Album : The Phantoms & The Archetypes – Paul Quinn and The Independent Group
Review : NME, 12 November 1993
Author : John Mulvey
Paul Quinn had one of the great lost pop voices of the ‘80s, a mannered, expressive croon that recalled Bryan Ferry and, especially, ‘Young Americans’ –era Bowie. It allowed him to get away with the sort of soulful postures that made so many of his Glaswegian contemporaries look ridiculous. But oddly, for someone at the centre of the ‘Sound of Young Scotland’ creative whirl, Quinn’s career never really took off. A great debut single fronting Bourgie Bourgie, a nice flit through ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ with Edwyn Collins, a mismatch with Vince Clarke….and then nothing.
Until now and, appropriately, the relaunch of his spiritual home, Postcard. ‘The Phantoms & The Archetypes’ is the album Quinn always threatened to make; a cool, moody collection of torch and twanging, of songs that aren’t quite the classics they brazenly aspire to be, and with an acute understanding of soul that puts the final nail in the coffin of all the style charlatans and arch-wankers like Hue & Cry.
It’s all very late-night, low-key knowing stuff, of course. But the sheer panache and audacity of Quinn’s voice- he occasionally sounds like Scott Walker and Gene Pitney, and is terrific throughout – coupled with slick songs, mainly written by Quinn, Robert ‘Bobby Bluebell’ Hodgens and Postcard maestro Alan Horne, ensure the album’s style never cripples its content. The title track is an exemplary exercise in self-conscious languor, ‘Should’ve Known By Now’ very nearly breaks into a sweat and ‘Punk Rock Hotel’ is a brilliant, sassy fragment from a lost movie that was one of Horne’s myriad half-assed ‘80s projects.
The ubiquitous Edwyn – who stole a fair number of his throaty mannerisms from Quinn – produces with a deal more crispness than on the recent Frank & Walters album and The Independent Group play like a Scottish pop fan’s wet dream, featuring as they do Orange Juice’s James Kirk, Aztec Camera’s Campbell Owens and The Commotions’ Blair Cowan.
There is no doubt that the whole package is something of a hangover from another time, but when it’s from a time so maverick, exciting and too often forgotten, and when it gives a talent like Quinn’s a belated showcase, then living in the past can be wholeheartedly forgiven/ On this evidence, The Sound Of Early Middle-Aged Scotland will be far from the disgusting concept it may appear.
mp3 : Paul Quinn and The Independent Group – The Phantom & The Archetypes
mp3 : Paul Quinn and The Independent Group – Should’ve Known By Now
mp3 : Paul Quinn and The Independent Group – Punk Rock Hotel
JC adds : John Mulvey’s excellent review really takes me back. The release of this album, and the later single Stupid Thing, provided real hope that the mighty Quinn was finally about to hit payola, but history records that it wasn’t to be. It remains one of life’s great mysteries.
I used to sneer at articles/pieces in the 80s and 90s which mused on the unsung genius of a long-forgotten and/or under-appreciated singer or musician from decades previously, thinking that if they really were that talented/brilliant/ground-breaking then they wouldn’t be so unknown. It was only the sadness and anger that I felt when the same fate befell Paul Quinn that I understood why such articles were so important. There are some lights that don’t deserve ever to go out.