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.
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)