Are The Hepburns the great lost 1980s indie band? There was a flurry of releases on the legendary Cherry Red Records, met with entirely predictable press bafflement (unsurprisingly, the Melody Maker weren't quite ready for a band that cited Burt Bacharach and John Barry as influences) and a Peel session... but, within a couple of years, even John Peel himself was heard ruminating on air as to the band's current whereabouts, such was the impressive nature of their vanishing act.
Which was a shame, as their 1988 debut album The Magic of the Hepburns was a work of eccentric genius; with swathes of jangly Smiths guitars swamped in expansive, almost Morricone-esque arrangements, all providing the unlikely musical setting for happy/sad songs about milkmen, Charlie Cairoli and even a jaunty tribute to their original drummer Les Mun ('You're A Queer One, Les Mun') And then... nothing. Rumours abounded. They were big in Sweden. The master tapes of their unreleased second album Road Movie had been lost forever. What had happened to The Hepburns, and their mercurial frontman Matt Jones? Details still seem to be quite sketchy, but what we do know is that - amazingly - they're now back, and making new music that seems just as fresh and vital as it did thirty years ago.
There have been four new albums in the last decade or so, each with an ever-expanding musical palette; in fact even their new US label seem unsure how to describe the latest release, How The Fallen Are Mighty: Although the starting musical reference point remains classic guitar pop (think Brilliant Corners, Smiths, Lucksmiths), inspirations from outside the genre abound, encompassing the barbershop-meets-Yazoo of 'Delores' (ode to a glowering cashier), om-pa-pa for jazz guitar, tuba and tub-thumping narrator ('One More Notch on the Bedpos'), Addams Family-meets-Specials-meets-The Pink Panther-meets-Charlotte Bronte ('The Help'), car-chase instrumentals ('Save Your Stories for the Police, Maurice'), growling 50s musical camp (the indignant Matt Jones reveling in his social status as 'Persona Non Grata') and the angular, bass-forward groove (in-kraut or post punk?) of "Man Missing."
Intrigued? So are we. And that's why we've brought them to The Waiting Room to help celebrate their thirtieth anniversary.
Bringing up the rear are Waiting Room favourites Rudolf Rocker; whose reputation as Whitby outsiders is impressive enough in itself (surely everybody is an outsider in Whitby?) and whose background is almost as eccentric as The Hepburns'... they were the band who played Voodoo Lady in The League of Gentlemen, they released a brilliant concept album (The Whitby Scar) based around the more macabre side of their home town, and - at their last appearance here - seemed to be gripped by a strange compulsion to play the theme from Only Fools and Horses over and over. They are a dapper, chamber-folk fourpiece, and one of the tallest bands we've ever met.
We're not entirely sure how this particular evening will pan out, but we're putting our bets on 'interesting'...
Have a listen...
Tickets only £6 from...
Sun 1st Nov: An Evening with Miles Hunt (Sold Out!)
Sun 8th Nov: Bridie Jackson and the Arbour + J.P. Riggall
Sun 15th Nov: Peculiar Disco Moves + Serinette (Acoustic)
Sun 22nd Nov: Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers + Cherry Head Cherry Heart
Sun 29 Nov: Simon Donald's School of Swearing + Harry Pearson