whether the source albums – tracks were drawn from singles and EPs too – were as strong as what had been compiled. Was this collection representative of Linda Smith? Or did it cherry-pick the crème-de-la-crème (“I'll Never See You Again” and “I See Your Face” from Nothing Else Matters and I So Liked Spring’s title track were included on Till Another Time)? The reappearance of I So Liked Spring and Nothing Else Matters provides a happy answer. Linda Smith is as impressive as it initially appeared in 2021.

Stylistically, much of the two reissued albums cleaves to what Till Another Time indicated: an immersion in The Marine Girls, The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants – an intimate late-Seventies/early Eighties independent-minded sensibility as rain-spattered as it was contemplative.

Nothing Else Matters is the more Young Marble Giants-ish of the two albums. There’s an analogous eerie organ but much more is going on. Opening track “To Answer Your Question” has a see-sawing rhythm evoking The Beach Boys’s “God Only Knows” and ? & The Mysterians’s “96 Tears.” The circular electric guitar patterns of “I’ll Never See you Again” bring to mind The Velvet Underground’s “Here She Comes Now.” Manifestly, what’s heard was not solely rooted in Rough Trade/Cherry Red archetypes. It’s relative, but much of the spiralling instrumental “For Here or to go” is a powerpop banger. Side One of the album ends with the tremendous “Bright Side,” which suggests a hitherto unexposed kinship with Broadcast. Nothing Else Matters is brilliant.

Linda Smith - I So Liked SpringI So Liked Spring sets-to-music 12 poems by the London poet Charlotte Mew (1869-1928). While “May 1915” mentions “scorched blackened woods” and “those who sit today with their great dead” so presumably alludes to World War I, most of the other poems reflect on less-specific losses and how places and objects engender thoughts of what once might have been – the poem chosen as the title track begins “I spoke spring last year because you were here.” In the absence of liner notes explaining why Smith was attracted to Mew’s writing, it is assumedly this deliberative quality which inspired the wish to sing these words and compose music for them.

Unlike Nothing Else Matters, I So Liked Spring does not readily lend itself to figuring out what may have fed into the musical side of its creation. “The Pedlar” has a slight spaghetti western undertone and the ghostly “Rooms” posits itself as shoegazing take on folk rock. Although they were coming from a different perspective, there is an affinity with the post-Dream Syndicate Kendra Smith and lost Paisley Underground-era band 28th Day. Another brilliant album.

Contrastingly, an aspect of the Nothing Else Matters reissue does make something explicit. It includes a bonus track, a previously unissued version of Young Marble Giants’s “Salad Days,” recorded for a YMG’s tribute album which never came out. Covering the song confirms the influence. Overall though – the frustrating lack of liner notes for both albums feeds into this – these two reissues do not unlock the mystery of Linda Smith. Despite the increasing availability of her material, she remains inscrutable. More please.


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