For Indie Top 20 Volume 12, there was a slight new direction. Gone were the individual track comments and the annoying roman numerals. Tim Millington was on board and set out some brief thoughts on the inclusions, concluding as follows: “. . . A collection of some of the best indie hits of the past few months, Indie Top 20 is released three times a year as the definitive guide to innovative and original independent music.” Once again, the CD loses three tracks: The Hoovers’ self-fulfilling prophecy Mr Average, the Kitchens Of Distinction’ sublime Drive That Fast (would be nice to have the single edit on CD) and Miranda Sex Garden’s gorgeous Gush Forth My Tears. Remember that video from MTV?
When examining all 23 volumes of the series, you’ll notice the occasional inclusion of B-Sides, singles that never were and non-leading EP tracks. The Charlatans’ Happen To Die is one such example of the latter. A rather mournful and gloomy number – certainly on first listen – it differs remarkably from the EP’s title track, the uptempo Over Rising. Although one YouTube comment states that it was intended to be song 1. It’s followed by The Wendys, signed to Factory Records during the last days of the empire. Pulling My Fingers Off was the second single from the Gobbledygook LP, a chiming incessant number with a brilliant bass. Building the tempo slowly, next come The Dylans and the glorious Lemon Afternoon. They released a brilliant debut album: trippy, hazy, almost dream-like and oozing with hammond organ and a deadly wah-wah sound. This citrus tune is truly psychedelic, a wonderful also-ran in the wider baggy canon. In a nice act of sequencing, Spirea X arrive with Chlorine Dream, like The Byrds with louder bass and drums.
By January 1991, Spacemen 3 had effectively diverged. Recurring is an album of two halves – Jason Pierce and Peter Kember ploughing different furrows, one side each. Big City opens side 1, a Kember number that really stretches itself over 10 long minutes into a hypnotic groove that eventually makes sense. It was also released as a single, in a more sensible 4:45 edit. Sadly, this version is not included and as a result, the lengthy album take is the primary reason for this Indie Top 20 CD losing three tracks. If left up to me, I would have ditched it altogether along with Levitation’s Nadine and included the missing trio. Meanwhile, Nothing Can Stop Us, the third Saint Etienne 45 saw the arrival of Sarah Cracknell. The song is based on a looped sample from Dusty Springfield’s recording of I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face while the music video is – inevitably – a London journey, late ’60s style. A Starfish memory: “Oh my…1991, no kids, no mortgage, me and my beautiful future wife in our green triumph spitfire, driving out to a pub for Sunday lunch, hood down, wheat fields flashing by, on a glorious summer day….with this blaring out loud on compilation tape we used to stick on…next track was Be Thankful by Massive Attack, followed by Little Fluffy Clouds.” By September, Foxbase Alpha had truly arrived, one of four glorious LPs on Creation in ’91 – and by far, the most diverse.
Lost in the midst of time, Candyland’s Fountain Of Youth is ideally placed next. A frantic pounding house riff and a rather enhanced hybrid of EMF and the Happy Mondays. In its wake comes a late period Martin Hannett production, the rather boxed-in paranoia of the New Fast Automatic Daffodils’ Get Better. And then, a most unexpected cover tune – the Bridewell Taxis taking on Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear The Reaper. The brass on this gives the song an almost gothic (fifth) dimension. Moving on to the second half, it’s the turn of Curve to announce their arrival with the savagely intense Ten Little Girls, lead track on their debut EP, Blindfold. The bass is only massive, the scale of sound almost industrial. The addition of a rap from the rather sinister JC001 works too. They would go on to release two more 12″ EPs that year, Frozen & Cherry and played a spectacular gig at Dublin’s McGonagles on 28 November. Dean and Toni held a signing session in Comet Records that afternoon, where my mate Mick brought in my records to get their scrawls.
For me, the Throwing Muses peaked on The Real Ramona, a most delightful song cycle. Counting Backwards was the lead single, a spiky gazing-in-the-distance anthem. Elsewhere there’s the rather anemic Fortune Teller, somewhat of a let down from Buffalo Tom. The cobwebs are swept away by the rush and sheer energy of the Manic Street Preachers’ You Love Us. I was one of the lucky ones who saw the band play a 25 minute set at the Back Of The Mansion, Waterford on 26 April 1991. The next day, Blitz Records was flooded with people the next day – all looking for the Motown Junk 12″. He had one copy in stock. This Heavenly version of You Love Us is just the equal of the previous single, a stupendously arrogant sentiment married to a thrilling musical performance. They would shortly sign to Columbia Records and life would never be the same again. On that fateful Saturday afternoon of 27 April, we boarded the Rapid Express to Dublin, catching the first date of Morrissey’s Kill Uncle tour at the National Stadium. What a rock ‘n’ roll weekend.
On Wilde Club came the Catherine Wheel. She’s My Friend, their first single is a rather squalling slice of psychedelic-driven indie, perfectly pleasant but no Black Metallic. Next come the band credited with causing the phrase “shoegaze” to enter the musical lexicon. Moose’s – Jack is a fragile beast of a tune, a bare vocal introducing it and some gorgeous guitar melodies. Squeezing in after, Levitation (Terry Bickers’ mob) and the 90 second thrill of Nadine, sounding like Donovan fronting Wire. That just leaves us with The KLF to see out the night, Last Train To Trancentral. A #2 hit in May, the mix included here is the rare Pure Trance version from 1989. Just like the opening number, an understated finale.
“In field in England that will forever be The Summer Of Love, singing this at the top of my voice:
‘I’ve never felt so good
I’ve never felt so strong
Nothing can stop us now'” (Juan Leal)
Saint Etienne – Nothing Can Stop Us
Moose – Jack
Lest we forget
Manic Street Preachers – You Love Us