New Season: The Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit, 1991)

New Season

New Season r

New Season is a kind of unofficial follow-up to Manchester, So Much To Answer For. Once again, Don Walker handled the digital remastering with the art insert by Mid and design by Khartomb. Starting in 1983, it features 21 tracks recorded for John Peel sessions with the final one dating from February 1991. Yes, the spirit of Madchester does hang heavy.

No false starts or gods; we begin with The Smiths. Recorded on 18 May 1983, just five days after their debut single, Hand In Glove hit the shops. This session was legendary, initially broadcast on 31 May. Three of its four tracks ended up on Hatful Of Hollow; Miserable Lie is excluded. Opening number, What Difference Does It Make? kicks off New Season, a raw, angry and beautiful beginning. The session was eventually released as a 12″ in October 1988, by which point the band had broken up. Another band in an embryonic state were Half Man Half Biscuit whose thrilling debut album Back In The D.H.S.S. provided the backbone for their November ’85 performance. The Trumpton Riots, which would give them a rare TV appearance a year later – of the old and grey variety – appears as song 2, just so wonderfully trashy and made for trampolines. “Elevate!” barks Nigel Blackwell.

That Petrol Emotion were in Maida Vale twice during 1985. The band’s June performance included the stupendously great Can’t Stop that made its way onto the NME’s Mixed Peel cassette in 1987 which I purchased via mail order. It got umpteen plays. The track here is the beguiling Lettuce, which can also be found on the Manic Pop Thrill LP. I purchased the green vinyl version from the Virgin Megastore. Next come the Jesus & Mary Chain and the squalling density of Inside Me. Debut album Psychocandy would later become one of my favourite albums of all time. And then the furious Felicity, a fizzed-up Orange Juice cover courtesy of The Wedding Present, lovingly preserved on the tinny, triumphant and trashy Tommy. Moving into 1986, we’re greeted the embryonic Happy Mondays with their nice second single, the loping groove of Freaky Dancin’ followed by the thuggish Cud and the abrasive nuclear assault of Mind The Gap. Also from ’87: Loop’s furious Soundhead.

John Peel was an early admirer of the Inspiral Carpets. Their March 1989 session captured them in top form with new vocalist Tom “Wine Bar” Hingley: Out Of Time (included here), Directing Traffic, Keep The Circle Around and Gimme Shelter. Meanwhile Where’s The Beach were formed in late 1987 after hearing the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu’s The Queen And I. Tripping The Luv Fantastic is a classic, pulsing with raw energy. You will find the original version on Bop Cassettes’ Freak Beats Volume 1 AKA A Tacky Souvenir Of Pre-Revolutionary Northern England. A quick step towards shoegaze (before the event) with the twin assault of 4AD hopefuls Pale Saints and Lush. The former’s unorthodox and elliptical Time Thief would close The Comforts Of Madness and was also the final track in the session – the others being She Rides The Waves, You Tear The World In Two, Way The World Is. A great memory from Cardigan3000: “I once went to see the Pale Saints support Galaxie 500 in Manchester, International 2 I believe. After the set at least 100 people were chanting ‘Pale Saints, Pale Saints’ like a football crowd; I wonder if such a day will ever arrive again.” On the other hand, the Lush tune – Breeze – is a wispy and somewhat fey number, destined for B-Side status on Sweetness And Light, 7″ – 12″ – MC – CD.

The Paris Angels star was still ascending in August 1990, when they recorded Stay for the BBC. It had previously appeared on Home. Two days later, Teenage Fanclub’s session was powered by the juddering greatness of God Know It’s True. A most dense and melodic take before the quality dips. Backfire #1: Levellers Five – Home with shades of bad Pere Ubu. Backfire #2: Babes In Toyland – Ripe which was initially sweet in 1990/1991 when they played Barnstormers but their sour histrionics grated as the years passed. Praise be to The Charlatans for the hate-free swirl of Polar Bear, such a melodic groove and a fine taster for the classic Some Friendly album of autumn ’90. Next: New Fast Automatic Daffodils’ snappy Man Without Qualities II and The Hoovers’ average Comes A Time. Staying in Liverpool, The Farm’s elongated and looser take on Groovy Train. The CD finishes with The Shamen’s mournful Possible Worlds, a superb edit of infectious rhythms and killer spoken wise words. “In the best of all possible worlds / Nothing is impossible.”

Favourite tracks
Teenage Fanclub – God Knows It’s True

The Charlatans – Polar Bear

The Shamen – Possible Worlds

Lest we forget
Where’s The Beach – Tripping The Luv Fantastic

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