Politically correct - Andrew Burnett on the rise and rise of the Close Lobsters
It’s not every day you get to speak to a living legend. Although Andrew Burnett takes that accolade with a pinch of salt.
“That was partly why we reformed in 2012,” he admits, “because we were being referred to in some remote quarters as ‘the legendary Close Lobsters’.”
This followed two decades of near-inactivity, following their breakthrough on the UK alternative music scene in 1986. The follow-up to their debut album came in 1989, and then… well, very little for 20 years. “We never formally broke up,” the vocalist points out, ”more drifted apart.”
The quintet earned their ‘legendary’ status partly by appearing on the ‘C86’ cassette - alongside a strange mix of bands like Soup Dragons, Half Man Half Biscuit and Bogshed, and The Wedding Present, who would eventually cover ‘Let’s Make Some Plans’ as the b-side to one of their top 20 hit singles.
C86 - primarily a byword for that sound, despite none of the bands sounding alike - also became a ‘scene’ manufactured by the music press - a bit like another UK guitar movement the following decade.
“It wasn't until Britpop that the C86 scene started to become popularised and normalised,” says the Paisley-born vocalist.
“At the time it was one of these projects the NME developed that wasn’t necessarily representative of what was going on,” he agrees.
And the band might not have been on the tape at all if it wasn't for London act The June Brides - who signed up with Alan McGee’s Creation label - rejecting the project.
But the band are looking forward - their reformation being about recording new music rather than just retreading old favourites. Hence the new album - which sees them reunited with original producer John Rivers - consisting of a mix of tunes sporadically recorded since 2012, plus brand new material from last summer.
“It documents our… how could we put it without sounding tremendously pompous - our renaissance!” Burnett laughs.
And instrumental in the band's return is “fantastic” label Last Night From Glasgow - “real pioneers for the music industry nowadays,” the singer says. Close Lobsters will join a back catalogue which includes the likes of Broken Chanter, bis, Teen Canteen and Be Charlotte.
And signing to a local label appeals to the band's political sensibilities - even if, I gently jest, they are based in Glasgow rather than their hometown.
“We’re not confined to the west coast anyway,” Burnett points out. “A lot of east coast music was very influential, Josef K, Rezillos, Skids…”
“We were often referred to as a Paisley band, which we’re fine with but we consider Paisley to be one of Glasgow’s outer suburbs. Some people might be offended by that,” he laughs.
“The populations of Glasgow and Edinburgh were sent out to Fife, Renfrewshire, Ayrshire,” Burnett continues, “dispersed in the name of health and prosperity but it raises up the whole question of identity.”
It’s perhaps no surprise the conversation has taken a political turn - the band’s compilation album title was ‘Forever Until Victory’‘ - quoting Che Guevara’s farewell letter to Fidel Castro.
“One of the great problems we always have is the fragmentation of the left…” Burnett pauses, searching for - and finding - a solution to society’s problems. “I was watching a documentary about (footballing legend) Bill Shankly, and his socialism is what we adhere to - people should help each other.”
“And, we believe that the failure of indyref was not adopting our track ‘Now Time’ as the signature tune for independence. If they adopt it next time we’ll guarantee a successful outcome!”
Since getting back together, Burnett and crew - original members Tom Donnelly, Stewart McFayden and Burnett’s brother Bob, plus Jim Taylor replacing original member Graeme Wilmington - have been back in demand. A thirst for their sound around Europe has seen the band play places like Madrid, Cologne and Copenhagen, often as part of the indie music ‘Popfest’ scene.
It also seems that as well as old followers, the band are attracting new fans.
“Remarkably that seems to be the case!” Burnett enthuses. “It’s always very welcome and nice to see that people hear about us for the first time.”
And with their brand of jangly, hooky guitar pop sounding as fresh now as it did in 1986, it could be that some of these new recruits to their fanbase will be surprised not to see a fresh-faced bunch of youngsters on stage.
“They’re in for a shock!” Burnett laughs. “We’ll do our best to disguise that as much as humanly possible!”
‘Post Neo Anti: Arte Povera in the Forest of Symbols’ is out now. More at www.facebook.com/closelobsters.