Josef K – Romance

21st November 2023 · 1970s, 1979, Music, Postpunk

When what the music press lazily dubbed “The Scottish Sound” emerged at the end of the Seventies, Josef K were the yin to Orange Juice’s yang – the dark underbelly to their bright and sparkly pop.

You’d expect nothing less from a band named after the protagonist of The Trial, front man Paul Haig’s influences being drawn as much from literature (Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Camus) as from music (Bowie, Reed, Morrison).

Romance was their first single, released at the end of 1979, on the one-off Absolute label.

It’s unique: an ominous bass and metronomic drums provide a relentless undercurrent as an electric guitar slashes across that rhythm, Haig’s baritone carrying a cryptic lyric before unleashing a minimalist solo.

It’s three minutes of perfection, and the production is very different from their Postcard single, Sorry For Laughing, with the guitars and vocals mixed down, and solitary album The Only Fun In Town.

Josef K split up in 1982 with Haig unable to reconcile his ambition to remain commercially unsuccessful and suffer for his art with the requirements of a music career with other band members.