In retrospect it’s more surprising that I’m even discovering Life Without Buildings now, than that it took me 20-plus years to discover them. Their only record Any Other City came out in 2001, when music discovery tools like Napster were put to work more finding Manic Street Preachers b-sides than hearing stuff completely new to me.
And yes, they’re having an unexpected moment two decades later thanks to generation TikTok, but I don’t look at anything TikTok. No, they found their way into my ears the oldest fashioned-ist way – someone saying a band I like sounds like this other band. In this case, someone somewhere – I’ve forgotten where – saying Dry Cleaning sound like Life Without Buildings, which is to say strangely fascinating talk-singy nonsensical vocals over math-y guitar lines. Sold.
With only the one record to their name – they split a year after the record was released and have steadfastly refused to entertain any kind of reunion – any deep dive is relatively shallow, but because of the aforementioned TikTok phenomenon, there’s still some interesting and current press around the band.
But first, this relatively ancient interview with the band by the similarly defunct NY Press alt-weekly is an interesting look at the outfit dealing with their initial success:
Q&A with Life Without Buildings @ NY Press via Strauss Media
In January, singer Sue Tompkins and guitarist Robert Dallas Gray talked to Paste via email about their sudden, relatively massive popularity and what it means to them:
Life Without Buildings on Their Surprise TikTok Success @ Paste
And the pair did the same for MTV in February, on the occasion of their record’s 20th anniversary:
20 Years Later, Life Without Buildings Share Their Voice With A New Generation @ MTV
The Quietus has probably the most extensive retrospective piece on the record, talking not only to the band members but their contemporaries in the Glasgow art school scene at the turn of the millenium:
It’s Like The New Past – Life Without Buildings Interviewed @ The Quietus
Stereogum also celebrated the record’s turning 20, explaining why it’s so great:
Any Other City Turns 20 @ Stereogum
The Guardian tried to document and explain the nature of their TikTok appeal to folks like me who don’t understand the nature or appeal of TikTok:
Life Without Buildings: in praise of the cult Glasgow band revived on TikTok @ The Guardian
And The Guitar Magazine celebrated the record with a feature:
The Genius Of… Any Other City by Life Without Buildings @ The Guitar Magazine
There’s no official video for the song, aside from a million TikToks using a 15-second excerpt:
But there is this live performance from 2000 on Scottish television that’s almost as good – maybe better:
And the band rehearsing “The Leanover” in their apartment as part of an XFM feature on the band circa 2000: