Back in 1990, Product 2378 caused a bit of a stir. “Soulless and mainstream” major labels like Telstar weren’t supposed to release indie compilations and their mere presence in the marketplace put plenty noses out of joint. See here and there. Those four digits in the title refer to the catalogue number while the kettle is a masterstroke in blandness, a two fingers to the purists. This concept would be repeated some months later with the fantastic Rave.
It’s a flying start as The Wonder Stuff (then on the crest of the Hup! wave) treat us to non-album single Who Wants To Be The Disco King? Released at the beginning of March 1989 and a real bastard to find over here. I managed to tape it off Larry Gogan’s Top 30 show and cherished the hissy recording for ages. They hated pop of course (remember Astley In The Noose?), with this track aimed squarely at the dull music business. “Over and over and over and over, the radio’s on but I don’t hear a song”, the complaint goes. Naturally, in retrospect they were wrong but at the time it was a swirling three minute delight. Next comes another track from the early part of the previous year – one that used to accompany Leaving Cert study – New Order’s Vanishing Point. A most interesting choice seeing as it wasn’t a single but was the highlight of Technique. As Pelagalli says “This song destroys the barriers of time. This is sublime.” A tune that’s languid and fist-pumping all at once.
I saw the Jesus & Mary Chain tour Automatic. It really was a remarkable record, plenty guitars, bass, and a perfect drum machine with very little distortion. Loads of attitude and strong, upfront songs. “This video is the junction of goth, grunge, surf, industrial and classic alt” murmurs Evin Paauwe of Head On, a seriously stylised rock number that the Pixies would subsequently cover on Trompe Le Monde. Meanwhile the Wedding Present’s first single on a major label (RCA) was to become their crowning glory and one of the greatest tracks I’ve ever heard. Kennedy with its massive drum sound reached #33 in the UK charts and was loved by both metalheads and rockers as well us indie kids. I remember a huge Anthrax fan, Bill Somers praising it endlessly. Anytime it’s played in public, the dancefloor goes crazy – my wedding, friends’ weddings, my 40th etc. You can read more about that era in my review of Indie Top 20 Volume 3 – War Of Independents. My 12″ single came with a free poster that I sadly stuck on my bedroom wall with sellotape.
After such a brilliant opening quartet of tunes, it was inevitable that Product 2378 would drop a little in quality. Pop Will Eat Itself – Can U Dig It is also an RCA release, taken from This Is The Day…This Is The Hour…This Is This. The music video features Clint Mansell and Graham Crabb singing the song against various changing backgrounds while in other parts the rest of the band members perform the song with stacks of televisions behind them. One of the most memorable samples is “Let’s get down to it, boppers…”, taken from the 1979 film The Warriors, truly a cult classic. It would also inspire Renegade Soundwave on the dancefloor-killing monster Ozone Breakdown (B-side of Probably A Robbery):
“Good news, boppers.
The big alert has been called off.
It turns out the early reports were wrong, all wrong.
For that group that had a hard time getting home, sorry about that.
I guess the only thing we can do is play you a song.”
“We’ve been courteous.” Mad Cyril was one of Bummed’s many gems; an amazing rolling bassline. Martin Hannett at the flight desk. While the album was released at the end of 1988, sales throughout 1989 and beyond were strong, hugely enhanced by the Top Of The Pops appearance that November. Next up is another find – New Model Army’s Brave New World from 1985 – and the rare 12″ mix to boot. This is the only place to find it digitally. Bleak yet uplifting. It’s followed by another oldie, the Weather Prophets’ Almost Prayed (1986 / C86), a sublime VU homage done in a jangle style. Move forward to see Morrissey step into the arena with The Last Of The Famous International Playboys. The artwork features Moz (7), up a tree in Chorlton-on-Medlock while Mike Joyce, Andy Rourke and Craig Gannon play on the record which mythologises the notorious yet loveable Ronnie and Reggie Kray. It was released shortly after my 17th birthday and reached #6 in the UK. Bona Drag (possibly the finest ever Morrissey release) compiled the single in late 1990.
They’d later collaborate on Interlude but for now, Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Peek-A-Boo follows Morrissey, an enchanting and elliptical slice of carnival goth. Read about Monkey Gone To Heaven, Joe and Dizzy in my review of Indie Top 20 Volume 7 while the useful Indie Top 20 CD88 has the lowdown on Crazyhead. Elsewhere All About Eve’s December is intense stuff, ethereal and haunting: “Here’s a Victorian tin, I keep my memories in.” That would have been an ideal closer for a 56 minute LP but Telstar had other ideas and tacked on the sprawling Bombay Mix of The Mission’s Tower Of Strength which loses about 65 seconds but still runs 10 minutes plus. Kudos to Mark Stent for the wonderful orchestral touches and classic Indian drums, a doom-laden symphony of endless, endless.
The Wedding Present – Kennedy
The Jesus & Mary Chain – Head On
Lest we forget
The Wonder Stuff – Who Wants To Be The Disco King?