We’re not in Zurich any more, “Thank you for visiting this page” say Dark Star on their Bandcamp page. “Please consider joining the community as this is the primary location for information about Dark Star and news”, we got the news via the hit and miss lottery that is the Organ’s Facebook newsfeed. “Yes you heard that right NEWS! With the untimely release of out flew reason, stone cold on the heels of the seminal Twenty Twenty Sound (1999), Dark Star have outdone even My Bloody Valentine for tardy follow ups. But while you take time to ingest this long hidden gem of a memory know now that NEW DARK STAR MATERIAL IS COMING IN 2023. Seriously. Promise”. For now the new is that Dark Star, various slices of Levitation, Ring, Cardiacs have just released their “Long Lost album” from 2001..
Recorded in various places in 2000 and 2001 by Dark Star, a fine band from back there, a band not to be confused with all the other bands called Dark Star who were around back then such as the excellent metal band who told us of the Lady of Mars, or the rather tasty Kraut rock we were covering rrather a lot at the time, this rather excellent (especially live) Dark Star we’re one time Cardiac Bic Hayes and company, a kind of next step on from Levitation, we’ll let Bic take up the story…
“This album was written and recorded as the world fell on its side and slid dangerously into another bloody century. In our microcosm the sands were already shifting. The big business takeover of the old world of independent music venues, the shabby but passionate subculture we’d all grown up with – of regional music scenes, thriving in the pubs and back street clubs of so many of our UK cities – had begun. In 1999 the commercial world had finally woken up to the untapped potential in the dirty business of rock and roll and the kidz with a ‘zed’ were about to be sold out. Or should I say bought in? What a disaster. It was inevitable in retrospect but it came as an ugly shock and at a terrible price. But such is the back-hand of ‘progress’. Like pre-Brit Pop, what was to come would define the era and the chaotic, colourful clamour that preceded it would be drowned out in all the applause and back slapping.
Dark Star like many other marginal bands were an awkward fit, existing as diverting curiosities – to those who noticed such things. An experimental three piece with a minimalist bent, more concerned with what would arise from play – creating through improvisation in windowless urban rehearsal rooms – than crafting songs for radio consumption or honing and selling a concept. There was no plan. No vision. Only to explore the moment, never questioning what arose or seeking to define it, refine, or control it. This was bound to cause A&R tensions in any era but perhaps the millennial funnel was a squeeze too far. In other more, ahem… ‘progressive’, dare I say ‘naive’ times this ethos (if indeed it even was one) could have been seen as a potential asset to a developing band on a major label but in the ‘noughties’? Not a chance. Nadir.
When Coldplay dropped out of the sky and sold a million ‘units’ on their first release, naturally every major record company wanted ‘one’. So yes, you guessed it, Dark Star were dropped to make way for a career hungry group of music college graduates and the album you are holding (the difficult second) was de-slated from EMI Harvest’s Spring of 2001 release schedule. Exploring existential themes – suicide, desertion/escape/abandon, the logic of acid trips and blood simple murderers, it wasn’t a singalong. These three refugees from the wreckage of Levitation were, as Cally Callomon so bluntly put it “stripped of the chrome, lowered and sprayed matt black”. It was not all yellow.
If this is beginning to sound a little sour grape-y I can assure you it most certainly is not. Quite the contrary. You reap what you sow. Did I fail to mention our part in our own undoing? The wanton ambivalence? The creeping distain for the whole rough trade of the music business and a cold reticence to surf the cultural mudslide into the savage dumb-down of the coming age? Drug problems? Anger management issues? Issue issues? Probably all best left for the book. Could it have been otherwise? Possibly… but then again, there but for the grace of God…
I assert – and I would wouldn’t I? – that Dark Star has what’s left of its -perhaps questionable – integrity intact. If indeed anyone still cares about such things.
Listen loud and at night. Do not wonder what could have been but trust in what was. Oh, and if you’re wondering what took us over twenty years to finally get here… you’ll have to wait for that book.
Or come find me on the other side.
Bic Hayes 2023
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