East Village were perfectly named, reminiscent of both New York's sixties boho scene and somewhere secluded, somewhere down a b-road in Bucks. Twenty years ago they released their sole album, Drop Out, a nest of chest-high guitars and chiming melancholia. By the time it came out, the four-piece had broken up and moved on. Listening to it now, it feels like an elegy for a particular brand of eighties guitar music, sweet minor chords and Dylanesque lyrics, the kind practised by the Go Betweens, the Weather Prophets, the kind that was caught between stools then and is much missed now.
Guitarist Paul Kelly was a trained pilot. He was also a trained carpenter. This doesn't seem that surprising - East Village's guitar lines sounded wood-carved. Their most mysterious member, and primary songwriter, was called John Wood, like the architect behind Bath. There is classicism at work here too.
East Village's output was small but faultless. Four singles, the first as Episode Four, a flexidisc, the posthumous Drop Out, and a compilation of odds and ends called Hotrod Hotel. All of the original records go for silly money; the Episode Four EP will set you back at least o200. Their last single, Circles, was arguably their best with its two chord organ underpinning autumnal guitar lines that build and build, not unlike of New Order's Ceremony. It may be cold outside, but here's something decidedly warm.
Paul Kelly has gone on to become a respected film-maker, with screenings at the BFI, the London Film Festival and, this year, a retrospective in New York. Bassist Martin Kelly set up Heavenly Recordings with Jeff Barrett, managed Saint Etienne, and now runs Heavenly Films. Drummer Spencer Smith set his heart on becoming the Jason King of Dorset, and is often to be found at his local club. John Wood was rumoured to be living in Japan, where East Village are talked about with great seriousness.
A reunion toured of the far east was recently offered but rejected. This was a place, and a point in time; East Village found somewhere of their own, a neglected spot on the map between the scratchiness of eighties indie and the rise of house. If you ever passed through it, you wouldn't forget it.
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