❉ This is the definitive Yachts retrospective and will satisfy both die-hard fans and those less familiar with the band.
As someone that considers themselves as something of a connoisseur of obscure punk and powerpop, it should probably be quite surprising that Liverpool’s Yachts somehow managed to pass me by. They didn’t have the chart success that would have led to them being included on punk compilations in the ensuing years, but also didn’t produce any hyper-rare singles pressed in small quantities that would have given them a certain notoriety amongst collectors. It was refreshing to be able to “discover” a new (to me, at least) band for the first time.
Cherry Red have done a wonderful job, as always, with this great box set that contains both of the band’s album releases, plus a third disc containing singles and rarities. This is the definitive Yachts retrospective and will satisfy both die-hard fans and those less familiar with the band.
The band were formed in 1977 and supported the Sex Pistols, before changing their name to the Yachts and settling on their original 5-piece lineup. This incarnation of the band released a 7” single on Stiff Records, the underrated “Suffice To Say”, which appears in this set as both the original single, and a live version. This is one of the standout tracks here, and deserves to be more widely heard than it has been thus far.
The band survived the loss of original vocalist JJ Campbell to settle into what would become the “classic” Yachts lineup that survived from 1977 until 1980, the one that would sign to the new Radar Records label, home of Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe.
“Box 202”, the opening track of the band’s self-titled debut album, is another that caught my attention. A quirky number, it describes a guy’s girl being killed in a plane crash, prompting him to put out a classified ad to find a replacement. Quite an off-beat topic for a band that were considered rather lightweight and poppy by the music press of the time. The debut album is a solid effort, although some of the tracks are rather forgettable and don’t quite grab the listeners attention as much as they should. The production is strong, showing that Radar Records believed in the band and were willing to spend some some money on them.
The follow-up album, 1980’s “Without Radar” is a somewhat weaker effort that has the hallmarks of a band on the decline. “There’s a Ghost in My House” is one of the better tracks though, and it’s easy to see why it was chosen as a single. Martin Rushent’s production is very good, as ever.
Bassist Martin Dempsey chose to leave the band in 1980, and the end was nigh. One further single (included here) followed, as well as demos for the unrecorded second album. And that was that.
The band fared rather better in the USA where Polydor released their records, and they toured and managed to scrape into the lower reaches of the Billboard chart. They also supported The Who on a European tour, so they certainly made the most of the opportunities granted to them.
To sum up, Yachts were a band that burned brightly for a few years and made some fun and worthy records. They weren’t trend-setters or pioneers, but the songs stand up well and as someone with little knowledge of the band, I’ve enjoyed experiencing them for the first, but certainly not final, time. I’m confident I’ll return to this release in the future and give it a re-appraisal.
❉ Suffice To Say: The Complete Yachts Collection was released by Cherry Red Records on 23 March 2018, RRP £17.99.