Friends
Let's Get Away From It All


Stockton on Tees might not be the first place to spring to mind when thoughts turn to the cut and thrust of the pop world. Nevertheless, the small Cleveland town is home to Summerhouse Records, all set to emulate the success of near neighbours, Kitchenware.

Let's Get Away From It All is the latest release by Summerhouse crew, Friends, and a healthy slice of pastoral pop it is. Somewhere between The Smiths and The Teardrop Explodes, Let's Get Away From It All contains a selection of songs which feature distinctive Johnny Marr-like guitar motifs, often given additional impetus via some attractive trumpet flourishes.

The band has released two singles, both of which are included here, and while It's Getting Louder was a respectable enough but ultimately unsatisfying debut, its follow-up, Far And Away found itself making regular appearances on the old Dansette.

Other influences revealed in the grooves of Let's Get Away From It All include Orange Juice and The Chameleons, though Friends are never derivative in a derogatory sense. With the demise of The Smiths and the ability of bands like The Primitives to be propelled into the charts with the help of major label backing, perhaps the time is right for Friends, too.

Dave White
Coming Next, July 1988

On a beaucoup parlé des Teardrop Explodes ou des Smiths en influences possibles des Friends, et il est exact qu'on peut retrouver dans leur musique le sens de la progression dramatique des premiers et la guitare pointillist des seconds. Mais les Friends savent également apporter une fragilité, une puérilité (dans le sens d'innocence), qui leur sont bien personnelles. Le climat de leur album (le premier) reste lèger et ludique et l'étiquette de "pop-pastorale" leur convient tout à fait.

Christian Larrède
Les Inrockuptibles, December 1988

The debut album from Friends is a jangly offering from the North East. Rooted in the Sixties, it has a wistful beach-life atmosphere you don't immediately associate with Stockton-On-Tees. Songwriter William Jones knows all the right summery chord changes, but there's a dark and solitary heart to his songs that makes the album interesting listening and comparable in some ways to the Smiths.

Julian Henry
Music Week, 3 September 1988

Since those heady, early '80s days when Hurrah!, Prefab Sprout, The Kane Gang and The Daintees first annexed the nation's earholes, far too little North-east talent has followed them onto vinyl. Aside from odd pretty boys and exiled Geordies, majors and critics seem to believe that if a Tyne, Tees or Wear-side band ain't on Kitchenware it ain't worth a listen. Cleveland-based Summerhouse lebel – home of jazz-pop weirdos 4,000,000 Telephones – should change that.

Friends, 'house supremo William Jones' own outfit, deliver bouncy Brit-sounds that smack of summer and explore new horizons. Musically they're travelling towards the Housemartins and Jim Jimminee territory, but Jones' voice is reminiscent of the English minstrel tones of Julian Cope; songs like the title track and, particularly, 'Far And Away' have an uplifting singalong quality and show steady progress from their '86 single 'It's Getting Louder'.

Len Brown
New Musical Express, 13 August 1988

Cleveland group Friends released their first album last month after more than the odd rave review for their 1987 EP Far And Away.

Called Let's Get Away From It All, the opus has been released on the Summerhouse label and boasts all the eccentricities which albums invariably need to break away from the banality of chart pop.

The sound is definitely one of unblemished skies, auburn sunsets, holiday romances and Utopian heat. Whipping guitars gel with emotive trumpet and the energy of punk fuses surprisingly well with the controlled tempo of jazz.

The band - and here's the pretentious part - are William (vocals/guitar), Jo (guitar), Stewart (trumpet/keyboards/voice), Peter (bass), Martin (trumpet) and Graeme (drums). You will notice the lack of surnames.

Six people in a band often means a mess, musicians stumbling over each other in their bid to indulge in egotistical one-upmanship. But credit where it's due – Friends manage to craft their sound and ultimately each different instrument ends up sounding better for it.

Perhaps the most complimentary review came from a German critic who stated: "Ich fuhle mich wie im popsommer 1982" which roughly translated means he got a bit nostalgic over the summer of 1982.

That sums up the band, who have been together since June 1986. Listen to the album and at least one of the songs will summon up a memory of a past summer. It's good. Very good.

Northern Echo, 29 July 1988

Weak-kneed pop music grasping for stardom and the definitive tune. Lacking in polish, mustering up a head of lovable lyrics but too loose in total.

Offbeat

Vorab: Diese Platte ist schon recht betagt (Anfang 88) und dennoch kaum oder gar nicht erwähnt worden. Muss aber.

Zweitens: Diese Kritik bitte ausschneiden und im kommenden Sommer wieder hervorkramen.

Was waren das für Ferien, die man noch mit Orange Juice und Haircut 100 verbringen durfte! Doch stellt euch einmal ernsthaft vor, ihr sitzt im Freibad/Café/Park/Strand und hört Biff Bang Pow, James, Flatmates oder House of love. – Nicht besonders toll, gelle?

Da kommen Friends aus Cleveland/England gerade recht. Sänger, Gitarrist und Songschreiber William Jones und seine Jungs spielen so, als hätten sie den Popsommer 1982 in ihren Herzen. Keine nennenswerten Anleihen an die Class of 86, aber auch keine Beeinflussung neuerer amerikanischer Bands ist zu spüren – und das ist gut so. Ihre Liebe gilt dem gutgemachten Popsong, der sich auch nach 30-maligem hören nich abgenutzt hat. Dazu tragen nicht nur die Klasse der Melodien bei (sehr catchy), sondern auch deren Verfeinerung durch Bläsereinsatz (weder soulig noch zickig-weiss) und unterlegte Keybords.

Ähnlich Gutes gelang 1985 den 1000 Mexicans mit "Dance like ammunition" und noch mehr den Teardrop Explodes mit ihrer 80er LP "Kilimanjaro". Wem ich mit diesen Quervelweisen nicht den Mund wässrig gemacht habe, sollte die Finger von den Friends lassen. Für mich, als ewigen Popper, stellt diese Band, zwischen Firehose und Eric B. gehört (auf ihre Art auch Popper), durchaus ein Genuss dar. Der nächste Sommer kommt bestimmt.

Holger Schmitz
Pop Noise, No 1, 1989