Glasgow, Scotland's the Wake was never terribly prolific, but with a recording career that spanned a dozen years, they were one of the longest-lasting bands on the British indie pop scene. Formed in 1981, the original lineup was singer/guitarist Gerard "Caesar" McInulty (who had briefly played in a pre-stardom Altered Images), keyboardist Carolyn Allen, drummer Steven Allen, and bassist Robert Gillespie. Yes, as in Bobby Gillespie, the irrepressible hipster who later played the Moe Tucker-style drums on the first Jesus and Mary Chain album and then led Primal Scream through a fruitful career of bandwagon-jumping.
Illustrating their initially dark, almost gloomy post-punk style, the Wake's debut single, "On Our Honeymoon," came out on their own Scan Records in January 1982. Though it didn't chart, press reaction was favorable enough that the quartet signed to the era's leading British indie, Manchester's Factory Records, and released their first album, Harmony, in October of the same year. Briefly shunted to the label's equivalent of the minor leagues, the Belgian subsidiary Factory Benelux, the original lineup released their last single together, "Something Outside," in October 1983. Gillespie departed shortly thereafter.
With Alex MacPherson replacing him on bass, the reconstituted Wake released two more singles on Factory, "Talk About the Past" and "Of the Matter," in April 1984 and October 1985. In November 1985, their second album, Here Comes Everybody, was released to positive critical notice. Besides confirming that the band named itself in honor of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake (the phrase "Here Comes Everybody" is a repeated motif in that novel), the album introduced a new level of low-key lyricism to the band's sound, leavening the post-punk tension with gracefully jangly acoustic guitars and melodies more wistful than doomy. This lighter tone would stay consistent throughout the rest of the band's career.
MacPherson left the band after that triumph; rather than replace him, McInulty simply added bass to his studio duties and the band drafted stand-ins for their infrequent live gigs. It was almost exactly two years after the release of Here Comes Everybody that the band released a new single, "Pale Spectre," with an EP, Something That No One Else Could Bring, following the next month. It sold poorly, and as their increasingly winsome and guitar-based brand of indie pop was no longer welcome on Factory's dance-oriented release lists, the band was dropped shortly thereafter. In most cases, that would be that, but the Wake had a surprising comeback in 1989. Matt Haynes and Clare Wadd of Sarah Records, the legendary bedroom label that spearheaded the twee pop movement of the late '80s and early '90s, were longtime Wake fans and asked the group to join their roster of otherwise young and unknown bands. The October 1989 release of "Crush the Flowers" was followed a little over a year later by the Wake's third album, the ironically titled Make It Loud. Later in 1991, the trio released what was possibly their finest record ever, the 7" single "Major John," the ultra-melodic A-side of which was backed with the snarky "Lousy Pop Group," a names-named screed against the current state of mainstream British pop music.
Typically, the band went on another extended break after that career high point before returning almost three years later with their fourth album, Tidal Wave of Hype, which was every bit as wonderful as the earlier Here Comes Everybody, with an even more delicate and melancholy air. The Wake even followed its release with an increased slate of live shows, with the help of Matthew Drummond and James Moody of Sarah labelmates the Orchids on guitar and bass. Unfortunately, Sarah Records wound down its operations in 1995, and the Wake fell out of the public eye for some time shortly thereafter.
It wasn't until 2009 that McInulty and Allen regrouped to work on the Wake once more. The band played a concert that year in Brussels with A Certain Ratio, and began making sporadic appearances thereafter. An album of brand new material called A Light Far Out was slated for release in early 2012. Also in 2012, Brooklyn indie label Captured Tracks issued a box set packaging together Here Comes Everybody with the band's singles from 1982-1987. In celebration of Record Store Day that year, the label also released separate reissues of the Crush the Flowers and On Our Honeymoon 7"s, as well as Gruesome Flowers: A Tribute to the Wake, a 7" featuring covers of Wake songs by Brooklyn illuminati Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing. ~ Stewart Mason