Volume Five was released in time for Christmas 1992 and comes with two seasonal greetings from the fish: “Happy Christmas” and “Fuck Christmas – let’s swim.” Contributing were the following: Jack Barron, Keith Cameron, David Cavanagh, Ian Gittins, John Harris, Sam King, Graham Linehan, Arthur Mathews, Paul Mathur, Mick Mercer, Andrew Perry, Neil Perry, Simon Reynolds, John Robb, Dave Simpson, Andrew Smith, Mr Spencer, Tommy Udo, Cathi Unsworth, Jon Wilde. Designed by accident.
The Orb kick off with a live version of O.O.B.E. which was recorded at Aylesbury Civic Centre on June 4 1992. The opening Beethoven sample being particularly evocative as I recently seen A Clockwork Orange for the first time. Third generation VHS; in 1994 I would upgrade to a direct dub from a Dutch laserdisc. This version is not on You Tube which may or may not be because of the unreasonable & over zealous efforts by a certain ex-member of the band. Next are The Grid with the danceable Cybernetic which features Robert Fripp on crafty guitar. In the zone, we get the last gasp death shuffle of the Happy Mondays with Monkey In The Family (Dub Mix). Yes Please! was a tough listen then and even now; the songs only revealing themselves in chinks and parts. Changing tack, Fuel’s lost and misted classic Wildfire hangs brightly and positively shimmers like a new flower as I write this on Sunday 22 March, the world in chaos. Produced by Robin Guthrie, their second album never emerged due to record label collapse. “Gosh, this takes me back to muddy free festivals on moors and on hills, and Sunday evening with the sun streaming through the windows, feeling silly and tired at the same time.” (Denise Boyd)
We go dutch for track 5 – Bettie Serveert’s spectral and fractured Brain-Tag. There’s an advert for fellow 4AD mates Red House Painters’ Down Colorful Hill in the magazine; they announced their arrival in my life later on with the stunning new track Uncle Joe, later to feature on their third album Bridge. One of the saddest songs ever written. Meanwhile Macbeth’s Robin Guthrie-produced cover of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Help Me Lift You Up is sublime; you’ll recall it featuring on This Mortal Coil’s Blood the previous year, sung by Deirdre Rutkowski. And as if by magic, the Cocteau Twins are back with their first new track since leaving 4AD. Frosty The Snowman is a gorgeous tune, an almost heartbreaking rendition of the Christmas classic and would not be officially released until December 1993 when it appeared as the second track on the Snow EP. In the interview there’s a nice look back at their 4AD discography complete with photographs. That Singles Collection CD box from 1991 remains a highlight of my entire collection; perfect sound forever and so much better sound quality than the appalling remasters that would follow in the 2000s.
The Fontana years are fascinating in the Cocteau Twins’ story. 1993 was also the year in which Four Calendar Café emerged; the LP was very tricky to source at the time. I had to order it from Sister Ray in the end. Evangeline was the lead single, the 12″ similarly scarce although I subsequently got hold of a used copy. It was followed by Bluebeard in February 1994. Fast forward 18 months to September 1995 when we got a teaser for the new album in the form of the Twinlights EP; it had Rilkean Heart and Half-Gifts which were re-done for Milk & Kisses plus a stripped-down Pink Orange Red and the unique Golden Vein. It was quickly followed by the Otherness EP which featured two more new tracks – Seekers Who Are Lovers and Violaine which are remixed along with new versions of Feet Like Fins and Cherry-Coloured Funk. Milk & Kisses came from the Virgin Megastore; they had five copies. A month after I bought it, they still had four left. To promote it was the two part CD single Tishbite with a similarly structured Violaine following in the summer of 1996.
Hell S. Kirk’s mob Cabaret Voltaire contribute a remix of Low Cool that plays like an ageless slice of hip hop. Blob City recalls: “I took a train from Florida to New Jersey in the early 90s. This song was on on my discman. Smoking cigarettes in the smoking car. Thunderstorm in the windows.” It’s followed by The Sandals funked-up punk jazz Venice Groove; in the words, they bitch about 70% voting Conservative in the 1992 election. And keeping it righteous are Consolidated with Guerrillas In The Mist, lifted from Play More Music, a long-sold on purchase from Comet Records. Less preachy than usual. Then we go grunge – The Jesus Lizard’s festering Whirl is followed by L7’s live Deathwish before the murky Easy Slide by Hyperhead. Back then a new Wedding Present track was always welcome. After a dozen 7″s, a cover of Pell Mell’s instrumental Signal that sounds like the Pixies. Next are Suede support act, The Auteurs, who had just released their debut single Showgirl. Bailed Out (Cello Mix) is immense, a fine variation of what would become the second track on New Wave. Elsewhere the Listen Carefully section has album reviews for Denim, Therapy?, Sebadoh, Stereo MCs, Tom Waits and Ultra Vivid Scene among others.
We end with Morrissey’s Tomorrow; closing track on the Your Arsenal LP & appearing in remixed form; courtesy of Steve Peck and released in the US. The CD single shows Gary Day by the pool at the Sunset Marquis hotel in West Hollywood, photographed by Linder Sterling. The photo on the back of the single was taken by Jurgen Vollmer, from the book Rockers. As the Volume feature rather pompously tells us: “Morrissey may yet turn into one of those figures whose brilliance comes from their stubborn refusal to acknowledge the onward march of fashion.” It also goes onto mention the “ugly controversy” of The National Front Disco and We’ll Let You Know along with the obligatory reference to the “insensitive” Bengali In Platforms – effectively recycling the many arguments already made in ’92, without offering anything new – admittedly difficult without an interview.
“Needless to say, Reprise didn’t make Tomorrow a hit. It emerges in a sleeve on which I languish by a swimming pool reading Variety magazine. In the background is bassist Gary Day, whom I most certainly have nothing against, but I ask that he be chopped off because he looks like a prop. I am told that no one knows how to take him out of the proofs (this is, after all, 1066), and so Gary remains on the sleeve and I feel slightly silly. Art must wait.” (Morrissey)
Red House Painters – Uncle Joe
Cocteau Twins – Frosty The Snowman
Lest we forget
Fuel – Wildfire