So we come to Volume 17 of Indie Top 20. Arriving during the early summer of 1993, the cover art is a perplexing photograph of six children. This was the fourth and last one to bear the “Independent 20” signage; a new change beckoned later that year. From my own perspective, it was a case of one college year done, two to go. The songs now remind me of cramming in Mount Pleasant Avenue, the large windows open and the smell of Jolt Cola.
A big tune is needed to start proceedings and who better than Depeche Mode. They had last appeared back in 1989 with Personal Jesus, the lead single for Violator. Now we get I Feel You, opening track and first 45 from Songs Of Faith And Devotion, an album that’s almost as epic as its predecessor. There are similarities with IFY and PJ; namely a rock spirituality running through both. My two friends and I all bought vinyl copies; each one in turn soundtracking the series of 21st birthday parties that took place that year. Next are the Inspiral Carpets – still surviving – with standalone single, How It Should Be. 1992 had been a busy year for the band with Revenge Of The Goldfish spawning four singles and some great live gigs. This new tune is a bit by-numbers though, meaty and piledriving and lacking the subtle heart of previous material. Not so, Saint Etienne: You’re In A Bad Way is a cracker, a brilliantly-crafted pop gem that could be from any era. A song that got my flatmates hooked on finding out more, from So Tough and back to You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone. The spirit of Joe Meek is here too; a song of futures and pasts.
“I played these songs to Susan the other day – she just laughed and said I was being spiteful because she wouldn’t sleep with me when we first met. She also said to tell you that she’s perfectly happy where she is at the moment, thank you very much.” Pulp’s final single for the Gift label was the dazzling Razzmatazz, easily their most polished work to date – despite the underlying layer of bitterness and grubby air of seediness. That’s all down to their utterly squalid frontman. Next are Verve; still shimmering with Blue. The video for the US single was shot in Dublin. And then Suede – yet another B-Side, The epic strains of The Big Time, like drowning in sound. This youthful Britpop sequence continues with The Auteurs and their thrilling second single, How Could I Be Wrong? I remember its grotesque video, a mid-nightmare. “Now get ready to cut yourself a slice of rock” is how I remember Kinky Machine being introduced on The Word. Bringing us up to half time are Delicious Monster’s pleasant Snuggle and The Cranes purple tsunami, Adrift. While not as haunted as the Wings Of Joy era, the sound is still powerful enough to daze you.
Restless on Slowdive’s Alison: “A mesmerising piece of sheer beauty. This is music at its most hypnotic, sensual and ethereal ; and a very original record, renewing the natural, wide open-space spirit of country-folk with the guitar glide and sound dynamics of shoegazing. Also the voices are quite androgynous, making this one timeless & other wordly.” It’s the lead track on the Outside Your Room EP, which Creation released on the same day as Souvlaki. The album only stayed one week in the UK charts; the backlash had started but in time, we knew that the press had got it wrong. It’s followed by Frank Black’s booming Beach Boys cover, Hang On To Your Ego, lifted from his underrated eponymous debut on 4AD. Meanwhile Nirvana have cited the Pixies as a major influence; I wonder if the same can be said for Hole. “I want to start a band. My influences are Big Black, Sonic Youth and Fleetwood Mac.” That’s a no then. Beautiful Son is here – a green vinyl 12″ single from Freebird Records. Kurt on the sleeve, 7 years old. Cobain + Love = the same.
The video for Detonate My Dreams is set around a campfire; Steve Mack full of energy. Despite a killer bass, it saw That Petrol Emotion bow out in somewhat anonymous fashion which was a great pity. Also reaching a crossroads of sorts were Mega City Four whose battle-hardened touring saw their tunes now carrying a world-weary melancholy. Iron Sky is a fine example and was included on the Wallflowers album. Moving on to Cornershop; after the rather ordinary Days Of Ford Cortina EP, there was a great leap forward with England’s Dreaming, the lead track on the Lock, Stock & Double-Barrel 10″. Sadly, it’s not here and instead Beechwood treat us to the far inferior Trip Easy. They played Fibber Magee’s that February, a gig that many now claim to have been at. Equally forgettable are Mint 400 and the obnoxious Natterjack Joe Far, far better are Madder Rose and the joyful guitar blast that is Beautiful John. I’ll always remember it from that Morehampton Road flat, c.1994 when we were all young and invincible – all would change utterly in April 1995.
The Fall’s first appearance on the Indie Top 20 series really is a cracker. Why Are People
Grudgeful? Grudge Fall (as Hot Press had it) is a hybrid cover version of People Funny Boy (Lee Perry) and its answer record, People Grudgeful (Joe Gibbs). The 12″ single is cut really loud and really works on the dancefloor, a techno thrill. The track was excluded from The Infotainment Scan LP but an inferior version is on the CD albeit it sounds like The Wedding Present for the first 20 seconds or so. Another recommendation from that era is also a Lee Perry cover – Kimble – which dates from a ’92 Peel Session and is also pressed on a loud 12″. Back to reality; we end with Miranda Sex Garden’s tribal + abrasive squall of Sunshine. Surely an intentional foreshadowing of the bald-headed lunatics.
The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?
Slowdive – Alison
Pulp – Razzmatazz
Lest we forget
Madder Rose – Beautiful John