Peruse any list of “essential post-punk bands” and at some point, probably at least halfway down the list, you’ll probably find an entry for Watford’s Sad Lovers & Giants. Find a list for “most overlooked post-punk bands”, and they’ll probably be near the top.
Whatever the reasons for their under-appreciatedness, lack of quality is not one of them. They may not have blazed any new paths within the movement, but they’re up there with the likes of The Chameleons for blending post-punk urgency, atmospheric guitars, emotive vocals, and pop hooks – not praise I offer lightly.
Instead, I’d posit repeated break-ups over the years – one in 1983, killing the momentum of their first two albums, and another in 1991 after three more records – and a rather muddled discography as culprits. Speaking from the perspective of a newcomer to the band trying to make sense of their catalog… it’s not easy. Their first two records – 1982’s Epic Garden Music and 1983’s Feeding The Flame – are generally regarded as their essential, but they exist in so many permutations with a range of track lists, mixes, and alternate versions that it’s hard to figure exactly what you’re supposed to look for, not that it’s easy to find any of them. The fairly comprehensive Where The Light Shines Through from 2017 would seem to be the easy answer – and as a bonus, it’s actually in print – but five CDs is a lot.
But back to the confusion. This track, which is sometimes listed as “Cowboys” and other times “Cow Boys”, dated from the Feeding The Flame sessions but didn’t appear on the original edition fo the record. It made its debut on 1986’s Total Sound, a live recording for Dutch radio, recorded just before the band split. They reformed with a different lineup and the track was released as a single in 1988, then added to the first CD issue of Flame that same year, along with a couple other tracks that are regarded as some the band’s best (“Imagination”, 3 Lines”).
Aside: How much did they like “Imagination”? They also added it to the 1988 CD issue of Epic Garden Music, albeit a different version. How many bands have the same song open both of their first albums, after it somehow not making the cut for either of them at the time they were originally released . Revisionist history, yes, but maybe for the best?
In any case, until I figure out which releases to add to my collection – and figure out how to find them – I guess I can just shuffle their entire discography on Spotify. Probably amounts to the same thing.