Kicking off the new decade in style, the eighth volume of Indie Top 20 was their most consistent yet, a powerful snapshot of the dying weeks of 1989. Omitted from the CD version was Sonic Boom’s Angel, a track that ran for 7:54 with an even longer extended mix lasting 9:40. You can also find it on the album Spectrum, a memorable front-of-rack LP from KG Discs; its gimmicky sleeve a real eye-catcher. Octaves & Tremelos for the win.
Each label and band have submitted sleeve note comments:
Inspiral Carpets – Move: “Move showed that Inspiral Carpets were quite capable of appealing to a wider audience than anybody thought. It reached number 49 in the Gallup chart on their own label.”
Dub Sex – Time Of Life: “Tough times. Many thanks to Alison, Martin, Edward ‘Wood’ Barton, Chris ‘Remix’ Nagle, Phil ‘Beard’ Korbel and Dat 2 Dat. Looking forward…”
Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus: “It’s nice to see Depeche Mode back where they belong, breeding discontent, shitting over all else in their devout intent, huge fun.”
The Family Cat – Tom Verlaine: “For John, Fred, Jelb and Kev. Five loveable hits from the sticks. Fore runners of the Manchester scene, inventors of Acid House and instigators of the Roving Sweeping System 1989… WAS”
Spacemen 3 – Hypnotized: “Single of the week in ALL music papers which has not happened since Prince’s Kiss. The Spacemen’s latest its positively Ethereal, a Velvet Underground sounding blend of rotating guitar and organ, a shimmering happy love song from Rugby’s finest. (Sounds, July ’89)”
James – Come Home: “Strengthened for the future. The ’90s might see James pissing on the likes of Stone Roses and The House of Love, freaking out the Happy Mondays and filling the gap left by The Smiths. Don’t let the new James pass you by. (Mix Mag, December 1989)”
A Guy Called Gerald – Hot Lemonade: “Rham Records follow up to Voodoo Ray. Hot Lemonade is the title track of Gerald’s LP – Remixed by Youth.”
The KLF – Kylie Said To Jason: “We wore our Pet Shop Boys infatuations brazenly on our sleeves while we recorded this track and we are proud of it. As for Kylie & Jason, the lyrics are not some attempt at a clever critique on our current soap idols.”
Alien Sex Fiend – Haunted House: “A classic fiendish dance thrash especially remixed by Youth from Brilliant and scratched over by DJ Cesare from Gee Street Records.”
The Shamen – Omega Amigo: “This single became a club classic from The Shamen. Their musical style has progressed from psychedelic high energy guitar rock to an edgy pop with far more rhythmic feel inspired by the house, hip hop and EDM sounds they have absorbed since moving down south a year ago. They continue to move Phorward.”
The Sugarcubes – Regina: “Four, Five, Six, Seven… and Bjork suddenly bursts alight, trilling, preening, calling, beckoning, the scarlet ethereal voice hitting the topmost notes with a heart-stopping clarity, the jiggering rhythm folding across her shoulders. (Melody Maker)”
Kitchens Of Distinction – Elephantine: “….hail from Tooting, South London, which is on direct route southwards to Timbuktu. Really. The band form two years ago after a chance encounter at the frozen food section of Safeway in Streatham!”
Fatima Mansions – Only Losers Take The Bus: “Fatima Mansions is that very rare thing, a sound that sounds like nothing so much as itself (20/20)”
“The hungry, incredulous Only Losers Take The Bus is perfect.(NME)”
Wire – In Vivo: “Those masters of uncompromising melody do what they bloody well like (once more). Another slice of unholy ecstacy on vinyl.”
The Field Mice – If You Need Someone: “Taken from the double 7″ EP The Autumn Store.”
Pale Saints – Sight Of You: “This, the first to benefit from the band’s jigsaw theory of song A songwriting pregnant with meaning.”
Loop – Arc-Lite: “Arc-Lite captures the noise of a motorbike chain deep in swampland and revving into the red, a frictional mesh of metal and rock that won’t rub down. Like nothing on earth and out of this world. (Melody Maker 2.12.89)”
The Telescopes – To Kill A Slow Girl Walking: “…is like a sarcastic approach to religion. Well, not so much religion as people who easily led, y’know, people in a flock looking for a shepherd, people who don’t think for themselves looking for a new Messiah all the time. (Steve Lawrie, Feb ’90)”
Thee Hypnotics – Earth Blues: “Throws The Who and the early Stones together and adds a rare sense of soul. Thee Hypnotics blast the blues into the ’90s!”
1989 was a very significant year for the Inspiral Carpets – and not just because they were namechecked by The Stone Roses in She Bangs The Drums. In the cold winter we got the Trainsurfing EP followed by the late spring burst of Joe. The somewhat derivative Find Out Why EP followed in the summer, backed with the epic Planecrash (16 minutes of it) on the B-side of the 12″. Bringing it all to an autumnal close was the stylish Move, a romantic yet moody swirl that bridged the gap between the old and the new. Omitted from the Life LP (but on the CD), it remains one of their most memorable works and one of the missing parts in the Hallelujah – Fools Gold axis. The following month – in December – Melody Maker reported “Dub Sex nearly came to grief filming in a quarry. One band member got stuck in mud, one was knocked unconscious by a drum, and the whole exercise was rendered academic when the camera was trashed by a land-sliding boulder.” The epic Time Of Life is relentless, a mutant companion to the more personable Swerve.
Flashback to August ’89: I had go my Leaving Cert results and was considering career opportunities. And after the excess of 101, Depeche Mode were starting a new chapter, the guitar stomp of Personal Jesus. The lead single from Violator and released almost seven months in advance, it’s somewhat of an outlier and would have worked better as a standalone end-of-tour release. Next comes an NME Single Of The Week, The Family Cat’s spiky Tom Verlaine, an ode to their Television hero. A song about the past, the future and friends. Released some time later was their mini-LP Tell ‘Em We’re Surfin’ which included the single on the CD pressing. Also feted were Spacemen 3 and the psychedelic shimmer of Hypnotized. Dial a cliché: taking drugs to make music to take drugs to. A message from The Sprawl: “Jason and Sonic each wanted their own songs to be the lead-off single for Recurring – Sonic chose Just To See You Smile(which I admit is a lovely song) and Jason pushed for Hypnotized but the second everyone around the band heard the latter there was no argument: Hypnotized was the only choice. Sonic Boom was royally fucked off by this and spent days and weeks ranting at their manager about it, and in the end it was one of the moments that tipped the band over the cliff into splitting up. Still, it’s worth it for me. It’s one of the most brilliant pop songs I’ve ever heard.”
RT245: November 1989 saw James roll the Madchester dice with Come Home. Despite being an emotional powerhouse of a tune, it wasn’t a hit – a fate also suffered by Sit Down the previous June. As a result, the band parted company with Rough Trade and moved to Fontana who released the How Was It For You? single in April 1990 and two months later, the Gold Mother album. Ultimately Come Home would get a makeover by Flood and soundtracked Italia ’90 kickabouts while non-album single Lose Control hit the spot in November. Finally the re-recorded Sit Down hit paydirt in April 1991. During that time, Gold Mother would get reissued with a revised tracklist – both Hang On And Crescendo were dropped. The front and back covers were created by Adrian Wilson using an early television graphics computer, the Quantel Paintbox. The band’s newfound success was re-affirmed when they played two sell-out dates at the Manchester G-Mex at the end of 1990.
Hot Lemonade should be filed under transcendental fizz. It was the follow up to Voodoo Ray and made its way into the shops just before Christmas 1989. I picked up a copy of the 7″ in Comet Records, Dublin. The subject matter caused a few nudges and winks; however when played in a club or warehouse setting, the full-on synth stabs and beats coupled with Brenda Petrie’s vocals made for a dark trip. By contrast, the next track is one of the great profound pop records, pastiche is only part of its repertoire – The KLF’s Kylie Said To Jason. Playing like a homage to Stock, Aitken & Waterman and the Pet Shop Boys’ Left To My Own Devices. There are stories of indie shop staff turning up their noses at it because Kylie and Jason are mentioned in the title; nothing would surprise me when it comes to anti-pop neckbeards. You might find them in Galway calling everything “problematic”.
Continuing the sparkling dance vibe are Alien Sex Fiend with their monstrously fantastic Haunted House. And then The Shamen with their gorgeous Omega Amigo, relaxed and blissfully calm: “Omega Amigo for you, I will always have time.” Of course the sample “My time is yours” is from the film THX1138. The wit and wisdom of Reagan – “Such a beautiful acid house song, on a different level than other music at that time and still today. Outstanding contrast with the heavy bass and floating arps / vocals, dark and lovely.” A digression or more about En-tact. It convinced a lot of people on the indie side of the fence to come on over and embrace beats. The one to own is the 1990 release with the original unmixed Human NRG (black cover and silver writing), not the later remixed and more poppier version from 1991. Buried at the end of the first CD pressing is the classic Hear Me O My People (Orbital – Delays Expected) which samples a speech from Reverend Allan Boesak, a South African anti-apartheid preacher with a trippy dubbed-out and slow-building BPM all the way through. Perfect and potent crossover material.
The great crossover potential continues on the second half of the album. The Sugarcubes’ Regina is all about relative cocks: read about their October 1989 visit to these shores in my review of Now That’s What I Call Music 1989: The Millennium Series. “I really don’t like lobster!” I have finally made peace with Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week almost 30 years later, a dayglo rubik’s cube of an album. It’s followed by the spectacular dream pop of Elephantine, another leap forward from Kitchens Of Distinction. Unfolding thereafter are the Fatima Mansions – previously noted as Cathal Coughlan & The Fatima Gardens on their legendary Dear Dad track shown on Snub TV. First single proper is the towering Only Losers Take The Bus, an exercise in sardonic pop with thrilling riffage. A far cry from Microdisney even if debut album Against Nature retained some of the 39 Minutes-style sedation croonage. Get me to the wilderness on time and good luck with finding a parking space in the increasingly clogged up towns and cities. “And let memory fade…”
Wire playing pop – the end: In Vivo, a second single from the obtuse It’s Beginning To And Back Again lacks the sparkle of Eardrum Buzz and the 1987/1988 Mute era. A sedate anthem – “The revolution’s begun” – that plods along in third gear. From there to the difficult Manscape era; a record owned by the doomed John Clarke. Sequenced next, Sarah 24: The Field Mice anticipating St Valentine’s Day with The Autumn Store double 7″. If You Need Someone oozes longing, watching from afar, idealised romance. When playing it then, I made the lyrics fit my own situation. At 18, emotions ran high. “A lilting journey down the country lanes of melancholy.” that was held back because of the ’89 Christmas rush. In 2009, I made a Field Mice compilation called Chocolate Love Sex. Here’s the tracklist:
01 Emma’s House (Emma’s House 7″, 11/1988)
02 Sensitive (Sensitive 7″, 02/1989)
03 When Morning Comes To Town (Sensitive 7″, 02/1989)
04 Let’s Kiss And Make Up (Snowball LP, 08/1989)
05 White (Snowball LP, 08/1989)
06 End Of The Affair (Snowball LP, 08/1989)
07 If You Need Someone (The Autumn Store Part 1 7″, 01/1990)
08 It Isn’t Forever (Skywriting LP, 06/1990)
09 Triangle (Skywriting LP, 06/1990)
10 Quicksilver (So Said Kay 10″, 09/1990)
11 So Said Kay (So Said Kay 10″, 09/1990)
12 Missing The Moon (Missing The Moon 12″, 09/1991)
13 Five Moments (For Keeps LP, 10/1991)
14 Tilting At Windmills (For Keeps LP, 10/1991)
15 Willow (For Keeps LP, 10/1991)
Barging Into The Presence Of God was a wonderful way for The Pale Saints to introduce themselves. On 4AD, incredibly touching with an immaculate bassline. On the flip the frantic She Rides The Waves. Spring 1990 would see their debut album The Comforts Of Madness top the Irish indie chart with last remaining copies of the LP sold off in KG Discs for £5.99 – also in the sale, The Fall’s Extricate. That evocative album accompanied me on our last family holiday, Pierre en Vacances, June 1990. Some stolen moments with the car stereo. Later in the year, they’d support the Pixies at The National Stadium and open with Two Sick Sisters. T-shirts navy and black; a Half-Life Remembered and those eerie hidden screams. Their second album, In Ribbons, was even better – and came with a joyous free 7″ from The Tintwistle Brass Band containing the spacious curveball A Thousand Stars Burst Open. Want it on CD? Get the beautiful 4AD promo compilation 2CD Lilliput.
We cannot slip away; instead it’s a case of looking back in anger. Loop return with Arc-lite, a single taken from the upcoming double 12″ which played at 45 rpm, A Gilded Eternity. Sonar. Radiated. True dronescape psych. I have very fond memories of their memorable concert in McGonagles where Therapy? supported. Lots of black leather and boots in the air as the moshpit grew with circular energy. The video is great too; some brilliant shots of lost docklands London. Time to rock ‘n’ roll for the grand finale; firstly we turn to The Telescopes and their almost stately and precise To Kill A Slow Girl Walking. And into the garage with Thee Hypnotics and the raw power of Earth Blues. There’s justice in freedom.
The KLF – Kylie Said To Jason
The Shamen – Omega Amigo
Lest we forget
The Field Mice – If You Need Someone