1990. The year Nelson Mandela was released from prison, Gazza showed his tears to the world and, most significantly, Manchester band The High released their outstanding debut long player Somewhere Soon to an unsuspecting general public via London Records. Recorded at the idyllic Manor Studios in Oxford, previously occupants included Queen, Van Morrison and The Bonzo Dog Band, this setting appears to have added a sprinkling of magic to proceedings. The album that was conceived stands up as a monumental piece of artistic wizardry. Not your average indie album but something of substance that reeks of outstanding musicianship.
Next year will be the 30th anniversary of its release on London Records which reached the less than emphatic chart placing of no.59. As we know from experience chart placings have not served some of the best recordings well throughout time including the bands singles even though they were given single of the week status in the weekly music papers. Nonetheless Somewhere Soon is still loved today as it was 30 years ago. The New Musical Express gave it 9/10 in their review comparing it to the work of Stipe, Buck, Mills and Berry. ‘Somewhere Soon is a very effective record. Expertly executed and completely addictive’.
The band’s line up of the time was formidable with former Turning Blue singer John Matthews on vocals, former Buzzcocks SOC bassist Simon Davies, ex Inspiral Carpets drummer Chris Goodwin and original member of The Stone Roses Andy Couzens on lead guitar. The nucleus of the band is evidently rooted in Manchester music’s folklore, the stars should have been aligned for immediate and lasting success. With a debut gig supporting The ‘Carpets they had all cogs moving in the right direction.
Somewhere Soon starts with the production genius that is Martin Hannett weaving his magic over first single and album opener Box Set Go (Hannett was a long-time friend of Couzens from their time together working with The Stone Roses early punk material). The Byrd’s Rickenbacker descending guitar chord structures coupled with a back beat that stops anyone in their tracks, the stage was set for Matthew’s to deliver those immortal words ‘I have always felt this way’ in his innocent choir boy style. This immaculate piece of guitar pop should be held in the same lofty esteemed rankings as similar tunes of the period There She Goes and Made Of Stone.
As the album moves through different stages of emotions, John Williams taking over the production duties, there is no let-up in outstanding song quality. Second single Take Your Time touches the shirt collar of The Beach Boys 69’ summer pop, This Is My World has an attitude about its midriff before Matthews blows all the cobwebs away with some mighty fine alto vocals. Dreams Of Dinesh is the Tomorrow Never Knows of the album, stuck in a similar hypnotic groove with guest percussion by Pandit Dinesh moving through the gears effortlessly with Couzens guitar licks sending chills down the spine with some powerful playing.
Third single from the album is a bona fide classic, in an enchanting daydream world of its own, a modern day guitar pop masterpiece if ever I heard one. Sparkling guitar breaks through the opening segments as Davies warm bass introduces itself along with Goodwin’s drumming patterns filling in nicely around the speakers, Matthews delivering the all-time great vocal ‘I’ve been up and I’ve been down’ whilst the change between chord structures is an unforgettable passage of play to rival similar iconic singles of the period from Primal Scream to New Order, The High are on an even keel.
There are further delights to charm and thrill including the fragile acoustic beauty of A Minor Turn plus P.W.A. wrestles the melodies from Rain Parade before duly engaging in sumptuous musicianship. The concluding chapter being Somewhere Soon, Matthews sings like he’s floating with the wings of immortality, the rest of the band support with dulcet tones at first before detonating into a mass of noise similar to A Day In The Life orchestral noise explosion, nothing out of tune, just a sheer burst of passion that eventually fades out to a solemn conclusion. The quartet would have innocently not known the impact the fruits of their labours on their adoring fan base.
And there you have it, 30 years of never fading brilliance that will be hard to ever be matched again. Where others have failed in their quest to produce something of substance and historical significance The High captured breath-taking qualities to make themselves pole position contenders to the best unheralded masterpiece award.