Trapped And Unwrapped -Friends Again (2022)
I’m not sure if any other rundown of this nature would include the sole album released by Friends Again. But, those of you who have long been familiar with this particular corner of t’internet won’t be too surprised.
Friends Again were a band I devoted a lot of time and energy to back in 1982/83. I was certain they were going to be the next big thing to emerge out of Scotland, and judging by the number of A&R men (they were always men!!!) who came along to their many shows in and around my home city, I wasn’t alone in that view. They were more than worthy successors to the likes of Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, both of whom were enjoying chart success in 1983. They were the perfect hybrid of all that was great about the Glasgow music scene. Chris Thomson was a fine singer and his lyrics were a cut above the ordinary or mundane, which was unsurprising given that he had, until becoming a full-time musician, studied English Literature. The guitarist, James Grant, seemed like a true virtuoso, as indeed did Paul McGeechan on keyboards, while the rhythm section of Neil Cunningham (bass) and Stuart Kerr (drums) were as solid and dependable as you could ever wish for.
What could go wrong?
As it turned out, just about everything.
They signed to Phonogram Records. The label released three singles, all of which had smash-hit written all over them, and all of which proved to be flops. The strain on the band was beginning to tell, and the previous carefree joy of the live performances was beginning to be replaced by on-stage tetchiness. The next thing that we knew was the band had split up, and the debut album, which had been well over a year in the making, still wasn’t in the shops.
It felt strange going out to but the record knowing that I was unlikely to ever hear them played live again.
mp3: Friends Again – State of Art
I also thought that the album was a bit of a dog’s breakfast. Two of the initial singles had been re-recorded, neither of which came close to being as good as the originals. The fact that four different producers had been brought in at various times by Phonogram had made for a disjointed approach. It was such a missed opportunity and the outcome had led to the band breaking up and going onto different and new projects.
So why is an album that felt such a letdown finding itself in this rundown?
Over the years, I have acquired some of the demo recordings of the songs, along with some bootlegs of the band’s shows from the early 80s. There’s also been an official release of some of the demos and live songs, courtesy of an album issued by the German-based Firestation Records back in 2019. It’s also the case that Chris Thomson has, in recent years, began to play the songs again as part of his live shows. All of which has given me a reminder of just how wonderful it was to follow Friends Again over an extended period of time and how much I adored the songs, even when having to listen to them as part of what I reckon to be a botched and shabby release.
Trapped and Unrapped was given a re-release last year by Last Night From Glasgow. The remastering process was overseen by the band’s keyboardist, Paul McGeechan. He also took the opportunity to remove one of the re-recordings and replace it with the version that had been issued as a single. The work he put into the process has made it a much more enjoyable listen, and raised it into the realms of it being a worthy contender for inclusion in this rundown.
3 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #46”
Great to hear the vinyl ‘crackles’. I think John Cameron Mitchell may have used this vocal peformance to base his Hedwig career on 😉
Friends Again never made it to my middle sized Swedish home town at the time, but by fall 1983 I moved to Gothenburg for Uni, and with better import stores I (somehow) found The Bathers and fell in love which eventually led me back to Friends Again. I also picked up the vinyl last year and very much enjoy it.
(Strangely enough the download I got through Bandcamp differs from the vinyl.)
Friends Again only made their way to Leeds once so I was only left with the album to judge how good they were and I thought they were!