Indie Top 20 Volume 23 (Beechwood Music, 1996)

Almost one year after the last instalment, Indie Top 20 Volume 23 finally arrived in October 1996. In the interim, a mop-up of volumes 16-22 had been released – the somewhat tepid Best Of Indie Top 20. Composition of tracks outlined below:
Indie Top 20 Volume 16: Sugar – Changes
Indie Top 20 Volume 18: Blur – Chemical World, Elastica – Stutter, Pop Will Eat Itself – RSVP
Indie Top 20 Volume 19: The Charlatans – Can’t Get Out Of Bed, Radiohead – Creep, Gigolo Aunts – Where I Find My Heaven
Indie Top 20 Volume 20: Echobelly – I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me, The Boo Radleys – Lazarus, Transglobal Underground – Protean, Inspiral Carpets featuring Mark E. Smith – I Want You, Lush – Hypocrite
Indie Top 20 Volume 21: Sleeper – Inbetweener, Ash – Uncle Pat, Supergrass – Caught By The Fuzz, Perfume – Lover, Spiritualized – Let It Flow, AC Acoustics – Hand Passes Plenty, Suede – The Wild Ones
Indie Top 20 Volume 22: Garbage – Subhuman
Curiously there is nothing included from the excellent Indie Top 20 Volume 17.

There were no signs that this would be the last chapter. “The Indie Top 20 will be back in a few months to deliver another unique collection of what’s going on at the cutting edge of the Indie scene.” One of the problems was Shine stealing a march on a number of tunes:
Shine 4: Northern Uproar – From A Window
Shine 5: Ash – Goldfinger, 60 Ft Dolls – Talk To Me
Shine 6: Suede – Trash, Boo Radleys – What’s In The Box, Sleeper – Sale Of The Century, Blur – Charmless Man, Babybird – Goodnight, Sussed – One In A Million

If you had a pick a track to symbolise a lost Britpop classic then look no further than Octopus. Ace. Inspired by Syd Barrett and signed to Food Records, Your Smile is A+ joy, a psychedelic gem with severe baroque undertones, something that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Fading Yellow CD. Next comes the rather anodyne sound of Moloko Morcheeba and the monotonous Tape Loop. There’s a bit of fun on the horizon with Collapsed Lung, frequently confused with Compulsion, and their amusing party tune Eat My Goal. Taking its name from an Alan Partridge clip on The Day Today, the track proved to be a pleasant diversion in a big beat style. “This energy of movement, and of time and place” was Rick Smith’s verdict on Underworld’s Born Slippy, the essence and spirit of 1996. Highs & lows.

Heavy Stereo also throw us back to an earlier era with the whimsical Mouse In A Hole before Pusherman’s rather alienating heavy riffage of The Aim Indeed. Elsewhere 18 Wheeler – more Creation hopefuls – serve up the melodic Crabs. We’re treading water but are then saved by the Slacker meets Manga awesomeness of Urusei Yatsura’s Phasers On Stun. They played The Mean Fiddler and UCD Bar on successive nights and I interviewed them for Why Me? Hard to get them to talk but great live. Their joyful debut album still gets a spin, majestic rock. Sadly we’re slap bang back in ordinary world with The Gyres’ derivative Are You Ready while TC Hug’s I’m Doing Fine brings forth memories of The Family Cat’s melody lines. And so we come to the final track of the series; from the ashes of Five Thirty, here are Orange DeLuxe with their melancholy Andrex Puppy Love, a rather sweeping turn-on-the-lights-and-go-home type of number. Time now folks, please!

Favourite tracks
Urusei Yatsura – Phasers On Stun

TC Hug – I’m Doing Fine

Northern Uproar – From A Window

Lest we forget
Octopus – Your Smile

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Shine 6 (Polygram TV, 1996)

The old marketing ploy of advertising your previous volumes is utilised in the inlay of Shine 6. The five instalments are laid out with colour thumbnails and a selection of highlights for each one are also listed. Memories of Now That’s What I Call Music 6.

We start with Paul Weller and the grinding heavy soul of Peacock Suit which is followed by The Charlatans’ northern stormer One To Another is excellent, a real soul saver. Making it three out of three is A Design For Life, the Manic Street Preachers’ exquisite rant against class privilege before the ’70s glam stomp of Suede’s Trash, the opening ace from Coming Up. Dodgy’s breezy Good Enough bridges the gap before Ocean Colour Scene’s shiny ‘n’ melodic The Circle, sublime melodies all. After such a familiar beginning, we go down a slightly less travelled path that encompasses Shed Seven’s tuneful On Standby & We Love You, Menswear’s jaunty non-album 45. Back to the bang(ers): Blur’s annoying Charmless Man and The Cardigans’ ubiquitous Lovefool. “I was never cool in school”: it’s Ben Folds Five with the almost operatic Underground. Even 25 years on, it’s fabulous fun.

This keen sense of theatrical adventure continues on the next pair of tunes. The Divine Comedy’s Becoming More Like Alfie is taken from their most Britpop LP Casanova. The video (only Neil’s second) is a riot with the lyrical content now written off as “problematic” by serious bearded men. Next come My Life Story – lead by the suave Jake Shillingford (who looks exactly like you’d expect) and the orchestral banger 12 Reasons Why I Love Her. Nice Fun Boy Three influence. It’s followed by Sleeper’s minty Sale Of The Centrury and Babybird’s overlooked Goodnight (lost in the shadow of You’re Gorgeous). The 7″ came from Virgin and reminds me of Grosvenor Road and its awful landlord Mr Blacklock. And then Joyrider’s surprisingly bouncy cover of Rush Hour. It shouldn’t work but does. Keeping things heavy are the Boo Radleys and the searing riffage of What’s In The Box. Bringing CD1 to a close are the Presidents Of The United States Of America with the annoyingly addictive Lump while pales into nothing when Rocket From The Crypt drop the furious horn rock monster On A Rope. Memories of that January ’96 gig at The Mean Fiddler and ordering Hot Charity + Scream Duckula Scream from Alan’s, Wigan.

Disc 2 begins with The Cranberries and their understated Free To Decide, a push back against intrusive journalists which urges them to cover the wars in Russia and Sarajevo instead. Equally low key are Electronic and the wonderfully melodic Forbidden City – killer guitar break and all. Inevitably Oasis appear; while not an actual UK 45, they did make a video for album-closer Champagne Supernova and it got caned on radio and television. Meanwhile Cast’s Walkaway always reminds me of Euro ’96. The dreamy melodies of Walkaway forever associated with England footballers in a grey strip. Gareth Southgate missing a penalty. Rody Boland’s erupting in joy. Elsewhere Pulp’s Different Class was still providing new thrills in 1996; in this instance, the deep blue soundscapes of the thought-provoking Something Changed. There’s more plaintive sensitivity on both The Longpigs’ On And On and on Terrorvision’s Bad Actress, one of the year’s underrated 7″s.

The Levellers give us a just-ok live Exodus before Mansun’s provocative Stripper Vicar. The Imperial Teens’ bass-heavy You’re One, Northern Uproar’s Living It Up and Heavy Stereo’s Chinese Burn all bring back memories of the Camden (Street) crawl of the mid-90s. But Elcka’s catchy Look At You Now is the real blast from the past, remaining very unheard since that summer. Next are Lush whose renaissance continues with 500 (Shake Baby Shake) while the first of two Sarahs arrives in the form of Dubstar’s dreamy Elevator Song. Sarah #2 – Crackbirdnell singing about motorways and airplanes on the luscious Anymore. Ruth’s dull Valentine’s Day is followed by Bawl’s ode to supermarkets, Beyond Safe Ways. We’re in the dead zone now as Sussed’s One In A Million jumps up, brash and lively before every single cobweb is blown away by Kenickie’s fantastic Punka which always filled the dancefloors and is embued with the spirit of Sham 69. “Lo-fi songs are great” is glorious. To the end with Placebo & the intense 36 Degrees. For all introverts everywhere.

Favourite tracks
My Life Story – 12 Reasons Why I Love Her

The Divine Comedy – Becoming More Like Alfie

Sarah Cracknell – Anymore

Electronic – Forbidden City

Kenickie – Punka

Lest we forget
Babybird – Goodnight

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Volume Sixteen: Copulation Explosion (Volume, 1996)

You had to email Yvonne at Volume to take out a subscription. Four issues cost £45 and in the book for Volume Sixteen they were still advertised along with back issues of both it and Trance Europe Express. The draw: a free t-shirt of Freddie, cover star of Volume Three.

We start with Dubstar’s Not So Fast, a new track recorded especially for the magazine. It is a slowburner, well-crafted with their typical sound. Disgraceful still gets a regular autumn airing in my house, perfect for changing seasons. In a very welcome change, the contents page for this issue has a helpful note on the track therein. For example Space (sounding strangely like Dubstar for the first 10 seconds) offer up Me And You Vs The World, described as “a cheesily embellished version of one of their tufest tunes” – ultra nice instrumentation too. Breaking the spell are Bawl and the aptly described Unfinished. Nice James Joyce discussion in the text. Pity it wasn’t Brawl, fondly remembered here. Next are Candyskins; Oasis sound remarkably like them. Europe + Japan is very catchy stuff, an exclusive. Meanwhile Northern Uproar proudly announce that they’re not voting and struggle to know the difference between Conservative and Labour. The Alternative Electric version of Moods is a wonderful mix of melancholia and ace swirling melody lines.

Linoleum crash in with the casual swagger of She’s Sick, a track that would later feature on their debut LP Dissent. I had forgotten about them until now. Next are Cradle with a French version of Second Nature, an old Wedding Present trick. Nothing special. Thinking back 25 years, I remember spending a lot of time listening to Super Furry Animals. Fuzzy Logic got serious play, a fantastic debut brimming with confidence. There’s an interesting demo of Frisbee here, slower than the final take. “Two parts ethereal bubblegum pop, one part enigmatic dead seriousness (with a bit of Supertramp thrown in)”. Golf is on the TV and Bunford gives it the thumbs up: “Any sport where you get to dress like a pimp is alright by me.” Curiously the brief review of the album dismisses it as “so little having lasting power” which is way off the mark. We then go back to London for Octopus and their jerky I Know Who I Am. And then a Beck exclusive, the aggressive Thunderpeel. The free-spirited Odelay remains one of that year’s high points. Compressed deluxe edition.

The Cure get a nice long feature here which is worth the price of admission. It was the Wild Mood Swings era, widely maligned but it has high points. The Roxy Mix of Club America is an even baggier take on the original, frantic guitars and Robert’s deep voice. It’s followed by Pusherman’s Whole, a track of similar length but containing none of the creativity. And then Baader Meinhof’s oblique instrumental GSG/29, lifted off their knockout album, another heavy spinner of ’96. A particularly great year for The Auteurs and their £1.99 classic After Murder Park. One of my highlights of the entire decade was seeing Luke Haines perform tracks from both albums in Vicar Street. Back to nature: Moonshake’s Nothing But Time is a smoky trip hip journey while Gretschen Hofner’s St Pauli is as wretched as I can remember. The interview sees the singer spout off in a confrontational fashion, dropping cliched anti-U2 comments. After a boring Shave number, Lush drop a new tune, the gentle Half And Half which would eventually show up on the controversial Chorus box set. Lovelife gets called “a singalong hymn-book for the perpetually disenchanted” – a pretty accurate description. Good interview too.

On Creation, Edward Ball’s Docklands Blues is a sparkly night-time observational from the former Television Personalities man. Next are Balloon with the wispy Saw Song, waiting for sleep. Then Vic Chesnutt’s cover of Flowers On The Wall, recorded for a Dutch radio station. The CD concludes on a downbeat note, the Afghan Whigs solemn 3.00AM bedsit lament, I Want To Go To Sleep. But there’s more! Another CD with read-only memory content and five tunes. Starting are Labradford with The Window, all elegant ambient textures before Heave’s faraway sound of Barberskum. Surprisingly we go all the back to 1979 for The Pop Group’s 3:38, the B-side to She Is Beyond Good And Evil before singer Mark Stewart serves up the more interesting Digital Justice (Dub), bleak techno for the future. Finally, we end with an old favourite of the magazine – Meat Beat Manifesto and their baroque industrial classic Future Worlds (Alternative Version). Just get higher.

Favourite tracks
Northern Uproar – Moods (Alternative Electric Version)

The Cure – Club America (Roxy Mix)

The Afghan Whigs – I Want To Go To Sleep

Meat Beat Manifesto – Future Worlds (Alternative Version)

Lest we forget
Mark Stewart – Digital Justice (Dub)

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