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David Westlake - Play Dusty For Me (Angular)

David Westlake - Play Dusty For Me (Angular)
17 January 2011

What few people who know and love Westlake and his tiny catolog of terrific tunes usually come from one of three associations: 1) His original London band The Servants were on 1986’s NME -associated C-86 compilation, and if you bought that or the greatly expanded 48-song reissue version in 2006, you might have noticed they were among the very best things on both. 2) The Servants were the original home of Phil King (later Lush bassist) and John Wills (later Loop drummer) and eventually Luke Haines (leader of The Auteurs and Black Box Recorder ). And 3) As chronicled in our cover story interview in issue 53, Belle & Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch was a huge Westlake fan and was trying to locate him during the years that the older singer was dormant in the hopes of forming a band with him, before launching Belle in his school class instead. This is only Westlake’s second solo LP (the first, 1987’s Westlake was on the fabled Creation Records in its golden era, another place he made a small, but too slight, dent) to go with one Servants LP (and a posthoumous 2006 retrospective of that essential band, called Reserved , the best place to begin with that band), and even this one was released, sort of, in a highly limited issue in 2002 that quickly sold put but was still never repressed. This new version, with bonus tracks, is its digital debut, so at least now all old fans can get a crack at the material. Interestingly, it was a highly reserved fare. Like the first Servants LP (with the second, Haines-era lineup, 1990’s Disinterest ), it sounds a lot like Servants’ contemporaries The Go-Betweens , which was not really an accident. The Servants had supported their Aussie/English peers on tour and befriending them, leading Robert Forster , Robert Vickers , and Amanda Brown to even stand in with The Servants on a 1987 BBC Janice Long Session (Brown has already played violin on an earlier Servants EP). The difference between Disinterest ’s style and that of Play Dusty is that whereas the older record reminded strongly of the more up-tempo, angular pop with neo-Talking Heads basslines that the Go-Bes were primarily known for (especially 1983 Before Hollywood /“Cattle and Cain”/“Man O’Sand to Girl O’Sea era), this is the more winsome, quiet, gentle pop persuasion that peppered all their releases but especially 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane . It doesn’t mean that Westlake is ripping off his old friends, though; it’s more than he shares the same influences as his better remembered/much more prolific peers in Forster and the late Grant McLennan , mostly the “Pale Blue Eyes”/“Jesus”/“Stephanie Says”/“Sunday Morning”/“Femme Fatale” more sweet ‘n’ light Velvet Underground that also greatly influenced Scotland’s three Postcard label bands. Add in a wistful touch of Dusty Springfield (an old Westlake favorite, feted here in the both the album title and opening title track), and a general unhurried nature of an LP put out for pure love rather than commercial gain, and this collaboration with guitarist Dan Cross and two Moore brothers for the rhythm section, Cormac bass and Willis drums just seems to lay there in its relaxed, prettied, cooing loveliness. Don’t pick any one track, though any of them would give you the overarching idea; sit down for the whole hour and 18 songs and take in the charming, lightly perfumed, but soulful air. And the good news is that eight years later, Westlake is still recording on occasion, as his Doin’ it For the Kids compilation track with the Moore brothers two years ago showed. Here’s hoping he has another full album in him someday! (lostsheep.com/davidwestlake)

 

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