Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Indie Top 20 Volume 4 Part 1 Side Two - Wedding Present, Flatmates, Primitives, The Shamen, World Domination Enterprises, Pop Will Eat Itself

1. The Wedding Present - Nobody's Twisting Your Arm (Reception)

Well, this is it. This is the sound of a band with a style which was largely uncommercial at the time rising right up from the underground, and with an unbelievably good single. The yearning, lovelorn buzz and jangle of The Wedding Present's previous 7" efforts had been good, but nothing before really hinted at this - "Nobody's Twisting Your Arm" is just brilliant Pop. Pop with an abrasive edge, and pop that wasn't going to get played on Steve Wright In The Afternoon, obviously, but nonetheless, David Gedge was obviously on unbelievable form at this point.

Always known for taking common everyday sayings or phrases and trying to create hooks out of them, "Nobody's Twisting Your Arm" ups the commercial ante further by adding arrangement flourishes too, like that chiming piano, the female backing vocals, and not to mention one of the best choruses of their career. The opening lines "And when I called your house/ And your sister thought that I was somebody else" could have been given to a sulking, moping Jason Donovan for his latest hit if it weren't for the wobbly scansion in the second line. Try imagining "Nobody's Twisting Your Arm" performed in a synth-pop style. It isn't hard to do, as John Lennon never sang.

The track only just missed out on a proper national Top 40 place as a result, settling at the final position of number 46. It wasn't an Indie chart Number one either, resting somewhat unfortunately behind Kylie Minogue's "I Should Be So Lucky" on PWL, but perhaps that's only appropriate.

Things would change hugely for the band after this point. We'll meet them one more time before they sign to RCA, but there might be those who argue that this was actually their career pinnacle. I'm not too sure where I stand on that myself.

2. The Flatmates - Shimmer (Subway)

And this is probably my favourite Flatmates single as well, as the band suddenly throw feedback and jagged, harsher guitar sounds into the mix.  The lyrics are extra spiteful and biting as well, with spat out lines like "God knows what you've put me through" displaying a different facet to the band which just wasn't apparent on "Happy All The Time".

Sadly, it was also the beginning of the end for the group. One Janice Long Session EP would follow, and a final "proper" single in "Heaven Knows" in October 1988, before the game was up. They would reform in 2013 and release one more single, but are one of those frustrating indiepop acts never to have treated the world to a proper LP. Across seven inches, though, they were always a marvellous proposition.

3. The Primitives - Stop Killing Me (Lazy)

The Primitives are, you could argue, everything The Flatmates could have ended up becoming, and perhaps that's what they were trying to avoid. "Stop Killing Me" was released only a year before their RCA single "Crash", a top five smash which became the staple of school discos, with lots of caffeine-buzzing teens screeching "Shut! Shut your mo-outh!" in time with Tracy Tracy. Often regarded as one-hit wonders, they in fact managed a couple of years of moderate hit singles afterwards - no mean feat for a group of their ilk.

"Stop Killing Me" is an admirable and gutsy blast of three minute sixties pop with teeth, but in retrospect it's not worth getting overly exercised about. What's on display here could easily be found in countless other places being performed with a bit more of an edge and bigger hooks, but obviously it isn't their finest or most representative moment.

4. The Shamen - Knature of a Girl (Moksha)

"Christopher Mayhew Says" on Volume 3 was a fantastic psychedelic cacophony, but by the point of "Knature of a Girl" things had calmed down a little. The sledgehammer beatbox rhythms are still in place, and the shimmering effects (this time with added sitar styled noises) add a kaleidoscopic feel, but poppiness is beginning to rear it's head.

"Knature of a Girl" is still a long, long way from "Ebeneezer Goode" - so far it's almost mind-boggling, in fact - but the chorus here sounds close to the soon-to-be-born Jesus Jones, and you're left with the impression that the emerging wave of faintly rebellious but nonetheless commercial alt-pop groups probably owed The Shamen a debt. A debt, obviously, that neither side was keen to acknowledge by the time The Shamen were Boss Drummed up to the hilt.

5. World Domination Enterprises - I Can't Live Without My Radio (Product Inc)

Don't worry, readers, this one was an absurd release even at the time; a cover of LL Cool J's single with discordant, squawking guitar noises taking the place of any scratch mixing or indeed grooves. Apart from the fact that this version propels along with a bit more urgency, it's hard to understand why you'd need to own it instead of the original... nonetheless, it climbed to Number 8 in the indie chart, acting as World Domination Enterprises' biggest single ever.

The group were probably much more respected at the time for their cult single "Asbestos Lead Asbestos" which loaned its title to a later slice of Carter USM lyricism, and indeed had a cult following which ensured they were big news on the national gig circuit for awhile. "I Can't Live Without My Radio" is a baffling misfire, though, which only seemed radical at the time for the novelty of being a Hip-Hop track being retooled and reappropriated by English noiseniks. We were easily pleased by such things in those days.

6. Pop Will Eat Itself - There Is No Love Between Us Anymore (Chapter 22)

"There Is No Love Between Us Anymore" really is largely an instrumental track propelled along with scratch noises, interjecting samples and the occasional anguished cry of the title from Clint Mansell. That should have made it an utterly inappropriate single and something best left to the closing moments of the "Box Frenzy" LP, but in fact it showed that there was slightly more to the Brummie boys than leery, beery rapping and loud guitars. There's a neat patchwork quilt of ideas going on here, and a distinct dark mood, which showed that a creative and modern songwriting approach was apparent in their ranks - a point that probably needed to be made after two cover versions in a row.

Oddly, this does creatively sit somewhere between Public Image Limited and Big Audio Dynamite, the follow-up projects of two crucial punk figures, and the moody black and white video of two knackered parents loans it a sympathetic and considered edge the larks of the "Beaver Patrol" promo definitely didn't. ("It's restricted from playback on certain sites", say Sony. How dare I attempt to plug a bit of their adopted back catalogue on my blog, eh?)

Whatever the influences or the purpose behind the release of this, it did their prospects no harm and acted as their first ever official UK Top 75 chart entry, climbing to number 66. Far bigger success would also follow.


  1. Great blog, however I think you mean Clint Mansell rather than Clint Boon.

  2. Ah yes... thanks for spotting that slip of the brain before anyone else did...!