Lost in the ’90s | Pale Saints

I always thought of Pale Saints as the ultimate 4AD band — having aspects of the label’s best-known groups: the ethereal shimmer of the Cocteau Twins, the off-kilter arrangements and rhythms of Throwing Muses, and the sonic roar of the Pixies.

Backstory: Formed in 1987 in Leeds, England, the band consisted of fey-voiced bassist/frontman Ian Masters, guitarist Graeme Naysmith and Chris Cooper on drums, and they later picked up Meriel Barham, who had been in an early line-up of Lush, who provided vocals and guitar, rounding out the band nicely. Masters quit in 1993, but the rest of the band carried on without him for four more years.

Recommended discography: 1990’s The Comforts of Madness is noisy but there are some some great songs under the squall. In contrast, 1993’s In Ribbons is pretty and polished — Barham’s voice, songwriting and textured guitar is a welcome addition. Both are highly recommended. This was also the era of the EP, where every song seemed to
count, and almost everything Pale Saints released was worthy with nary a wasted track. Of the EP’s, 1991’s Flesh Balloon was probably the best, featuring "Hunted" which would turn up the following year on In Ribbons, plus a great instrumental, "Porpoise," and a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s "Kinky Love" which got a fair amount of play on 120 Minutes. 1990’s Half Life EP is probably the weakest, with tinny production by Wedding Present knob-twiddler Chris Allison, but the title track is good. If you can find it, pick up the Japan-only compilation Mrs. Dolphin which contains Pale Saints first three EPs, plus a couple rarities. I’m not a fan of Slow Buildings, made after Masters left.

Where are they now? After leaving the group, Masters went onto a number of other projects, including Spoonfed Hybrid, ESP Summer, and Friendly Science Orchestra. He now lives in Japan and maintains a web presence at the Ministry of Spoons. Barham spent time in late ’90s Britpop bands Rialto and the Warm Jets (who I liked) and is currently in a band called White Hotel that I can’t find any information on. Naysmith and Cooper continued playing together in bands Lorimer and the Terminals.

Links: MySpace, 4AD, semi-official fan site

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | iTunes

And a bunch of music to check out:

MP3: Pale Saints – Sight of You (Barging in the Presence of God EP)

MP3: Pale Saints – You Tear the World in Two (The Comforts of Madness)

MP3: Pale Saints – Colours and Shapes (rarity from Mrs. Dolphin)

MP3: Pale Saints_Half-Life Remembered (Half-Life EP)

MP3: Pale Saints – Kinky Love (Flesh Balloon EP)

MP3: Pale Saints – Throwing Back the Apple (In Ribbons)

MP3: Pale Saints – Blue Flower (Slapp Happy cover, via Mazzy Starr, from In Ribbons)


  1. Although I really like in ribbons, it's the comforts of madness that still gets played the most in my house. There are some great songs on that record (which never got released in the US).
    Also, Kris Cooper was/is an amazing drummer that was their secret weapon I think.

  2. well you really kicked me off with this wonderful website …
    thanks man ! 🙂

  3. I'm super late to this but after hearing the mp3s here I got The Comforts of Madness. But for some reason, the You Tear the World in Two mp3 is different than the one on the album. It's a lot louder. So I'm just curious where that mp3 is from, or if you tweaked the dynamic range yourself. Thanks.

  4. Hugger,
    You've got good ears. Comforts of Madness has really low levels, and for my Ipod I tend to tweak stuff so it's all the same level. I probably crank it too high, actually. I use a program called MP3 Gain (www.mp3gain.com) which allows you to change to output levels without actually changing the mp3. It does a much better job the the sound levelers that come with iTunes, etc.

  5. Thank you so much for this. I have all these at home on vinyl, but haven't had an opportunity to dig them out in years. I had the pleasure of seeing Pale Saints support Pixies in Dublin in 1990, and for my money they were much better than the headliners. What a pity the individual members were never as good as the sum though.

  6. Now, if I could just get my hands on their version of Tom Waits Jersey Girl!

  7. Hello,
    I'm glad to find some more admirers of Pale Saints. For those of you interested, I have some very nice live recordings by them and I also have the "Jersey Girl" song that was mentioned. I'd be more than happy to make them available for those wanting to have them.
    Best wishes,
    Ruud – Holland.

  8. Hi Ruud
    What live recordings do you have? I would be very interested in anything from the last line-up (post-Masters) if you had it.

  9. Is there any chance you may be able to send me these mp3 files. I have been searching high and low for the "Blue Flower" mp3 and have had no luck. They are a truly phenomenal band, and I would greatly appreciate any help.

  10. I see and have a chat with chris cooper every tuesday. He still plays in and around Leeds, a nice guy.

  11. Hiya. The wikipedia page for the band says it was Colleen Browne who went on to Rialto and The Warm Jets, not Barham.
    see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_Saints
    it goes on to state that:
    "Meriel Barham has gone on to record melodic electronica under the name Kuchen. She has released two albums on the Karaoke Kalk label: Kids with Sticks in 2001 and the collaboration Kuchen Meets Mapstation in 2003 with Stefan Schneider of To Rococo Rot (who also records as Mapstation)."

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