On Friday afternoon, we were having our regular planning meeting to talk through the next issue. NME’s News Ed Jamie Fullerton was going through his section, and casually mentioned that we’d have the first interview with Tom Vek about his comeback (which you can read in next week’s mag).
I let out an involuntary squawk of glee, which sounded something like “WHAYOUREKIDDINGMEOHMYWOW”. Our Assistant Ed, Hamish Macbain, cocked a bemused brow and asked, “You know he said Tom Vek, right, not Led Zeppelin?” Yes, Hamish, I heard correctly. This is better.
Well – at least it is for anyone who had their mind blown by Vek’s first, and until now, only, album, 2005’s ‘We Have Sound’, after which he vanished off the face of the earth. Some said he’d died. Others said he’d turned to free jazz. I’d tried to track him down – he produced an EP for Breton last year, but neither they nor their manager would give away anything as to his whereabouts.
Facebook groups were set up dedicated to keeping tabs on him (“I saw him carrying a guitar down Dalston Kingsland Road, he must be making music again!”), and a quick Twitter search on Friday afternoon proved that people were still routinely questioning, “what the hell happened to Tom Vek?”
News of his comeback was supposed to be staying under wraps until next Monday, when Zane Lowe is due to play ‘A Chore’, the first song from Vek’s long-long-long-long-awaited second album, ‘Leisure Seizure’. Instead, Lowe blurted it out in an over-excitable tweet last night – and frankly, who can blame him…
If you haven’t heard it, get on Spotify RIGHTAWAY and listen to ‘We Have Sound’. It’s incredible – based around hefty, riposte-laden bass lines, Vek’s inimitable drawl spitting non-sequiturs.
Was it post-punk? Punk-funk? Its few detractors commented on its occasionally overt similarity to Talking Heads and PiL – but being 16 at the time, this was no bad thing. ‘We Have Sound’ acted as the gatekeeper to important, influential musical worlds that laid beyond its four corners – and it boasted heaps of Vek’s own ingenuity as well.
The excitement around his return – he was trending on Twitter last night – is proof of how much this record mattered to people. It genuinely sounded like nothing I’d heard before at the time (though as I admitted, I’d never heard Talking Heads prior to this).
Later that year, when Vek played my hometown of Falmouth’s Princess Pavilions to a sold-out crowd (the only people that sell out gigs in Cornwall are insipid beach bum Jack Johnson and his crusty mates), it really seemed as though that record had galvanised a generation of a certain jumper-wearing lean; this nerdy London boy’s record was like a touchstone from which your music taste developed.
‘We Have Sound’ came out the same year as Clor’s equally incredible, self-titled debut (‘Good Stuff’, ‘Outlines’ and ‘Love + Pain’ forming one of the finest opening triumvirates of an album ever), whose praises NME Ed Krissi Murison recently sung in our 100 Greatest Albums You’ve Never Heard issue. Heartbreakingly, Clor split up after just that one album, and Luke Smith went on to produce Foals’ ‘Total Life Forever’ amongst other records.
I don’t think it’s OTT to suggest that if Clor and Vek had gone on making music at the rate they were then (new b-sides for every three-part single), then “indie”, for want of a lame catch-all term, might be a bit different now. Like the mega-advanced Romans being wiped out by the Ottoman Turks - if they’d survived, we’d probably have had electricity much sooner. Or something.
Anyway, the point is that these two albums were miles, miles ahead of their time. We’ve heard Vek’s new one. It’s on the office stereo for the second time this morning already. It’s outstanding. In next week’s magazine, we’ll be venturing into Vek’s Dalston studio to find out how it happened, and what the flip he’s been doing for the past FIVE YEARS (last.fm says his last performance was at Ireland’s Electric Picnic in September 2006).
In the meantime, wallow in these clips of his formidable previous singles. What are you hoping for from his new album? Reckon he might have turned into one of those polite London boys dressed in black, making post-whatever-step? Or casually picked up James Murphy’s discarded throne to continue the funk?