The Heart Throbs are one of those indie-bands from the late 80s/early 90s who don’t seem to generate too much in the way of nostalgic musings across t’internet. They were too late (and too professional) for the C86 movement and its aftermath and they didn’t move their sound on in any great way to be lumped in with the sort of music associated with baggy/Madchester. There was also, perhaps, something of a suspicion of nepotism getting the band to places where others hadn’t been able to reach on the grounds that two members of The Heart Throbs were sisters of Bunnymen drummer, Pete de Freitas. If so, that’s quite unfair as while I don’t actually have all that much in the collection other than a few dribs’n’drabs via singles on compilation CDs, much of it is very listenable.
The band came together in 1986 when college friends Rose Carlotti (who was born Rosemarie DeFreitas) and Stephen Ward, decided to turn a concept into reality by asking Rachael de Freitas and Mark Side to form a band. Rose would play guitar and sing, Rachel would play bass and sing backing vocals, Stephen would play guitar and the 17-year old Mark would drum.
One thing to note is that the credits for the songs, certainly in the early days, were attributed either collectively to the four members of the band or to ‘Carlotti/Ward/Carlotti/Side’, indicating that Rose and Rachael didn’t really want to trade on the family name (worth remembering also that a fourth sibling, Frank de Freitas, was bassist with The Woodentops, another up and coming indie band of the era).
The first single was released in 1987 on In-Tape, a label that had been started up a few years previously by Marc Riley when he took his leave of The Fall:-
mp3 : The Heart Throbs – Toy
The band also toured with Jesus and Mary Chain, generating enough of a buzz to be offered a deal by Rough Trade for whom there were two singles in 1988, both of which were minor hits in the indie charts:-
The band showed a sense of humour and irony with their next step, which was to form their own label which they named Profumo, after the six scandal that had rocked British politics in the 60s. One of the protagonists in the Profumo scandal was Stephen Ward…which was of course also the name of the guitarist and founding member of The Heart Throbs. There were just the two singles on Profumo:-
By now, the band had added a further guitarist, Alan Borgia, to flesh out their sound both in the studio and on stage. There was always a sense that they were on the verge of making a breakthrough, certainly from a fair amount of positive media coverage and they inked a fairly lucrative deal with One Little Indian in the UK and with Elektra in the USA, with the latter firmly believing they had a band who could, just as R.E.M. had done, find mainstream success in due course via the college-radio route.
A more than decent debut LP, Cleopatra Grip, was released on both sides of the Atlantic in 1990. It contained two absolutely superb singles, which; looking back probably was the pinnacle of the band’s output:-
The singles and album didn’t cross over into the mainstream, and underlying tensions within the band began to come to the fore, resulting in Rachael and Mark quitting the band in early 1991. Their replacements were experienced musicians in the shape of Noko (ex-Luxuria) on bass and Steve Monti (ex-Blockheads) on drums, with the new-look band’s first release being the Total Abandon EP of which this was the lead track:-
The next blow came when Elektra opted out of things but A&M stepped in for the American side of things and the band went into the studio to start work on the sophomore album, Jubilee Twist, from these two tracks also formed the two sides of a 7” single:-
The sales of the new material were poor and the band had lost all sense of momentum and direction. The rhythm section paid the price and left, being replaced in 1993 by Colleen Browne on bass and Steve Beswick on drums. This line-up would record a third album, the largely ignored Vertical Smile for which One Little Indian did little in the way of promotion bar one EP of which this was the lead track:-
The band called it a day soon after the album hit the shops, lamenting that they had always been contenders but never the champions.
So there you have it….the condensed story of The Heart Throbs over the six years they were in existence, during which they released three albums with three different rhythm sections. There’s 11 songs offered up for your listening pleasure and I’ll be disappointed if you can’t find at least one to tickle your fancy. As I said, it’s really an ICA in disguise.