Thousand Yard Stare
Thousand Yard Stare were formed in 1988 in the not so rural surrounds of Slough, Berkshire, cutting their teeth supporting touring bands at the nearby Old Trout venue in Windsor. TYS quickly built up a strong local following, leading to the the release of their debut EP Weatherwatching in 1990 on their record label Stifled Aardvark, with the NME nominating them as “brightest hope for the future” and gaining a solid reputation for energetic live performances in stark contrast to the rest of the emerging Thames Valley Scene.
In June 1991, the Keepsake EP reached the top spot in both the NME and Melody Maker Independent Charts. That summer, the band performed at the Reading Festival, further raising their profile and leading to a stint as support for James in October and November of that year. In the Autumn, the band began the sessions for their debut album, the first fruit of which was another EP, Seasonstream in 1991, headed by one of their signature tracks 0-0 a.e.t (No Score After Extra Time), featuring Martin Bell of The Wonder Stuff. This single again topped the Indie music charts, and reached number 65 in the UK singles chart, leading the band to sign to Polydor Records. Their next release - Comeuppance - reached No.37 in the UK singles chart, and signalled the release of their debut album Hands On, produced by Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur).
Touring further afield followed, across Europe with Jesus & Mary Chain and the US with the Soup Dragons, a coveted slot at Glastonbury Festival, and graced the cover of the key music mag of the time, Melody Maker. The band bowed out in 1993 with the release of their second album Mappamundi, and have remained on ice ever since. Until now..
Over two decades passed before an unexpected reconciliation in 2015, with the announcement of a one-off show as a declaration of “unfinished business”. Selling out immediately, something was surprisingly re-born. Further dates and festival appearances followed, and new material emerged for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, culminating in 2016’s ‘Live At Electric Studios’, featuring three new compositions alongside ten re-recorded versions of songs from the band’s back catalogue.
Another release followed in May 2017, a return to their favoured format with two EPs packaged together showcasing eight brand new tracks as the ‘DeepDreaming’ and ‘StarGrazing’ EPs, heralding a more permanent return.
So, to the present.
Hot off the back of rousing lead single ‘It Sparks’ and recent release ‘Schism Algorithm’, Thousand Yard Stare release their brand new album, ‘The Panglossian Momentum’, the band’s third long player and first for 27 years.
Rather than regarded a new start or a rebirth, Thousand Yard Stare see ‘The Panglossian Momentum’ more as a continuation of where they left things back in 1993, except now older and partly wiser, adding new dimensions both sonically and lyrically while also harking back to their beginnings. The burning embers of ‘Schism Algorithm’ is akin to ‘Comeuppance’, the rousing positivity of ‘It Sparks’ to ‘Buttermouth’, the epic in waiting ‘A Thousand Yards’ to ‘Wideshire’, the introspective ‘Spandrels’ to ‘Seasonstream’, as if newborns being presided over by their older siblings.
Although ‘The Panglossian Momentum’ is their third, in a way, this album feels like it could be Thousand Yard Stare’s first album proper. Not only due to the 27-year hiatus, but also because - as many debuts are – ‘Hands On’ was more a collection of the songs built up through playing live pulled together, rather than created with an overall aim.
‘Mappamundi’ was constructed piecemeal, under major label pressure and fractured either side of an exhausting US tour, never having the opportunity to properly form into the album it could have been, and finally contributing to the break up of the band. This time, with the creative freedom afforded by their independence, Thousand Yard Stare consciously went about making an album designed to be listened to as one continuous piece, or in two 4 track episodes (similar to the band’s trademark EPs), creating a record free of external pressures, designed for themselves and their audience.
Having recently re-engaged with Voltaire’s satirical classic tale of benevolent optimism, ‘Candide’, vocalist and lyricist Stephen Barnes found the album’s overarching lyrical thematic, leading to the album’s beguiling title, The Panglossian Momentum. “I like the fact that it sounds like it must already exist as a phrase, but it doesn’t, it’s just made up. It’s wilfully obtuse, pretentious, even - but also the perfect summary of the themes of working through life’s conundrums, when we are often armed only with naive optimism and a stiff upper lip. It’s about realising that whilst we don’t always live in “the best of all possible worlds”, but we should always strive to try and find a way through, and we don’t have to do it alone. These songs are very much observations of these these internal monologues, embracing the ‘working out’ processes we all go through in challenging times.”
With lyrical subjects including intrusion of data (‘Schism Algorithm’), rallying disenchanted friends (‘It Sparks’), modern day life (‘Precious Pressures’), the ever presence of someone lost (‘A Thousand Yards’) and feelings of inadequacy towards loved ones (‘Spandrels’), this could be construed as a morose narrative, but instead, the album is imbibed in a warm positivity and honesty, an awakening to our surroundings soundtracked by Giles Duffy’s uniquely immersive sonic style.
Barnes continues “Me and Giles had very different influences to each other back when the band first started, but now we have many common loves, which made the writing process smoother than expected,” admits Barnes. “There’s a mutual respect for each other’s crafts, and that has allowed us to push our own boundaries, which I feel comes across on the record. I’m very proud of it. Very much an album of how we are now, but holding the values of back then, like a new member of the family”.
Thousand Yard Stare were, and are again :
Stephen Barnes (Vocals),
Dominic Bostock (Drums)
Giles Duffy (Guitars)
Sean McDonough (Bass)
Kevin Moxon (Guitars)