Monday, May 31, 2010

A Flock of Seagulls - Wishing

I know what you're thinking. "A Flock of Seagulls? A Flock of Fucking Seagulls? Has Cinnamon Girl lost her mind?" Well, I did warn you you might see things you don't expect here.

All joking aside, AFoS may have had a silly name, appalling hair and an unhealthy obsession with the extraterrestrial, but they also had a few really good pop songs. I had a listen to their Best Of the other day and there was one track that - I kid you not - wouldn't have been out of place on an Another Sunny Day record. If it was guitar- rather than synth-based I mean.

That one actually isn't one of their better songs though, so here's one that is. Seriously, tell me this isn't just a lovely little tune.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brighter - Ocean Sky

Brighter, from Brighton, were very much a Sarah band - the kind that, if you didn't like Sarah in general, were unlikely to change your mind. They put out a number of 7"s and EPs in the late 1980s and early 1990s that are very difficult to find now but were reissued by Matinée on compilation CDs in the last decade. Definitely worthwhile for Sarah fans, maybe not so much for others!

This is a track from their 1991 EP Laurel.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Swirlies - Didn't Understand

Back in the early to mid 1990s the Swirlies would have been considered one of the better-known US shoegaze bands, although listening to them now the shoegaze element of their sound seems pretty incidental. I think they were basically an indiepop band who happened to like fuzzy guitars.

I was sort of ambivalent about them back then, always thinking they were decent enough but a bit overrated, but I owned their records like every other good shoegaze/indiepopper did and I really enjoy them now for their nostalgic value. But I still don't think they were great.

This was their first single, from 1992.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wedding Present - My Favourite Dress

This is definitely one of those songs that falls into the category of "indiepop classic", and with good reason. Along with the Verlaines' "Slow Sad Love Song", it's one of the most perfect depictions ever of the utter despondency brought on by a broken heart - one of those songs that you're probably not human if you can't relate to at least a little bit.

Despite being a fan of theirs I didn't get around to seeing them live until relatively late in their career, maybe '91 or '92, and it was in this really tiny club in the US which despite its size they didn't come close to filling. Nonetheless it seemed that everyone there was a Wedding Present fanatic and the atmosphere was brilliant. While waiting for them to take the stage I got chatting to a fella in the crowd and when I mentioned that I hoped they played this song he told me, "They don't play that any more." Fortunately he was wrong; it ended up being their final encore and when the opening chords struck I really did believe I had died and gone to heaven. It was genuinely one of the highlights of my gig-going career, and you wouldn't be wrong in thinking that's saying a lot.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Elastica - Stutter

I wasn't a huge Elastica fan at the time, but listening to them now I actually think they were better then I gave them credit for. If they'd released the same records without all the hype that went along with the whole Britpop scene I'd probably have appreciated them more. Bit late now though.

This is possibly the best song ever written about erectile dysfunction, although Racecar's "Wonderment" gives it a run for its money. Sure it's not a coincidence that both of those were written by women.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blow Up - When You Smile

One of the less well-known Creation bands of the '80s, and not entirely without reason - they were pretty good but on that label, at that time, the standards were just so much higher. I don't really know much about them, except they were from Brighton, are linked to 14 Iced Bears and sound to me a bit like the Jazz Butcher.

This was a b-side to their second single, "Pool Valley", and like most or all of their early material was recently reissued on the Cherry Red comp The Kerbstones Turn To Moss.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Housemartins - Happy Hour

I haven't got a moment to dig up anything obscure today so here's one we all know and love, which still stands out as one of the most irresistibly catchy songs ever written. Unfortunately its subject matter hasn't lost any relevance over time either. Come to think of it, didn't one of the Housemartins' albums have something in the liner notes like "don't crash the bankers' party, burn the house down"? More relevant now than ever before, surely.

Utterly fabulous video too. I'd completely forgotten.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Teenage Fanclub - December

Kind of an underrated album track from Bandwagonesque, with the Fannies doing what they did best - simple, straightforward pop tunes. On a record chock-a-block with them, this particular one has always stood out for me.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Camera Obscura - Eighties Fan

Here's an early single from Camera Obscura, a band I've always felt deserved more recognition than they get. This is an utterly perfect little piece of Scottish indiepop (my favourite subgenre ever, if you couldn't guess), very Belle and Sebastiany, with the lo-fi production, unexpected string accompaniment and Tracyanne's achingly beautiful voice combining to extraordinary effect. I love love love this song and could listen to it a million times over again.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blur - Chemical World

Blur get a lot of stick for, well, being Blur, but at their prime (which admittedly was a long time before their demise) they wrote some really good songs. Like this one, from their second album Modern Life is Rubbish - just a great, irresistibly catchy pop song. What's not to like?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cherry Forever - Spook

Here's a brilliant tune from a band about which I know absolutely nothing. Their EP Headstrong was released on Wilde Club records, best known as the original home of Catherine Wheel, and also the original home of the Bardots (although, given the Bardots' criminal obscurity, that's not really much of a claim to fame). They had a sort of psychedelic shoegazey indiepop sound which reminds me a bit of 14 Iced Bears.

Terrible name for a band, though.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Abecedarians - They Said Tomorrow

A band I would likely never have heard of if I hadn't been visiting California in 1985 at the same time New Order were touring there, and Abecedarians were their opening act. Which was fitting, because there was definitely a big Joy Division/Section 25/etc influence on their music. I also hear a bit of the Chameleons and Comsat Angels.

Their recordings are notoriously difficult to find, but some of them were collected onto a 1990 compilation called The Other Side of the Fence. Worth getting your hands on, though I wouldn't call it essential or anything.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hello Moon - Vanity

I've raved about this band a couple times before but they're long overdue for a proper post. Hello Moon are from Dublin, used to be called The Tender Trap and are absolutely one of my favourites at the moment, playing lovely twee jangly indiepop that wouldn't be out of place on Postcard, early Creation, Sarah ... you get the picture. As a live act, they're shy, engaging and impossible to watch without breaking a smile at least once every three minutes. Really, I counted.

Their only release so far is a track under their old name on the Any Other City compilation EP, which you should buy (it also features New Amusement, who are pretty fabulous too). But they have a couple nice videos up on their Myspace page - including this one, which shows that they have as good taste in literature as in music.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Orchids - Underneath the Window, Underneath the Sink

Here's a lovely early Orchids track - their second single, from 1988 - and a rare Sarah video. So delicately beautiful, even with the crappy sound.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Felt - Something Sends Me To Sleep

A very early Felt single - their second, in fact, though their first as an actual band - but in some ways it's closer to their later recordings, being a fairly simple guitar pop melody without all the bells and whistles that tended to characterise their Cherry Red era. It's really quite a lovely song, and a desperately sad one too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Nightingales - Blisters

Another great and somewhat under-appreciated band of the post-punk era. Nightingales were from Birmingham but always seemed to me to have a bit of the Manchester about them - that was probably down to Robert Lloyd's half-talking, half-singing vocal style and acerbic lyrics, which earned him more than a few comparisons to Mark E. Smith (though they were really quite different, I think). The music was fast-paced and sounds a bit like an earlier version of the Wedding Present.

Their debut album, Pigs on Purpose, was released on Cherry Red (of course) in 1982 and is one of that label's early classics. It does sound a bit dated now, which might be partially down to what sounds like a really amateurish recording process. But it's still wonderful.

Lloyd went on to a brief solo career - the highlight of which was a song in which he managed to rhyme "anchor", "thank her", "blanker", "Paul Anka", "Sri Lanka" and "wanker" - and then reformed the Nightingales for the reunion circuit, of which I've yet to have the pleasure.

This was the closing track to Pigs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Bird and the Bee - Last Day of Our Love

Clever indie dance pop with heavenly female vocals. A genre I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of, but the Bird and the Bee do it so well I just can't resist their charms. Sort of my 2000s version of Saint Etienne, I guess.

This is from their 2008 EP One Too Many Hearts.

Friday, May 14, 2010

B-Movie - Nowhere Girl

Here's one of my favourite synth-pop radio hits from the early '80s, one that will always remind me of the poorly-lit, clove-cigarette-reeking nightclubs I used to sneak into as a teenager. I don't think this is an official video but it does fit the song. Kind of.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Field Mice - Sensitive

Here's a distinctly non-twee (well, except maybe for the lyrics) song from a band who I always thought were at their best when they weren't being twee. It's a cracking tune, actually, one that even your non-twee-loving friends might admit to enjoying. Especially if you don't let on to them that it was on Sarah.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Poole - Strawberry Kool-Aid Smile

Well it took a couple days to get this up but I think you'll agree it was worth it :)

Don't know much about this Washington DC-area band but their 1995 debut album Alaska Days is full of joyous, summery pop tunes (title and cover art notwithstanding!). I didn't really want this particular track to be my favourite because let's face it, it may have just about the cheesiest name ever. But the song itself is pretty close to irresistible.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More technical difficulties

Unfortunately Blogger simply won't let me post what I want to post, so I'm going to have to give up on this one and try something else tomorrow. Sorry!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Three O'Clock - As Real As Real

Been a while since I've posted anything from the Paisley Underground and I can't believe I never posted this one, since it's one of my all-time favourite songs ever by anyone. It comes from the Three O'Clock's first release under that name, the 1982 EP Baroque Hoedown, and it is lovely beyond any words I could use to describe it. Just have a listen for yourself.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wire Train - Chamber of Hellos

Here's a great track by a 1980s San Francisco band who were quite popular on the underground music circuit back then. Their debut album, 1984's In A Chamber, was sort of a more atmospheric version of the American guitar pop played on college radio all the time (REM, Translator, Plimsouls etc). You can hear bits of bands like the Chameleons in it, though a lot quieter.

This was their biggest hit single and I'm surprised I can't find a proper video for it because I'm sure I saw one back in the day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Everything But The Girl - On My Mind

Since I never get tired of Tracey Thorn's early material here's one from the very first EBTG single (the A side was a cover of Cole Porter's "Night and Day"). This song was actually a Marine Girls single first, but it was good enough for Tracey and Ben to re-record it together. Both versions are gorgeous.

And don't they look unbelievably young here? Especially Ben.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cap Pas Cap - Said Say It

Here's another up-and-coming Dublin band. Like a lot of the current bands on this blog, Cap Pas Cap have a distinctly retro sound (sure, who doesn't these days) but in their case it's the more experimental/art rock/no-wave genres they hark back to. They're immensely entertaining live, not quite as enthralling to listen to at home but still interesting if you're into this sort of thing.

This is a 2007 single.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Go-Betweens - Bye Bye Pride

Tomorrow will be the fourth anniversary of Grant McLennan's death so, just in case I forget, I'll honour him today with my favourite song of his. It's such a big, epic, sweeping song, so different from his usual more delicate style - the sort of song that can easily turn out bombastic in the wrong hands but when it This, my friends, is a wow song. It still knocks me dead every time I hear it, more than two decades on.

I admit to being one of those who had my doubts about Amanda Brown joining the band for this album (1987's Talullah), but you certainly couldn't disagree with her contribution to this track.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yazoo - Nobody's Diary

This is one of my favourite tracks from the synth-pop era. I've always had a soft spot for Vince Clarke's stuff, and even like some of what he did with Erasure (I said "some") but for me this is a particular standout. Such a lovely, desperately sad song.

That haircut though. Thank the flying spaghetti monster some '80s trends haven't come back!

Monday, May 3, 2010

White Town - We'll Always Have Paris

White Town are best known for their big 1997 hit "Your Woman", which is a shame because prior to that annoying song they'd released a number of much more interesting indiepop records, on a variety of different indiepop labels. They also made contributions to a few classic indiepop compilations, such as this one from the 1991 Waaaaah! CD.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Breeders - Fortunately Gone

Hadn't heard this track for quite a while before my iPod came up with it on shuffle yesterday and I'd forgotten how utterly fantastic it is. Two minutes of perfect pop music, ba-ba-bas and lyrics about dead lovers and magpies... what more could you want?

This is a slightly faster demo version from the late 1980s.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Room - Things Have Learnt To Walk That Ought To Crawl

The Room's enduring obscurity is one of those great mysteries of my life. How are they not at least as well known as the Chameleons, the Teardrop Explodes, even the Pale Fountains? Their songs were so good and, for the most part, quite easily accessible (musically speaking) that I really can't understand why almost nobody, even in the indie world, seems to know who they were.

This is one of their finest moments, a 1982 single and their first for Red Flame. Trust me, there's more where this came from.