REMINISCING: Life Without Buildings


Life Without Buildings were a group that existed for a short spell around the turn of the century as part of the new wave/post-punk revival. While the Strokes, the White Stripes, Interpol, the Rapture and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were setting the benchmark on the New York music scene, various bands based around Scotland’s Glasgow School of Art were starting a revival of their own – re-hashing and modernising the sounds of seminal artists such as Television and Gang of Four.

While it was the catchy, yet often disposable hooks and quips of Franz Ferdinand who caught most people’s, including my, attention, it was their lesser-known cousins, Life Without Buildings, who left much more of a lasting impression.

Robert Johnson on guitar provides jagged, melodic riffs which are set to the tight, tempo-shifting rhythm of Chris Evans and Will Bradley on bass and drums respectively. The results will have you bouncing around your livingroom one minute, then staring at the floor solemnly introspecting the next.

The main attraction, however, lies in the sometimes sparse, sometimes dense, stream-of-consciousness spoken-vocals of Sue Tompkins, a visual and spoken word artist. Sometimes deep, sometimes playful. Sometimes wacky, sometimes honest. It feels as if Tompkins is deploying some sort of push-pull tactic in order to lure the listener in before getting them addicted.

Life Without Buildings only managed one studio album, Any Other City. The band also released Live at the Annandale Hotel, on which their songs take on an extra energy and charm. This is especially apparent when seen in the light of how Tompkins engages her audience between songs. Suggesting that her prose – as well as her performance – is an honest account of her feelings and personality and not some exaggerated caricature.