Monday, 22 August 2016

Indie Top 20 Volume One - Tracks 16-20 (Razorcuts, Flatmates, Talulah Gosh, Mighty Mighty, BMX Bandits)

16. The Razorcuts - Sorry To Embarrass You (Subway)

While there's been indiepop aplenty on this volume, this is the first example of sensitive, considered guitar jangling about being useless with girls. While records like this one became the subject of much scoffing and mocking amongst the confident Alpha A males at IPC Towers who felt entitled to a shag just because they'd once been in the same room as James Brown (either he of "Loaded" magazine fame or the legendary funkster), they did do something to capture teenage angst and hopelessness in a way that rock hadn't bothered to try since the early sixties. And more to the point, the tone had subtly shifted as the times changed.

My wife is keen to point out that a lot of rough and ready 60s Garage music (the indie of its day, if you will) is essentially "Sex Pest Rock", using Paul Revere and The Raiders "Let Me" as an example of how the recurring lyrical motif in the song is about one man's sense of sexual entitlement (though to be honest, it's such an enjoyably dumbass record that I think it disintegrates as soon as you try to analyse it in depth, like most slack-jawed Rock tracks of that nature.) What did the likes of The Razorcuts do? Gently announce their interest in a lady, then apologise profusely when it backfired. It's actually quite sweet and endearing in a way, and the lines "I'd rather talk some more/ than look into your eyes/ just waiting for the bell to ring/ so we can live our separate lives" could really easily have been sung by a sixties girl group about a boy - the flipping of the gender roles and the narrative here was almost certainly not a deliberate piece of artistic trickery, but the fact the observation can be made is at least really interesting.

The Razorcuts split up in April 1990 after two albums on Creation Records, but reunited for a one-off single on Sarah Records (where else?) under the name Forever People.

17. The Flatmates - I Could Be In Heaven (Subway)

Bristol's The Flatmates approached their indiepop sound with a much harsher, sandpaper edge to it, on occasion recalling The Ramones at their most Spector-obsessed or a messed up 60s Garage Girl group with bruised knees and menace in their eyes.

"I Could Be In Heaven" is perhaps the most weakly recorded of their singles, but through the lo-fi sound quality is a tune which would be typical of most of their offerings - a buzzing, effervescent love song which sounded like something somebody else should have written long ago. This was another minor indie hit peaking at number 18 on the chart that never really counted, but later releases would be better recorded and better realised, and reach more listeners in the process. The Flatmates failure to release a proper LP or capitalise properly on their early run of singles seems ludicrous now - they were often far better than many of their peers who were swept up by the major labels.

18. Talulah Gosh - Beatnik Boy (53rd and 3rd)

Another group whose finest moments were around the corner, "Beatnik Boy" was Talulah Gosh's first proper single (excluding a split flexidisc with the aforementioned Razorcuts) and is a bit too self-consciously twee for its own good in my opinion - but perhaps not yours. I'm not sure how much of an argument I can be bothered to have about this single.

More so than most groups of the period, Talulah Gosh worshipped at the holy church of Stephen Pastel and made a positive virtue out of childlike cutesiness to begin with - depending on your tolerance for such things, you will either find "Beatnik Boy" charming or utterly excruciating, but there's no question that the sound was overall very much their own. There were precious few groups prior to Talulah Gosh who pulled off a similar childlike sense of jollity and awe, but lots of imitators rushed through the gates afterwards, and their impact and influence can still be felt on alternative culture to this day, whereas most of the bands on Volume One of this series have struggled to maintain any kind of current cultural relevance.

19. Mighty Mighty - Throwaway (Chapter 22)

Rather like The Chesterfields, Birmingham's Mighty Mighty - initially, at least - brought Orange Juice inspired melodic pop to the forefront of their sound, eschewing arrogant rockisms for polite, considered pop and roll. On later singles they would sound slightly more developed, taking on a robust, angular beefiness on "Built Like A Car" and even trying a peculiar kind of indie baroque pop on "One Way", but "Throwaway" was an - erm - throwback to those good old early sixties guitar pop values.

"Like the bubblegum when the flavour's gone/ Why does love throwaway/ Well, those throwaway pop songs are all I play/ Can't you hear what they say?" the group ask, predating the philosophical musings of bloke-lit author Nick Hornby by a whole decade. Once again, I'm inclined to think that better things were to come from the group, but "Throwaway" sets out their stall neatly enough.

20. BMX Bandits - The Day Before Tomorrow (53rd and 3rd)

The BMX Bandits are responsible for one of the most jaw droppingly open, honest and beautiful songs about depression, "Serious Drugs". Like Bacharach being forced to muse on his prescription medication, there's very little anyone can take away from that one towering achievement.

So this, naturally, is my way of getting around to say that "The Day Before Tomorrow" is a strangely naive, shambolic piece of work which is clearly influenced by Daniel Johnston, but doesn't really possess the same degree of charm. It's not their strongest track by any margin imaginable, and it's a downright peculiar track to choose to close Volume One of "Indie Top 20" with. But there we are.

No comments:

Post a Comment