Some of you may know my attourney and musical supervisor Rupert,
who can often be found at HDIF tutting at my poor taste in music
and loudly exclaiming "student disco!" whenever I play
something that more than two or three people want to dance to.
Rupert has the honour of having the largest indie pop-only
record collection in the known world (something like 7000 seven
inch singles and who knows how many albums), so I thought it
would be interesting to ask him to select one tune each month
from his vast array of unheralded classics. A bit like the Great
Lost Singles bit of the site in action.
So for those interested in an indie pop education, listen out at 10pm,
when I'll be playing Rupert's Record. We'll also archive them here,
with words by the man himself.
All reviews written by Rupert Cook
7/11/03 - "Fast Lane" by
"Fast Lane" by the Melons came out in the mid nineties
on the excellent Damaged Goods records.They released a clutch
of singles that vanished into the netherworld of indie shop bargain
bins, so if there are any left snap them up. Don't let the fact
that one of them was a key member of the Fat Tulips stay your
hand. Hunt down "From Hell To Helsinki", a song which
mentions every capital city in Europe - yes, even Ljubljana.
Fact: I drove the singer around Europe for 3 months so she actually
visited many of the cities.
21/11/03 - "Look Back In Love (Not
In Anger)" by The Yachts
The Yachts sailed out of the ruins of punk, eager to apprehend
those whose ears had been offended by the brutalities of the
Clash and Sex Pistols. First single, the awkwardly named "Suffice
To Say" sounded like a novelty one off, and aptly appeared
on Stiff records, home of many a bric-a-brac act. Switching to
Radar records, they released the wonderful "Look Back In
Love (Not In Anger)", a title for which they should have
paid a small sum to John Osborne, kitchen sink dramatist of the
1950's. A tentative keyboard, sounding like a lone coyote whining
in a windswept desert, introduces this miniature epic, barely
exceeding two minutes in length. The Yachts' sound was all about
keyboards, though their use of the instrument was not as heavy-handed
as the Human League or Inspiral Carpets, and had they stayed
together for another year they might well have flourished in
the keyboard dominated era of the 1980's, but they split in 1980
and missed the boat. Henry Priestman, vocalist and keyboardist,
was in It's Immaterial and then formed the Christians. By now
he probably owns a fleet of yachts.
6/12/03 - "Debbie One"
by The Tony Head Experience
Who were the Tony Head Experience? I've no idea but they numbered
five and were linked to Somerset. Many years ago at the dawn
of the nineties I ventured into the verdant pastures of this
cider-drenched county to see the Family Cat play in Yeovil. The
Tony Head Experience was the support act, I think,or was that
a pigment of my multi-hued imagination? Anyway I bought the single,
Debbie One, that night,and good value it was too, three tracks
plus a flexi with a further three tracks. Reminiscent of the
Primitives, Popguns, Popinjays, any of those femme pop bands
beginning with P, Debbie One is an exuberant burst of anguished
girlie pop. With a voice like Shirley Temple on acid, singer
Elisa Young could terrorize any young man who dared to stray
from her sonic embrace. I still tremble when I hear her screech
"I want you dead".
19/12/03 - "Harley Davidson"
by The Popguns
I blame Bob Stanley. Short of actually dragging a glut of sixties
Gallic girls out of retirement and dolling them up in fin de
siecle aural couture in a bid to bulldoze the prevailing cynicism
of the nineties, he did the next best thing and gave the world
impact that had - Britney still hasn't covered Poupee De Cire
Poupee De Son. But, maybe due to Bob, the Popguns revved up Brigitte
Bardot's Harley Davidson, a song written by that scourge of decency
Serge Gainsbourg. More strident musically than the original,
it conjures up visions of Wendy Morgan, the Popguns' singer,
speeding through those French villages that always seem to be
closed, astride her Harley. When Bardot sings, the only ignition
she seems concerned with is the one that turns on the male libido
- you picture her pouting and writhing playfully on her Harley,
not a kilometre registering on the speedo.Which do I prefer?
The original because I'm a sucker for a French accent.
16/1/04 - "Keeping The Sparks"
While scrabbling through my extensive record collection for indie
perfection, dust flying as I disturbed long forgotten Disco Zombies
singles, I suddenly though 'hey let's leave the past behind'.
So wiping my dust-coated eyes I turned to the new century. Waxwings
flew into my consciousness with their immaculate power pop classic
"Keeping The Sparks", a song that leaves me in ecstatic
Crisp drums announce this slice of arrogant pop genius. Come
the one line chorus and an acoustic guitar interrupts, the ghost
of Nick Drake has breezed into the studio, but only briefly,
bustled out suddenly by fierce drums; Waxwings soar again,pushing
the song to its reflective climax, in which Drake returns accompanied
by honey-drenched harmonies. One play is not enough, play again
to fully appreciate.
20/2/04 - "Keep An Open Mind
Or Else" by McCarthy
Political pop didn't exactly clot up the charts in the 1980's.There
was the Redskins, and there was the Housemartins who sugared
their socialist outbursts by draping them in jaunty tunes. McCarthy,
named after senator McCarthy maybe, that commie-crunching, cowboy-loving
paranoiac of the 1950's, were exponents of left wing views similar
to the Gang Of 4 in content if not in style. Malcolm Eden has
an angelic voice that could grace a choir, albeit the Red Army
one. 'Keep An Open Mind Or Else', great title, was released near
the end of their career. Tim Gane, McCarthy's jangly guitarist,
would go on to form indie darlings Stereolab. For those who love
Stereolab, please investigate McCarthy. You won't be disappointed.
19/3/04 - "Happy Bicycle"
by Choo Choo Train
Ric Menck has spread his talents over a number of projects: Paint
Set, Springfields, BagO'Shells, Velvet Crush and Choo Choo Train.
Many of these incarnations can be found on the estimable Bus
Stop record label, America's equivalent to England's Sarah records.Whatever
name he works under the results are similar. Summery sounds which
hurry bees to pollinate and entice hibernating hedgehogs from
the lairs. Listen and you'll hear the Byrds, Big Star and the
Raspberries all tucked up together in one three minute
blazing pop burst. Guaranteed to make the most curmudgeonly soul
donate his cardigan collection to the nearest charity superstore.
16/04/04 - "The Medium Was Tedium"
by Desperate Bicycles
1977, year zero, for me anyway, for that's when music coaxed
me into a life of underachievement.The Desperate Bicycles encouraged
my fall from grace as school grades plummeted, and I would argue
they are as important as the Sex Pistols. Not an argument I'd
win but it would be a pleasant way to pass the time. They may
have kept their gob to themselves but their records oozed punk
snot; eschewing punk's raw bilious yell made them all the more
plangent. The Pistols wanted you to destroy society, the Bikes
wanted you to start your own band. It's obvious which makes the
more sense. As the rallying cry in the song says "It was
easy, it was cheap, go and do it." So go on, go and form
a band, make a record, I'm waiting for you to entertain me.
30/4/04 - "Don't Send Me Flowers"
by Twa Toots
Sometimes my indie radar fails. These girlie scamps from somewhere
in the region of Kent were introduced to me by the lovely Kathryn,queen
of twee. They entered the indie arena some twenty years ago,
their opening shot at immortality a mini LP on Crystal Clear
records. Peel loved them and they recorded a session for him.
'Don't Send Me Flowers' finds them at their most self-assured,
it was released in 1991, but like all their output it wilted
into obscurity. Find the compilation on Accident if you can and
enjoy them in all their incarnations; for example 'Addicted'
sounds like a hybrid of 'Last Night A DJ Saved My Life' and a
Chic B side. And that should be sufficient to tempt you.
21/5/04 - "Run For Your Life"
by Lara And The Trailers
How do you picture those anonymous types who put together compilations?
I see them as assiduous sorts clambering over mountains of vinyl
possessed of an intemperate desire to unearth forgotten gems.I
don't know what I'd do without compilations. Collections of French
sixties pop, the songs of Macaulay and Macleod, the Leamington
Spa, Nuggets, Rubble and Pebbles series all languish in my living
room, as does Girls in the Garage volume nine from which was
culled this cover of the Beatles' 'Run For Your Life'. The cynical
lyrics of the original are rendered unintelligible unless you
understand whatever Oriental language Lara is singing in. No,I
haven't researched this very well. Lara's innocent girl-in-knee-socks
voice inverts the vengeful nastiness of Lennon's words, the venom
and misogyny of the original is neutralized and re-appropriated.
What remains is bubblegum pop, unless you understand the language,
4/6/04 - "Peace Of Mind" by
Get yourself an open top car. Steal one if necessary. Well ok,
you're a timid soul, so borrow a pushbike and cycle around the
UK's rim with Ocean Blue's Beneath The Rhythm And Sound on your
Walkman. It may rain, it may hail, it may rain fish in the most
obscure parts of Scotland, but you will be impervious for you
will be sheathed in a warm Californian sun; which would be a
little spurious as the Ocean Blue come from Pennsylvania, but
hey, wouldn't you rather be transported to California? Peace
Of Mind, the opening track from the aforementioned LP, is like
being gently caressed by chocolate gilded waves, oh that sweet
tooth of mine. Ocean Blue have been around since the late 1980's
and you should be asking yourself why you haven't got any of
their five LP's. Two of them are essential but I'm not revealing
which ones. Well,duh, if you've been paying attention you'll
know one already. Also on a personal note, this track is very
special to me as it brought someone close to me a shade closer.
I owe Ocean Blue a Pacific-sized thank you.
18/6/04 - "Save It For The Weekend"
by Acid House Kings
There must be something in the moose.......from the garden of
Sweden has emerged some great pop music ever since Abba donned
their satin and tat. Formed in 1991 from members of Poprace,
Starlet, Club 8 and Red Sleeping Beauty, the Acid House Kings
are not as drugged up as their name suggests. Don't fret indie
kids, no need to hug your Smiths/ Morrissey records in fear of
sonic terror, there is no acid house tinge to their glittering
pop sound. They could almost be an offshoot of the Smiths albeit
one with a healthier attitude to the vicissitudes of life. You
see, despite living next door to the morose Finns, the Swedes
are a happy people. At least that's the impression one gets listening
to this pop gem.
16/7/04 - "Stop! Your Crying"
by Chin Chin
Slithering down the continent from Sweden I come to Switzerland.
Orson Welles famously said that in 500 years the only thing Switzerland
gave the world was the cuckoo clock. What about chocolate Mr.Welles,
the Swiss make some of the finest in the world, and what about
Chin Chin? Granted Orson made the quote nearly 40 years before
Chin Chin released their one record on 53 & 1/3 but I thought
geniuses were forward thinking. These three Swiss girls display
so much vitality and energy you could imagine them
using their guitars to garrotte mountains. No more Heidis, these
girls are prototype Courtney Loves, but much better.
20/8/04 - "I Want You"
Summerhill gently brushed the indie index with this track that
barely masks their real desire, making bog standard country rock
yet shrinking from fully embracing either genre. Released in
1988, not a drop of water from the C86 pebble that made a tiny
splash in rock's pool touched these boys. Constrained by competence
and solemnity this one song is where they find a tune and run
with it, and are almost touched by happiness in the process.
They made an LP but I was never foolhardy enough to buy it.
3/9/04 - "Crestfallen"
Sit back and relax whilst I tell you about the Chairs. Resisting
the thrum of the dance beat that pervaded much late eighties
indie, the Chairs released four singles steeped in glittering
guitar pop influenced by the Smiths and Elvis Costello. Indeed
the latter enthused over their third single, Honey I Need A Girl
Of A Different Stripe on Radio 1, but despite this honoured approbation
it failed to ascend the chart ladder. Crestfallen was their final
fling at stardom but, snappy hooks notwithstanding, it too found
no way to wend its way into the public consciousness. Hunt down
the single and succumb too to the excellent B side, a scathing
attack on Thatcher's Britain, which like all their product doesn't
deserve to languish in the tattered upholstery of history.
17/9/04 - "Talk To Me"
The thundering hooves of the hangover horses, once the emaciated
steeds of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, were ricocheting
like ten ton billiard balls around my throbbing cranium. Eschewing
pharmaceutical quackery I attempted to heal myself with a musical
panacea and dosed myself with a perky pop tune constructed by
this foursome from Sheffield. The singer's voice has the clarity
icy Himalayan mountain stream, a balm to blast the wooly membrane
that a surfeit of alcohol had wrapped around my skull. Under
a star-stippled sky I rose from the gutter, adjusted my Walkman
and zigzagged to the bus stop. Any bus stop.
1/10/04 - "Prams" by Vital
We had a good time in the eighties, we really did. Unemployment,
strikes, kids inculcated with the Thatcher mantra of making money
which depoliticized many a youth of the nineties. Now we are
hampered by hypocrisy and the dissenting voices are growing.
Revolution, however minor, revives art; it happened in the fifties
and sixties when teenagers rebelled against the staidness of
post war England, and again in the bleak mid seventies when youth
decried the pre-packaged future on offer. Fashion, music and
literature are never healthier than when faced with intransigence.
In 1981 the post punk landscape was a quagmire of
sudden record labels that spewed out one or two fiery musical
manifestos before vanishing. Lowther International was one, home
to the Vital Disorders. The Prams EP contains three slices of
political pop, domestic and general. Prams is a scream of feminist
outrage, of how women can have their dreams ruptured, trapped
by the drudgery of daily life, forever attuned to the omnipotent
cry of the tyrannical toddler, its every yowl drowning out their
sinking ambitions. The chorus is sung with increasing anger,
a jubilee of vituperation, as the song progresses until you can
almost feel the phlegm hit your face. Listen with a handkerchief
19/11/04 - "Sunshine Thuggery" by
Not a celebration of those bloodthirsty bank holidays when mods and
rockers met to pulverize one another. Just another lovelorn anthem.
Imagine being caught in a romantic fever in the shabby scabby coastal
last resort of Southend. Stumble along the length of the pier, embracing
emptiness, as the aroma of vinegar-blanched newspapers punctures your
nostrils. See the urine coloured lights glow, throwing out their listless
cheer, and surrender to the sting of unrequited love. In a barbed wire
whirl of obsession and desire imagine the choppy wintry waters leaving
a greasy watermark on your forehead. Slumped against the fish and chip
hut you watch the miniature pier train approach and you enact a mock
suicide and stub your toe on the railway line. In the morning you have
a large purple bruise on your big toe and you feel smugly chastened
3/12/04 - "Cold Inside" by Remember
Remember Fun are one of those warm-hearted bands that sucessfully distill
the yearnings and disappointments, the sight of a sleepy sun waking
up from its winter sojourn, stir in a young man's heart as some unobtainable
beauty saunters by, her cold eye dismissing a fretful glance from an
inept music geek. Back home then, to spin and whirl in unloved abandon
to these trammelled souls, in solicitous concord with that unsatisfied
ache that wrinkles the ventricles of the heart. Pasty-faced and pigtailed
indie girls come out to play and ease the torment and lacerations of
these gentle songs.
21/1/05 - "All I Need" by Big
Coming from the North West, this lot had the audacity to offload an
LP and two singles upon a slumbering public. In 1993 the wheels came
off this bus and the conductor jumped ship but let their slim legacy
find a route to your heart, barring the last single which sounds like
they sat in a Petri dish for a month hoping to grow into The Happy Mondays.
Instead they mutated into a lumpy Soup Dragons. Avoid the above, but
do seek out the single, LP and The Sound of Leamington Spa Vol. 1 (you
should, of course, own every volume by now!) and let them torpedo your
misery goats and send you skipping down the road aglow with rosy-cheeked
joie de vivre.
All reviews written by Rupert Cook