Glide – Thin Faced Man

It’s a testament to the influence of bands like Ride, My Bloody Valentine and The House of Love, and import record stores like Phantom, Red Eye and Waterfront, that there ever existed a Shoegaze scene in Sydney. Of the few local bands that heeded an obvious influence (forgotten luminaries as Jupiter, Drop City and Swirl), Glide appeared as the most promising, combining the influences mentioned above, but also strong guitar-led bands like The Church and R.E.M.

I first caught Glide live at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney in mid 1991, shortly after they formed and began playing around town. In the following months it appeared they had a sympathetic pull with the bookers of the Annandale as they played with increasing regularity there and around town, securing support slots with like-minded UK bands here to capitalize on the moment (Ride, Lush, Adorable). The Annandale had been almost a second home for me at the time, and as much as I enjoyed watching Glide live, they seemed to be everywhere at once, continually improving and refining their sound and whetting your appetite for something solid to take home and listen.

Pretty Mouth would be the title of their debut EP released independently at the end of 1991. The 5 tracks on offer showcased their current live set, with expertly crafted songs ranging from the dark and dramatic to head-turning guitar-driven pop. “Thin Faced Man” was the key song on the EP for me. It was that song in particular that stood out from the first time I saw them, walking back to my house on Cleveland St, with the refrain of “who’s that girl?” ringing in my ears. On hearing they were in the studio working on an EP I crossed my fingers, hoping this track would be on it and indeed it was. The recorded version here faithfully living up to my memory of those early live performances.

The interplay between the two guitars was perfection, with singer/songwriter/guitarist William Arthur playing a melodic Am/G/C rhythm part while guitarist Tim Scott hits dissonant notes on a ubiquitous (at the time) Fender Jaguar. I always wondered if the song was a nod to Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and in particular loved the line “you think I look clean, but you don’t know where I’ve been” though it would unfortunately foreshadow events to come. From the songs on display here it was evident that William Arthur was a talented songwriter and Glide were the perfect outfit to harness his vision. Waterfront Records were selling autographed copies and I grabbed mine without hesitation.

Their story doesn’t stop here, but for me and Glide, it did and I’m still not entirely sure why. For some reason I was unimpressed with their follow-up EP Shuffle Off to Buffalo. The lead track “Water Falls” didn’t have the edge that any of the songs from Pretty Mouth did and it seemed like a rather direct attempt at getting played on the radio, which alienated me but worked in their favour. Maybe I was going through my Big Black phase then, I don’t know. Glide would continue to write and record music that was just as great, if not better, than this one.

I hate stories that end with a sad postscript, as the story of Glide eventually did, with the unfortunate drug overdose of William Arthur in August of 1999 at the age of 34. Over the years our paths would cross, as they inevitably do in the compact Sydney scene, and words were occasionally shared over drinks at bars or gigs, though not once did I ever lean over to him and say “Thin Faced Man…what a fucking song!”, and I wish I had because I’m still in awe of this song now as I was then, but I guess looking over at what I’ve just written this is as good a testament as any.