By the time Indie Top 20 Volume 22 arrived, the Shine series was gathering momentum as the compilation of choice for certain members of the alternative set. In their overview, Beechwood describe their latest outing as “another eclectic upfront collection of the most outstanding tracks from the vibrant UK indie chart.” Once again the design changed, the consistency of the previous four volumes swept aside for images of subbuteo men.
I was football mad in the early 1980s. Only in threes; Shoot! every week, The Rothmans Football Yearbook at Christmas and Subbuteo as often as I could. It wasn’t a game you could play on your own so usually it was against one of my neighbours. Typically we played on a bedroom carpet – very hard on the knees with all kinds of pins & needles, dead legs and cramps an inevitable outcome. Sometimes we had the luxury of using a wooden table, much more comfortable and less change of falling on top of the pitch and crushing the players. The selection of teams in Fitzmaurice’s of Waterford was poor; Stoke City was as exotic. However we used to paint out own; the gold of Brazil being particularly memorable with numbers in blue marker on the base; the tiny stickered numbers you could buy would always fall off. I had the scoreboard while my friend had floodlights and corner kickers.
“The reliable alternative” kicks off with Wake Up Boo! You’ve heard it a thousand times before and it’s impossible to play with fresh ears now. Echobelly’s Great Things is possibly their weakest moment, an anti-anthem of personal goals while my opinions on Sleeper’s Vegas & Teenage Fanclub’s Sparky’s Dream can both be read on Shine Too review. Then there’s the lesser spot Julian Cope hit-ish, the plaintive Try Try Try, lifted from the uneven 20 Mothers. Next: Ash’s frenzied yet so cruel Kung Fu which towers over the baffling Wannadies B-side – a cover of Blister In The Sun while Intastella’s treatment of Frank Valli’s The Night is equally clumsy. Equally insipid are Powder and the clíched Afrodisiac. Thankfully disappointment is avoided when you play Heavy Stereo’s glam stomper Sleep Freak. A slowburner – it took me years to click with it – it really packs a groovy punch.
Dubstar’s melancholic dreampop masterpiece Stars is a track that reeks of time, place and circumstance. They supported Erasure on their 1996 tour – “Cheers, thanks a lot” – and Disgraceful was the soundtrack to a number of self-made flat get togethers. Next are The Charlatans, still survivors, but then ploughing through their fourth album, reeking of the Stones. That’s perfectly sequenced into the epic poetry in motion of The Verve and their marvelously moody On Your Own, lifted off A Northern Soul. I think Ruby hold the record for worst attended gig ever – rumours that only three people showed up for their Olympia show. Paraffin has been remixed by Red Snapper which certainly improves on the original. By then both of my Silverfish t-shirts had been stolen and with that, an era had ended.
The Belly timeline roughly coincides with my spell in UCD. Gepetto reminds me of the dark winter of ’92 with Star a sparkling January gem in Mount Pleasant Avenue. King touched down in February ’95, before the spiraling madness and chaos that ensued later in the spring. Seal My Fate was the final single before the break up, searing & intense, a perfect sign-off. Elsewhere Garbage’s Subhuman is a rare misstep, abrasive without the sweet heart while Mansun’s Take It Easy Chicken (awful title) comes with a powerful riff that carries the whole tune. For the closing trio, things go a little flat. Done Lying Down’s Chronic Offender manages to be one of the least memorable singles of the ’90s while the Supermodel tune is turgid inferiority complex rubbish. Finally Perfume wrap things up with the shimmering & spectral Yesterday Follows You that manages to wipe out the sour taste of the previous pair of no-hopers. “He flicked to kick. And I didn’t know.”
The Verve – On Your Own
Ash – Kung Fu
Belly – Seal My Fate
Lest we forget
Heavy Stereo – Sleep Freak