One of the fortunate things about writing a blog is that I get sent a *LOT* of new music – much more than I can possibly review. Once in a while something catches my attention, and is actually so good that I feel obliged to buy the thing myself to support the cause, rather than just simply adding it to the pile of review CDs.
So is the case with the LCD EP from Ummagma. I featured the Robin Guthrie remix of ‘Lama’ on the blog a couple of months ago but the whole EP is now available and it’s fantastic. Canadian singer Shauna McLarnan and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Kretov have produced an EP that stands as a body of work in itself, with two of their heroes, Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie and Curve’s Dean Garcia. It’s twenty-two minutes of prime shoegaze that’s worthy of your listening time. Hell, 2016 was the year of grime’s resurgence – but with this and new albums from the likes of Ride, Slowdive and the Jesus & Mary Chain, perhaps 2017 will go down as the year of shoegaze.
Some years in music are pivotal and utterly steeped in meaning and resonance.
1992 was not one of them.
It was summed up by the sheer awfulness of Undercover’s ‘Baker Street’ cover, a hideous dance version of Bryan Adams’ ‘Run To You’ by a band called Rage and the fact that Madonna unleashed a stinker of an album called Erotica, and very possibly showed that you could be over-exposed when she released the infamous Sex book around the same time. It was topped off when Whitney Houston topped the charts with ‘I Will Always Love You’ at Christmas.
The Americans decided that they’d had enough of twelve years of Republicans and elected Bill Clinton to the White House. The Brits were convinced that the Conservatives could not possibly win, and then proceeded to hand them a mandate to rule Britain for the next five years. The big film of the year was Wayne’s World, which led to everyone making statements and then going …NOT! at the end of it. I buried myself deeper in NME, Melody Maker and tippexing my school folders with band names instead of doing as much school work as I should have been. Ah well…
This track was no.1 in John Peel’s Festive Fifty that year. It has to be one of the most requested tracks ever on 17 Seconds. It’s sublime – now watch the video and if you want the mp3 look elsewhere!
Bang Bang Machine -‘Geek Love.’
Some bands are derided for ever. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s time must surely come. Part of the Stourbridge scene (along with Pop Will Eat Itself and the Wonderstuff), this was probably their biggest hit. This was also part of their music compilation Lunatic Magnets which was linked by various clips as the band attempted to do their own version of Reservoir Dogs which was the cult film of the year.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin -‘Not Sleeping Around.’
…and boom! The word ‘Britpop’ had yet to enter the lexicon of the cultural landscape and the so-called ‘scene that celebrates itself’ wasn’t ever going to be a household name kind of thing, but Suede suddenly arrived, looking pretty damn perfet. The music press loved them. Morrissey covered one of their b-sides ‘My Insatiable One.’ Smash Hits claimed David Bowie had invited them to his wedding. Lead singer Brett Anderson claimed he was ‘a bisexual who had never had a homosexual experience’ and was soon being spoken of in the same sentence as both Bowie and Morrissey. In the face of grunge coming in from the US, Suede looked likely to lead the next British assault. In another galaxy their story would have ended far more happily.
Suede -‘The Drowners.’
They say history is written by the victors. ‘They’ may have a point. In the 20/20 perspective that is hindsight, this was Blur’s best single to date. It has been perhaps a little forgotten that at this point Blur were in the doldrums -far more than they would be after The Great Escape three years later seemed to show that they had been overtaken by Oasis. This single limped to no.32, their second album was about to be rejectedby their record company, but Blur knew something we didn’t…
Blur – ‘Popscene.’
…a weird sense of deja vu: at the tail end of 2007, the Black Kids were being hailed by many (including yours truly, less we forget) as being the next big thing. When their debut album was released, the press seemed to turn on them. So it was with Curve, whose first three EPs were far more feted than their eventual debut LP Doppelganger was when it arrived in 1992. A shame, because they were still firing on all cylinders as far as I was concerned…
Curve -‘Fait Accompli.’
I have kicked myself for missing out on a lot of nineties dance culture -too busy listening to Morrissey at the time, as well as going through a ‘I hate everything’ phase, for which I have no-one to blame but myself. However, this DID filter through to me. I only recently realised that Future Sound Of London had been connected with Humanoid, whose classic acid house track ‘Stakker Humanoid’ had made it onto Top Of The Pops four years previously…
Future Sound Of London -‘Papua New Guinea.’
I’ve always had a soft spot for Michael Franti, and as frontman of Spearhead, he was the first Hip-Hop act I ever saw live. It could have been this or ‘Television, The Drug Of The Nation’ but thistale of how a homophobe gets his comeuppance is pretty groundbreaking. And as at this time rap was becoming ever more confrontational (which was fine) but also displaying aspects of prejudice (which is not fine), it was good to see an act showng it wasn’t all about the benjamins.
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -‘The Language of Violence.’
As has been well-documented, in 1992, The Wedding Present issued a new 7″ every month, the a-side being an original song and the b-side being a cover. This saw them make Top Of The Pops several times, have seven entries in that year’s Festive Fifty, rack up twelve top thirty hits…and then get dropped by their record company.
Wedding Present -‘Sticky.’
I wasn’t much into R&B in the nineties, much of it came under the heading of New Jack Swing, a genre that left me cold, mostly. But this track wasn’t like that, and like En Vogue, gave a glimpse of just how big the genre would be in the decade to come…
Shanice -‘I Love Your Smile.’
This wasn’t supposed to happen…or maybe it was. This is actually the track that first brought Bjork into the Top Forty in the UK, being a sizeable hit, even with the mad shoutyness going on, as ever. But by the end of the year the band hd called it a day, with Bjork going off to make a solo album…and actually put the avant garde on Top Of The Pops.
The Sugarcubes -‘Hit.’
Should also be featured here: Ride -‘Leave Them All Behind.’ Jesus and Mary Chain -‘Reverence.’ Primal Scream -‘Movin’ On Up.’ The Cure -‘Friday I’m In Love.’ The Orb -‘Blue Room.’ Faith No More -‘Midlife Crisis. En Vogue -‘My Lovin.’ Boo Radleys -‘Lazarus.’ (Actually, there were good tracks it just felt horrible…)
Ah…1991. School was rubbish, the UK got involved in a war in Iraq (plus ca change la meme chose etc..) and the UK recession bit. How times change. Bryan Adams was no.1 for sixteen weeks with the theme for a film about Robin Hood that showed Kevin Costner doing an appalling English accent -‘Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.’ Music, yet again, would save us. Depending on what got through, of course. Bizarrely, songs not played during the time of the Gulf War were ‘Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting’ by Elton John, the Bangles ‘Walk Like An Egyptian’ and Lulu’s ‘Boom-bang-a-bang.’ The Cure’s ‘Killing An Arab’ didn’t make the blacklist though. In the middle of all this, there was the incongruous sight of the Clash getting a no.1 with the re-issued ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’
I have to admit, this track didn’t do much for me in 1991, but over the course of the decade, it and parent album Blue Lines grew on me. It was actually credited to Massive, rather than Massive Attack, being as the name was considered inappropriate at the time of the Gulf War. This track is without a doubt my favourite track of the last twenty years.
Massive -‘ Unfinished Sympathy.’
A few weeks ago, a twelve year old started trying to tell me abuot when Nirvana first appeared on Top of the Pops. ‘You don’t have to tell me,’ I explained ‘I was watching it, I know!’ But that’s the thing: for my generation he was the one who pushed open the door for alternative music into the mainstream; for another generation after us, he’s an icon of doomed youth. Perhaps it’s how people in their fourties feel when i ask them about their experiences of the punk days. Ah well…
Nirvana -‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’
Hello to shoegazing (part 1). Curve were one of those names I would gaze it in the indie chart each week, wondering how I could even get to hear their music -the likelihood of hearing it on daytime Radio 1 was slim, and I had no access to MTV, and filesharing meant something different in 1991. Eventually I heard them – bought a cassette single of ‘Coast Is Clear’ and was not disappointed. This was the debut single though, featuring the man who held the record for many years for being the world’s fastest rapper – ‘JC 001.’
Curve -‘Ten Little Girls’
In which the world of shoegazing meets goth (see also the Cocteau Twins). By 1991, Siouxsie and the Banshees were pretty much the elder statesmenandwoman of the ‘indie-alternative’ spectrum, but I still carried a torch for them that I had done since I saw ‘Candyman’ as a nineyear old on Top of the Pops. This song was prime Banshees, even if parent album Superstition wasn’t. As shoegazing and baggy battled it out (well, sorta), the instrumental break seemed to bear more than a passing resemblance to Chapterhouse’s single of the same time ‘Pearl.’
Siouxsie and the Banshees -‘Kiss Them For Me.’
It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that there was a successful pre-Britpop indie scene, that dind’t involve Shoegazing necessarily, but did make it onto Top Of The Pops, Smash Hits and quite often daytime Radio 1. The Wonderstuff were one of those bands, along with Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Jesus Jones, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine who often did rather well. This was their biggest hit as band (not involving covers and Vic Reeves).
Wonderstuff -‘Size Of A Cow.’
This song got me from the off: ‘Says she won;t be forced against her will/says she don’t do drugs but she does the pill.’ sufficiently parent-baiting, I hoped. I still have a spot for the Fanclub but I kinda preferred them when they were mashing up Big Star and Dinsoaur Jr, rather than the Neil Young of the scottish west coast which started setting in about 1997.
Teenage Fanclub -‘The Concept.’
It has been said about many of the pre-britpop bands that they made more money selling T-shirts than records, but they did have hits too. This song got Carter onto the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party in October 1991. The show might have passed off without incident had host Philip Schofield then muttred an insensitive gag about thier haircuts…see “>here. heh heh…My little brother and I were there, having won tickets, and we sorta saw it, but it was only completely clear when we got home and wathced the video afterwards…
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine -‘After The watershed (Early Learning The Hard Way).
*Would be here also: REM -‘Losing My Religion’; Billy Bragg ‘Sexuality.’ Problems with what is available on YouTube at the moment.
Ah, Curve…fronted by the wondrous Toni Halliday and her partner in crime, bassist, Dean Garcia, in 1991 Curve released three fantastic EPs (Blindfold, Frozen, Cherry) on the Anxious label, owned by Dave Stewart. They were part of the shoegazing movement, and bridged or perhaps blurred the gap between Goth, Indie and Shoegazing. They had two entries in the 1991 Festive Fifty and recorded three peel sessions. In 1992 their debut album Doppelganger came out, earning them two top 40 singles. By the following year they were ready to release their second album, Cuckoo. Opening with the wondrous ‘Missing Link’ this was a strong set, but the public seemed to be moving on. After this album came out, the band went on a hiatus for several years, during which time Toni recorded the vocals on ‘Original’ a track on Leftfield’ seminal 1995 LP Leftism, which became one of that year’s defining albums. Guitarist Debbie Smith, meanwhile, joined Echobelly . Toni and Dean finally called time on the band in 2005. Although unavailable on iunes UK, the compilation of those fabulous three EPs, Pubic Fruit and the debut are available through Amazon, but Cuckoo is only available on import. Therefore: I present it for you here.
1. Missing Link 2. Crystal Listen 3. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus 4. All of One 5. Unreadable Communication 6. Turkey Crossing 7. Superblaster 8. Left of Mother 9. Sweetest Pie 10.Cuckoo
Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright to this album. I am posting this album here due to its unavailablity in the UK. If you own the rights to this album and do not want it posted here, please email me and I will remove it posthaste. If you like what you hear, support Curve buy buying their albums.