I imagine the early aughts were an odd time to be a small, independent band. On one hand, the internet and its potential to reach a massive audience, had largely arrived. On the other, the technological infrastructure to support media, e-commerce, and everything besides just words and pictures on a screen, had frustratingly not. All of which is to say you could have people read about your band that otherwise would never have heard of you, but actually getting your recordings into their hands was still a crapshoot. I imagine there are many could-have-been-great bands whose moment fell through the cracks of this era; I probably have a lot of their CDs.
So it was with January, a London outfit formed in the waning days of the 20th century and who made a little bit of a splash with their 2001 debut record I Heard Myself In You on account of it coming out on Alan McGee’s short-lived post-Creation label, Poptones as well as featuring Seefeel and Scala guitarist Sarah Peacock in their lineup. It was a suitable pedigree as you could describe them as if Slowdive had become Mojave 3 without turning their back on Slowdive, or as BBC put it, “a less far out, more tuneful Spiritualized”. In other words, right up my alley.
Built on a foundation of strummy acoustic guitars and frontman Simon McLean’s warm vocals, their records were intimate and pretty at their core, but could rear up into towering epics of jangly electric lines and singing pedal steel as needed. Case in point, “Falling In”, the nine-plus minute centrepiece of their debut. It could have been a massive shoegaze anthem had someone like Alan Moulder been manning the boards, but as it is, it remains sonically epic despite its dry, intimate production.
It’s a great song and a great album and sadly, almost completely unknown 20 years later. The band recorded a second album, Motion Sickness, in 2002 that’s almost as good and just as unheard, but that lineup split before it was eventually released in 2004. Bassist Jonathan Wood actually chimed in on the matter in the YouTube comments for “Falling In” in 2015:
Hi. Jonny from January here. Nice to see some people with very good taste still remember this… Fond memories. Sadly, the recording of the second album destroyed us. Me and Sarah became a couple and still are…
PS. I think Simon returned to Australia after living on a Scotish island for several years…Jonathan Wood
After the record was released McLean apparently tried to assemble a new lineup to support the record. In a 2005 interview with ARTTRA, he said:
I never made a conscious decision to disband the group, it collapsed in on itself over the course of several months during 2002. There were all sorts of problems, massive amounts of frustration and ultimately it didn’t seem to be fun for anyone involved any more, which should always be the main reason for making music.Interview with Simon McLean @ ARTTRA
For almost a year I hardly had anything to do with it apart from slowly getting the release of Motion Sickness organised with Must Destroy. It got to the point where eventually I had the urge to get together with some other people and play again, and my friends Giles, Karl and Alison came on board one by one until we were rehearsing regularly with a view to playing a few shows around the release of the second album in early 2004. Other than that there was no plan and it was really enjoyable, very relaxed and everyone seemed so enthusiastic. So to answer the question, it wasn’t difficult at all starting afresh, it happened very naturally.
Clearly that didn’t last long and now those records basically live on as YouTube embeds and a couple silver discs on my shelf 1. I have no recollection of where/how I got them – eBay or Musicstack or something, probably – but I’m glad to have them.
1 It seems fitting that getting these two CDs to a place that I could actually listen to them again while I write would be as huge a pain as they have been. They don’t exist on any streaming service, legal or otherwise, and I no longer have a CD player hooked up in my office. The portable USB optical drive I do have wouldn’t mount on my work computer, so I had to connect it to a second machine that imported oh so slowly, and then the resultant MP3s were transferred onto my work machine via iCloud, and they are the only things on the local install of Apple Music (besides that stupid U2 record) because my Spotify couldn’t find the local files. ANYWAYS.