Pale Saints – Live in Nantes, France – February 1, 1990 – RFI FIP – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
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Pale Saints tonight. In concert at San Sebastian Escall, Nantes on February 1st 1990 and recorded by Radio France International. No question, Pale Saints were one of the pivotal bands of the so-called Shoegaze era, ushering in the 1990s.
The group began as a jangly indie pop band influenced by Primal Scream’s early sound. By the time they recorded their first EP, Barging Into the Presence of God, released in 1989, the band went into a direction that displayed a mix of Ian Masters’ choirboy-like vocals along with dark atmospheric and noisy pop tunes. Ashley Horner from Edsel Auctioneer briefly joined the band on guitar in the same year. The band was signed to 4AD Records after their first London show by the label’s chief Ivo Watts-Russell.
The group’s first album, The Comforts of Madness, was released in 1990 and reached the top 40 of the UK Albums Chart. The album’s tracks were produced by John Fryer and Gil Norton. The album includes a cover version of “Fell From the Sun” by Opal.
In late 1990, Meriel Barham, the original vocalist of Lush, joined the band as second guitarist and vocalist. Barham contributed backing vocals and guitars to the Chris Allison produced Half-Life EP, then joined permanently for the Nancy Sinatra cover “Kinky Love”, which gave the band a minor hit single as part of Flesh Balloon EP. In 1992 the band recorded their second full-length album, In Ribbons, which was produced by Hugh Jones. Ian Masters left the band in 1993. Former Heart Throbs bassist Colleen Browne joined afterwards.
Sticking with producer Hugh Jones, the group released the Fine Friend EP in mid-1994, followed by their third album, Slow Buildings.
The group toured Europe and the United States in late autumn 1994. Their final studio recording was a version of “Jersey Girl” for the Tom Waits tribute album Step Right Up. Meriel Barham departed in September 1995, and the group eventually disbanded in 1996.
In conjunction with the August 2020 Record Store Day release of the Japanese singles compilation Mrs. Dolphin on vinyl for the first time, Masters worked with director and Big Beautiful Bluebottle bandmate Terako Terao to make a video for “Sight of You.”
As a reminder of their halcyon days and why the 1990s were such an interesting period of time, here is a concert right around the time of the release of their debut album. One caveat: the French announcers get a little carried away in spots, commenting over the song intros – it’s maddening to a point, but not enough to disturb what is an extraordinary concert. And it reminds me why they were perennial the favorites of the early 90s.
Heady and blazing, indeed.