The first in a new series in which we dig up buried treasure from the depths of our collections.
A wander through music’s dusty, boarded-up back rooms can yield adventures. The sleeve of this short lived trio’s lone album, released in 1996, depicts well what lies in store around the corner: drummer Simon Pearson flies a fantastical kite in an endless, glowing golden corridor, while singer Astrid Williamson looks on with a sultry smirk as bassist Terry De Castro tries the handle of a mystery door…
And behind it: what treasures! Though very much lost to Britpop posterity, Goya Dress’ album was one I listened to intensely for years, putting tracks from it on nearly every mixtape I made. Fitting labelmates to Suede, Ultrasound, Geneva and Black Box Recorder, Goya Dress’ idiosyncractic, atmospheric sound straddled a rich range of styles. Early EPs like ‘The Bedroom Cinema’ and ‘Ruby Ruby’ were dark, wild and grungy, in debt to Throwing Muses’ feral clatter and Veruca Salt’s raw emotionalism.
Shetland-born Williamson had trained at the Scottish Royal Academy of Music, and her voice was by turns rich and malicious and pure as cold water. By the time they came to record their debut, they’d attracted the attention of Velvet Underground bassist John Cale, who took over production duties for ‘Rooms’.
A classier affair than the EPs might have suggested, its tempestous, melodramatic curio box of delights encompassed the jaunty, hormone-rush guitar pop of ‘Crush’, the bereft, Tori Amos-ish piano balladry of ‘Katie Stood On The Benches’, the lush, narcotic drama of ‘Glorious’ and ‘Scorch’: its own little perfect world.
What very little press it did get was generally rapturous, but both critical attention and sales were scanty, and the discouraged band split soon afterwards. Astrid went on to a fairly vanilla adult-pop solo career, while Terry and Simon joined Cinerama and then The Wedding Present. De Castro released a solo album last year that included a cover of Goya Dress’ own ‘Glorious’.
Once you’ve opened the door to that golden room once, it must be hard to close it again.