Album Review: The Reds, Pinks & Purples – They Only Wanted Your Soul

Glenn Donaldson's melancholy jangle project gathers hard-to-find early tracks on this engaging, sweetly sad collection

By Glenn Donaldson’s prolific standards, a new Reds, Pinks & Purples album 10 months after the last wouldn’t be totally unexpected. But They Only Wanted Your Soul is less a new album and more an effective way to combat the profit margin of unscrupulous Discogs sellers.

Back in 2020, before Donaldson’s latest project had started gathering momentum through critical adoration and enthusiastic word of mouth, he released a 7” EP called I Should Have Helped You on a small Swedish label. As with most obscure early releases, it went out of print quickly only to become a sought-after item when The Reds, Pinks & Purples’ audience grew. Last count had the cheapest one at £103.

I Should Have Helped You

Though some will disagree, music is better heard than collected, so Slumberland Records took the four songs from the EP and combined them with six other songs written and recorded around the same time period. There’s more than a touch of homespun charm in these 10 melancholic pop gems as well as clear signs of Donaldson’s rapidly developing talent. There’s not even two years between the songs that make up They Only Wanted Your Soul and those on this year’s brilliant Summer At Land’s End, but the progression in sound suggests a much longer gestation period.

Keep Your Secrets Close

That’s not to suggest that anything here is half formed. Fans of sad jangle, from Sarah Records to C86 to The Smiths will find much to adore, from the raised eyebrow of ‘I Should Have Helped You’ to ‘We Won’t Come Home At Christmas Time’, the bleakest portrait of the festive season since John Prine’s ‘Christmas In Prison’. ‘Keep Your Secrets Close’ almost sounds like it’s going to chase Donaldson’s clouds away until his mournful voice descends: “The rain came down at 4am and darkness hid the hateful sun”.

That’s The Reds, Pinks & Purples in a nutshell. Sprightly, ringing guitars and a pervading sense of doom and despair that rains all over every spot of sunshine. It’s the kind of dichotomy that could only come from San Francisco and nobody in SF does it better than Glenn Donaldson. They Only Wanted Your Soul is a perfect introduction to his enveloping embrace of ennui, the ideal vantage point from which to watch it flourish.

They Only Wanted Your Soul by The Reds, Pinks & Purples is out now to buy and stream