Volume Four touched down in July 1992 and was picked up on a Saturday trip back to Dublin. Those pilgrimages were great although my exile from the capital would ultimately be brief – I would be back up in October and stayed again until June 1993. The format: Quantas Bus or CIE at 8.00am which arrived at Eden Quay around 10.30 – straight down Freebird’s stairs. The return trip wasn’t until 6.00pm from Tara Street station so a full day of browsing which you needed given the number of shops. The contributors are: Keith Cameron, David Cavanagh, John Harris, Sam King, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Mick Mercer, Paul Mathur, Andrew Perry, Neil Perry, Simon Reynolds, John Robb, Dave Simpson, Andrew Smith, Mr Spencer, Tommy Udo, Cathi Unworth, Jon Wilde. Meanwhile on the subscription page, Volume Two was listed as being sold out.
Suede’s My Insatiable One – the extra track on The Drowners 12″ single – had already been compiled by Indie Top 20 Volume 15. However it’s a new mix that appears here – the Piano Version – that calls to mind ’70s Bowie, a spine tingling performance from a band so young. The interview is particularly illuminating and an invaluable look inside now. We learn that Brett’s first album was Never Mind The Bollocks with Wuthering Heights his first single. “Pick a point somewhere between and you have Suede. They’re a band out of time.” They call out Slowdive for wearing Brian Jones glasses and lounging on the tops of cars. “We’ve been drawn to the ’70s because there were a lot of individuals around then.” It’s followed by Butterfly Child and the absolute classic masterpiece We, The Inspired. You won’t find this slice of hypnotic indie anywhere else. Gliding in neatly afterwards are 4AD hopefuls Swallow with a vocal version of Lovesleep.
Ultramarine – an act that seemed to always be at #50 in John Peel’s Festive 50 – donate a remix of Saratoga. What’s more interesting is their selection of inspirational LPs from the likes of Steely Dan, America, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, Carly Simon, Kate Bush, Steve Miller, Neil Young & Joni Mitchell – a few of which must have caused some consternation among the purists. The tune is a slinky grower too and links in well with Bim Sherman’s beaming Keep On Movin’ and Flower Sermon’s oblique Shine. Shivers down the back time – it’s Strangelove and their debut recording Zoo’d Out which would later surface as Rough Trade Singles Club 7″. It sounds awfully unhappy but really hits the spot. Back to 4AD for the Throwing Muses and an edited remix of the Red Heaven album track that was also issued as the Firepile EP. Convoluted time changes galore. There’s a great Q&A section in the magazine i.e. “Are Throwing Muses songs ugly?”, “Is Bob Mould a tortured man?”
“On virgin fields we’ll skate
Stand by children we’ll create
Like the arctic wind we spin
A windmill’s rose into the threshing soul”
The Wedding Present provided the gateway for Pavement with their cover of Box Elder, released on the Brassneck 12″ in February 1990. Their stunning debut album Slanted & Enchanted emerged in April 1992 but I didn’t buy a copy until this July day trip. When I got off the bus that evening, I couldn’t wait to get home and play my purchases. As was customary, a CD would go on the stereo while I went through the (predominately) vinyl purchases, reading sleeve notes and checking out track lists. So I heard Greenlander before the album and as a result, it will always occupy a special place in the earworm front row. An elegaic masterpiece. Steve Malkmus remembers: “That doesn’t sound like The Fall! It’s got a descending, Isn’t It a Pity, George Harrison riff. It’s just an elegiac imagination of Greenland. Greenland is a very peculiar place, an odd country with an odd colonial history. Even when I was a little child, when I was looking at the globe, Greenland kind of fascinated me. It was just kind of a tragic place where plants wouldn’t grow or people ruined the soil really quickly ’cause they tried to use European agricultural techniques and maybe tried to wear Northern European clothes and shoes, and it wasn’t working, so they were like, ‘Hey, these natives — they’ve got it figured out.’ It was pretty grim. Iceland was totally grim and poor, and then you multiply that times eight. That was Greenland in the early settling times.” It also features on 1993’s Born To Choose.
There’s a brief review of Slanted & Enchanted in the magazine & it cites the band’s top influences. “A little bit of Velvet Underground, a lot more Fall, some reasonable helpings of Can plus definite nods at US underground contemporaries Sonic Youth and the Pixies – but this ad hoc assemblage of oddballs have assumed these with their own mysterious X factor.” Pavement were a band that were a constant presence in my life for the rest of the decade but there’s something very intangibly precious about those first two albums. Almost inevitably, The Fall are next. Arid Al’s Dream was a new recording, bearing the hallmarks of the Shift-work era. The tune would remain lost, elusive even until eventually gathered up by A World Bewitched in 2001. The feature is excellent; a hugely entertaining interview with Mark E Smith and a fine career overview that coincided with me plugging the remaining gaps in my Fall collection that autumn. I must have read these pages 100 times. The doctrine of The Fall – “to have raw music with really weird vocals over it.”
There’s a new song from Babes In Toyland! Surprisingly Sometimes still holds up today, a far cry from the majority of Fontanelle. Next come Spectrum and the minimalist drone of Soul Kiss, not on the LP of the same name. In its wake, the lilting tacky headcharge Ravi Shankar by Dub Syndicate before Stereolab arrive from the ashes of McCarthy. Super Falling Star (Moog Mix) is pretty mesmerising but does it really recall Smalltown Boy? And then back to Sherwood vibes with husky boxing fan Little Annie’s edgy, smouldering Everything & More. Elsewhere Meat Beat Manifesto make another appearance, the sample heavy Drop before Pop Will Eat Itself and the groovy Grebo anthem Bulletproof (No Half Measures) – another Adrian S. moment. The final comedown belongs to the Aphex Twin and the furious relentless squall of En Trange To Exit. En Trance perhaps. And for an epilogue, Steroid Maximus (JG Thirwell, Foetus etc) and the oh-so-shocking Vulgarity.
Suede – My Insatiable One (Piano Version)
Butterfly Child – We, The Inspired
Lest we forget
Pavement – Greenlander