The Stands - “I Need You”
From the album All Years Leaving (2004)
Since the dawn of the rock age, there have been certain cities across the world that have become inextricably linked to the music they have helped birth. Mention Memphis, TN and people automatically think of Elvis. Mention Macon, GA and people tend to think of the Allman Brothers. Mention Seattle, WA, and people tend to think of Nirvana. Mention Liverpool, England, and people automatically think of The Stands.
….or maybe not?
Ok, so Liverpool is inextricably linked to the Beatles. Fair enough. But they weren’t the only musicians to have grown up and out of the famous seaport, and the 1960s wasn’t the only era in which good musicians were floating around the city. The Beatles were certainly the most famous of the musicians to have graced Liverpool’s streets, though, and their melodies and influence have echoed down through the decades. The band absolutely influenced the likes of Oasis in the 1990s (a Manchester band, if we’re keeping score), whose guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher would later befriend and occasionally gig with Liverpudlian musician Howie Payne.
Payne had a degree of success - more-so in the UK than in the US - circa 2004 when his band, the Stands, released their criminally under-the-radar All Things Leaving. I honestly cannot recall how I came across this; if I were a betting man, I’d say I likely read about them in Mojo. In any case, I was blown away from the first time I heard this disc. The sturdy, contemporary folk-rock tracks had a crisp, warm production, the songs were at once retro and fresh-sounding, and the overall impression was that this music was the Next Great Link in a chain of classics like After the Gold Rush and Sweetheart of the Rodeo. “I Need You,” in fact, always sounded to me like the Son of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” as performed by the Byrds. Never like a rip-off, and more like a loving homage.
After hearing how fantastic this album was, and passing along to my friends, I could never understand how this wasn’t a monster on the charts. I just couldn’t make sense of the fact that this barely made a ripple in the music world, the same year as acts like Britney Spears and the Black Eyed Peas were all over the radio and the media. I just don’t get it.
In any case, the Stands went on to make one more album before calling it a day, and then Payne went on to release Bright Light Ballads, his strongest offering to date, in 2009. I can’t wait to see what this guy has in store for us next….