Sunday, February 28, 2010

14 Iced Bears - Hold On

Yet another C86 band that weren't actually on C86, Brighton's 14 Iced Bears distinguished themselves somewhat by having a more psychedelic tinge to their music. You can definitely hear the Syd Barrett influence and I suspect they might have been Rain Parade/Paisley Underground fans as well.

Their second album, Wonder, from 1991 on Borderline Records, doesn't seem to be really highly regarded by a lot of indie heads but I for one think it's fantastic. This is the opening track.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Lovelies - Bright New Day

Don't know much about this band but they were from Portsmouth, England; they had a few releases on Elefant Records in the mid-1990s, and they sound quite a bit like the Wedding Present with violin. Works for me.

This is from their debut single, "Nothing La-Di-Da".

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Colourfield - The Colourfield

I've posted before about my Terry Hall fixation, and it's a good thing he's had such a long and varied career that I can keep posting stuff he's done in his different incarnations without looking like I'm repeating myself.

The Colourfield marked a fairly dramatic departure from his previous output. You can see the transition from the first FB3 album to Waiting to this, of course, but it's still a much larger leap than FB3 were from the Specials. I was pretty young when it came out but even I remember being surprised by it.

This, their first single, has a sort of early Bunnymen feel to it; there's little on the rest of their debut album (Virgins and Philistines) that's quite as strong, but as a snapshot of the mid-1980s version of Britpop it'll do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gang of Four - Damaged Goods

I'm a bit pressed for time today so here's one that (hopefully) needs no introduction. Can you believe this song is almost 32 years old?

It still sounds this good live, by the way, or at least it did when Gang of Four played Dublin a couple years ago. I'm always a bit dubious about band reunions, but one was definitely worth it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tidal District - Don't Turn Your Back On the Bear

Here's a recent single by a Dublin indie-rock band. I've seen Tidal District a couple times and always been impressed by their sharp songwriting skills and the fierce intensity they bring to their live set. All the more so since they look to have an average age of around 20.

Sadly, it seems they are no more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Stranglers - (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

I've already noted my mixed feelings about the Stranglers, but here's one of their songs that I do think is outstanding. It's actually remarkable that this was their first single, released in 1977 - such extensive use of keyboards must have seemed very weird for a band so closely associated with the burgeoning punk scene. It certainly doesn't sound very 1977 to me. But what do I know, in 1977 I was probably still listening to the Muppets or something like that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

10,000 Maniacs - My Mother the War

Here's another band who I would never believe used to be good if I didn't actually remember them when they were. 10,000 Maniacs started out sounding like a bunch of middle class art students - which they probably were - with rather ludicrously pretentious lyrics and song-titles (Google "Poor de Chirico" if you don't believe me) but you hardly noticed over the angelic voice that sang them. The music, too, was a lot more creative than their later recordings would suggest; I suppose you'd have to say they were "interesting" back then, even if you didn't exactly like them. Unfortunately the downhill slide started early and virtually nothing from the mid-1980s on is really bearable to my ears.

This is a relatively straightforward one from their first full-length album, 1983's Secrets of the I Ching.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Young Marble Giants - Final Day

Here's another, slightly overlooked now, essential piece of indiepop history. The Young Marble Giants' music would probably be dismissed by the twee-haters today but when they emerged in the late '70s I imagine they must have been considered rather unusual, even by the standards of the time.

YMG's distinctive sound derived from the combination of electric organ, rather choppy guitar and Alison Statton's lovely haunting vocals, expertly (under-)produced by the band themselves. Colossal Youth, their only album, is a lo-fi classic from before anything called "lo-fi" even existed.

This was one of the singles from that album, released in 1980.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Hi-Life Companion - The Girl in the Gorilla Suit

Many thanks to Mark for this one. The Hi-Life Companion are from Bristol - which is, of course, the home of Sarah Records - and feature ex-members of Airport Girl and the Mayfields so when their 2009 debut album Say Yes! arrived I was fully expecting a collection of basically straightforward indiepop/twee tunes. To my surprise it's a lot more elaborate than that. The twee element is there, of course, but the band's influences are drawn from a number of sources including folk, baroque pop and there's a hint of shoegaze here and there too, in the fuzzy guitars. Irish listeners may be reminded of Ham Sandwich, although I suspect Ham Sandwich are eventually going to turn into the Cranberries and it's pretty safe to assume the Hi-Life Companion won't.

This particular track, believe it or not, manages to simultaneously make me think of Ham Sandwich, the Dandy Warhols' "Bohemian Like You", "Kundalini Express" by Love & Rockets, and ELO! Clearly, a band able to pick up the best bits from everywhere.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Go Sailor - Long Distance

Here is a fabulous track from a band which consisted of elements of three of the United States' best music scenes in the late 1980s and early 1990s - Slumberland Records, the Berkeley punk scene centred around Gilman Street, and the rather unfortunately-named "cuddlecore" genre. They had everything going for them, really, and they didn't disappoint (except perhaps by breaking up too soon). If you don't like this song, you don't like indiepop!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Bongos - Blow Up

The Bongos were a lovely little band from Hoboken, New Jersey, who in the early to mid '80s were absolute darlings of the critics, although I'd guess that hardly anyone under my age or so has ever heard of them now. They put out two proper albums and a lovely little EP and the two guitarists, Richard Barone and James Mastro, also collaborated on a nice album called Nuts and Bolts which featured one side each of their own solo work. All highly worth seeking out, if you can find them.

This is from the final Bongos album, The Beat Hotel from 1985.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fad Gadget - Collapsing New People

More nostalgia. Fad Gadget, aka Frank Tovey, was a bit outside my tastes generally, on account of the heavy electronics in his music. But he wrote a few really good pop songs and I'm always happy to listen to really good pop songs, whatever they're played on.

This is from Gag, his final album under the FG pseudonym. It's a collaboration with (and a tribute to) Einsturzende Neubauten, as the title suggests, but also sums up the whole goth/industrial subculture pretty nicely in one line: "it takes hours of preparation/to get that wasted look". Ah, memories.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Monochrome Set - Eine Symphonie des Grauens

The Monochrome Set are another one of those bands that put out about a million records between the late 1970s and early 1990s but somehow still seem to be little more than a footnote in indiepop history. Which seems very unfair, especially now that you have bands like Franz Ferdinand pretty much openly stealing their sound.

They were clever and arty and kind of pretentious, even in their more pop-oriented later years, and sometimes they weren't quite as smart as they thought they were and ended up being just kind of annoying ("Achilles", for one). But when they were good, they were very very good and remarkably innovative as well.

This is one of their earliest singles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Cassettes - Lighthouse

Here's something a little more recent. I'm not bowled over by the New Cassettes, who are more or less just sort of your standard modern indie rock band, but this is a really great little pop song. Wish they had more along these lines.

It's from their debut album The Art of..., which came out last year.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Everything But The Girl - Another Bridge

I've already done the lament for what happened to EBTG so we can skip that here and just go straight to the music. This is a track from their debut album, Eden, which has them doing what they did best - short, jangly pop songs. It's just perfect, isn't it?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Dream Syndicate - That's What You Always Say

I think this is the only one of the major Paisley Underground bands I haven't put up here yet. The Dream Syndicate were fairly distinctive from the other bands in that scene, having almost none of the jangle-pop influences of the Three O'Clock or Bangles and favouring a much harder psychedelia than the Rain Parade.

The main difficulty I have with their early recordings is that Steve Wynn wasn't much of a singer (and I also think the same is true of Kendra Smith, although I know I'm in a minority in that view). That didn't stop them having a lot of really, really good songs on their full-length debut The Days of Wine and Roses, but it did make the difference between "good" and "great" on some of them. After that album, unfortunately, the tendency towards hardness won them over completely and they sank straight into plonkerville.

This is the standout track from Days.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Jane - It's A Fine Day

This song is better known for Opus III's 1992 house version, but the original is so much better. Written by Manchester poet, musician and all-around genius Ed Barton and beautifully sung by Jane Lancaster, it is to my mind 2.75 of the most haunting minutes ever recorded.

I'm not sure if this video actually has anything to do with the song, but it looks the part, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Another Sunny Day - Green

Another Sunny Day were one of those bands that you'd probably never like if you weren't generally a Sarah fan. Truth be told, with song titles like "I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn't Know I Exist", they lent themselves pretty easily to mockery by the anti-Sarah brigade. Which of course means I think they were great.

This track originally appeared on the "You Should All Be Murdered" 7", and I always thought it was better than the A-side. Although maybe with a less attention-grabbing title.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Able Tasmans - Sour Queen

Is it time for another Flying Nun track? I think it is. This is from Able Tasmans' debut album, A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down, and may well be my favourite Flying Nun song ever. And you know what a compliment that is.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Peggy Sue and the Pirates - Spare Parts

You know when you go to a gig to see the headliner and end up being blown away by one of the opening acts, who you'd never even heard of before? That's how I discovered Peggy Sue and the Pirates a couple years ago. I didn't even know there was another opening band, and then these two young women got onstage and started playing these deliciously subversive songs on acoustic guitars while singing in perfect harmony with their gorgeous and very powerful voices. I was actually stunned by them. And I don't stun all that easily. Any more.

They've since swapped the "Pirates" for a drummer, and are recording their debut album, which I anxiously await.

This video was taken from a live performance in Exeter in 2007. Sound quality's not the greatest, but the song is deadly. And those voices!

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Order - Leave Me Alone

Here's another one that shows off what to me was early New Order's finest quality - the astonishing subtlety to their songs, which enables you to hear something new in them even after you've heard them a thousand times and over many years - or I suppose at this point you have to say decades. I mean I don't know how many times I've listened to Power Corruption and Lies since it was released but only relatively recently did this one jump out at me as the perfect track. It's so beautifully understated, I guess it just took me a while to really notice it. Now I wonder how did I ever not realise how exquisite it is.

It also has some of the saddest lyrics they've ever written, and, well this is New Order after all... so that's saying a lot.

A perfect song to just close your eyes and listen.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Revolver - Molasses

Revolver were considered a shoegaze band but, as with so many of the other "shoegaze" bands I've covered here, that tag never really fit them properly. To the extent that they were shoegaze it was more of the Swervedriver end of the genre, as this track shows, but basically I'd describe them more as just guitar-driven pop.

Their early singles were... ok. I wasn't really mad about them. This is the strongest song out of them, and it was a b-side (to "Heaven Sent An Angel", a song that reflects Mat Flint's unfortunate tendency for the really cheesy love lyric - though having said that I did once meet the girl that all those songs were about and she was genuinely lovely). All three were released in 1991; the band didn't get around to doing a proper album until 1993, by which point pretty much everyone had lost interest. I actually found that album (Cold Water Flat) a lot more interesting than the singles but unfortunately for Revolver their time had passed.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Auteurs - Bailed Out

Here's an early one from the Auteurs, a band I continue to have almost violent disagreements about with other indie heads. I guess you just love them or hate them.

This is from their debut album, 1993's New Wave (and isn't that a great name for an album?). Although the verses have some of the most opaque lyrics Luke Haines has ever written, the chorus is a near perfect example of his talent for the simple couplet with the killer blow. Nice tune, too.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Chesterfields - Completely and Utterly

Here's another one that could have easily been on C86 but wasn't. The Chesterfields (or Chesterf!elds, if you prefer) were from Yeovil and put out a few records in the late '80s that seem to have been pretty much forgotten. Shame. This is one of their earliest singles, released on the Flatmates' Subway label.

RIP Davey.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Heaven 17 - Let Me Go

Continuing in the nostalgia theme, here's one from right around the time I first started developing taste in music that I wouldn't be embarrassed to admit to later.

I was never a huge Heaven 17 fan. Most of their songs ranged from pleasant but uninspired ("We Live So Fast") to annoying ("Temptation") to downright creepy ("Come Live With Me"). I suppose they had good politics - we don't, after all, need that fascist groove thang - but you couldn't exactly say they did the most eloquent job of expressing them. I don't think they were awful or anything, but they were just kind of mediocre then and their music hasn't really improved with age.

As is so often the case, however, there is one shining exception. "Let Me Go" is a perfect piece of atmospheric early '80s synth-pop, with simple but surprisingly affecting lyrics over a subtle but infectious beat. When I was sneaking into dance clubs in the mid-to-late eighties it was the one song guaranteed to get even the hardest goth out on the floor. And, really, if you can't have a great time watching hard goths shake their thing to early-'80s-new-wave-techno-pop, you just can't enjoy life.

Nice video, too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lene Lovich - Lucky Number

Here's another one from the archives. I must have seen this video more than I realised when I was younger because it's incredibly familiar, even though I don't think I'd seen it for about 20 years before today.

The song is classic early new wave - actually it's earlier than I'd realised (1978) - and I have a feeling I'm going to regret looking it up because it's going to be stuck in my head for the next week now. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Bangles - Tell Me

It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time when the Bangles made brilliantly catchy three-minute jangly pop tunes that were adored by people who listened to "new wave", college radio, underground music or whatever it was called back then.

Although their slide into shitsville is often blamed on Susanna Hoffs becoming the centre of attention to the exclusion of the contributions made by everyone else in the band, I have to say that nearly every single one of my favourite songs on their first few releases, apart from the covers, was hers. She may have been the male fans' favourite Bangle for other reasons but she was also their best songwriter in those early years. Having said that, she did go on to co-write the atrocious "Eternal Flame", which is more than enough to earn her the opprobrium that was unfairly heaped on her in other respects.

Anyway, here's a little slice of the pop perfection that was their first full-length album, All Over the Place, from 1984. The clips that appear on this video, incidentally, were from an old American MTV show which somebody really needs to make available again.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Holy Roman Army - Dublin in the Deadlight

Here's another recent one from a promising Irish band. The Holy Roman Army are from Carlow, a small county out in the sticks, and sort of make me think of a chance meeting between Low and Portishead. As you might expect from that description they're quite astonishing live.

Their debut album How The Light Gets In was released last year on their own Collapsed Adult records, and includes a different version of this track.

The Holy Roman Army - Dublin In The Deadlight - Live At MUZU Studios on MUZU