The latest of the new pop duos. Neil Tennant gives them a bit of exposure (sorry).
PROGRESSIVE. In the late ’60s and early ’70s it was really smart to describe your favourite group, sorry, band, as “progressive”. The group in question would probably have a name like Lumpy Custard and play songs, the shortest of which was fifteen minutes long and most of that was taken up by a guitar solo. It’s not surprising that people soon woke up to the fact that “progressive” meant boring. Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera is not afraid to say: “I try not to do anything that’s twee. I don’t think that pop music’s bad or wrong, I just think I’m into something a bit more progressive — which is a nasty word because of the ’70s.”
Don’t worry. Aztec Camera’s progressiveness doesn’t involve long guitar solos, as you’ll know if you’ve heard their deceptively sweet and quite caustic single, ‘Oblivious’. It’s an acoustic guitar strummed, lightly romantic pop song and the only guitar solo is short, spectacular and unelectric.
Aztec Camera were first introduced to the world as one of the products of the Scottish Postcard label, alongside Orange Juice and Josef K. The group was formed in 1979 and, although they’ve been through a fair number of bass-players and drummers, has centred on Roddy Frame and Campbell Owens. Roddy is the songwriter and like the other Postcard bands, the songs were the focus of the group.
Their first two singles were released on Postcard in 1980 and then last year they moved down to London and issued a single, ‘Pillar To Post’, on Rough Trade, which attracted a lot of interest. ‘Oblivious’ is a taste of tunes to come from their forthcoming LP, High Land, Hard Rain.
“The only thing that worries me about this new single being quite poppy is that people might expect us to be like The Bluebells or something like that. I think ‘Oblivious’ is probably not really representative of the stuff on the LP which is maybe a bit more progressive.”
Uh-oh, it’s that word again. Explain yourself.
“Well, I think we’re merging a lot of things in pop music which haven’t been merged much, maybe in the left field of pop. When I write lyrics I take ages; I can’t just write sort of love stuff all the time.”
If this makes him sound like a serious young man whose really against Top Twenty music, it’s giving the wrong impression, because most of his remarks are interspersed with laughs. Do you take yourself seriously?
“Yes!” he says, laughing, “because I’m not an obtuse person. I think that people are down-to-earth these days about our music. It’s quite a thrill getting into the charts but it’d be bad to fall into a trap, like Haircut One Hundred, of having to make singles and the only thing that matters is getting in the charts and all that.”
A big tour is being set up for the group at the moment and Roddy is relishing the prospect.
“I really like being on the road. I enjoy all the things you shouldn’t really enjoy, the things rock bands are supposed to do, like sitting on the bus, playing cards, and partying after the gig. I think it’s great.”
Isn’t that rather un-progressive?
“No. I think it’s more un-progressive to sit around in a recording studio for three months. That’s really dull. I think it’s good to get out and let people see you bending notes and things.”
With a bit of luck the tour will take them to France. Roddy’s heart beats considerably faster at the very thought of it.
“I’ve just fallen in love with someone who lives in France so it’ll be a cheap way of getting over there.”
The course of true love does not promise to run v. smoothly, however.
“I knew her at school and just met her again for the first time in years. It was love at second sight. I said, ‘When can I see you again?’ and she said, ‘In about two years’. Great, I thought, it’s going to be one of those unrequited loves that brings out all those Orange Juicey songs in you. If it doesn’t work out, the album might be called ‘Death In Paris!'”
Well, at least it sounds progressive.
© Neil Tennant, Smash Hits, 3 February 1983