Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. For today’s instalment, we’re lending our ears to an exhaustive new compilation of material from a highly unusual and shortlived act formed in the heady milieu of Scotland’s late ’70s punk movement.
If The Prats are an unfamiliar act to you, then such an oversight is easily understood; active for just a few years and so unprolific during that time that they released just two 7″ singles, the Scottish punk outfit have managed to remain relatively niche even some forty years on from their brief existence. Their story, however, is an odd one – a tale peculiar enough that it should, by rights, have granted them a firm following. Comprised solely of teenagers – the band’s vocalist was just twelve when they formed – the undeniably ramshackle presentation of their songs becomes understandable when placed in the context of musicians so unusually young. To be fair to them, it’s impressive that the group ever went as far as they did; that they existed at all was somewhat unusual but the fact that even alt-rock impresario and barometer of ’70s musical cool John Peel approved – to such a degree that he offered them one of his coveted radio sessions, no less – is more note-worthy still. Make no mistake, The Prats sound as young as they were; as much as punk may have offered a platform to any group of individuals with the willingness to give it a go, few acts to land on a label as prestigious – albeit admittedly still relatively new – as Rough Trade have ever produced records quite so stylistically naive as this act. Still, The Prats certainly produced a catalogue as singular as it was slight and their story has been well-served with ‘Way Up High’, an exhaustive anthology of the young band’s sonic endeavours which yields a generous selection of demos and Peel session cuts in addition to the handful of songs released during their brief existence as a band.
Finding release through One Little Independent – a label who, having been founded by members of ’80s anarchists Flux Of Pink Indians, do themselves have deep punk roots – ‘Way Up High’ is a title released with all the understated confidence you’d expected from a label so long in the tooth. Pressed by France’s MPO, this bold shock of heavyweight green wax is as impressive from a sonic perspective as it is visually. Boasting glossy surfaces and sitting flat upon the platter during playback, this well-pressed single LP boasts all the hallmarks of stout quality control which are all-too-often overlooked by the many active pressings plants that pump out substandard produce in the pursuit of higher profit margins. Although MPO are not entirely above pressing the odd flawed record, their output can generally be relied upon to impress and in this title they’ve certainly manufactured a record which lives up to that precedent. Although the music itself is hardly high-fidelity in any strict sense of that phrase, it also boasts all the punch you could ask for; besides, we are talking about punk music here – it’s bound to lose some of its innate impact if its presentation becomes too glossy. As solid as the sonics are, it’s the cleanliness of the pressing itself which really stands out; we didn’t hear a single imperfection anywhere across our copy – not so much as a single crackle.
Just as punk emphasised spirit over virtuosity in its musicality, so too did the movement place heavy importance upon an unorthodox visual aesthetic. The best punk 7″ picture sleeves could be argued to be key examples of the counter-cultural modern art of their era and, true to that, the messy yet charming visual presentation of ‘Way Up High’ lends it a feel authentic to the vintage of the music itself. The cover is unpretentious in its construction; a standard-width, non-gatefold design wrought from typical-weight cardstock, it’s the inclusion of a high-quality printed card inner sleeve – one which boasts a collage of press cuttings related to the band – that sets this out as a release packaged and presented with real care. The green vinyl also looks fantastic, the chosen shade boasting a striking neon hue.
The Prats may not one been one of the most significant bands of their era, but the sheer spirit with which the young group performed lends their work a certain beguiling humanity. Collated on vinyl for the first time, their brief catalogue appears here in fine form; augmented with plentiful bonus material and presented with taste and efficiency, those intrigued by the group will find all they could ever need here in this single convenient package.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!