ONE 9 • Footnotes: Remembering Postcard Records

Postcard Records, with just 13 singles released over a period of 3 years, helped forge the sound of indie pop and radically changed the musical landscape of Scotland. Dubbed ‘The Sound of Young Scotland’ by label head Alan Horne, the music remains vital and exciting to modern ears. Run from a tenement flat on West Princes Street, the label has proven to be an inspiration for young musicians and has shown that important music made from modest means can be produced in Scotland. Postcards Records is little known outside of Scotland, and among post-punk indie fans around the world, but its influence is easily discernable in much of the main-stream indie music that has been produced in Britain over the past few years, most notably in Franz Ferdinand.
The music of Postcard Records is characterised by a break from post-punk’s introspective solemnity. Acting out-with the eye of any major label, Postcard’s first single, Orange Juice’s ‘Falling and Laughing’ was funded by Horne and members of the band. The release was produced cheaply and released in handcrafted packaging. The lack of studio polish gave the recording an air of excitement and energy that was largely flattened out on their major label releases with Polydor. The upbeat and life-affirming sound of early singles ‘Falling and Laughing‘ and ‘Blue Boy’ showed a new direction, free of the genre’s more macabre side. Soul music, Motown and Disco were of equal importance in influencing the sound as The Velvet Underground and The Byrds. Put together without instrumental virtuosity or glossy production, the ramshackle and energetic singles took on a new character, creating a work which surpassed its inauspicious beginnings. Their clean and slightly effeminate image was a reaction to the machismo of contemporary punk rock. That the bands on Postcard shunned alcohol, drugs and casual sex put them at odds with Glasgow’s violent reputation and further broadened the label’s appeal.The success of Postcard drew attention towards Scotland’s music scene, giving independent labels greater exposure outside of their home country.
Today, the contemporary music scene in Glasgow is carrying on the tradition set out by Postcard- independent labels in Scotland are producing inspiring and important work that has less of a drive for commercial success, and more of an emphasis on creative integrity. Current labels in Glasgow are publishing artists without creative restrictions and small runs of copies ensure that releases can be frequent and cover wide stylistic areas. The experimental music scene in Glasgow is flourishing, and with the annual Install festival at the Arches, which attracts some of the most important experimental artists and musicians in world, the city’s reputation as a hub of creativity is set to grow. Improvised music of a more experimental bent can be found on the excellent label Iorram, whose releases range from the large ensemble playing of the Glasgow Improvisation Orchestra, to duo recordings of some of the most compelling musicians to be found in Glasgow. Well established in the noise scene, Kovorox Sound and Sick Head Tapes cover a wide range of ‘Noise’ releases. Young alternative bands of the underground music scene are being best documented by Winning Sperm Party, who provide free downloads of all their releases and are closely linked to organisations and independent promoters such as Cry Parrot. The success of independent record shops such as Volcanic Tongue, which is one the best record shops for experimental music in the UK, and Monorail, prove that there is still a strong appreciation of independent music in Glasgow. Perhaps the musical content of Postcard Records is of less relevance to Scottish musician’s today in terms of inspiration- the distinctive sound of Orange Juice & Josef K has been over-appropriated- but their example reminds us of the possibilities for small independent labels operating outside of stylistic norms.
Adam Campbell is a Glasgow based musician who performs with Tahir Tahira, Fur Hood and Un Cadavre.