[sic] Magazine

Puressence – Thirty Years, Documentary.

Puressence were one of alternative music’s’ nearly bands. Hailing from Failsworth, Greater Manchester in the early nineties the four piece act wrote their name large across the famous city centre. Quite literally, as it turns out – an early publicity stunt involved ‘decorating’ various parts of town with PURESSENCE in huge lettering. One bridge scrawling was visible from Factorys’ famous Hacienda club. Yet Puressence were not destined for Factory. Their legend remains confined, for the most part, within those graffiti-adorned walls.

Initially bonding over a shared love of The Stone Roses, Puressence quickly forged a sound of their own combining elements of brooding angst-rock and epic post-punk to extraordinary effect. In front man James Mudriczki Puressence had a differential that other bands would kill for. Mudriczki was (and remains) an iron fist in a velvet glove. His fluttering, sensual voice was often mistaken for female, acting as a striking counterpoint to the barbed subject matter of the lyrics. All four musicians excelled but Jimmy stood out as much due to his confrontational stage persona as those soaring vocals.

With their self-titled debut album in 1996, Puressence delivered stark notice of intent. Moody but electrifying, the debut captured the fledgling band at their most thrilling. For me, that debut album breathed new life into a somewhat sagging music scene. Some reviews were sniffy though, proclaiming the debut as ‘style over substance’. Puressence were already preparing their riposte in the form of follow up album, Only Forever. This imperious second record showcases both the bands ambition and their songwriting ability, making a mockery of those “substance” jibes. It should’ve been the one to break them big. Chock full of sweeping, arena-sized anthems, Only Forever sounds majestic and should have done for Puressence what Last Broadcast would do for Doves, or what Everything Must Go had done for the Manics – ie be a launching pad to public consciousness. It somehow just didn’t land that way, failing to capture the zeitgeist of the time.

Puressence had everything bar luck and timing. They were too late for post-punk but a bit too soon for its revival. Despite critical acclaim, both for their recorded output and incendiary live performances, they just didn’t achieve the wider attention their music certainly merited. Only in Greece did the band garner a kind of mega stardom, with TV spots and radio support. Back in the UK Puressence found themselves still playing to their loyal following but very much in the last chance saloon when it came to their label, Island Records. They managed to push the artistic envelope further still on third album Planet Helpless, another varied, crafted record. The world simply wouldn’t listen. The band persevered for two more worthy long players, calling it a day in 2013 after their magnificently slow burning swansong album, Solid State Recital.

Now a new documentary film has been curated to document the career of Puressence. Thirty Years is an unofficial, fan made film which juxtaposes old footage with anecdotes and interviews. The film itself avoids heavily lamenting the bands missed opportunities, preferring to accentuate the highs. This is, after all, a fan film and Puressence deserve that. They were a great band. Yet we already know the early excitement will eventually turn to regrets as the group becomes hamstrung by circumstances.

Right place, wrong time.

Looking back, the final three Puressence albums feel like attempts at course corrections by a band striving for something they already had. There was no ‘failure’ for Puressence to fix. After a debut that stands easily alongside Joy Division, The Chameleons or The Sound and a follow up comparable to something like Ocean Rain they hadn’t done anything wrong. It was us, the industry and the general public who dropped the ball. Personally I find it telling that at roughly the same time the likes of Interpol, Editors and Killers would emerge, reviving that classic 80s sound, Puressence were firing their manager, losing their guitarist and being dropped from Island Records. Misfortune is a story as old as rock n roll itself I suppose, but at least Thirty Years is a fresh, new reminder of how special these guys were. So have a watch. Thirty Years is imbedded below. I’ve added some other song videos here too. Throw some cushions on the floor first though because if you haven’t ever heard Puressence before, your jaw is about to hit the floor.

James Mudriczki has sung recently with Red Sided Garter Snakes and Humanist. He continues work on his solo project Nihilists. Thirty Years film by Matthew Higgins.

First Glances – Nihilists

Humanist – Album review

Humanist – Album of the year

Red Sided Garter Snakes – review