by Pete Crigler
The year was 1991 and grunge had yet to explode over the airwaves. Bands with a lighter sound were still able to get on alternative rock radio and one band out of Bath made a splash with one song that cracked the top 10 that fall. Yet in the years afterward, the band and all of its members completely dropped out of sight with no sightings since. This is the tale of This Picture.
Forming in the late eighties with bassist Steve Hughes, singer Symon Bye and the rhythm section duo of bassist Robert Forrester and drummer Duncan, the band set about playing shows and getting their name out there. After some time, they recorded an EP for the massively influential Rough Trade label. The results were released in 1989 as Naked Rain, taking its title from the band's greatest song. The song starts out slow and melodic with Symon carrying an almost affected Bono style of singing. But then the rest of the band comes in chugging like a freight train and the song takes off from there. The combination of the vocals and the driving melody made it instantly memorable in the English underground scene and helped make This Picture one of the bands to look out for in the future.
By the end of the decade, the band's reputation was growing to the point they were able to sign a deal with Dedicated Records, a label best known for signing The Cranes and others. The band went into the studio with producer Kevin Moloney, at that point best known for producing Sinead O'Connor. At some point during the studio sessions, bassist Steve Hughes departed the band and was replaced by Austen Rowley. Aside from the slight hiccup, the sessions went well and in the late summer of 1991, A Violent Impression was unleashed on the planet. Dedicated had a distribution deal with RCA Records and as a result, the album was easily obtainable in the states. Having re-recorded "Naked Rain," the song was chosen as the first single and a swift new video was made to highlight the song's heightened intensity.
With the video getting some spins on MTV's 120 Minutes, the song began to get some major play on radio. By the end of September, it had climbed into the top ten on the modern rock chart. Unfortunately, it would be one of the last British singles by a band not named Oasis to get that high for quite some time. By the time the second single, "Breathe Deeply Now" had been released, Nirvana and Pearl Jam had overtaken the airwaves and were blowing up all over the world. Though the single hit the top twenty, the video, if there was one, has never been since 1992 and after that, the band seemed to go underground.
The rest of the record is pretty decent and the band manages to rise above all the other British bands that were crashing the American airwaves around the same time. "Breathe Deeply Now" is a strong song that sounds like something Snow Patrol would be doing today. The other best song is the title track, a five minute pic that swoons all around and swirls so deeply that one must listen to it again and again. Asides from those songs, the record was destined to wind up in the bargain bin of any record store within three years of its release.
Then in 1994, they reemerged along with Dedicated Records, which had switched distributors to Arista Records, then in desperate need of a successful rock band. The band released their sophomore album that fall, City of Sin. There was a single and a video that has wound up on YouTube in recent years but I can't for the life of me remember the damn thing. I have never been able to find the record and neither records are available on iTunes and it didn't seem like City of Sin sold by the boatloads because by 1994, bands like Blur, Oasis and to a lesser extent Elastica, were the British bands people wanted to listen to. .
Sometime in 1995, This Picture was dropped by Dedicated/Arista and the band went their separate ways. Frontman Symon Bye started up another band shortly thereafter but it never managed to get off the ground. By the end of the nineties, the rest of the band had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth never to be seen or heard from again.
The years went by and the members went off the grid and rarely popped their heads out into the general public. Then allegedly in 2005, it was rumored somewhere on the Web on some now defunct site that the band was planning on getting back together and would be making a new record. However odd these rumors seemed, that's all it ended being: just rumors. Around this time, Symon reemerged with a new band called D Tone & Me and recorded a couple of songs for a film soundtrack. After that brief burst of activity, he dropped out of sight again and the story of This Picture seemed to be lost to the ether.
Then around 2010, this author first heard "Naked Rain" late night on VH-1 Classic's block of alternative rock videos. I was blown away by the song's energy and the lyrics and well, just everything dammit! I quickly went about trying to find the song elsewhere but to no effect, the song had seemingly disappeared. Eventually, I ordered A Violent Impression off of Amazon, used for about 79 cents. As stated previously, the record is decent at best but the songs that are amazing are full-on amazing for a damn good reason.
As I started working on this piece, it was originally going to be an interview with a member of the band but alas that turned out to be for naught. For you see, Duncan Forrester, Robert Forrester, Austen Rowley, Robert Hughes have disappeared off the face of the earth and are seemingly nowhere to be found on social media. The last that was really heard of Symon Bye was in 2003 when he launched a new website and put up files of new music but the website is inactive and the domain name is up for sale. He might be on social media but apparently doesn't check his Facebook account frequently enough. There is also a nice little fansite devoted to the band that includes a full discography and bio, but alas the last time that website was updated was way back in 2003. So obviously not a lot of currently available information is out there on This Picture.
Over the years, as the members of This Picture have evaporated into musical pixie dust, let's hope they understand what their music means to their fanbase, both old and those who have just now discovered them. It's a legacy a lot of bands will never get to experience: one great song that changes everything and means so much to people. For those reading this article and are into great undiscovered Brit rock like Furniture, Flowered Up and Boo Radleys, go add This Picture and "Naked Rain" to your list and discover what great, adventurous Brit rock should sound like.
Also see our interview with Robert Forrester of This Picture
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