Year of Release: 1992
Beechwood surely expected another big pay-out from this compilation. Their previous attempt at an Indie Top 20 "best of" had been hugely popular and had taken the series into Woolworths and WH Smiths as well as HMV and Our Price. What was stopping the follow-up from continuing that run of success?
Times had changed, for one thing. If the first "Best of" had emerged during the "Second Summer of Love" and had chosen its track listing with the maximum of care, the follow-up fell into a world where alternative music was (temporarily) not the commercial force it had been and was also a particularly messy salad of styles. Between volumes 11-15, shoegazing had arrived (and pretty much disappeared again by this point), grunge was a colossal force, and most of the rest of the scene consisted of Transit van sleeping, ever-touring forces like Senseless Things and Megacity Four. Oh, and Carter, who occupied some kind of weird outlier entirely by themselves.
Forging a cohesive compilation out of the best selling artists from this mess, and one which was likely to sell to a broad cross-section of the interested public, was always going to be a tough job. The net result doesn't flow as wonderfully as the first "Best Of" - the leap from Carter USM straight into Curve, then on to Suede at the start shows what Tim Millington was up against - but it does do a good job of presenting the era's chaos in one package. The bizarre sleeve with its juxtaposed elements of different "Indie Top 20" cover designs actually mirrored that jumble of musical styles well.
Note also the heavy mining of tracks from Volume 13, which accounts for 8 of the 20 tracks, and the fact that Volume 14 is skated over quickly with undignified haste, though this is somewhat unsurprising.
There are a few key singles and artists of the period missing. Daisy Chainsaw's "Love Your Money" was a huge indie hit, but had already appeared on other rival major label "Unbelievable Trippy World of Indie, Wow It's A Freaky Dancing Rave With Guitars Man!" styled compilations, so possibly wasn't treated as a priority (and also, the group's popularity had seriously waned since its release). The Stone Roses are missing again despite "I Wanna Be Adored" being on Volume 13, but possibly seemed irrelevant due to their general inactivity throughout the period. The Sugarcubes "Hit" is absent, as are Throwing Muses, Pixies and The Charlatans (the last drops of baggy and indie-dance are given a very wide berth, actually, and I suspect Beechwood thought The Charlatans career was almost over). Beyond that, Millington does his best with the material available, and it's interesting to get a snapshot of what was deemed important in late 1992. The inclusion of Adorable and Suede on this compilation, for example, might have seemed like a wild assumption of continued success for both at this point - a display of faith which naturally only paid off in one case.
There's one peculiarity afoot, too. The compilation is nineteen tracks long, and early review copies included twenty tracks, with The Manic Street Preachers "You Love Us" present, which was promptly hacked out of the released version (the cassette copy does include Midway Still's "I Won't Try" in its place as a bonus track, though). Whether this was down to a rights issue or something else entirely isn't clear. If any Manics fans out there know why the track was pulled, do tell us.
Follow the links provided to see my original write-up of the tracks.
1. Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere (Rough Trade) - Volume 11
2. Curve - Ten Little Girls (Anxious) - Volume 12
3. Suede - My Insatiable One (Nude) - Volume 15
4. Teenage Fanclub - God Knows It's True (Paperhouse) - Volume 11
5. Chapterhouse - Precious One (Dedicated) - Volume 13
6. Slowdive - Catch The Breeze (Creation) - Volume 13
7. Verve - Man Called Sun (Hut) - Volume 15
8. Mercury Rev - Car Wash Hair (The Bee's Chasing Me) Full Pull (Jungle) - Volume 14
9. The Breeders - Do You Love Me Now? (4AD) - Volume 15
10. Spiritualized - Run (Dedicated) - Volume 13
11. Cud - Magic (Imaginary) - Volume 11
12. Adorable - Sunshine Smile (Creation) - Volume 15
13. Lush - For Love (4AD) - Volume 14
14. Levitation - Nadine (Ultimate) - Volume 12
15. The Boo Radleys - Kaleidoscope (Rough Trade) - Volume 11
16. Catherine Wheel - Shallow (Wilde Club) - Volume 13
17. The Telescopes - Flying (Creation) - Volume 13
18. Midway Still - I Won't Try (Roughneck) - Volume 13 - cassette only
19. Smashing Pumpkins - Siva (Hut) - Volume 13
20. Babes In Toyland - Handsome and Gretel (Insipid) - Volume 13
Also featured on promotional copies only: Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us (Heavenly) - Volume 12