Indie Top 20 Volume 21 (Beechwood Music, 1995)

Review
“It is a great time for the Indie Top 20 to come of age with the release of the 21st volume in the series.” It was April 1995 and the series was starting to slow down. The mainstream was beckoning, Brit Pop was about to explode and Polygram TV’s Shine was in the wings.

Shaker Maker always gets overlooked on compilations. Released at the end of June 1994 and despite hitting #11 in the charts, it seems like an afterthought now. Less than two months later, Live Forever emerged as the trailer single for Definitely Maybe. The 7″ B-side was a sparkling acoustic version of future album track Up In The Sky with the dense Cloudburst preserved for the 12″. Once again, the CD single represents the best value with four songs – the extra being a live version of Supersonic. But Live Forever really did convert the doubters, among them some of the punks in New Ross. I played a DJ set in Galavan’s that August and it got aired three times – all three DJs spun it. The swagger and confidence was breathtaking. Not quite on the same plane, but cruising along with plenty of self-belief are Sleeper with the catchy Inbetweener. On Paul’s Forgotten ’90s, I ended up putting it between London Girls and Ten Storey Love Song for some peak nostalgia.

Equally chirpy are Echobelly with the enigmatic Close…But, a song that benefits from repeated play and a rather complex structure. It’s followed by Cracker’s angsty Low and Perfume’s evocative and melancholy Lover, a track that had a second bit at the cherry in 1997. The perfect accompaniment to a scene from This Life. Over to Cheetah – “This song sounds like if the Beatles and Nirvana had a baby together.” He’s referring to Radiohead’s bitter My Iron Long, which still sounds very like a leftover from Pablo Honey. Next come AC Acoustics – a band I saw in the back of Galavan’s around the same time. Able Treasury was their album, a record that was shunned by shops when trying to sell or trade second hand copies of it. Hand Passes Plenty is pleasant but ultimately meanders nowhere.

By now Spiritualized were blossoming. Let It Flow is beautifully blissful and carried by a gospel vibe. Perfect for flat parties with dozens of bodies sitting on the floor, the crunch of crushed cans and the flipping of ashtrays. Next are Suede with – gasp! – an A-side, 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 in time, forever young and so emotional. Equally chilled but coming from a very different place is Ride’s I Don’t Know Where It Comes From. A late ’60s jangle that threatens to break into late-period Byrds territory around the two minute mark. The sound of wonder. Some more retro: Whiteout’s endearing early ’70s Faces pastiche, Jackie’s Racing; comic vibes. To Supergrass; it was the year of I Should Coco, their debut LP which emerged in mid-May, around the same time that I was intensely cramming for my final university exams. Their spiky singles Caught By The Fuzz (served here), Lenny, Mansize Rooster, Alright and Lose It are forever associated with that hazy time. Sofa (Of My Lethargy) sounds like a late ’60s psych tune brought right up to date for the middle of the 1990s.

Ash’s third single, Uncle Pat, was used in a Heineken advert that played on our TVs during the spring of 1995. The chiming guitars struck a chord with many and helped propel the momentum that continued with Kung Fu, Girl From Mars and Angel Interceptor. Next are the 60 Ft Dolls and the hard energy of Happy Shopper followed by Bandit Queen’s rough and ready Give It To The Dog – a track that really doesn’t go anywhere. It’s then over to the predictable police sirens and the hackneyed beats of Blaggers ITA before the rather curious inclusion of Pop Will Eat Itself’s Familus Horribilus (HIA WYG Mix), a rather squelchy version that never gets going. More old stagers arrive – The Wolfgang Press with the rather broody funk of Going South. Somewhat unremarkable but the CD redeems itself for the final pair – Ween’s sweet boogie classic Voodoo Lady and The Cramps’ evergreen Ultra Twist. The latter was on Creation Records, lifted from the Flamejob LP which was the same time as their one and only Dublin show – atthe SFX on 24 February 1995. There’s a good interview here. Around the time of the Russ Meyer season in the IFC, that night was all about Lux’s leather and mounting the mic. And the cold, oh how it froze.

Favourite tracks
Ride – I Don’t Know Where It Comes From

The Cramps – Ultra Twist

Sleeper – Inbetweener

Lest we forget
Perfume – Lover

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NME Singles Of The Week 1994 (NME / RCA, 1995)

Review
“In 1994, there were countless reasons why pop music was almost unspeakably great. Here, for your delectation, are 18 of them.” Unlike previous volumes, relevant extracts from each singles’ review are not provided. So it’s case of the music doing the talking.

There can only be one opening track – the stupendously great Supersonic. It had already compiled been on Indie Top 20 Volume 20 so see my review for some thoughts on that and Veruca Salt’s brilliant Seether. The Oasis B-sides were the plaintive Take Me Away on the 7″, I Believe (Live) on the 12″ with the searing Columbia (White Label Demo) confined to the CD. 1994 saw Suede top the dizzy heights of the previous year. Valentine’s Day brought us a brand new single; the epic Stay Together which ran for over eight minutes. The single edit is included here – half the length. The 12″ – itself an opulent artistic statement with its splendid gatefold sleeve – also contained two blindingly brilliant B-sides, The Living Dead and My Dark Star. It was the last single released while Bernard Butler was still in the band. Next come the dazzling teenage pop-punk princesses from Plumstead. Shampoo’s teen anthem Trouble. And then, released in a limited edition of 1,994 copies, Gene’s savage & melodramatic For The Dead. It sold out in two days.

We go in a new direction for track 5, Transglobal Underground’s heavy ‘n’ beaty Earth Tribe which is followed by Fun-Da-Mental’s deeply topical Dog Tribe, complete with the uncensored C18 phone call sample at the start. It’s followed by the album version of Nick Cave’s sweeping Do You Love Me? from Let Love In, jingle-jangle. I got hold of Ghosts Of The Civil Dead around this time, dubbed from Late Night Movies. Keeping the rage going are the delightful S*M*A*S*H and their cathartic energy rush of I Want To Kill Somebody: “Margaret Thatcher, Jeffrey Archer, Michael Heseltine, John Major, Virginia Bottomley … Especially.” And there’s more politics with Prophets Of Da City’s catchy post-apartheid Never Again. Pulp’s Do You Remember The First Time? is sublime; a sweeping rush of nostalgia – Source Enforcer: “Eighteen years old. The whole of my life ahead of me and this song embodied that feeling of youthful optimism. Now I listen to this and feel slightly depressed at how fast the last twenty years has passed and all the wasted opportunities.”

Noel Gallagher described Blur’s Parklife as “Like southern England personified.” It was originally going to be titled London and the intended album sleeve was to be of a fruit and vegetable cart. Instead we got a shot of greyhounds racing while the majority of the photos in the CD booklet were taken in Walthamstow Stadium. We get the synth pop PSB-ish Girls & Boys; the inventors of bi-sexual culture. Its beats melt into the Hall’s Edit of Underworld’s Dark & Long, which is both Balearic and night moody. And then Ice Cube’s timeless roller You Know How We Do It followed by Sabres Of Paradise and the ultra mysterious spybreaks of The Theme. Meanwhile Supergrass serve up a cracking debut single Caught By The Fuzz, oozing punk rock energy. That just leaves time for Galliano’s funked up Long Time Gone before Terrorvision’s surprisingly subtle Pretend Best Friend complete with jazzy interludes. Definitely the best one in the series to date. No maybes.

Favourite tracks
Oasis – Supersonic

Pulp – Do You Remember The First Time?

Lest we forget
Underworld – Dark & Long

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Volume Twelve (Volume, 1994)

Review
Volume Twelve AKA “Winter Sports Special” arrived in December 1994 and jovially informed readers that Prince Edward had been appointed as Assistant Features Editor.

We start with Node’s Olivine. Consisting of Dave Bessell, Gary Stout, Ed Buller & Flood; “One minute the music conjures up Alaskan snow and ice, the next Amazonian jungle heat.” It’s a majestic, sweeping fjord beast of a track and like the more accessible brother of anything off Ambient 4. Next are Spiritualized with the more-rock vibes of Good Times (Pure Phase), a new version of a song that originally appeared on Electric Mainline EP. The interview is both illuminating and informative. Meanwhile Goya Dress had recently supported Suede and Foetus sounds like a 4AD knock-off complete with poetic depravity. Stealing the show are Garbage and the thrilling & visceral Vow. While not released as a single until March 1995, it was a great coup to get it here and I played it almost daily during those cold weeks. This was a prime example of a understated or quiet licensing which gradually gains momentum – Steve Lamacq and John Peel both picked up on it. Record shops started getting requests and enquiries for a single that did not exist.

Le crunch continues with the hypnotic sound of Prolapse and Visa For Violet And Van. I’d had loved to see that performed in Trainspotting. A chugging riff upon more riffs. Cut from a similar cloth are Shriek and the catchy Girl Meets Girl, another Peel favourite and one that only can be found here (aside from the ’95 Deceptive single). On the other hand Pet Lamb’s frantic Son Of John Doe hasn’t aged as well. After two enjoyable one-sided 12″ singles Paranoid From The Neck Down and Spent (both on Blunt and purchased from Borderline Records), they released their debut album Sweaty Handshake on Roadrunner Records. It was primarily composed of said EPs a long with a brace of songs which lacked the initial charm and energy of the earlier recordings. The album sleeve was horrendously grotesque and the insular Dublin-centric indie scene vibe is amplified with interview comments like “We know almost fuckall about anybody outside of Dublin.” complete with some advice for “Volume’s Catholic readers” re moving out of their parents’ gaff.

The new Moby record, Everything Is Wrong was eagerly awaited back then. What Love? has an industrial slant, a mix between Revolting Cocks and KMFDM. Next are G Love & Special Sauce with the almost arcane Tomorrow Night (Live) – Beck meets Tom Waits via Blues Explosion. It’s well paired with Massive Attack’s Karma Coma (Bumper Ball Dub) lifted off that album with the Mad Professor – No Protection. We’re back to Spacemen 3 roots as Experimental Audio Research under the guise of Sonic Boom drop the eerie Space Theme (Tribute To John Cage). Not to be confused with the far superior H-Foundation, Laika’s Lower Than Stars is watery spacecake pondering. Bringing out the melancholy are Ride with the deeply moving Only Now (US Remix). It would have fitted in on Cosmic Carnival and is even more laid back after Jack Rieley’s tinkering. I love the way OX4 has four tracks from Carnival Of Light, truly one of the most underrated of ’90s albums.

It was early days for Catatonia but Dream On is pretty and effortlessly poppy with Cerys’ trademark vocal. Staying in Wales, Novacaine (from Newport) contribute the heartfelt Pond Life, a catchy number with strong lung action. Elsewhere Love Spit Love’s Wake Up is a pleasant acoustic strum from ex-Psych Fur Richard Butler. Highlight of this final furlong are Flinch with the edgy, shoegaze vibe of Days. Lead by the impressive Grog, it’s a track with cracking bass and suitably vague angsty sentiments. There’s just time for a few album reviews – Dog Man Star, Dummy, Nirvana Unplugged and The Holy Bible all out around then. I write this piece on a Wednesday evening; the day of the week when weather is at its worst, particularly in November and December as darkness sets in. Ending on a suitably bleak note are Nitzer Ebb and the self-fulfilling prophecy In Decline.

Favourite tracks
Garbage – Vow

Ride – Only Now (US Remix)

Lest we forget
Prolapse – Visa For Violet And Van

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