The following article first appeared in the January 2016 issue of the Mudhuts Football Express.
There was a time where I wasn’t “into” music. That’s not to say I didn’t like music, but with a record collection that mainly consisted of the second two Adam and the Ants LPs, Wham! Fantastic! and a couple of records pilfered from my parents cupboard (The Beatles Red Album and Motown Chartbusters vol 4) bolstered by tapes painstakingly recorded from the top forty rundown on a Sunday tea time I could hardly call myself an aficionado.
Then came 1986 when someone handed me a tape that changed my (musical) life.
That’s probably a bit of an over dramatization of events. By that point I’d already stopped getting in the bath in the time to listen to the top ten in peace, preferring a later slot that allowed me to catch Annie Nightingale’s request show. Most of the requests seemed to come from students leading to an eclectic mix of music that put some of the less “charty” stuff I’d picked up on in the top forty over the years in a completely new context.
Bands like The Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen suddenly became totally new prospects surrounded by more like minded “grown up” music. But that wasn’t were the tape came in.
The tape was called C86. A compilation released through the NME, intended to capture the sound of indie music in 1986. For the younger readers, the name came from the coding given to blank tapes, telling you the length of the cassette. Going off the track-listing, “The sound of ‘86” consisted of bands like The Pastels, McCarthy (no relation), Bogshed, Big Flame, Miaow, fourteen other bands you’ve probably never heard of either, as well as Half Man Half Biscuit, The Soup Dragons and Primal Scream.
History (or a quick look on Wikipedia) will probably paint C86 as the start of a new movement, a new era of guitar pop that would ultimately lead to indie music taking over the mainstream. At the time and since it’s been given many labels, Indie, Jangle, Shambling, Twee and Anorak Pop to name a few. So many names that you’d be excused for thinking that this wasn’t a single genre of music.
Indie music at the time was fairly fractious and regionalised. Local music for local people, if you like. What bands were doing in, say, Glasgow wasn’t necessarily what they were doing in Oxford, musically at least. What the “Indie Scene(s)” were doing as one was carrying on the “do it yourself” legacy of the days of punk and so you got a fairly eclectic mix of bands with varying influences.
In that regard, C86 probably does capture the times. Whilst the many rose tinted retrospectives we’ll get on its 30th anniversary, this summer, will paint C86 as an exercise in Byrdsian pop, the reality was something different. The record is probably as notable for the Captain Beefheart-esque mentalism of Stump, the almost jazzy dissonance of Big Flame and Mackenzie and the post-punk nonsense of Half Man Half Biscuit as it is for anything else.
For every jangly, sparky, two to three minutes of pop there was a lump of discordant noise. For every fey middle class girl singing through her noise, there was an angry, young (probably still middle class) lad, growling at some injustice or other. For every perfect pop song, there’s (in retrospect) a steaming pile of horse crap.
It’s fair to say, as a compilation, time hasn’t served it well, but it really did make a difference to me back then, if listening to the request show was part of my musical evolution then C86 was my musical revolution.
The thought of a musical revolution lead by pale kids with hair in their eyes and an overwhelming obsession with the toes of their Doc Martins makes me cringe a little now but getting hold of C86 really did mark a sea-change in my listening habits. From taping the charts before my bath on a Sunday night, I found myself listening to John Peel, in bed with the volume turned down so my mum and dad didn’t know I was still up.
And from there, I didn’t look back. That Wham! album made its way into my sister’s room and those tapes that I’d recorded the top 40 on quickly filled up with Peel Sessions. By 1986, I’d lost my way from early 80s mod/casual and my dress sense wasn’t up to that much anyway so brief dalliances with paisley shirts and tweed jackets really were a step forward as I approached 16.
They may have gone now (checks wardrobe… phew) but the ongoing quest to achieve a fringe that doesn’t disappear into curls at the sight of a raincloud remains, as does a penchant for anoraks (or cagoules) and the music, well at least the good bits, one of which, for some reason, possibly remains my favourite song of all time.
But more of that in the playlist…
I’d patiently compiled a list of reviews for an October/November issue of MFE. As that didn’t come here’s a quick list of recommendations that you might have missed out on…
Owl & Mouse – Departures: This, debut, album from a bunch of London based Aussies actually came out in the summer, but its set of crafted, minimalist, sparkling songs are in keeping with the Indie pop theme and is definitely worth a listen.
Deerhunter – Fading Frontier: A return to form, Fading Frontier provides nine pieces of swirling, melodic pop from the four piece from Atlanta. Stand out track comes in the funked up swagger of Snakeskin, get that even if you don’t get the whole album.
Shopping – Why Choose: Definitely not the sort of Indie that has taken over the mainstream, “Why Choose” is Shopping’s second album. I had a couple of tracks on loop for most of October, most notably “I have decided” but that does the whole album a dis-service, as it’s an almost perfect study in the more leftfield aspects of bass-led mid-eighties DIY pop.
The new year is a good time to look forward so here’s a couple of things to look forward to in 2016.
TVAM – No, David Icke hasn’t reacted to Piers Morgan’s introduction to the Good Morning Britain sofa by making a TV comeback, TVAM is a Wigan lad who’s making a bit of a stir in music circles with his mesmeric, definition defying sonic experiments. Signs are that TVAM is a name to watch in 2016.
Daughter – Not to Disappear: Daughter were absolutely everywhere in 2013, with the release of their debut “If you leave”. After three years on the road, they’re set to return this January with a “difficult” second album that promises to be anything but if the first release from it “Doing the right thing” is anything to go by. The track offers a fuller, more rounded sound, whilst losing none of the atmospheric beauty that we’re used to. “Not to disappear” is due out around the same time as this issue of the mag and if nothing else is guaranteed to give you something to calm down to after reading the latest #wafc meltdown on Twitter.
I think I’ve mentioned Ryan Adams in this column before. I know people who think he’s the dog’s doodahs but I just can’t get on with him. He’s never come across more AOR than on the opening track to his new album 1989, which I started to listen to without any prior knowledge or reading. I almost turned it off start away, but got distracted, coming to part way through the second track that sounded familiar.
The reaction then went something along the lines of, “Hang on… is that… what’s this album called again?”
1989 is Ryan Adams taking on one of the biggest selling records of the past two years. A retelling of Taylor Swift’s record of the same name, Adams lets loose his own brand of folk rock all over Swift’s finely honed pop princess act. The novelty kept me listening but Adam’s continuing search to become Jeff Buckley still fails to endear him to me.
Aparently Adams has claimed his version of 1989 sits somewhere between Springsteen and The Smiths. In reality it’s much. Much nearer to the Boss than it is Morrissey and Marr and if that’s your bag then 1989 might give you an interesting take on those annoying songs your daughter’s been singing for the last 12 months, “Sh-sh-shake it off” indeed.
One Sided Story – Cagoule Pop
Unsurprisingly, this issue’s playlist has a more than a flavour of C86 to it…
Owl & Mouse – Misfits: A standout track from Departures, this is a beautiful, laid back, love affair in just less than three minutes.
The Railway Children – Brighter: Wigan’s own contribution to the jangle pop movement always had a little bit more of a sheen to them than most.
BMX Bandits – Serious Drugs: Not the only Scottish band on this playlist, but perhaps the most influential? BMX Bandits have seen bit of a revival lately and are currently touring with The Charlatans.
Close Lobsters – Firestation Towers: Yes, it’s on C86, yes it’s full of jangly guitars and nasal vocals, but it’s more about the bass for me.
Velocity Girl – Primal Scream: I did consider picking a more familiar Primals song but that would avoid the point, and a fairly perfect pop song about mainling vodka, or something.
Tallulah Gosh – Steaming train: From Oxford? Check. Girl singers? Check. Singing through their noses? Check. Songs played too fast? Check. Plenty of “la la lahs”? Check. Tallulah Gosh might be the most indie band ever. Maybe?
Shop Assistants – I don’t want to be friends with you: See Tallulah Gosh, add petulance equals the Shop Assistants.
The Mighty Lemon Drops – Happy Head: To say that this is one of the heavier pop tunes on C86 shows just how twee indie pop could get.
Black Tambourine – Pack You Up: America’s take on Twee was slightly more serious as Black Tambourine’s darker sound demonstrates.
Shopping – I have decided: Despite being from late 2015, this track doesn’t sound out of place in this company, which I think is a compliment even if you don’t.
Happy Mondays – Freaky Dancing: WTF? “Baggy” firmly had its roots in indie pop and the Mondays were no different, if it hadn’t already been taken “Shambling” would have been the perfect label for their early stuff. This track even made it onto the 25th anniversary, extended version of C86.
The Brilliant Corners – Brian Rix: Bouncy bass, jangly guitars, references to obscure actors from the 50s/60s, a strong suspicion that they’d rather have been the Smiths, scrub what I said about Tallulah Gosh, this is the epitome of 1980s indie.
The Bodines – Therese: By far and away my favourite track from C86 and still one of my favourite (if not my actual) favourite song of all time. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a good love song, with a nice turn of phrase and a strong hook. They say that the music you love in your formative years stays with you forever, and this is my proof of that.
Daughter – Doing the right thing: A more full, deeper sound promises big things for their new album.
Ryan Adams – Blank Space: Well, I had a few minutes to fill…
As always, this playlist is available for your delight and delectation at https://www.mixcloud.com/notapatchon/cagoule-music/
Keep the faith
The Jukebox Juror
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