A Historical Debt (Beechwood Music, 1991)

A Historical Debt

A Historical Debt r

“All tracks have been donated royalty free and money raised by this project will be used to pay back some of the huge historical debt still owed to independent labels and artists from the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution.
In this current recession, therefore, A HISTORICAL DEBT could prove the difference for many smaller labels between survival or collapse. Special thanks to the artists who have donated their songs, and to everyone involved in the album who have willingly offered their services either totally free or at cost.”

And there you have it. A Historical Debt was compiled by Beechwood Music’s guru Tim Millington and was unique in its track selection, offering a wide variety of indie tracks from the likes of Mute, One Little Indian, 4AD, Heavenly, Sarah, Situation Two, Fire, The Foundation Label and Rough Trade themselves. And so we begin with a rush and a push: the breathless energy of Roddy Frame’s Aztec Camera and the succinct pop of Oblivious. “They call us lonely when we’re really just alone.” It’s followed by a nifty live version of Erasure’s Push Me, Shove Me which leads into Depeche Mode’s deeply penetrating Halo, one of many highlights from Violator. An album that turns 30 in 2020; would love a Super Deluxe Edition featuring all the remixes, extended versions, B-sides and maybe a live gig. Back to reality with The Shamen’s wistful Possible Worlds, yet another gem from En-tact. More: the still-fresh-then Pump Up The Volume, the unlikeliest ever record from 4AD.

C81: Scritti Politti’s Sweetest Girl, one of the finest tunes of the post-punk era. File under narcoleptic ska. We get the 5:10 version – longer than the 7″, shorter than the Songs To Remember mix. To Iceland and The Sugarcubes and their debut single Birthday that first brought all the attention – a single of the week in Melody Maker. Even now, it’s an unnerving song which works well with the unnerving shuffle of Flowered Up’s Phobia. From there we slide into baggy waters for The Charlatans’ evergreen The Only One I Know followed by the Inspiral Carpets more reflective Sleep Well Tonight. A totally exquisite anthem from The Beast Inside, a very underrated record that I couldn’t get enough of 1991. Also check out the 14 minute Further Away and searing S&M of Please Be Cruel. A Rosslare Strand memory: “Promise it will never go dark for the people in the park.”

The second half begins with the Woodenstops and the frantic Well Well Well. An average enough track that doesn’t outstay its welcome. Much better are The Dylans and the trippy shimmer of Godlike. Psychedelic shoegaze with beats. Meanwhile Dan Treacy writes a more introspective tune for once with the oddly touching All My Dreams Are Dead. Equally stirring is Sandie Shaw and her 1984 sojourn with The Smiths. Jeane was the bonus track on the 12″ and she really does it justice, a wonderful strum. And then a song to stop you dead: Shipbuilding, where war (in this case, the Falklands) brings prosperity – at a cost. Robert Wyatt recalls: “Geoff sent me a cassette saying this is a pretty good song, you ought to sing it. So I tried it out and it sounded good. The musical setting was nothing to do with me. Elvis had already recorded a vocal for it – very good vocal – and it was going to come out in the same form with him singing on it. I went in and did a vocal in a couple of hours with Mr. Costello producing, and that was it … I had no expectations of it at all. All I thought about was singing it in tune!”

Bradford (1987-1991), supported Morrissey at Wolverhampton. Skin Storm is regarded as the first indie CD single and is an astonishing mix of beautifully mournful vocals and superb guitar lines. Like The LA’s, they only made one album, produced by Stephen Street – which also didn’t appear until 1990. It’s followed by the spine-tingling sweet bass of Let’s Kiss And Make Up from The Field Mice. Subsequently covered by Saint Etienne, the producer Ian Catt worked on both versions and was a long-term collaborator with the two bands. Keeping the groove, the fiery I Wonder Why from The Heart Throbs, shining brightly since I was 18. There’s just time for two more – Loop’s Arc-lite, a single taken from A Gilded Eternity, a double that played at 45pm. Dronescape psych. And back to 1983 for Death Cult and the ghostly dance of God’s Zoo. Shades of Blue Monday.

Favourite tracks
The Dylans – Godlike

The Field Mice – Let’s Kiss And Make Up

Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding

Lest we forget
Inspiral Carpets – Sleep Well Tonight

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