Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth (1980)

This is one of those albums--a one-"hit" wonder from a Welsh band--that every music critic raves about, but nobody living in the real world seems to have heard. Yet its stripped-down bedroom-production experimental new wave intimacy, downright revolutionary in the immediate wake of the punk revolution when it first came out, makes it feel prescient in the current musical environment.

Backed by rudimentary beats that sound like they're coming off a Casio toy keyboard, the focus of the songs is Alison Statton's sweet, pretense-free vocals and sometimes observational, sometimes cryptic lyrical poetry. The music (from brothers Stuart and Philip Moxham) is sparse and raw, melodic basslines with intermittent guitar riffs or cheesy organ lines (again sounding like the product of that toy Casio). It's basically sit-alone-in-your-room-with-your-journal kinda stuff, Statton's voice luring you in, the music intriguing but never too overtly challenging.

A few songs verge on straight-up indie pop, like the captivating small-scale storytelling of "Eating Noddemix" and the more upbeat "Constantly Changing," which pushes Statton into the higher end of her register, giving her an affecting vulnerability. A personal fave is the rollicking "Credit In The Straight World," which was later given a blast of punk fury in Hole's riveting cover version. "Include Me Out" and "Brand-New-Life" come across like some haunting hybrid of late 60s garage band rockers and Blondie demos, stripped down to their bare nuts & bolts; while "N.I.T.A." sounds like a home-brewed take on an early Eno tune.

It's all refreshingly DIY, like a few kids trying to recreate Kraftwerk and Devo and the early Feelies with some cheap instruments and a notebook full of jottings. Definitely worth a listen. CD reissues appended some early singles; most are instrumental, best suited to the soundtrack of some weird indie film, but the vocal track "The Final Day" is terrific.

Here's "Brand-New-Life":
Here's "Eating Noddemix" performed live during the band's 2013 reunion tour:
Here's a live "Credit In The Straight World" back in 1980:
(For contrast, here's Hole's cover of the song.)
Hard to believe this footage exists, but here's the band essentially performing the whole damn thing live back in 1980: