It all started, like most things,
with the Sex Pistols.
Jude Rawlins went through the door in 1983 at the tender age of eleven, entering a world wherein there were no creative boundaries. Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths represented the natural extension of the ethic. If you were prepared to dig, the eighties weren't quite the failure they later appeared to be...
1987, after a few years of fronting an inconsequential
punk band playing appalling but mildly controversial gigs
around his native Birmingham, Jude landed a "development"
deal with local indie label CTT. Initially it seemed like
a potentially massive break for the 15 year old singer,
but he soon discovered he had neither the inclination nor
the will to be made into some kind of "solo Musical
Youth" affair, and, in a move that he knew would
result in his contract's termination, he formed Angelhead
with Neil Gardner, Richard Cole and Mat Hook.
a concert at Cambridge University in 1991 at the invitation of Carl
Homer. It was to be their last. Carl had worked with Angelhead on
a couple of video projects, and had taken up guitar himself before
heading off to do an English degree at Cambridge. In his first year
he was enlisted into a university production of Pink Floyd's The Wall,
which ran for ages in Cambridge and at the Edinburgh Festival, eventually
driving him to distraction. At the end of the year he returned home
to discover Jude seeking out musicians to work with him on his first
post-Angelhead project. The first demo they recorded included "Dream
Fades Into Dark", which Jude sent to some of the friends he still
had in slightly elevated places. Jude's then manager Tora March booked
him to play a gig in London, which he did with Carl on bass and Neil
Gardner on guitar, playing mostly Angelhead songs. If nothing else,
it proved that for Jude there could be a life after Angelhead if he
made a complete break. Ongoing to-ing and fro-ing with Sony Music
only served to reinforce his resolve not to compromise. He simply
told them everything they wanted to hear, then went off and did exactly
what he wanted. He left the Midlands, moving to Exeter on the south
coast, where he set about writing an album in 1992. He then took the
project to Cambridge, where he and Carl brought it to life as April
May June. The album's title was taken from a line in Jean Paul Sartre's
existentialist essay Nausea, which pertains to the struggle of self-expression
being as inevitable as the progression of the days and months.
Billy Mackenzie asserted that plural band names were best. He cited
examples: Beatles, Stones, Stooges, Pistols, Bunnymen, Smiths, Banshees,
Ramones. The evidence was irrefutable. "The Associates?" proffered Jude.
There was one on Bowie's Low album that Joy Division had never used;
Angie understood the vision instinctively and delivered a performance of ingenuity and suss the like of which is all too rare these days. Together Angie and Jude duelled playfully with the verses, creating a uniquely special take on a song you all thought you knew.
The trials and tribulations of Mona Lisa were finally wiped away. A return to live performance was announced in 2002, with Robin Philips (Solstice) on bass and Guy Evans (Van Der Graaf Generator) on drums.
The boards were cleared with the CD release of the Slide EP (originally a cassette only release available exclusively at live shows in 1996) and the release of the internet-only compilation album Orly Flight. Containing mostly cover versions, including Subterraneans' version of Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" (a live bootleg of which had been already doing the rounds for over a couple of years), Orly Flight was meant only as a means of closing the chapter on the first decade. It was far from being a "new" Subterraneans album, but contained some real highlights, including the sublime "Frozen Warnings", which Jude had been periodically performing since 1987 but never previously recorded.
Subterraneans announced that their next album would be titled Soul Mass Transit. Work began in London in December 2002, picking up in Cambridge in early 2003. Word got out of the studio that both Jude and Carl had quit smoking, and as a result there were a lot of guitars on the new record, as they had to have something to do with their hands (in fairness, this never previously stopped Carl). Jude modestly speculated that if the album were anything less than the greatest English rock record since The Queen Is Dead he would retire and begin a new life as a Bond-style international supervillan (he immediately retracted this on the grounds that people who choose to live inside volcanoes probably deserve everything they get...)
From the outset, Subterraneans cited themselves as, literally, "an underground sonic orchestra". Their music is created as high art and is intended to be taken as such. They have always been and remain elusive and ferociously independent. Where the muse takes them next is anyone's guess, but wherever it is, George Bush and Tony Blair won't be there.