A 30-song strong glance back at the mid-to-late eighties world of alternative music with a light dose of jangle and twee.
I imagine myself at the time sitting cross-legged in my bedroom with piles of singles (and hopefully a few beer bottles) on the floor. I have a Panasonic turntable and an amp with power enough to make the tweeters shake. See there’s another thing – tweeters these days are social media types!
I’ve got all these wonderful 7″ singles by me and want to happily waste a good hour playing my favourites. I’m starting with the Brilliant Corners and I’ll see how it pans out from there.
Lined up I’ve got McCarthy, The Wolfhounds, Close Lobsters, Microdisney, oh and Sea Urchins, Field Mice, 14 Iced Bears and Brighter ‘cos I love a bit of jangle and twee.
It’s 1988 but fast forward three decades and I can have even more beer and things are so much easier as I drag and drop songs onto my virtual decks and record a mix that can be uploaded and shared and those tweeters that are no longer speakers can have their say about it.
You can however and I’ll be delighted if there are thoughts and critique!
FILE SIZE: 165MB RUNNING TIME: 01:58:44
BRILLIANT CORNERS – “Your Feet Never Touch The Ground” – Somebody Up There Likes Me – (1988) – McQueen Records
SONIC YOUTH – “Schizophrenia” – Sister – (1987) – SST Records
1000 VIOLINS – “Like One Thousand Violins” – Halcyon Days 12″ – (1985) – Dreamworld Records
Ah, the Brilliant Corners, a luxury beginning I feel with that brass section and fine cresendo, my feet aren’t touching the ground for sure. Sonic Youth follow with the opener from Sister and schizophrenia is taking me home. And the first trio completes with “Like One Thousand Violins” and I’ve never been quite sure how I could adore vocals like this but eschew that Associates song, “Party Fears Two” – there are distinct similarities in the vocal but anyway, 1000 Violins is a YES YES YES YES, YES from me.
NIKKI SUDDEN & DAVE KUSWORTH – THE JACOBITES – “Where The Rivers End” – Robespierre’s Velvet Basement – (1985) – Glass Records
PASSMORE SISTERS – “Every Child In Heaven” – First Love, Last Rites – (1987) – Sharp Records
THE PASTELS – “Crawl Babies” – Up For A Bit With The Pastels – (1987) – Glass Records
The original line-up of songs for this mix was too heavyweight in twee and janglepop so I revamped with tracks like “Where The Rivers End” – it’s one of those that when you listen, you imagine it being played live, there’s just that feel to it and it’s a proper barnstormer. Like many of the songs here, my exposure to them is owed to the late, great John Ravenscroft without who I would unlikely have ever heard the Passmore Sisters. The Pastels of course were more widely heard and popular though perhaps an acquired taste?
SCREAMING TREES – “Tangiers” – 12″ single – (1988) – Native Records
LET’S GO NAKED – “3 Limbs” – 7″ SINGLE – (1986) – Trust Records
THE CORN DOLLIES – “Forever Steven” -The Corn Dollies – (1988) – Midnight Music
Sometimes I would be in Our Price (other record stores were available!) and opt to buy something either because the band had an interesting name or there was something about the sleeve that captured my imagination. With Screaming Trees (and there are a few bands with the same name out there) it was just the name and I was pleased with Tangiers – I’m not sure of their discography overall, anyways, it was a nice break after the Pastels number. Let’s Go Naked formed in the mid 1980’s in Brisbane and attracted immediate attention much further afield it says here…
Let’s Go Naked started as a vehicle for talented singer songwriter Murray Power who formed the band with himself on guitar and vocals, Andrew Lofthouse on bass and Rosalinda McGovern on drums in 1984. The band built a following playing and recording up and down the east coast. Martin Thompson joined shortly after on lead guitar. Signed to Sydney label Waterfront Records, the band released a six track mini LP, ‘Everything’ in 1986. A top 10 indie debut, it garnered great reviews and the ears of influential BBC DJ, John Peel. The album found Let’s Go Naked as supposed exponents of the ‘Brisbane Sound’ (whatever that might be…) with unorthodox arrangements, an angular driven guitar style and incorporating keyboards on some of the tracks. The next single “Three Limbs” released on Trust Records found Let’s Go Naked emerging with their own refreshing sound – part pop but still with an off kilter edgy world view. This track became a favorite of the late John Peel on his BBC shows bringing Let’s Go Naked to a European audience.
The Corn Dollies were a band from London, active between 1987 and 1991 so a career short-lived. “Forever Steven”, originally released on the band’s own Farm Label, was produced by Robert Forster of the Go Betweens.
CLOSE LOBSTERS – “Mother Of God” – Foxheads Stalk This Land – (1987) – Enigma Records
WEDDING PRESENT – “Give My Love To Kevin” – George Best – (1987) – Reception Records
THE SINISTER CLEANERS – “Longing For Next Year” – 12″ single – (1987) – AAZ Records
“Mother Of God” is an epic track and worthy of a place in this project. It stands out like the proverbial thumb on Foxheads and while I’m unfamiliar with all of their work I’ve a feeling they’ve done nothing else quite like this. From the Weddoes LP George Best it was a tough call but I’ve gone for my personal fave in “Give My Love To Kevin” – there’s that line where he says “I just can’t bear to imagine you sharing a bed with him” that reminds me of Costello opining “It’s the thought of him undressing you, or you undressing”.
Some interesting lines also in “Longing For Next Year” (Sinister Cleaners) like… “You brought me apricots for breakfast which I found very strange” and “You brought four blue cotton nighties and two demijohns of beer” – essentially this is a song about memories, growing old and clinging on though it’s that awkward drum rolling at the bridges that make it for me.
FELT – “Dark Red Birds” – Poem Of The River – (1987) – Creation Records
PRIMAL SCREAM – “Gentle Tuesday” – Sonic Flower Groove – (1987) – Elevation Records
THE JAMES DEAN DRIVING EXPERIENCE – “Dean’s Eleventh Dream” – (1988) – Autumn Glow Records
I always think Felt are ‘one of those’ love or loathe bands. Some might come across Primitive Painters as an example and not explore further. I bought Ballad Of The Band on a 7″ and never looked back really. Dark Red Birds is part of a mini album in essence and I love it dearly.
“Gentle Tuesday” – it’s a terrific song but I think the standout track on Sonic Flower Groove – I really couldn’t get on with any of the other stuff.
The James Dean Driving Experience. Some wonderful tunes and a rather underrated outfit I reckon.
BRIGHTER – “Around The World In Eighty Days” – 7″ single – (1989) – Sarah Records
FIELD MICE – “You’re Kidding, Aren’t You?” – Snowball – (1989) – Sarah Records
14 ICED BEARS – “Hay Fever” – 14 Iced Beara – (1988) – Thunderball Records
One, two, twee! The mix enters janglepop mode with that East Village classic and favourites from Brighter, Field Mice, The Sweetest Ache and 14 Iced Bears.
EAST VILLAGE – “Kathleen” – Cubans In The Bluefields EP – (1988) – Sub Aqua Records
THE SWEETEST ACHE – “Tell Me How It Feels” – 7″ single – (1989) – Sarah Records
10,000 MANIACS – “Cherry Tree” – In My Tribe – (1987) – Elektra Records
I remember where I was buying that 14 Iced Bears LP too – Tower Records, Piccadilly Circus. Sometimes I went with friends to watch West Ham but we made a day of it, taking in Tower Records for the greater choice of music, so much better than Our Price in Farnham!
The Cherry Tree is important to me for the reason that it focuses on the stigma of learning difficulties and the darkness in not being able to read or write, it’s a great pop song in its own right too.
RODNEY ALLEN – “Happysad” – Happysad – (1987) – Subway Organization
MICRODISNEY – “Are You Happy?” – The Clock Comes Down The Stairs – (1985) – Rough Trade
THE SIDDELEYS – “My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternoon” – 7″ single – (1987) – Medium Cool Records
“Still you’re old and it’s Saturday, who was Ronnie Gorbachov anyway?” – this album was just that good and Rod was like a poor man’s Billy Bragg, think he went on to the Blue Aeroplanes later.
Wonderful ballad from Microdisney follows, actually while The Clock Comes Down The Stairs may be hailed as their finest LP, I didn’t get along with all of it and A Singer’s Hampstead Home almost crept in here.
I made a video for The Siddeleys tune, you can find that in MY VIDEOS here on this blog.
THE POPINJAYS – “Don’t Go Back” – 12″ single – (1988) – Big Cat Records
McCARTHY – “Boy Meets Girl, So What” – 12″ single – (1989) – Midnight Music
THE WOLFHOUNDS – “Me” – 12″ single – (1987) – Idea Records
“I love you, I hate you, I love you, I HATE you” – from The Wolfhounds 1987 classic “Me” and before that a track from McCarthy’s 1989 work The Enraged Shall Inherit The Earth, a wry dig at the popular music overload of love songs hence boy meets girl… so what?
Love the much earlier political songs too and pleased to have almost the entire band discography now.
MY BLOODY VALENTINE – “Lose My Breath” – Isn’t Anything – (1988) – Creation Records
ULTRA VIVID SCENE – “Mercy Seat” – Ultra Vivid Scene – (1988) – 4AD Records
THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD – “Hope’s Not Enough Son, Ask Your Parents” – Season 87-88 – (1989) – Communications Unique
Could have picked anything from the MBV debut I guess but isn’t Lose My Breath with it’s plodding, dreamy guitars a worthy inclusion?
The Ultra Vivid Scene video I remember from seeing on Snub TV – just great and the album’s not bad either – you can taste the fire for yourself!
Last but by no means least is Alan Brown’s project The Great Leap Forward and a song I first heard on a Peel show, fantastic track if a bit Wedding Present-esque.
Whoever does manage the full two hours of this mix, well done and if you like it, please do bother to leave a reply and if you really really liked it, you can download it from the link up top!