Volume Seven (Volume, 1993)

Volume 7

Volume 7 r

Review
“The sun is shining” says the introduction. I don’t remember 1993 being a particularly memorable summer in terms of weather. The magazine is time-stamped 16 July; my re-collection is picking it up one day after work, from Top Twenty Records in Kilkenny and chatting to the late Willie Meighan about the featured artists. I spent two successive summers working in Kilkenny; Top Twenty was a daily port of call and it was always enjoyable to shoot the breeze with Willie. My copy of The Fall’s Perverted By Language came from him, a steal for £2 in 1992. Given that the era was vinyl’s lowest ebb, a number of new LPs had to be ordered specially – U2’s Zooropa & Neil Young’s Unplugged being two purchases that stand out. Despite the 65 minute running time, the latter holds up remarkably well in the circumstances. Now when Transformer Man starts up, I close my eyes and think of those days. As for Rollercoaster Records, long may you run.

We start with a great interview – Teenage Fanclub talking about music. Early US rock & roll (Buddy Holly and Little Richard get mentioned), Joe Meek, the British beat boom, the 1970s, punk & new wave, Orange Juice, Felt, baggy and house music. Only at the end do Big Star get invoked. We get a nice new instrumental tune Belt, a tribute to Lawrence’s mob. Then a fascinating look into the mind of early Radiohead, who would still have been supporting The Frank & Walters around then. Stupid Car (Tinnitus Mix) is enjoyable, the original being taken from the Drill EP which was better than most of Pablo Honey. It’s followed by Verve (the two bands would have a massive 1997) and South Pacific. Plaid Zebra recalls “The live track by Verve is difficult to find elsewhere, I think, and it is a stunning meditation on death with cascading sheets of noisy guitar.” It was certainly a blissful time for them and us; there’s a gig review and some good background info on the legendary A Storm In Heaven. “A young band spreading its wings with true majesty.”

The most interesting thing – then – about the Sebadoh inclusion was to see if Lou Barlow was still bitter about his sacking from Dinosaur Jr. He was. It’s a decent write up with a nice career summary. October 1993 saw me host a joint all night radio show on UCD FM with a friend who brought along his copy of the Soul And Fire 12″. B4 Untitled got played; a collage of 1990s intro tapes used in various live shows of the band. This version of Whitey Peach was recorded live in Amsterdam. Also lifted from a concert was Elevate My Mind from the Stereo MCs who were supporting U2 on the Zoo TV tour. They bitch to Sam King about the glossy tour programme and come across as extremely ungracious in their attitude to the main act. Connected – while an enjoyable enough listen – was certainly popular with the “corporate” casual buyer that the band obviously despise. Next are Sub Sub with the meandering Valium Jazz. In the magazine we then get an exciting advert for the upcoming Trance Europe Express: “Over 150 minutes of sonic pleasure and not a guitar in earshot.” Remember the very limited triple vinyl, book and slipmat DJ pack.

Touched by the hand of Adrian Sherwood: Little Axe’s 15 To 4 is a free-spirited slice of blues, at the time a new recording from the forthcoming album Never Turn Back. From topping the Festive 50 to covering T.Rex – Bang Bang Machine give us an alluring Life’s A Gas and call Elvis Presley a hippy. A fantastic discussion with Marc Almond follows in which he refers to the final Soft Cell LP being as “uncommercial as possible” and also gives his views on Suede (good) but the new glam is “very tame”. Incestuous Love is a little overlong and lacks the melodies of earlier efforts. Much better are Slowdive with their stupendously brilliant cover Nancy & Lee’s Some Velvet Morning. It would later feature on the US CD of Souvlaki. Of great interest is their spat with the Manic Street Preachers in which the shoegazers were lambasted for being middle class. Christian Savill makes a relevant point: “You may as well get shot of Lou Reed, Neil Young, REM, three Beatles, two of the Stones, all of the Beach Boys, Beefheart, the Pixies and Miles Davis.” – that’s something which the righteous self-loathers would do well to remember.

We’re really motoring now. Seefeel’s Come Alive (Climatic Phase #1 Mix) is a hypnotic high-pitched drone. Uh-oh – Sarah says “I’m an ex-indie kid.” I don’t which is worse. Landfill time as The Heroines add nothing to the part. Far, far greater are the Boo Radleys then making a massive splash with the genius pop orchestration of Giant Steps. Barney – as it is written – is a joy, chords E and A and almost Just Like Heaven in greatness. Although it’s supposed to sound like Electronic. Martin’s first gig was the Thompson Twins and refreshingly, he still has positive memories. More: Redd Kross and the happy trash Any Hour Every Day leading into the belting Lick Wid Nit Wit, a treat from Andy Weatherall’s new project Sabres Of Paradise. And then a Secret Knowledge spin-off Delta Lady with the electronically brilliant Anything You Want. Note the front cover mentions Leftfield too. Then a nice bit of progressive trance courtesy of Eat Static, eerie post-club rural driving music. Read with LP reviews for B12, Blur, New Order, PJ Harvey, Red House Painters, After such a trip, ending with a Jesus Jones can only be an anti-climax.

Favourite tracks
Slowdive – Some Velvet Morning

The Boo Radleys – Barney

Lest we forget
Sabres Of Paradise – Lick Wid Nit Wit

Posted in Volume | Leave a comment

Greetings From Uncle Sam (Columbia, 1993)

Greetings From Uncle Sam

Greetings From Uncle Sam r

Review
“YANKS GO HOME!” shouted Select Magazine in April 1993. The heading “Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Cobain?” saw Stuart Maconie put the case forward for ignoring the nascent grunge movement and instead focusing on the “crimplene, glamour, wit, and irony” of British bands. The future were listed as follows: Saint Etienne, Suede, Denim, Pulp, The Auteurs and it was called Britpop. And just in case you need a reminder…

#

Greetings From Uncle Sam was compiled by Terry Felgate and Roger James with much assistance in all legalities by Johnathon Cross. It was released during the summer of 1993. There’s a brief essay by Andrew Collins who outlines the manifesto: “This album traces a rich seam of 90s alternative US rock whose success – whether under or overground – is, in part thanks to Nirvana’s late wham-bam arrival centre stage.” The CD consists of 13 tracks lasting just under 50 minutes. On this site, it is ironically categorised under Pop UK.

We start with Sugar’s Changes. See my review of NME Singles Of The Week 1992 for more on that subject. Unlike there and Indie Top 20 Volume 16, we get the longer album version here which can only be interpreted as the compilers taking an excessive rockist stance. Next “a catchy confection of bubblegum pop, all sky-scraping solos and upbeat strummed riffs” AKA Dinosaur Jr and the radio friendly unit shifter Start Choppin’, a beguiling taster for Where You Been. Sadly we don’t get the radio edit here either; the version which is used on the heavily-caned music video. It is noted that the 7″ included the 5:40 take and the shorter version can be found on the promo CD. Meanwhile L7’s Pretend We’re Dead is the real deal; a nihilistic grunge anthem that will always pack a punch. Of course we remember the infamous Reading Festival tampon into crowd and bottomless performance on The Word too. But the music is none more ’90s.

“It means to take advantage of someone, say in a relationship, where you are like a vampire draining them of everything inside.” (Debra on Suck You Dry). Kings of fuzz, Mudhoney, make a welcome appearance next with a prominent cut from Piece Of Cake. It’s neatly paired with the more laidback Soul Asylum who come across like a cross between Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain on the reflective Black Gold. Memorable video by Zack Synder which I recall airing constantly on 120 Minutes. As did Buffalo Tom’s depressingly anthemic Tailights Fade, a melancholy masterpiece. The next track (and Start Choppin’) share some DNA with Loaded, a seminal compilation even in his youth. Belly’s Feed The Tree, a glorious almost poppier side to the 1993 mirror of blackness. Also appearing on that jukebox banger were The Lemonheads; here with catchy & crunchy Confetti. They’re logically followed by Juliana Hatfield who played on It’s Shame About Ray; we get the infectious Everybody Loves Me But You. Evan Dando on guitar.

The remainder of Greetings From Uncle Sam focus on heavier sounds. There’s shades of Cameron Crowe’s Singles floating around on Alice In Chains’ Them Bones (Would is on the soundtrack) and Soundgarden’s Rusty Cage (they contributed Birth Ritual). Jerry Cantrell on Them Bones: “I was just thinking about mortality, that one of these days we’ll end up a pile of bones. It’s a thought for every human being, whether you believe in an after-life or that when we die, that’s it. The thought that all the beautiful things and knowledge and experiences you’ve been through just end when you end scares me, the thought that when you close your eyes for good, it’s gone forever.” Meanwhile Rusty Cage is the one with the white room video. And then Firehose with the bomb that is Blaze, produced by J Mascis and a lot more palatable than previous output. Finally we end with Epic, Faith No More’s stylish 1990 smash. A somewhat unusual choice given the recent Angel Dust LP had spawned three excellent singles. But it’s one that lives up to its name, still enduring today. “You want it all but you can’t have it.” Happy Independence Day.

Dedicated to the memory of my friend Mitchel Walsh who passed away on 4 July 1995.

Favourite tracks
L7 – Pretend We’re Dead

Buffalo Tom – Tailights Fade

Lest we forget
Juliana Hatfield – Everybody Loves Me But You

Posted in Pop UK | Leave a comment

Indie Top 20 Volume 17 (Beechwood Music, 1993)

Indie Top 20 V17

Indie Top 20 V17 r

Review
So we come to Volume 17 of Indie Top 20. Arriving during the early summer of 1993, the cover art is a perplexing photograph of six children. This was the fourth and last one to bear the “Independent 20” signage; a new change beckoned later that year. From my own perspective, it was a case of one college year done, two to go. The songs now remind me of cramming in Mount Pleasant Avenue, the large windows open and the smell of Jolt Cola.

A big tune is needed to start proceedings and who better than Depeche Mode. They had last appeared back in 1989 with Personal Jesus, the lead single for Violator. Now we get I Feel You, opening track and first 45 from Songs Of Faith And Devotion, an album that’s almost as epic as its predecessor. There are similarities with IFY and PJ; namely a rock spirituality running through both. My two friends and I all bought vinyl copies; each one in turn soundtracking the series of 21st birthday parties that took place that year. Next are the Inspiral Carpets – still surviving – with standalone single, How It Should Be. 1992 had been a busy year for the band with Revenge Of The Goldfish spawning four singles and some great live gigs. This new tune is a bit by-numbers though, meaty and piledriving and lacking the subtle heart of previous material. Not so, Saint Etienne: You’re In A Bad Way is a cracker, a brilliantly-crafted pop gem that could be from any era. A song that got my flatmates hooked on finding out more, from So Tough and back to You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone. The spirit of Joe Meek is here too; a song of futures and pasts.

“I played these songs to Susan the other day – she just laughed and said I was being spiteful because she wouldn’t sleep with me when we first met. She also said to tell you that she’s perfectly happy where she is at the moment, thank you very much.” Pulp’s final single for the Gift label was the dazzling Razzmatazz, easily their most polished work to date – despite the underlying layer of bitterness and grubby air of seediness. That’s all down to their utterly squalid frontman. Next are Verve; still shimmering with Blue. The video for the US single was shot in Dublin. And then Suede – yet another B-Side, The epic strains of The Big Time, like drowning in sound. This youthful Britpop sequence continues with The Auteurs and their thrilling second single, How Could I Be Wrong? I remember its grotesque video, a mid-nightmare. “Now get ready to cut yourself a slice of rock” is how I remember Kinky Machine being introduced on The Word. Bringing us up to half time are Delicious Monster’s pleasant Snuggle and The Cranes purple tsunami, Adrift. While not as haunted as the Wings Of Joy era, the sound is still powerful enough to daze you.

Restless on Slowdive’s Alison: “A mesmerising piece of sheer beauty. This is music at its most hypnotic, sensual and ethereal ; and a very original record, renewing the natural, wide open-space spirit of country-folk with the guitar glide and sound dynamics of shoegazing. Also the voices are quite androgynous, making this one timeless & other wordly.” It’s the lead track on the Outside Your Room EP, which Creation released on the same day as Souvlaki. The album only stayed one week in the UK charts; the backlash had started but in time, we knew that the press had got it wrong. It’s followed by Frank Black’s booming Beach Boys cover, Hang On To Your Ego, lifted from his underrated eponymous debut on 4AD. Meanwhile Nirvana have cited the Pixies as a major influence; I wonder if the same can be said for Hole. “I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth and Fleetwood Mac.” That’s a no then. Beautiful Son is here – a green vinyl 12″ single from Freebird Records. Kurt on the sleeve, 7 years old. Cobain + Love = the same.

The video for Detonate My Dreams is set around a campfire; Steve Mack full of energy. Despite a killer bass, it saw That Petrol Emotion bow out in somewhat anonymous fashion which was a great pity. Also reaching a crossroads of sorts were Mega City Four whose battle-hardened touring saw their tunes now carrying a world-weary melancholy. Iron Sky is a fine example and was included on the Wallflowers album. Moving on to Cornershop; after the rather ordinary Days Of Ford Cortina EP, there was a great leap forward with England’s Dreaming, the lead track on the Lock, Stock & Double-Barrel 10″. Sadly, it’s not here and instead Beechwood treat us to the far inferior Trip Easy. They played Fibber Magee’s that February, a gig that many now claim to have been at. Equally forgettable are Mint 400 and the obnoxious Natterjack Joe Far, far better are Madder Rose and the joyful guitar blast that is Beautiful John. I’ll always remember it from that Morehampton Road flat, c.1994 when we were all young and invincible – all would change utterly in April 1995.

The Fall’s first appearance on the Indie Top 20 series really is a cracker. Why Are People Grudgeful? Grudge Fall (as Hot Press had it) is a hybrid cover version of People Funny Boy (Lee Perry) and its answer record, People Grudgeful (Joe Gibbs). The 12″ single is cut really loud and really works on the dancefloor, a techno thrill. The track was excluded from The Infotainment Scan LP but an inferior version is on the CD albeit it sounds like The Wedding Present for the first 20 seconds or so. Another recommendation from that era is also a Lee Perry cover – Kimble – which dates from a ’92 Peel Session and is also pressed on a loud 12″. Back to reality; we end with Miranda Sex Garden’s tribal + abrasive squall of Sunshine. Surely an intentional foreshadowing of the bald-headed lunatics.

Favourite tracks
The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?

Slowdive – Alison

Pulp – Razzmatazz

Lest we forget
Madder Rose – Beautiful John

Posted in Indie Top 20 | Leave a comment