Indie Top 20 Volume 19 (Beechwood Music, 1994)

Indie 19

Indie 19 r

It was April 1994 and “The Reliable Alternative” reached its 19th volume. A very most intense month: the Nirvana gig that never was (long since postponed) with Sebadoh and The Raincoats, Kurt Cobain’s shocking suicide and the wall-to-wall MTV repetition, Hole’s Live Through This on white vinyl from Freebird, The Charlatans’ life imitating art on Can’t Get Out Of Bed and the slow realisation that the second year exams were coming soon.

If the ’90s were the ’60s: unruly ghouls / Madchester survivors Inspiral Carpets kick off with Saturn 5. A Farfisa swirl, mournful for the 35th President, interplanetary craft with a soaring chorus. It reminds me of 96 Tears which they also covered. When Craig Gill died in 2016, there was a campaign to get this to #1. Their fourth album Devil Hopping was coming soon; sadly the band would dissolve soon afterwards. Also coming to an end (commercially anyway) were Carter USM who had just released a B-side album Starry Eyed And Bollock Naked. The sparkling Glam Rock Cops was the lead single; their last great 45. Adjoining are Blur with the raucous Sunday Sunday, possibly the weakest track on Modern Life Is Rubbish. Far better are The Charlatans, just getting ready to unleash album #3, Up To Our Hips. Can’t Get Out Of Bed is simple but with a mighty groove and in the music video, they look like the almost imminent Oasis. “I can’t be no one else.”

Radiohead’s Creep is not censored here. While it remains terribly overplayed and loads of people hate it, the lines “I wish I was special” and “I don’t belong here” still pack a punch. From despair to where: another Suede B-side, this one is lifted from Stay Together – My Dark Star. Ageless & timeless, so evocative of that early 1994 optimism and the discovery of new friends and experiences. Meanwhile I’ve always had a soft spot for Depeche Mode’s rock monster In Your Room. The Zephyr Mix from Butch Vig is pretty full-on, a tortured stomp. The music video features multiple references to previous promotional videos like:
Strangelove (a model posing in her underwear), I Feel You (a woman dressed as Dave Gahan, wearing a pinstripe suit, sunglasses, and a wig), Walking in My Shoes (the bird costume), Halo (the people wearing clown makeup), Enjoy The Silence (a woman dressed as a king, holding the folding chair while walking in the road), Personal Jesus (a woman wearing a cowboy hat), Condemnation (the white dress with ribbons on it that one of the women wears) and Never Let Me Down Again (tea drinking).

Another fourth single from a major LP, Bjork’s Violently Happy is also remixed to enhance its danceability, this time by Graham Massey. It runs 6:15 and leads into Saint Etienne’s gorgeous – almost Balearic – Pale Movie. Highly literate with choice Spanish flourishes, yet dark & moody in parts. La Resistance! Stereolab playing French Disko on The Word was one of the show’s most memorable musical highlights. Serene velocity with Tim Gane looking like Zebedee from The Magic Roundabout. And those dancers! It was originally French Disco on the Jenny Ondioline 10″, then re-recorded with the k coming in for the c. They later played Columbia Mills with Laika in 1995 and many orange t-shirts were sold.

The second half of Indie Top 20 Volume 19 sees a sharp change in quality. It starts reasonably well with the buoyant sound of the Boo Radleys on Barney (…And Me); all perfectly crafted psych pop for the ’90s and another winner from the classic Giant Steps LP. Next are Magnapop with the brittle Slowly Slowly, all start-stop and tick tock savage riffs. The law of diminishing returns doesn’t set in until the next track, Tiny Monroe’s VHF 855V, all dull & angular. I keep mixing them up with Ultrasound. And repeated with Salad and Sharkboy, both tuneless and hard to love. The rot stops with the tuneful Where I Found My Heaven, a heady slice of noisy indie pop by the Gigolo Aunts before the Blue Aeroplanes return with the jagged jangle of Broken & Mended. Also present are another group of veterans from the early years – Pop With Eat Itself and the portentous Ich Bin Ein Auslander. We get more Compulsion, this time it’s Mall Monarchy, neither amazing or colossal – just very ordinary. We end with an obscurity – Plan B (sadly not a Dexys cover) but a noisy industrial mess by Rancho Diablo. Come back Gallon Drunk, all is forgiven.

Favourite tracks
Inspiral Carpets – Saturn 5

The Charlatans – Can’t Get Out Of Bed

Stereolab – French Disko

Lest we forget
Saint Etienne – Pale Movie

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Volume Nine (Volume, 1994)

Volume 9

Volume 9 r

Music snobbery is never pretty. On Volume Nine, the editorial comment signed off by Robin Gibson & Rob Deacon contains a sarcastic tirade against The Brit Awards, The Music Week Awards, The Chart Show, Top Of The Pops and Radio One FM. I’m not sure what the point was aside from getting a dig in at people whose tastes weren’t as esoteric or superior as the Volume crew. It didn’t sit well with me in 1994 and 26 years later, still reads like an immature and po-faced rant. It’s much easier to make your point without denigrating others. Don’t forget that Volume Nine seems to be the most common one; it was accompanied by a double vinyl release that seemed to turn up in every second hand shop almost from the get go. It was almost as if they were trying to enter the mainstream. And I can definitely say that this CD is the weakest release so far. Work that one out.

We start with a new recording, Mark Lanegan’s Wheels – a suitably morose opener, filed under the thinking man’s grunge. The text mentions Kurt Cobain reclaiming Where Did You Sleep Last Night. Less than two weeks after Volume Nine hit the shops, he was dead. From one Mark to another, Morphine are next with the significantly titled Sharks Patrol These Waters, a deft slice of intense vocals melded with sax. Equally short is That Dog’s minimal One Summer Night; The Breeders meets Jale. There’s a much heavier version in existence but I prefer this exclusive strum. “I don’t want to be like AC/DC or Ramones, who are great bands who make the same records year after year.” says Buffalo Tom’s Bill Janovitz. The live version of Soda Jerk is decent, its parent LP A Big Red Letter Day, a popular favourite in Marlborough Road. Recorded for VILLA 65-VPRO Radio 3, Holland.

By 1994 the tide was starting to turn against Paul Weller. I can’t remember exactly what started it but the vitriol that followed in the wake of Stanley Road and the endless Dadrock jibes took ages to wear off. Some snobbish musos have never forgiven him even today. Black Sheep Boy is an enchanting Tim Hardin cover. Next, a Madder Rose exclusive – the haunting Roland Navigator – before a new Sonic Youth number, the sprawling Doctor’s Orders as sung by Thurston – the version that ended up on the somewhat half-formed Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star is very different. The interview is excellent as is the career overview. We take a sharp turn left with Wagon Christ’s introspective ambient Gas Fish which gradually builds into beaty squelch. And then some conscious techno from Pressure Of Speech. Emile ebbs and flows, always atmospheric and threatening to blast off. Check out those crazy solemn samples, reminiscent of a less angry Consolidated.

Time for a digression – take a look at the annual readers’ poll:
Best Band: Suede
Best New Band: Elastica
Female Vocalist: Bjork
Male Vocalist: Paul Weller / Morrissey
Best Album: Suede – Suede
Best Video: Bjork – Human Behaviour
Best Single: The Breeders – Cannonball
Volume Track Of The Year: Elastica – S.O.F.T.
Females: Bjork
Prat Of The Year: John Major
Highlight: Reading ’93
Top Intoxicant: Beer
Best TV: Have I Got News For You
Best Radio: John Peel
Best Magazine: Select

Spooky’s Aqualung is a remix of track from the album Gargantuan. Complete with ambient undertones. Next a brace from Ireland; the Divine Comedy came of age with Liberation, a record so radically different from their tepid debut Fanfare For The Comic Muse that it might as well be a different band. Your Daddy’s Car, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, Lucy, Three Sisters, Europe By Train – all sublime. Our treat is an acoustic cover of Talk Talk’s Life’s What You Make It, recorded at Elephant Studios, London. It also turned up on the bonus disc of A Secret History. It’s followed by a live version of The Cranberries’ How, a decent take and interestingly, Dolores is described as “looking more frightening than any Riot Grrrl I’ve ever seen.” I’ll bet some people found that observation “problematic”. And not to be confused with Here, the Tindersticks drop a new version of frantic album track Her.

Time for some verbal vomiting. Gorge yourself on the confessional strum epic from Kristin Hersh, Close Your Eyes. It’s a demo version of a track off Hips And Makers but is no less powerful. It’s followed by Jah Wobble’s Whisky Priests, a percussive curio with a Latin twist. “This is war. The fascism thing is getting well out control…” Armed with some tasty rhythms and exotic Eastern grooves, Fun-da-Mental’s New World Order keeps the interest for its (almost) six minute duration. We stay angry with Rub Ultra’s Suspend and Blessed Ethel’s Daisy; shame both are so very charmless. Does anybody remember Thee Amazing Colossal Men? They played the first Féile in 1990, releasing their one and only album Totale around the same time. Later reborn as Compulsion, Top Of The World shows a much harder edge, almost punk-tinged. Despite this, it doesn’t really go anywhere – so much so, I yearn to hear Take Me Higher or Superloveexperience just once more.

Favourite tracks
Kristin Hersh – Close Your Eyes (Demo)

Paul Weller – Black Sheep Boy

Lest we forget
That Dog – One Summer Night

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NME Singles Of The Week 1993 (NME / RCA, 1994)

NME Singles 1993

NME Singles 1993 r

After the heavily-praised NME Singles Of The Year 1992, the magazine followed the same pattern in January 1994 with a look at the previous year’s super 45s. The brief editorial makes reference to “a Great Pop Moment”; there are plenty of these on show here.

Arrested Development – Tennessee: “Easy going, right-on but brilliantly off beat post Daisy age hip hop.” (Johnny Cigarettes, 27 March)
Belly – Gepetto (Remix): “Wonderfully stunted pop tune a go-go, this a remix of the second single from Star, which means there is a slight echo on the guitar halfway through which is different to the original. All you indie trainspotters out there will have a ball trying to find it.” (Johnny Cigarettes, 27 March)
Senser – The Key: “Funk and spleen, acid squelch, plutonium riffola and crusty cool that takes a ratchet to the nuts of the Stereo MCs’ dopey drive and makes Rage Against The Machine sound like a one trick band.” (Stuart Bailie, 18 September)
Madder Rose – Madder Rose: “New York’s Madder Rose chose to avoid the grunge lunging norm and plump for a lazy, almost absent-mindedly endearing slice of life.” (Simon Williams, 23 January)
One Dove – White Love: “One Dove are fantastic. They are Saint Etienne with half an idea. They are Erasure without any Erasure-like attributes. They are a dark haired tiny version of Sharon Stone without her pants on. Only the dead of heart can fail to feel their pulse quicken to it.” (Ian McCann, 7 August)

Tindersticks – Marbles: “An obsessive long song for the ’90s which veers between church confessional and courtroom alibi. Michael Stipe would be proud of the attitude and incoherence on display here. A single of the year.” (Terry Staunton, 13 March)
Credit To The Nation – Call It What You Want: “MC Fusion offers a great variety of opinions about a lot of useless rappers and insists on respect for the women, which is fine by me. The whole thing rolls along like a bastard barrel of bastard beans.” (David Quantick, 31 July)
Utah Saints – Believe In Me: “This record will pass through pop’s mighty ocean like a sexy galleon. Sodding ace.” (David Quantick, 1 May)
Swervedriver – Duel: “Misty-eyed vocals and seething wall-to-wall guitars clench together before springing apart in huge surges of emotion, all the while undepinned by a bass purring away like a newly tuned V12 engine. You won’t hear a more self-evidently great rock ‘n’ roll record for some while.” (Keith Cameron, 24 July)

Bjork – Venus A Boy (Edit): “Bizarrely gorgeous. Head spinningly eclectic and exotic instrumentation accompanies Bjork’s incredible voice, which is more sparkling and spine-stroking than it’s been since Birthday sent everyone into wibbling raptures.” (Johnny Cigarettes, 21 August)
Elastica – Stutter: “Spiky, spunky and tighter than Brett Anderson’s kinky vests: a sheer rush of frivolity and a sense of cool abandonment that only a band supremely confident of their impending celebrity could pull off.” (Johnny Dee, 16 October)
Spiritualized – Good Times: “Phil Spector plays the hits of The Orb. In space. Backwards. A record to melt into and be carried away in a luxurious sulking delirium. Absolute genius at play.” (Johnny Dee, 16 October)
Smashing Pumpkins – Cherub Rock: “A gripping spurt of screwed-down melody, dipping and twisting astonishingly without losing any of the concussive pressure of the nuclear sludge attack guitars. This is anti-slacker American Rock at its best.” (Roger Morton, 26 June)

Apache Indian – Movin’ On Special: “What makes this great agit pop is its immediacy. The lyrics deal specifically with the Tower Hamlets debacle, there’s an urgent, rushed edge to Apache’s delivery, no sweeping statements or bursting bouts of rhetoric, just a stunned statement of disbelief.” (Steven Wells, 9 October)
PJ Harvey – 50 Ft Queenie: “Yet another startling, emphatic slab of potent punk rock, delivered in a flurry of intensity, which highlights Polly’s ability to manoeuvre her voice to sound spent, torn and bleeding with emotive intensity. Absolutely glorious.” (Gina Morris, 10 April)
Sugar – Tilted: “A straightforward blast-ahead rock band tilted off their centre of gravity, wild melodic tangents zinging around like an out of control gyroscope. How does a band channel such incendiary passion and remain so together?” (Keith Cameron, 24 July)
Grant Lee Buffalo – America Snoring: “A rocket-powered stunt bike across the Grand Canyon with no parachute and a steaming river of shit below. Bleeding heart stadium rock should always sound like this.” (Stephen Dalton, 14 August)
Leftfield / Lydon – Open Up (Vocal Edit): “Punk is definitely not dead. Barriers have been broken down over the past year and Leftfield have played their part with a series of immaculately crafted singles, but Open Up is their finest moment yet. The true mark of its greatness is that, for all Lydon’s past history, this sounds as fresh as if he’d been dragged off the street and shown a microphone for the very first time.” (Iestyn George, 23 October)

“Marry me and leave Kentucky, come to Tennessee”
The CD leads with the arresting Tennessee which tells the story of losing two close family members in a short space of time. The song uses a sample from Prince’s Alphabet Street which was not cleared in advance. Prince’s lawyers waited until after the song sold well and then charged Arrested Development $100,000 for the use of same. Next are Belly with Gepetto; a track initially released in November 1992 and one that gives me flashbacks of Philosophy tutorials at 4.30pm on dark Wednesday afternoons. Classic jangle and one never tires of Tanya. By the time this remix came out, the sun was shining and we were cramming for first year exams. Thanks to Howard Grey for the subtle improvements. And then Senser, with all the rage in the world on The Key (Radio Edit). Litter bruscar in flats.

Madder Rose’s gorgeous eponymous 45 was later retitled Swim. Here it is in original birth form. “Your arms in a wild mutation” is what I remember most. Skipping lectures and heading straight for The Trap. Zipping over to the club zone; One Dove’s euphoric White Love reminds me of the bar on Friday nights, Francois Pitton (not Kevorkian) on the decks as we hustled for more pool under different rules. Shots carry or not? Fast forward to the wee small hours as Marbles comes on. Richard Russell has the lowdown: “A song for those moments when you find yourself at 3.00AM with a whisky in your hand wondering where it all went wrong.” Album of the year in Melody Maker; a real turn up for the books and a completely fascinating noctural listen. Fruitless was included as a bonus track on the vinyl version – as the album’s second song between Nectar and Tyed. The title is shown as struck out on the CD sleeve. It later turned up on the No More Affairs CD single.

In what must be the biggest *gotcha* intro ever, Credit To The Nation’s Call It What You Want routinely fooled indie fans dancing at the disco bumper to bumper. Its ace Nirvana sample led to the initial pressing of 1,000 copies on Rugger Bugger selling out before being picked up by One Little Indian for a reissue. It also sampled Public Enemy’s Welcome To The Terrordrome. Meanwhile Utah Saints’ Believe In Me sample the Human League’s Love Action (I Believe In Love), Sylvester’s Do You Wanna Funk? and Crown Heights Affair’s You Gave Me Love. The next three numbers – Swervedriver’s Duel, Bjork’s Venus As A Boy & Elastica’s Stutter all featured on Indie Top 20 Volume 18 which I recently reviewed. As did Sugar’s deeply emotional and angry Tilted. Check out my opinions. Mixed by Jason Pierce & Mike Long, Good Times was taken from Spiritualized’s standalone Electric Mainline EP, full of deeply melodic (saccharine) hits.

Siamese Dream turned 27 in recent weeks; unlike some people they didn’t “lose me” at that point and in fact, went from strength to strength. As I said before, I wasn’t a fan of them to begin with and the hipster kids in Theatre L gushing about Gish didn’t convince me either. Cherub Rock saw them finally loosen up and get into the groove. Next are Apache Indian with the admirable anti-BNP manifesto Movin’ On Special. To PJ Harvey; 1993 was her year. Rid Of Me was totally immense, a cathartic Steve Albini production. And then there was the raw accompaniment of 4 Track Demos. 50Ft Queenie saw Rob Ellis on drums. 2:26 of intensity. Equally deep, and resonating now are Grant Lee Buffalo with the caustic American Snoring. That just leaves time for some anarchy in the UK as John Lydon meets Leftfield on the molten groove of Open Up. It really was the era of despair to where.

Favourite tracks
Tindersticks – Marbles

Madder Rose – Madder Rose

Lest we forget
Credit It To The Nation – Call It What You Want

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