They have been described as an 'almost pop' group. As the description implies, the group have some pop elements but miss out on others, and have never charted. Their early records (1982-85) for labels like Whaam!, Creation, Rough Trade, and Glass Records, had a raw and immediate sound, melodic and amateur, which seemed all at odds with the time. But an emerging fanzine culture identified with the group's sound and image, and slowly The Pastels started to influence a new wave of groups, which interested the NME and other UK media.
By now The Pastels were evolving and, although part of the NME's C86 compilation, in interviews they always sought to distance themselves from both twee and shambling developments. Their debut album, Up for a Bit With The Pastels (Glass, 1987) was quite strange, moving from garage pop-punk through to ballads with synth orch splashes. The follow-up, Sittin' Pretty (Chapter 22, 1989) was harder but less eclectic. Reports started to appear in the UK music press that the group was splitting up.
Eventually it became clear that a new line-up was configuring around original members, Stephen McRobbie and Annabel Wright (Aggi), now joined by Katrina Mitchell. This line-up is probably the best known of The Pastels' various phases, and often featured either David Keegan (Shop Assistants) or Gerard Love (Teenage Fanclub) on guitar. They signed with the emerging Domino Records and completed two albums, Mobile Safari (1995) and Illumination (1997), which showed them developing an odd, particular sound - melancholic and awkward, but warm and engaging. A remix set featured My Bloody Valentine, Jim O'Rourke and others - Illuminati (1998). Their most recent release is the soundtrack to David Mackenzie's The Last Great Wilderness (Geographic, 2003), which, made for film or not, is one of the most 'complete' Pastels albums. It features a track recorded in collaboration with Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. In 2006, The Pastels developed and completed new music for a theatre production by Glasgow based company, 12 Stars.