Indie Top 20 Volume 7 arrived at the end of 1989’s gloriously hot summer. Special thanks to: Ivo, Tina, Jamie, Tim, Fred, Chris, Daniel, Martin, Pete, Jerry, Jane, Paul, Anthony, Nick, Paul, Clive, Charles, Jem, Richard, Roger, Lesley, Danielle, Dave, Mike, Heather.
Each label and band have submitted sleeve note comments:
Pixes – Monkey Gone To Heaven: “What more can be said about the Pixies.”
The Stone Roses – Made Of Stone: “Let’s call them The Stones – no one will get confused.” (Sounds, 15 July 1989)
They Might Be Giants – Ang Ng: “Ng is one of the most common Vietnamese names in the New York telephone directory – that’s where the name came from. The song, however, is a love poem to an imaginary woman on the opposite side of the globe. It was the Number 1 college radio song in the USA; displacing U2. The video was a big MTV hit. The LP has sold over 200,000 copies in the US.”
Wire – Eardrum Buzz: “Wire are criminally undersung – Eardrum Buzz is another of Wire’s Hole-In-One, Inch-Perfect singles. A product of sheer draughtsmanship in the tradition of Dot Dash, I Am The Fly and Map Reference. If Wire weren’t so good at this, they might have had a hit by now. But no matter.” (Melody Maker)
Throwing Muses – Dizzy: “Released as a double A side single along with Santa Claus in March 1989. It’s also to be found on the group’s third full-length album Hunkpapa.”
Oyster Band – Polish Plain: “It’s Fab!!!”
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Rain, Steam, Speed: “These guys are good, and if you think they only do Pogues impressions The Men They Couldn’t Hang offer far, far more than that.” (Time Out, 1 March 1989)
The Man From Delmonte – My Love Is Like A Gift You Can’t Return: “It’s Morrissey in short trousers; it’s Anthony Newley behind the bike sheds; and it’s that nutter off Playaway making a bid for indie fame…..”
Inspiral Carpets – Joe: “Inspiral Carpets third single, and first for their own Cow label; went straight into the Indie Charts at number one: Cool as F**k!”
The Wolfhounds – Happy Shopper: “An innocuous pop song with obnoxious anti-consumerist lyrics. Not actually about the cheap food chain, but their lawyers seemed to think so.”
Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene: “Err… Yeah, Umm well no I suppose.”
The Wolfgang Press – Kansas: “The previously unavailable video mix. A version appears on their new LP Birdwood Cage. Surely the best video of the year / decade.”
The Shamen – You, Me & Everything: “Adrian Mole on acid.”
Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat: “Edited version of the remix! Never before on record. A version of The Mercy Seat appears on their eponymous LP. Ultra Vivid Scene currently undertaking some dates in the US.”
The Perfect Disaster – Time To Kill: “The Perfect Disaster’s album Up includes this single. Up is a musical see-saw of emotions. Lyrically, it’s a deceptively simple new draft of the existentialist’s handbook but rhythmically it’s a filthy, swarming slab of rock ‘n’ roll fury. Raw power.”
The Pastels – Baby, You’re Just You: “Over five minutes of Love, Pain, Dedication and Guitars, taken from five years of the same.”
Lunachicks – Sugar Luv: “Russ Meyer’s vision brought to life with guitars in their hands and havoc in their hearts.”
Thee Hypnotics – Preachin’ & Ramblin’: “From the 12″ single Justice In Freedom, the classic debut on Situation Two, Thee Hypnotics take the righteously charged guitar rock of the late 60s into a new dimension.”
Danielle Dax – White Knuckle Ride: “Written about the Hungerford massacre, as a vitriolic comment on both that and the Manson murders of the late 60s, highlighting the ludicrous gun laws which allow such events to continue.”
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Deanna: “Deanna is a song you can almost imagine coming out loud from a car window. Huge in a raucous ‘truly devil-may-care’ way – it is one of the best songs of ’88.”
The NME review of Doolittle was headed up “APE-OCALYPSE NOW!” Appearing on the 15 April issue and written by Edwin Pouncey, it made reference to a “beautifully produced lyric booklet (quick kids before they fly away!)” In the UK, some copies were sold with a carrier bag of thin white plastic, printed in light green. I didn’t get round to buying mine until 9 May – from Sinnott’s in Waterford – and my then, all that was left was standard issue. It’s a bittersweet memory, as it was purchased on the way to my grandfather’s funeral in Midleton. The album was a sonic assault; I was left breathless after the opening salvo of Debaser / Tame / Wave Of Mutilation with the biblical undertones coming to the fore on Dead and Monkey Gone To Heaven which kicks off this volume of Indie Top 20. It’s the first Pixies song to feature guest musicians: two cellists, Arthur Fiacco and Ann Rorich, and two violinists, Karen Karlsrud and Corine Metter. Despite the devil and God references, Monkey is essentially a song about environmentalism and the confusion of man’s place in the universe. “A corrosive, compelling meditation on God and garbage.”
“You wanna hurt me stop the row.” 1989’s summer of freedom was soundtracked by the debut album from The Stone Roses. You can read more about their meteoric rise in my review of Now That’s What I Call Music 1989: The Millennium Series. Made Of Stone dropped before St Patrick’s Day and featured two absolutely brilliant B-sides: Going Down which references Jackson Pollock’s No. 5, 1948 while Guernica is the single in reverse with dubbed-over, unrelated lyrics. If this tune was a painting it would be priceless. We go from burning cars to names with no vowels , They Might Be Giants’ don’t let’s (stop) start classic Ana Ng was inspired by a telephone directory – “A beyond-perfect tour de force about a Vietnamese woman they never got to meet.” (Robert Christgau) while others compare it to a theatrical display of pop absurdism. They would peak with the fantastic Flood LP.
This surreal vein continues on the next song, Wire’s Eardrum Buzz. The parent album It’s Beginning To And Back Again was originally recorded live, all the tracks except ambient noise stripped off, and then deconstructed. You could call this single an ode to tinnitus; I remember it best from Snub TV, teatime indie and a mainstay of my viewing during those months – along with Wiseguy and Degrassi Junior High. From the spring came Throwing Muses and the pummeling Dizzy; the promo 12″ was an interesting one. The Too Many Words Mix is the album version with full lyrics. The Too Many Notes Mix ditches a couple of verses and has the same structure as the Ron St. Germain remix found on some other releases, but the instrument levels, EQ, and panning are more similar to the Hunkpapa take. Fitting in: Oyster Band, a British REM with the folky devilish Polish Plain before the searing tale of Rain, Steam, Speed as told by troubadours The Man They Couldn’t Hang.
They had a video played on The Chart Show and it said on the little box “this video cost £100 to make.” Nothing fancy for The Man From Delmonte and the delightful My Love Is Like A Gift You Can’t Return, just a blast of effervescent indie pop with a really wistful, almost innocent vibe. Stepping right up into a neat psychedelic groove were the Inspiral Carpets, now fronted by Tom Hingley. Joe was only massive, best selling indie tune of ’89, serious drums, swirling organ, a buzzing video with an old bloke, split-screen style. A great leap forward in other words and the indie discos in Waterford started playing it around the time of Fools Gold and Hallelujah. Bringing us up to half time and the oranges / lemons are The Wolfhounds and their somewhat bitter Happy Shopper. Not their best work.
The second half of Volume 7 opens up with a blast. First blood goes to Dinosaur Jr and the searing beautiful noise of Freak Scene, savagely melodic and not so melancholic. Lifted off Bug, which was purchased from Razorcuts, Abbey Mall, the same label was printed on both sides of the LP. Noisy grunge with a pop sheen. The video was surprisingly shot in a Manchester back garden – possibly John Robb’s – singer of The Membranes, who was at the time in a band called Dandelion Adventure. Freak Scene was later a name for an indie club in Cork that was became part of the city’s hipster trinity; the other two places being Plugd Records and the Triskel Arts Centre. It’s followed by the ace funk of the Wolfgang Press’ Kansas plus The Shamen’s crunchy You, Me & Everything, guitars high in the mix.
“Like doing the Velvet Underground filtered through a Jesus & Mary Chain sieve.”
I remember being disappointed when I found out Kurt Ralske’s mob weren’t covering Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Instead, (the) Mercy Seat is brilliant in its own right, a blissed-out adventure in chemistry. Nowadays the 12″ version is more common but it’s the more succinct 7″ mix on offer here. You’ll remember it from The Chart Show. Two years later they would top the Irish indie charts with their second album, Joy 1967-1990. Speaking of JAMC, the next song, Time To Kill, comes from The Perfect Disaster who supported the Reid brothers on their Automatic tour of autumn 1989; they played at the Top Hat, Dun Laoghaire and then we rushed across town to catch Primal Scream in Trinity College. Another memory from then, the narcotic sludge of The Pastels’ Baby You’re Just You.
Curved Air’s Backstreet Luv has become one of my favourite glam tracks. The Lunachicks’ less than useful Sugar Luv reminds me of Daisy Chainsaw meeting Silverfish and neither party eating for two days. The garage sound continues with the more palatable Thee Hypnotics. Live’r Than God was a Comet Records favourite, ending with the meandering Justice In Freedom which was released as a single and backed by the stormy Preachin’ And Ramblin’ which you’ll find here. We’re saved by Danielle Dax’s belter of a single, White Knuckle Ride which surfs the gothic wave like a unique sleek machine. Up jumps the devil for the final tune of the night. Inspired by Oh Happy Day; Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ marvellous twisted murder ballad love song Deanna. A hark back to an long past relationship Cave had with a girl in Melbourne. File under time travel with a twist.
“Murder takes the wheel of your Cadillac and death climbs in the back”
Inspiral Carpets – Joe
Ultra Vivid Scene – Mercy Seat
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Deanna
Lest we forget
The Man From Delmonte – My Life Is Like A Gift You Can’t Return