Lowlife are a band that I know next-to-nothing about despite them enjoying a recording/performing career of some twelve years in the 80s/90s. All I could have told you was that I was aware of the name, partly from the fact it had been taken from an exceptional album by New Order and from reading somewhere that Will Guthrie, formerly of Cocteau Twins, was a member. I can’t recall ever hearing their music played, although looking the artwork across the five albums they released during the time they were together, I can recall seeing some of their CDs in the racks of record shops. What I had no idea of was that Hugh Duggie, who is both a lifelong friend of Jacques the Kipper and whose work with Foil and Sons of the Descent have featured previously on the blog, was also a member of Lowlife for a period of time. What now follows is gleamed from on-line research.
The band had originally began life in the early 80s as Dead Neighbours, by all accounts a psychobilly four-piece band heavily influenced by The Cramps. They hailed from Grangemouth, which was the home town of Liz Frazer and Robin Guthrie, and indeed it was the latter’s brother, Brian Guthrie who managed the band. It was during the recording of Dead Neighbours second album in 1983 that Will Heggie came on board to help out after the unexpected departure of the bass player. By the following year, the guitarist had also left, unhappy with an increasing shift away from the psychobilly stuff, and the new-look four piece decided to do away with the original name and begin again as Lowlife, consisting of Craig Lorentson (vocals), Will Heggie (bass), Stuart Everest (guitar), and Grant McDowall (drums), with Brian Guthrie not only maintaining his role as manager but forming a new label, Nightshift Records, specifically to release their material.
This line-up would release two albums, two singles and two albums between 1985 and 1987, a period in which they supported The Go-Betweens on a UK tour (sadly, a tour that I didn’t see) as well as appear on a number of shows recorded by BBC Scotland. It was most likely around this time that I would have read about Lowlife and the Cocteau Twins connection, but it didn’t spur me on to check them out.
There would be three more albums between 1989 and 1995, recorded by different line-ups, with the latter two featuring the afore-mentioned Hugh Duggie on guitar. Vocalist Craig Lorentson was the only member to appear on all releases.
It is worth mentioning that the band came through a number of periods when circumstances where things were stacked against them, not least the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution in 1991 which impacted immensely on Nightshift Records, while earlier on, in 1988, they came very close, through a publishing arrangement, to landing a deal with Warner Brothers only for it to collapse as result of an internal changes within the company. The lack of any commercial success eventually took its toll and the band called it a day in 1997.
The one track I have in my possession comes courtesy of the New Gold Dreams boxset:-
mp3 : Lowlife – Hollow Gut
It is the lead track on the Vain Delights EP from 1986, which was recorded and issued in-between the first and second albums. It’s really very listenable…..you can hear all sorts of influences on it, and it wouldn’t have sounded out of place at an indie/goth night. If anyone out there has any more material, I’d be very happy for a guest contribution, possibly an ICA?
In 2007, LTM Recordings re-released the first four albums recorded by Lowlife, adding in the EPs, singles and radio session appearances, together with extensive notes provided by Brian Guthrie. This led to something of a re-kindling of interest in the band but any plans to fully reform couldn’t be followed through as Craig Lorenton wasn’t in the best of health, and indeed he passed away at the tragically young age of 44 in June 2010, as a result of liver and kidney problems.