Shine 6 (Polygram TV, 1996)

The old marketing ploy of advertising your previous volumes is utilised in the inlay of Shine 6. The five instalments are laid out with colour thumbnails and a selection of highlights for each one are also listed. Memories of Now That’s What I Call Music 6.

We start with Paul Weller and the grinding heavy soul of Peacock Suit which is followed by The Charlatans’ northern stormer One To Another is excellent, a real soul saver. Making it three out of three is A Design For Life, the Manic Street Preachers’ exquisite rant against class privilege before the ’70s glam stomp of Suede’s Trash, the opening ace from Coming Up. Dodgy’s breezy Good Enough bridges the gap before Ocean Colour Scene’s shiny ‘n’ melodic The Circle, sublime melodies all. After such a familiar beginning, we go down a slightly less travelled path that encompasses Shed Seven’s tuneful On Standby & We Love You, Menswear’s jaunty non-album 45. Back to the bang(ers): Blur’s annoying Charmless Man and The Cardigans’ ubiquitous Lovefool. “I was never cool in school”: it’s Ben Folds Five with the almost operatic Underground. Even 25 years on, it’s fabulous fun.

This keen sense of theatrical adventure continues on the next pair of tunes. The Divine Comedy’s Becoming More Like Alfie is taken from their most Britpop LP Casanova. The video (only Neil’s second) is a riot with the lyrical content now written off as “problematic” by serious bearded men. Next come My Life Story – lead by the suave Jake Shillingford (who looks exactly like you’d expect) and the orchestral banger 12 Reasons Why I Love Her. Nice Fun Boy Three influence. It’s followed by Sleeper’s minty Sale Of The Centrury and Babybird’s overlooked Goodnight (lost in the shadow of You’re Gorgeous). The 7″ came from Virgin and reminds me of Grosvenor Road and its awful landlord Mr Blacklock. And then Joyrider’s surprisingly bouncy cover of Rush Hour. It shouldn’t work but does. Keeping things heavy are the Boo Radleys and the searing riffage of What’s In The Box. Bringing CD1 to a close are the Presidents Of The United States Of America with the annoyingly addictive Lump while pales into nothing when Rocket From The Crypt drop the furious horn rock monster On A Rope. Memories of that January ’96 gig at The Mean Fiddler and ordering Hot Charity + Scream Duckula Scream from Alan’s, Wigan.

Disc 2 begins with The Cranberries and their understated Free To Decide, a push back against intrusive journalists which urges them to cover the wars in Russia and Sarajevo instead. Equally low key are Electronic and the wonderfully melodic Forbidden City – killer guitar break and all. Inevitably Oasis appear; while not an actual UK 45, they did make a video for album-closer Champagne Supernova and it got caned on radio and television. Meanwhile Cast’s Walkaway always reminds me of Euro ’96. The dreamy melodies of Walkaway forever associated with England footballers in a grey strip. Gareth Southgate missing a penalty. Rody Boland’s erupting in joy. Elsewhere Pulp’s Different Class was still providing new thrills in 1996; in this instance, the deep blue soundscapes of the thought-provoking Something Changed. There’s more plaintive sensitivity on both The Longpigs’ On And On and on Terrorvision’s Bad Actress, one of the year’s underrated 7″s.

The Levellers give us a just-ok live Exodus before Mansun’s provocative Stripper Vicar. The Imperial Teens’ bass-heavy You’re One, Northern Uproar’s Living It Up and Heavy Stereo’s Chinese Burn all bring back memories of the Camden (Street) crawl of the mid-90s. But Elcka’s catchy Look At You Now is the real blast from the past, remaining very unheard since that summer. Next are Lush whose renaissance continues with 500 (Shake Baby Shake) while the first of two Sarahs arrives in the form of Dubstar’s dreamy Elevator Song. Sarah #2 – Crackbirdnell singing about motorways and airplanes on the luscious Anymore. Ruth’s dull Valentine’s Day is followed by Bawl’s ode to supermarkets, Beyond Safe Ways. We’re in the dead zone now as Sussed’s One In A Million jumps up, brash and lively before every single cobweb is blown away by Kenickie’s fantastic Punka which always filled the dancefloors and is embued with the spirit of Sham 69. “Lo-fi songs are great” is glorious. To the end with Placebo & the intense 36 Degrees. For all introverts everywhere.

Favourite tracks
My Life Story – 12 Reasons Why I Love Her

The Divine Comedy – Becoming More Like Alfie

Sarah Cracknell – Anymore

Electronic – Forbidden City

Kenickie – Punka

Lest we forget
Babybird – Goodnight

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Volume Sixteen: Copulation Explosion (Volume, 1996)

You had to email Yvonne at Volume to take out a subscription. Four issues cost £45 and in the book for Volume Sixteen they were still advertised along with back issues of both it and Trance Europe Express. The draw: a free t-shirt of Freddie, cover star of Volume Three.

We start with Dubstar’s Not So Fast, a new track recorded especially for the magazine. It is a slowburner, well-crafted with their typical sound. Disgraceful still gets a regular autumn airing in my house, perfect for changing seasons. In a very welcome change, the contents page for this issue has a helpful note on the track therein. For example Space (sounding strangely like Dubstar for the first 10 seconds) offer up Me And You Vs The World, described as “a cheesily embellished version of one of their tufest tunes” – ultra nice instrumentation too. Breaking the spell are Bawl and the aptly described Unfinished. Nice James Joyce discussion in the text. Pity it wasn’t Brawl, fondly remembered here. Next are Candyskins; Oasis sound remarkably like them. Europe + Japan is very catchy stuff, an exclusive. Meanwhile Northern Uproar proudly announce that they’re not voting and struggle to know the difference between Conservative and Labour. The Alternative Electric version of Moods is a wonderful mix of melancholia and ace swirling melody lines.

Linoleum crash in with the casual swagger of She’s Sick, a track that would later feature on their debut LP Dissent. I had forgotten about them until now. Next are Cradle with a French version of Second Nature, an old Wedding Present trick. Nothing special. Thinking back 25 years, I remember spending a lot of time listening to Super Furry Animals. Fuzzy Logic got serious play, a fantastic debut brimming with confidence. There’s an interesting demo of Frisbee here, slower than the final take. “Two parts ethereal bubblegum pop, one part enigmatic dead seriousness (with a bit of Supertramp thrown in)”. Golf is on the TV and Bunford gives it the thumbs up: “Any sport where you get to dress like a pimp is alright by me.” Curiously the brief review of the album dismisses it as “so little having lasting power” which is way off the mark. We then go back to London for Octopus and their jerky I Know Who I Am. And then a Beck exclusive, the aggressive Thunderpeel. The free-spirited Odelay remains one of that year’s high points. Compressed deluxe edition.

The Cure get a nice long feature here which is worth the price of admission. It was the Wild Mood Swings era, widely maligned but it has high points. The Roxy Mix of Club America is an even baggier take on the original, frantic guitars and Robert’s deep voice. It’s followed by Pusherman’s Whole, a track of similar length but containing none of the creativity. And then Baader Meinhof’s oblique instrumental GSG/29, lifted off their knockout album, another heavy spinner of ’96. A particularly great year for The Auteurs and their £1.99 classic After Murder Park. One of my highlights of the entire decade was seeing Luke Haines perform tracks from both albums in Vicar Street. Back to nature: Moonshake’s Nothing But Time is a smoky trip hip journey while Gretschen Hofner’s St Pauli is as wretched as I can remember. The interview sees the singer spout off in a confrontational fashion, dropping cliched anti-U2 comments. After a boring Shave number, Lush drop a new tune, the gentle Half And Half which would eventually show up on the controversial Chorus box set. Lovelife gets called “a singalong hymn-book for the perpetually disenchanted” – a pretty accurate description. Good interview too.

On Creation, Edward Ball’s Docklands Blues is a sparkly night-time observational from the former Television Personalities man. Next are Balloon with the wispy Saw Song, waiting for sleep. Then Vic Chesnutt’s cover of Flowers On The Wall, recorded for a Dutch radio station. The CD concludes on a downbeat note, the Afghan Whigs solemn 3.00AM bedsit lament, I Want To Go To Sleep. But there’s more! Another CD with read-only memory content and five tunes. Starting are Labradford with The Window, all elegant ambient textures before Heave’s faraway sound of Barberskum. Surprisingly we go all the back to 1979 for The Pop Group’s 3:38, the B-side to She Is Beyond Good And Evil before singer Mark Stewart serves up the more interesting Digital Justice (Dub), bleak techno for the future. Finally, we end with an old favourite of the magazine – Meat Beat Manifesto and their baroque industrial classic Future Worlds (Alternative Version). Just get higher.

Favourite tracks
Northern Uproar – Moods (Alternative Electric Version)

The Cure – Club America (Roxy Mix)

The Afghan Whigs – I Want To Go To Sleep

Meat Beat Manifesto – Future Worlds (Alternative Version)

Lest we forget
Mark Stewart – Digital Justice (Dub)

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Shine 5 (Polygram TV, 1996)

After four single disc compilations, Polygram TV went all out for Shine 5 and gave us two CDs containing 42 tracks. It was compiled in association with Infectious, Polydor, A&M, Mother, Island, Sony, Go! Discs, MCA, One Little Indian, EMI, Setanta, Gut Reaction, Creation, London, Indolent, Mercury, China, BMG, Nude, Jive, 4AD and Mushroom.

Getting things off with a blast are Ash with their thrilling key change overload Goldfinger. Upon release, the 1977 LP and cassette versions were sold for £4.49 in the UK or £4.99 in Ireland. The CD had an annoying hidden track within a track – Sick Party – that popped up after a lengthy silence on Darkside Lightside. One of the most infuriating things about the CD era. The melody lingers on song 2, Shed Seven’s so wistful Going For Gold (nicely done Polygram!) which has lovely horns popping up around 1:30 or so. Next are Dodgy and their #12 smash In A Room, a tightly played bop with just the right seasoning of retro ’60s dust. Continuing the theme are the Longpigs and the underrated She Said, a catchy gem that you don’t hear often enough nowadays. Breaking the mood are The Cranberries and their abrasive Salvation, impossible to ignore back then. To The Faithful Departed saw the band fall out of favour with the critics and indeed, an unjustified backlash followed – like the one Simple Minds and UB40 got when they released sub-standard later material.

Another punchbag for the critics were Kula Shaker whose debut album K remains a firm favourite in this house. Grateful When You’re Dead is a fun romp, not to be taken too seriously. It (along with Tattva) was described as the worst singles of 1996 by a rather uptight Neil Kulkarni of Melody Maker. On K, Grateful is melded with Jerry Was There on the album and CD singles but the promo standalone edit of 2:52 is included here. Next: Paul Weller’s super Sunday soundclash Out Of The Sinking. It was around this time that the NME turned on him with their pathetic Dadrock jibes. And right on cue, here come Ocean Colour Scene and their enjoyable chug The Day We Caught The Train. The ongoing criticism that persisted against them was possibly the worst form of musical snobbery I have ever read. Go bitter: Skunk Anansie’s caustic Charity while the inclusion of Cast’s album track History (admittedly great) was a strange move at the time – even though a remix was commissioned and released as a promo-only 12″ in 1997. There she goes baggy.

Stereotypes was the opening track on Blur’s The Great Escape and if I remember correctly, the first LP played on my new Ariston turntable purchased in Richer Sounds, September 1995. Paul Lester: “Blur understand the geometry of the song, and the basic principles of pop, better than anyone today.” I still find it an uneven listen but it does retain a certain charm, particular on He Thought Of Cars and that song about winning. Meanwhile the Divine Comedy and Super Furry Animals song of the same name – Something For The Weekend – is separated by Space’s Female Of The Species, which those of a certain age will always associate with as the theme tune for ITV’s Cold Feet. The Divine Comedy’s Weekend kicks off the lavish Casanova with a impressive ooomph while the SFA’s tune is a slowed down (and less effective) version of the killer Fuzzy Logic album highlight. Moving on…Supergrass’ Going Out was the first fruit from In It For The Money and maintains the psych undertones of the debut era while providing a fresh lick of paint for the mid-90s.

Marion make it three appearances in a row with the deceptively bouncy Sleep while the sequencing Gods smile on as Sleeper follow with the irrepressible Inbetweener. Next Tim Booth & Angelo Badalamenti – what a combination – on the grandiose I Believe. Say hello to Bernard Butler on guitar. And the Blameless who introduce a slight rock edge on the plaintive Breathe (A Little Deeper). This fits in well on the next number, the Gin Blossoms’ endearing power-pop blast Follow You Down which takes me back to midweek nights in The Mean Fiddler’s downstairs bar. Taxi in from Rathmines, no expense spared. Disc 1 concludes with a brace from the intertwined Cardigans and Wannadies. The so-gentle buoyancy of Rise & Shine contrasting with the exuberant wedding song You & Me Song.

CD2 starts off on very familiar (to millions) territory with Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger and Pulp’s Sorted For E’s And Wizz. The latter is the single version with the bloke in Camden Town now being “messed up”. On a separate note, I was playing Bar Italia last weekend and it’s the perfect post-club tune, an apt soundtrack to searching for a taxi in the rain. Changing moods, Ash’s sappy Oh Yeah remains a glorious summer anthem while Menswear’s Being Brave seems to be finally getting some belated praise. It’s cautiously optimistic, mentions the changing of the seasons and the fact that the mornings are not as cold. Last year’s 4CD box is well worth a purchase, that lost second album is splendid. Next are Radiohead and Fake Plastic Trees which was the third single from The Bends and a record that’s associated with cramming for my finals. The sound of panic and Jolt Cola coupled with heaped instant espresso a feature of that torrid month of May 1995.

By time of this compilation’s release, Gene’s Sleep Well Tonight was approximately 18 months old. It’s inclusion is still welcome despite the series already featuring later singles from the band. The opening verse is particularly descriptive and again, brings to mind the exodus of people from nightclubs. There’s an air of menace throughout its four minutes with the chorus suitably soaring. Olympian is one of the great Britpop albums and really should be heralded more. Next is Suede’s The Wild Ones. Taken from the glorious Dog Man Star, this is a show-stopper. Beautifully sung and impossibly romantic, it manages to freeze that 1994-1995 period in time, forever young. And then Northern Uproar’s euphoric Town, a heartfelt jam that’s even more poignant since Jeff Fletcher’s tragic death in 2014. The appearance of The Stone Roses’ One Love makes no sense at all – it was already used on Shine 3 – had Polygram TV forgotten? That’s an example of really sloppy compiling.

Mansun’s Take It Easy Chicken – possibly the worst-named song of its era – comes with a powerful riff that carries the whole tune. Nice one. Meanwhile Lush’s third album – the bright and brash Lovelife – seemed to fit in with the mood of the time and the bouncy Single Girl is a welcome inclusion. It’s followed by Terrorvision’s very workmanlike Perseverance and The Levellers’ dreary Hope Street before the 60 Ft Dolls rock out on the catchy Talk To Me. On Mother Records is the long-forgotten (justifiably so) Into My World courtesy of Audioweb while Sice’s Eggman drops the underwhelming Not Bad Enough. More blandness: Salt’s all-knowing Bluster. Breaking this spell of mediocrity are Folk Implosion, a Lou Barlow and John Davis side project that provided a number of key tunes for the soundtrack to Larry Clark’s Kids. The film was aired at the 1996 Dublin Film Festival, late night at the IFC 1. It’s a superbly crafted piece that makes for uncomfortable viewing. Natural One is a stoner anthem and came with a number of very cool remixes. Sebadoh’s Spoiled plays over the closing credits but Slint’s Good Morning Captain is the final track on the LP. Shine 5 then concludes with Garbage’s edgy Magazine-like Queer.

I first read about Whipping Boy in Hot Press; a gig review from The Underground, Dublin. This was 1989 and I was still in secondary school. It all sounded fabulously intense and my appetite was whetted even further when I saw the review of their Sweet Mangled Thing cassette release; pretty sure Gerry McGovern wrote the piece. The band signed to Cheree Records and released their Whipping Boy EP during the summer of 1990. It kept selling out its allocation in the shops; one particular excursion that September saw one of my friends nabbing the last copy in Comet because he got into the shop first. I finally picked one up a couple of months later and the equally great I Think I Miss You 12″ in the spring of 1991. I caught a number of the bands gigs in the 1990-1992 period; the most memorable being a crazy night at The Underground (complete with Fearghal swinging the mic stand above his head), an intense blast at Kilkenny’s Newpark Inn (not hotel) via a Mazda 323 and the Submarine album launch in Dublin’s Rock Garden. The latter had a free 7″ single on the way in – a promo on Liquid Records with Safari and Favourite Sister on it.

Submarine was a fine debut album and managed to capture the energy of those early gigs. Only one “old” track made the LP – Valentine ’69 – but other early ones like Switchblade Smile, Sugar I Swear & Highwayman continued to feature on many mixtapes made by me during that time. The LP was purchased in Comet on release day; the CD would come later – again, like many Irish releases of its era a tough one to track down. Whipping Boy are primarily remembered for their brilliant second album Heartworm (1995) and its three excellent singles – Twinkle, We Don’t Need Nobody Else and When We Were Young. Each one is represented on Tom Dunne’s three compilations of Irish rock. Twinkle features on Shine 5, buried at track 17 on CD2. It’s a majestic beast, blinding guitars and pleasant strings, and never lets up for its five minutes. Heartworm was on Columbia, a blue vinyl pressing that hung around for quite a while but is extremely sought after now. A classic.

Whipping Boy at The Newpark Inn, Kilkenny in 1991. Photograph from Malcolm Noonan.

Favourite tracks
Folk Implosion – Natural One

Gene – Sleep Well Tonight

Shed Seven – Going For Gold

Menswear – Being Brave

Northern Uproar – Town

Lest we forget
Whipping Boy – Twinkle

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