Indie Top 20 Volume 3 – War Of Independents (Beechwood Music, 1988)

Indie 3

Indie 3 r

Review
Volume 3 saw the Indie Top 20 series turn a sort of dayglo. The design style became more consistent – logo, paperclip, the Melody Maker sponsorship more prominent and it was now on a new label, Beechwood Music. We also saw the first of a sub-heading or byline – War Of Independents. “There is life outside of the majors.” proudly stated the back cover.

Like the first outing, both Joy Division and New Order appear and again their tracks are taken from Peel Sessions. The key details are as follows:
Joy Division #1, recorded 31 January 1979: Exercise One / Insight / She’s Lost Control / Transmission. Released November 1986, grey sleeve and reached #4 on the indie chart.
Joy Division #2, recorded 26 November 1979: Love Will Tear Us Apart / 24 Hours / Colony / Sound Of Music. Released September 1987, brown sleeve and got to #3.
New Order #1, recorded 26 January 1981: Truth / Senses / I.C.B. / Dreams Never End. Released December 1987, brown sleeve.
New Order #2, recording date unknown, sometime during spring 1982: Turn The Heater On / We All Stand / Too Late / 5-8-6. Released September 1986, grey sleeve.

I don’t like New Order’s Movement. It suffers from a sheen of blandness and comes across as claustrophobic. The songs are almost suffocated by the production. The only one worth saving is Dreams Never End and when I saw the announcement of the £150 super deluxe edition, I thought we’ve reached peak nostalgia. However the Peel Session is somewhat better and the songs can actually breathe. Truth is included here and despite the austere sound, is almost hypnotic. Meanwhile the compilers decide to close this volume of Indie Top 20 with Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, a superb version – the first recorded – with the most unreal drumming I have ever heard. “Some things are eternal for as long as they last. Love Will Tear Us Apart will be circling the globe for all time.” (Jen Kesler)

Towering over practically every other act on this compilation are the boys from Basildon; Depeche Mode with their epic stadium hand-waver Never Let Me Down Again. One of the greatest ever singles ever, this plays like a symphony and takes me back to lunchtime spins of Music For The Masses. The next song (The Leather Nun’s Lost And Found), despite its industrial flavour, sounds totally ineffectual beside it. Elsewhere Danielle Dax has been described by Jon Lee as “if David Bowie and Kate Bush had produced a child this is what she would have sounded like.” Big Hollow Man is bass-heavy with a glam twist. Another enduring video from The Chart Show was Beaver Patrol, played often by me and Pop Will Eat Itself’s third successive appearance. It now sounds like a cut-price Beastie Boys rip off.

I didn’t get to many concerts in 1987 but one that I did manage to attend was in Dublin’s SFX that September. The Jesus & Mary Chain on the Darklands tour. Support came from The Motorcycle Boy, which essentially consisted of ex-Shop Assistants vocalist fronting ex-Creation band Meat Whiplash. They featured on the cover of the NME around then too. Big Rock Candy Mountain is a lovely tune, almost heartbreaking and seems to have been forgotten now. Get it on Cherry Red’s C87. Meanwhile Darklands still occupies a special place in my collection, full of overt misery, sweet vocal melodies and drum machines replacing Bobby Gillespie. Primal Scream later recorded a cover version of the album’s title track as a B-side to their 1998 single If They Move, Kill ‘Em. William Reid sings on Darklands, Nine Million Rainy Days and On The Wall. The latter is particularly amazing both here and in Porta Studio demo form on Barbed Wire Kisses. Melancholy ecstasy.

Side 2 commences with the cowboys of the apocalypse, Fields Of The Nephilim and their graveyard goth monster tune Preacher Man. More doom follows shortly afterwards with Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Open Up. But lets go back in time, to 1955. Christopher Mayhew, then a Liberal MP took part in an experiment that was intended to form a Panorama special but was never broadcast by the BBC. Under the guidance of his friend Dr Humphry Osmond, Mayhew ingested 400 mg of mescaline hydrochloride and allowed himself to be filmed for the duration of the trip. The Shamen used samples of the audio in the dazzling psychedelic blast off Christopher Mayhew Says, released between their first two albums Drop and In Gorbachev We Trust. A truly pioneering tune with a groundbreaking video.

“Have you got the CD version of Squirrel and G-Man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out)?” Try asking that without pausing for breath. The Happy Mondays were in town with The Velvet Underground’s John Cale at the helm. While I had been buying pop CDs for some time, this was one of my first indie releases purchased on the new format, primarily to get hold of the outrageously brilliant title track. Some weeks earlier, I had picked up the vinyl in the Virgin Megastore complete with transparent PVC liner and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da knock-off Desmond. After a couple of months, this uncleared sample fest was withdrawn and replaced by 24 Hour Party People. It’s a hugely confident track with hooks galore and a memorable video. But I wouldn’t overlook their earlier non-album singles, Forty Five EP and Freaky Dancin’. The former includes the gorgeous Delightful and was produced by Mike Pickering. Loads And Loads More is where you can find both on CD; note it has the rarer 7″ edit of Freaky Dancin’.

Rhythm King supply the opening brace on tunes as we drop the needle on record 2. The Cookie Crew’s Females is a neat boombox jam while Hotline’s Hellhouse is an initially uninspired quasi funk number created by Tony Powell and Trevor Russell. Repeated plays should see you get into its groove. Next comes Erasure’s Victim Of Love, their third single from The Circus, an LP that dominated my stereo that summer. There are some extremely strong album tracks such as Spiralling and Hideaway, all produced by the enigmatic Flood whom the Sisters Of Mercy paid tribute to on Floodland, writing not one but two songs about him. Which brings us to the excellently gothic Fools Gold from Ghost Dance who consisted of Gary Marx (ex-The Sisters Of Mercy) and Anne Marie from Skeletal Family.

In 1988 The Sugarcubes’ manifesto Life’s Too Good turned up in Shaws, Waterford – almost nationwide. I got the green sleeve version. You could also get blue, orange, pink and yellow colours. The band were all punk and post-punk veterans, Björk in particular having been part of the Reykjavik scene since the age of 11. Their mission statement was encapsulated in Blue-Eyed Pop, but it was the debut single Birthday that first drew praise – a single of the week in Melody Maker. Even now, it’s an unnerving song, a mixture of the infantile and the sinister. “Hún á heima í húsinu þarna” is how it goes; we’re now given the Icelandic version which was on the B-Side of both the 7″ and 12″. The latter also included another track in their native language, the crazy Cat, also performed at their 1989 SFX gig. Read more about that night in my review of Now That’s What I Call Music 1989 – The Millennium Series. In Bjork’s words “Life’s both sweet and sour!”

1987 was the year of 4AD’s groundbreaking compilation Lonely Is An Eyesore which introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of the Throwing Muses. Kristin Hersh penned Cry Baby Cry and it’s taken from their 12″ EP Chains Chained. The best way to describe it is primal pop with a real unsettling rural feel. Cry Baby Cry is also a song by The Beatles that appeared on 1968’s White Album, the subject of a significant anniversary last year. In 1992, the Throwing Muses covered it for the Not Too Soon EP, a single from their masterpiece The Real Ramona – a favourite album of mine from 88 Harold’s Cross Road. “A great cover of one of my favorite obscure Beatles songs. Beautiful melancholy guitar arpeggios winding ’round the vocal melody. Also very nice drum work, finding the sweet spot for that snare beat. I love the drifting fade out as well.” (Cyrano 66)

Loveless gets most of the oxygen, Isn’t Anything hoovers up most of the remainder. But there was life before 1988 and sadly it’s still not properly anthologised. Debut LP This Is Your Bloody Valentine isn’t great – it’s a mediocre two-tracker but the pre-Creation stuff doesn’t deserve to remain in scalper oblivion. Maybe a double CD along the lines of:
CD1
01-07: This Is Your Bloody Valentine LP
08-11: Geek 12″
CD2
01-04: The New Record By My Bloody Valentine 12″
05-08: Sunny Sundae Smile 12″
09-11: Strawberry Wine 12″
12-18: Ecstasy LP
19: Strawberry Wine (Ecstasy And Wine version).
Ecstasy And Wine, released 1989 and purchased by me in Comet, Cork, was a combination of Ecstasy, the two Strawberry Wine B-sides and a new version of the A-Side. This fantasy set would be a licensing nightmare as those seven records came out on four different labels – Dossier, Fever, Kaleidoscope Sound and Lazy. Strawberry Wine features on Indie Top 20 Volume 3 and its blurry, hazy late ’60s sheen along with the next song, the abrasive yet so wistful Anyone Can Make A Mistake, enhances the whole side to sheer greatness.

The world has changed an awful lot in the last 34 years but there are still a few constants that can be relied on. Since 1985, David Gedge, along with a variety of others – collectively known as The Wedding Present – has ploughed a frantic musical furrow encompassing speedy indie thrash with a few diversions along the way, namely Ukrainian folk music and the lush orchestral pop of side project Cinerama. While the line up has changed many times over the years, Gedge remains a totemic force, a walking emotional powerhouse that sings about love, lust, break-ups and revenge. After 1987’s sparkling debut LP George Best and a slew of thrilling singles like Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now, the band found themselves pursued by a major label and duly signed to RCA in 1989. In April that collection of Ukrainian Peel Sessions became their first release for the new label while they followed this up with a single in September, the fantastic white noise ‘n’ drums mayhem that is Kennedy. I played it at my wedding – mosh city.

The following month – October ’89 – was a crucial one for The Wedding Present. Time to stand up with the big boys. Bizarro was the name of the second LP and on first listens it was obvious that the band had really toughened up their sound. Gone was the tinny indie jangle that made George Best so endearing and in its place were the furious rhythm guitars that showed a group really wanted to rock hard and fast. Reviews were mixed – 6/10 said the NME – while others shouted “sell-outs”. However I loved it from the moment I set it on the turntable and during that cold winter as the Berlin wall fell and the 1980s came to an end, Bizarro was a constant companion. It was a bruising and emotional listen which I, as a angst-ridden teenager who just started third level, could easily relate to. The high points were numerous with the heart-felt anguish of Brassneck and the plaintive and apologetic No stealing side one’s thunder. On the flip the sweetest treats were voyeuristic in nature(Bewitched) and lusty (Take Me). Hector losing his shoe and all that.

The band first visited these shores during the Halloween break of 1988 with a storming gig in McGonagles (tickets were a fiver) and a return to plug the new album was much eagerly anticipated. After two postponements the gig eventually went ahead on 9 February 1990 at the SFX. It was a cracker, kicking off with new B-side Don’t Talk, Just Kiss and climaxing with the overwrought and regret-filled What Have I Said Now? This electric atmosphere was repeated the following year at the same venue when they came back to promote their triumphant third LP, the Albini-produced Seamonsters. Nearly 30 years have now elapsed since Bizarro charged out of my speakers on that rainy October evening. David Gedge was still in his 20s, in 2019 he’ll be 59. However songs about falling in and out of love will never get old. It’s because of this that I salute The Wedding Present, the band of my youth and the soundtrack to my coming of age. One can never have too much apple pie.

Favourite tracks
Happy Mondays – 24 Hour Party People

The Wedding Present – Anyone Can Make A Mistake

My Bloody Valentine – Strawberry Wine

Lest we forget
The Motorcycle Boy – Big Rock Candy Mountain

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1 Response to Indie Top 20 Volume 3 – War Of Independents (Beechwood Music, 1988)

  1. Pingback: Indie Top 20 CD88 (Beechwood Music, 1988) | A Pop Fan's Dream

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