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Paris Angels
Eclipse Stuart Huggett , August 27th, 2015 12:03

Paris Angels' debut 'Perfume' remains one of the greatest singles of the Madchester era. Produced by New Order engineer Michael Johnson for aptly named indie Sheer Joy, its glistening guitars, ecstasy-rush synth whooshes and Jayne Gill and Rikki Turner's sweet and sour vocals were superior to anything Factory was releasing in the baggy summer of 1990, particularly in the striking, panned programming of its extended 'All On You (Perfume)' mix.

Sundew, up until now the seven-strong group's sole album, appeared on Virgin the following year, a finely balanced blend of Northern indie jangle, stately electronics and euphoric dancepop. Even without a hit single, it managed to enter the Top 40 but nonetheless they were one of many acts culled from the Virgin roster after the label's 1992 sale to EMI. Always seemingly on the brink of penury (Sundew thanked "Switch cards and understanding bank managers"), Paris Angels shelved their work-in-progress second album and split.

Finally pieced together following a temporary live reunion in 2012, Eclipse is an approximation of this abandoned second record. That hometown gig came out of tragedy, to help cover funeral costs for the band's much-loved drummer Simon Worrall, and the subsequent tribute album Distant Drums (41 acts raising money for hospital charity Hector's Fund) is where your spare pocket money should go. With no further gigs or music planned, Eclipse arrives as a free download to close the book on Paris Angels, not start a new chapter, and it's a graceful signing off.

Recorded while the Manchester scene was cooling, the titles ('Stairs To The Sun', 'Door To Summer', 'Dolphins') retain its loved up, turn of the decade atmosphere, a psychedelic teenage dawn of new drugs and clubs. The ambling, flute-patterned breeze of 'Door To Summer' reaffirms Paris Angels' wide-eyed outlook, bright with optimism and fresh as a meadow. Sandwiching the album in short and long versions, the shuffling funk of 'Shake' is a simple call to dance but the band were rarely dumb, although 'Rise's line "The cat in the hat has left the mat" is pushing it.

'Shake' turns out to have held a clue to their future all along, with a slanted, 'Wrote For Luck' guitar rhythm rippling in the background. Guitarist Paul Wagstaff would join Black Grape and, temporarily, the reformed Happy Mondays, and while even some of their supporters mistook Paris Angels' lack of glamour for sub-Mondays thug posturing really they were just as gawky and ordinary as any bunch of mates as any of us, with a strong bond to family and community (dig out the 'Perfume' video for evidence). It's a sense of pride felt in the crashing chords of 'Release', a harsher than usual song ("The house goes up in smoke and flame / They set themselves on fire again") with a mood of political betrayal similar to the grey cloud glowering of New Fast Automatic Daffodils at their most bitter.

Eclipse isn't an exact picture of Paris Angels' lost album though, and there are a couple of tracks that appear to have turned up at the back of the tape cupboard. 'Complete Mind' is an alternative, spruced up version of sorrowful Sundew track 'Breathless' and the urgent 'Stairs To The Sun' shares some lyrics with early standalone single 'Scope', even as its chopping, raw guitars sound like nothing else the band ever recorded. Better than leaving them languishing though, they were worth hearing. Ascend Paris Angels, your work is done.