Not just standing in your shadow
A short history of Puressence
written by AndyN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Originally published by 'Angry Left Wing Mofo' http://uk.geocities.com/alwm2003/
Manchester has this reputation for producing miserable Guitar bands, who like for example Joy Division / New Order, The Smiths or The Chameleons to name but a few. All of these were capable of producing incredibly powerful music with tense guitar-work and often haunting lyrics, which arguably led to in the case of Joy Division, their self destruction and almost did the same to The Chameleons.
By the time of the late 1980s / early 1990s, Manchester's music's landscape had developed from the dark streets of Macclesfield or Moston into "Madchester", with dozens of bands aping The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, including the protege Oasis among others all seemingly "Mad for it."
One such band that came out of "Madchester" at the beginning of the 1990's and that survived despite never to date perhaps scaling the heights of The Roses or The Mondays or Oasis since has been Puressence. Originally formed in 1990 at the infamous "Spike Island" by the Stone Roses, like the Stone Roses, Joy Division or The Chameleons to a degree, their music has always remained more on the outside of the mainstream (despite the fact their gigs in Manchester are always nearly sell outs), despite the quality of the song-writing.
This has been proved by their first major label single 'I suppose' (1995), which was released to the margins of the then Brit Pop and Grunge and which charted at the high chart position of 74 and then promptly vanished, but for the few that heard it like me, were promptly bowled over. Here was a band that was using a mixture of magical guitar riffs that only The Chameleons and The Stone Roses may have had a chance of beating and the voice... It was a powerful voice, which almost sounded like a girl (I know some people who saw them at these early gigs went expecting to see a girl singer and were properly surprised to discover that this wasn't a girl singer) but hit such incredible notes in playing it literally sounded like nobody else.
Their first album the self-titled "Puressence" (1995) is for many of their fans their definite standard, and ironically enough the first single 'I suppose' became a huge hit live and is still regarded as one of their crowd favourites when-ever they play live, which perhaps sums up the band in terms of their luck.
Other songs on that album hint a the tension which exists in their music like their ideals The Chameleons or Joy Division like songs like 'Casting Lazy Shadows' which is about recovering from drug addiction or 'Mr. Brown' which is about a botched mugging, where the guitar work instead of being a well rest bite from the powerful lyrics often builds the levels of the singing to different levels which made it stand completely out from most other music that existed at the time.
By the time of their second album "Only Forever" (1998), their style had been amended and expanded to include layers of pre-programmed drums and keyboards to include a variety of songs which in places clearly shown a Manic Street Preachers influence (which were ironically enough produced by the Manic's producer) which resulted in the band scoring their only major hit to date 'This Feeling', which broke the top 40 just about or songs like 'Standing in your Shadow', (which was produced by Mani from The Roses and now Primal Scream) which developed their spiralling guitar sound with incredibly paranoid high vocals, which was used in the film 'Face', which for those who had seen this incredibly grim and depressing film (which ironically contained Damon from Blur and Gorlliaz in his first acting role), the very mention of 'Standing in your Shadow' bought a incredibly double meaning to the thug Damon played in the film.
Despite the only modest success of "Only Forever", the future looked bright for Purressance. However, like with only bands before them like The Chameleons, the band began to then started getting bogged down with legal problems which resulted in them surviving three separate take-overs at their record company before they were even allowed to make "Planet Helplessness" (2002), which is their most recent album.
"Planet Helplessness" (2002), was a major shift in Purressance's sound. While the echoing guitar and James, their lead singer's soft voice still, this album shown them also embracing technology such as Pro Tools, and shedding most of the Manic Street Preachers comparisons, perhaps most majorily in songs like 'Comfort when you smile' OR 'Strangers', when the band created a more organic sound far away from the first two albums and in a lot of ways completely stood away from a lot of the Indie bands at of the time akin. Coldplay, Muse etc, which probably explained why the album didn't have a great deal of impact and was mostly ignored by the press.
Shortly after the flop of the third album, the band parted ways with both their Management and their Record Company. They have since then spent most of the past year or so playing lots of concerts mostly around the North West of England, writing and testing out lots of new songs. I haven't heard any of them myself yet, but I believe they are meant to be a lot more melodramatic and carry a much more rocky feel - clearly another progression in their sound and hopefully this time give the band the hit they richly deserve and not just left in the title of one of their songs 'Standing in your shadow.'
Visit Puressence at http://www.puressence.co.uk/