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Melody Maker: 1998 The Album

Going through my CD collection, looking for interesting Indie Compilations to write about & it’s struck me that I have a lot of free CD’s that came with issues of various music newspapers (NME & Melody Maker) & Magazines (Vox, Mojo etc.). So the first one I dug out was this excellent Melody Maker collection, mounted on the cover of a 1998 issue of the paper. I was unable to find the date a& the cover of that particular issue online, so if anyone reading can help me there, it would be much appreciated.

1998 The Album contains a decent selection of songs from Indie artists who were, at the start of the year, relatively unknown (or smalltime), but, by the end of the year, some of these tunes would become fairly big chart hits in their own right, including a top ten & a number one.

The Dandy Warhols’ Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth (which reached number 13 in the charts) is an unholy lovechild of Glam stomp & New York Punk Hipster cool. The lyrics playing on the fashionability -or lack thereof- of heroin use. The chorus repeats the excellent line “I never thought you’d be a junkie because heroin is so passé.”

Silver Sun

Silver Sun’s I’ll See You Around is sunny, upbeat New Wave (from an album called Neo Wave). Gloriously catchy melodies, a stratospheric chorus & big ’80’s style production make this a compelling slice of nostalgia Pop.

Rialto were in that same kind of unnamed Smiths-loving ’90’s Indie subgenre as bands like Gene, Marion etc. Monday Morning 5:19 is a string-soaked Indie Pop breakup ballad with decent enough melodies & lyrics, but it never quite reaches the same levels of quality as their contemporaries mentioned above.

The Young Offenders were a band I remember seeing a lot of in NME & Melody Maker around ’97. it felt like they were going to be a pretty big deal, but this was the only song of theirs I ever heard, & I’d completely forgotten about them until now. It’s fairly standard Glam-by-numbers. They’ve definitely got a bit of a Bolan fetish, but they definitely fall way short of that. Interestingly, vocalist/songwriter Ciarán McFeely would go on to make a couple of really goood solo albums under the name Simple Kid.

Warm Jets

Warm Jets are coming from a similar place to Rialto, & even shared some of the same personnel during their existence, but their music is much more sonically adventurous (as you’d damn well hope for a band named after a Brian Eno tune). Never Never is finely crafted melancholic Indie Rock with a heartfelt sincerity which makes it feel very honest & real.

Lodger were kind of a Britpop supergroup, consisting of members of Supergrass, Powder & Delicatessen. I’m Leaving is an upbeat piano & organ rocker with a clear connection to some of the more organ-led Supergrass songs (eg. Going Out), as well as to the underclass glamour of Suede.

I wrote about the excellent album Peloton by The Delgados in a recent Overlooked Classics post, so I won’t dwell on it here. It’s excellent twee-tinged Alternative Rock, as unique now as it was then.

Next up we have the second most successful (in chart terms) song here. The Ballad Of Tom Jones by Space (& featuring Cerys Matthews of Catatonia) reached number 4 in the UK charts, a pretty big deal with Britpop on the wane. It’s pure radio fodder. Filled with great synth & keyboard parts, sampled orchestral instruments & even a theremin. If the two artists weren’t already a fairly big deal, this would have likely broken them into the mainstream.

Here We Go by Arab Strap (on The Delgados excellent label, Chemikal Underground) is moody & hypnotic with excellent spoken word lyrics about a night out going culminating in an explosive row. I remember in the journalistic genre-naming frenzy of the mid to late ’90’s, the NME named this style as Skunk Rock. A bit daft in hindsight, but at the time was quite interesting.They included bands as diverse as Campag Velocet & The Lo Fidelity Allstars in that genre too, so I’m not sure what they were getting at exactly. To me, it sounds like the musical equivalent of a hangover. But in a good way. I love Arab Strap.

Cornershop, burning a poster of Morrissey at their contract signing

Here we have the most commercially successful tune on this compilation. Brimful Of Asha by Cornershop topped the charts in 1998, with a decent remix by Norman Cook -aka Fatboy Slim. Included here is the album version from their masterpiece When I Was Born For The Seventh Time, which I prefer. It’s a perfect storm of Britpop, underground Indie & Indian music. The album is essential listening & I will do an Overlooked Classics post about it in the near future.

Royal Trux Deafer Than Blind is downtempo lo-fi Indie Rock with a kind of folky/bluesy feel to it. It’s rattly & raw in all the best ways, highlighting their noisier reputation.

Theaudience is a kind of milquetoast mashup of late stage Britpop & the, then, popular Twee Pop, if you can imagine such a thing. It lacks much of the urgency of other Twee bands but manages to pull off a memorable enough chorus. I remember liking this at the time, but for the life of me, I can’t imagine why listening back to it now. It’s incredibly bland.

Whistler’s If I Give You A Smile is way, way more Twee than the previous tune. Acoustic guitars, violins & singer Kerry Shaw’s spoken word vocals combine to make an atmospheric & Folky Pop song with an unusually urban quality to it.

The Supernaturals

The Supernaturals close the compilation with the excellent Sheffield Song, from their sophomore album, A Tune A Day. Its joyously catchy Indie Pop with hooks galore & an almost upbeat melancholia. I actually own a signed copy of their debut album, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, that I won on a radio phone-in competition when it was first released in 1997. They’re were actually one of my favourite bands when I was a teenager & I’m really enjoying listening back to them now.

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Terminal Sales Vol. 2: This Delicious – a Sub Pop sampler

This Delicious is the 2006 Sub Pop sampler, & the second in the Terminal Sales series. I don’t remember this one as well as the previous ones I’ve written about, but I did enjoy it & I may have made a CD-R copy from a friend’s back in the day. I can neither confirm or deny this. Primarily because I honestly don’t remember.

Band Of Horses open proceedings with the elegiac, Alt Country of The Great Salt Lake. A high quality, polished, commercial radio production reminds us how Sub Pop doesn’t have a unique sound, per se. Nevertheless, there is a common, hard to describe, vibe that unites the differing sonic styles of Sub Pop artists.

Our old friends, The Thermals

As if in direct contradiction to the high fidelity production of the previous track, our old friends The Thermals are back with the barnstorming Pillar Of Salt from their incredibly ambitious lo-fi, punk concept album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. The rough production enhances the fuzzy, aggressive guitar work & the impassioned, quasi-heroic vocals. An anthem for the resistance of the new American puritanism that The Thermals were raging against at the time, Pillar Of Salt is compelling & thrilling Indie Agitrop at its finest.

Oxford Collapse’s Let’s Vanish is cheery, upbeat & atmospheric. Melodic, fuzzy Indie Pop with the trademark New York hipster cool. Perhaps a few years too late for Oxford Collapse, this would have been quite a lot more successful if it was released during the immediate wake of The Strokes debut.

CSS

With the twin cultural forces of the early ’00’s Post Punk revival & the rise of Electroclash artists like LCD Soundsystem, Sub Pop were always going to get a slice of that pie. CSS’s classic Let’s Make Love And Listen To Death From Above uses a funky synthesised bass line, motorik drum machine programming & bored sounding vocals. The song is widely assumed to be about the Canadian Post Punk band, Death From Above 1979.

Always For You by The Album Leaf is lo-fi Indie Pop built around melancholic synthesiser melodies & plaintive vocals. Stuttering, glitchy drum machine rhythm’s give Alway For You a unique character that subverts the expectations of Indie Pop in a really interesting way.

Kelley Stoltz

Kelley Stoltz gives us some nice ’60’s Psyche Pop with authentic period production, simple vocal melodies & Beach Boys style harmonies. Fuzzy, psychedelic surfer music, Ever Though Of Coming Back is an unexpected highlight for me so far.

Chad VanGaalen’s Flower Gardens opens up with some lovely, bleeping synth arpeggios which subtly detune before the song bursts into a fuzz bass led Psyche Garage stomper. Stuttering vocals & guitar notes, modem noise & dub sirens all build up to create a unique, and raw, take on Garage Rock.

The Bank And Trust by The Elected is hyper-melodic, soulful Alt Country. Sunny Californian melodies & vocal harmonies change up the Country sound into something brighter & shinier.

Jennifer Gentle, Italian Psyche Pop oddballs, are back with the excellent Take My Hands. They’re like a lo-fi T-Rex fronted by Syd Barrett. Minimal & weird, just the way I like it.

Mudhoney

Sub Pop stalwarts & Grunge pioneers Mudhoney are in an apocalyptic mood on Endless Yesterday. Grafting Psychedelic melodies onto their heavy-as-you-fucking-like hard Grunge sound, Endless Yesterday is a ode to a thermonuclear holocaust on their semi-concept album Under A Billion Suns. This album, & song, rages against the George W Bush administrations bloodlust &, to quote a song title from the album, Hard On For War. This comes from the same place, emotionally & politically, as The Thermals track mentioned above.

We’re keeping it heavy with the return of another band I loved from earlier Sub Pop compilations, Comets On Fire. This is melodic, sludgy surf Punk. Dogwood Rust is drips in ’60’s energy &, you may remember from previous blogposts about Comets On Fire, Echoplex tape delay. Thick walls of dense delay noise provide an apocalyptic backdrop to furious lead guitar solos.

Tall Birds actually carry on in a similar style, though with a more Pop-orientated melodic sensibility. There’s an almost Glam Rock swagger to Internalize & a sense of Punk chaos to the rhythm section. There’s a few unexpected twists & turns, like the high speed run up to the final chorus, which feels like a different song entirely. Noisy, full stop ending is pretty too.

Pissed Jeans

Next up we’ve got Sabbath slow Noise Rock from Hardcore Punk band Pissed Jeans, with Don’t Need Smoke To Make Myself Disappear. This is dark, dank & aggressive. The vocals range from menacing sarcasm to terrified howling.

Dead Moon Night by Dead Moon is lo-fi Garage Rock. Like so much of the other music on here, Dead Moon Night marries noisy guitar jamming with psychedelic techniques & frantic pitch bending.

From something so melodic we move into much darker territory. The Driller by Wolf Eyes is pure, abrasive Noise Music. Screeching guitar feedback, synthesised percussion & doom metal screaming combine to give a masterclass in noise music. An essential artist if you like the genre. If you don’t, I imagine it is rather unpleasant. Luckily, I love noise music.

Revolve by Eugene Mirman is a bit of a curveball, to be fair. A 5 minute clip of Stand Up comedy. I don’t rally know what to say about this track. It’s pretty funny, but not really what I look for in an Indie Rock compilation.

So, overall, This Delicious is another great Sub Pop compilation.

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Terminal Sales Vol. 1: Songbook of Songs – a Sub Pop sampler

So here we go again with another excellent Indie compilation. And another sampler from the Sub Pop label. This time we’re looking at the 2005 Terminal Sales Vol.1: Songbook Of Songs, the first of 5 volumes. By the vagaries of eCommerce, I am currently in possession of Vol.1, 2 & 4 of the series. Vol. 3 & 5, I have found, though they are prohibitively expensive at this time. If you want to buy them for me, or have a copy you’d like to send me, then please get in touch. I know you won’t but I thought it’d provide you, my reader, with a little chuckle in these dark times. “He expects me to what?” I’m sure you’d be in hysterics at my baldfaced cheek if I hadn’t gone on to invalidate & ruin the joke (or is it a prank?) by explaining it to you. For this I apologise.

Opening up, we have the excellent Garage Rock shenanigans of The Constantines, who we also saw on 2004’s Patient Zero. Working Full Time ticks all of the boxes of the early ’00’s Garage Rock revival, therefore maybe arriving a year or two late. I can definitely picture them sharing a bill with the likes of The Hives & The Datsuns. Rocking those ’03 summer festivals.

A Frames, a Punk band named after an advertising board, contribute Galena, a spiky, aggressive slice of late ’70’s style Punk which totters on the precipice of Post Punk. You’d expect to find it on compilation devoted to either genre, to be fair.

Sleater-Kinney

Portland, Oregon’s Sleater-Kinney (named after a freeway exit road in Washington State) lay down their trademark brand of patrician Punk Rock. All angular Post-Punk rhythms, noise rock guitars & soaring Grunge choruses, Entertain is accomplished & exciting. They should have been way, way bigger than they were.

California by Low is sunny (as you’d guess from the title), upbeat Indie Pop. A minimal arrangement with diabetes inducing melodic sweetness & warm pleasing vocal harmonies. Ticks all the right boxes for an Indie band bothering the charts in the early to mid ’00’s. It’s a wonder it was never used on an advert.

Fruit Bats Lives Of Crime is artful, minimal Pop Rock. I was surprised to find that they’re from Chicago as I thought they dripped with hipster, New York coolness & artfulness. Some of their chord changes & key changes swerve across the alternative music freeway & into the Prog lane. These moments of uncertainty give this tune a character & identity I struggle to put my finger on.

Love As Laughter

Dirty Lives by Love As Laughter is a more Pop orientated affair than their usual brand of abrasive, lo-fi Rock and Roll. It wallow’s in the kind of seedy American background class that drinks beer from a cooler box in an after hours gas station. The kind of working class sleaze that unites such diverse bands as Silver Jews & Suede. Bet that’s a pair of bands you hadn’t expected to see in the same sentence. Love As Laughter populate this realm with a Glam Rock swagger which wasn’t too fashionable in 2005. Nether the less, it was novel & welcome.

Kinski take us back to the realm of the Garage Rock revival with The Wives Of Artie Shaw. Artistic, noisy & just on the Punk side of things, Kinski aren’t dissimilar to another Sub Pop band I’ve recently rediscovered & fallen in love with, Comets On Fire.

Italian Psych Rockers Jennifer Gentle are as indebted to the sonic textures of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd as you’d expect from their name. Even the cod-English accent (& language come to think of it) suggests a musical anglophilia which is typical of my only experience of Italy. My band were invited to play at a British Beer Festival in Ferrara. The man who ran the festival also runs a British themed bar in the town, complete with Carnaby Street & London Underground signs. I Do Dream you is ridiculously Barrett-esque, even down to the swirling Hammond Organ & busted up vintage amp sounds.

Austrian Hippy Folkster, Kelley Stoltz, delivers some fuzzy, lo-fi Indie Rock with a similar New York, hipster vibe as the Fruit Bats tune mentioned above. Some energetic piano playing gives it a smokey barroom vibe, an Indie Rock drinking song.

Wolf Parade, with You Are A Runner, And I Am My Fathers Son, is the stuttering, lo-fi Post Punk sound of the band at the beginning of a long career. Percussion is the key here & the song’s unusual rhythm’s are as unsettling as they are hypnotic.

Chad VanGaalen

Chad VanGaalen, also at the beginning of a long & successful career, delivers the characteristic upbeat, lo-fi Pop which he’s famous for this day. Completely off kilter, Clinically Dead is an absolutely amazing piece of music which heralded what was to come beautifully. As well as being a musician, VanGaalen is multitalented & is also extremely proficient as a visual artist & animator. His production skills are also in high demand & at least a couple of albums in my collection were recorded by him in his studio.

Pretty Dress by Rosie Thomas is wonderfully anthemic but dark Folk Pop. This is probably the cleanest, most “commercial” song on this album & I would expect to hear it on everything either gritty BBC dramas or gritty Scandinavian Noir dramas.

Holopaw’s Curious is lo-fi, experimental Indie Pop music with one of the most unusual sonic palates here. Opening with a straighforward, clean acoustic guitar, it builds & morphs into an unusual soundscape of synthesisers, oboe’s and stuttering rhythms. This sounds way ahead of it’s time. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this as a new song coming out tomorrow.

The Postal Service

Be Still My Heart (Nobody Remix) is the kind of falsetto voiced, metronomic Psychedelia I love bands like The Flaming Lips for. At once futuristic sounding & nostalgically retro, The Postal Service are a unique band with a unique sound which I will definitely be exploring in greater detail going forwards.

Iron & Wine’s Woman King is rhythmically propelled, downtempo Folk with a fuzzy, bluesy vibe. There’s a mantra-like quality to it. An almost hypnotic invasiveness. You’ll be whistling or humming Woman King well into the following day after listening to it.

The Baptist Generals keep the dark Folky vibes going Under A Cloud. The most melancholic sounding tune here. & probably the most minimal in sound palate. We’re treated to a raw, stripped back performance consisting of just fuzzy guitar & voice. Other instruments are overdubbed onto it in the second half of the song but the minimal feel remains, even when it’s wrapped in soft tones of violins & basses.

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Worlds Of Possibility – Domino Records 10th Anniversary Compilation, 2003 [disc two]

Disc two of Worlds Of Possibility brings us a bit closer to the present. Well, 2003. Which in a lot of ways feels very new & recent for me.

We kick off with energetic Bluesy Garage Rock from The Blueskins with User Friendly. Sonically enhanced by liberal use of harmonica, User Friendly has a polished production feel & the “ooh-ohh” melodies make me think it may have been used in a TV advert at the time. I’m going to Google it now… Ah, right band, wrong song. It was a different song, Change My Mind, which was used in a 2006 Lynx advert. I remember seeing them at the now defunct Fibbers venue in York. They were on some kind of MTV2 tour, Futureheads were headlining & Zane Lowe was there as compere/DJ. I went to shake his hand & he grabbed me in a bearhug. Interesting times.

Franz Ferdinand

Ah, another excellent band I’ve seen play at the Fibbers venue. Franz Ferdinand were at the very start of their career here & Worlds Of Possibility includes their original demo recording of their Post-Punk athem, Darts Of Pleasure. It doesn’t sound a million miles away from the final album version, such is the high standard of the demo. Easy to see why Domino were so keen to sign them. Love the lyrics too. Especially the German language outro: “Ich heisse Superfantastisch!
Ich trinke Schampus mit Lachsfisch!” Seriously, the demo’s Franz Ferdinand recorded were so ridiculously good that nearly all of their early hype in the music press was based entirely on them.

Next up we have Us by Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks (yep, Malkmus is back, he appears on 3 songs across both discs of Worlds Of Possibility). Us was my Song of the Day for the letter U in the A-Z series. This isn’t a million miles away from his output with Pavement, sonically speaking, & to be honest, would you want it to be? It’s excellent off kilter Indie Pop.

The Kills drop the excellent Wait, a slowburning, Indie stomper built around lo-fi guitar patterns & masterfully programmed drum machine beats. There’s a distinctly bluesy atmosphere so it’s no surprise that vocalist Alison Mosshart would go on to form The Dead Weather with White Stripes vocalist Jack White.

Clearlake deliver some fairly decent Indie Pop with I Wonder If The Snow Will Settle. Pitched somewhere between The Smiths & the excellent ’90’s band Gene, this is decent stirring stuff.

Hood

Hood’s They Removed All Trace That Anything Had Ever Happened Here is Trip-Hop influenced, Folktronica. Skittering drum machines & reversed samples rub up against clean bass & organic strings to create a pretty soundscape with, and this is important for electronic music, a great title. The Rap-ish vocal that drops in just after the 3 minute mark is perhaps a little ill advised though.

Following this we stick with experimental electronica in the form of genre veterans, the legendary Four Tet. She Moves She is a gloriously hypnotic jam built around glitchy beats, digital noise & organic acoustic sounds.

St. Patrick by James Yorkston is downtempo folk melancholia with traditional vibes added by fiddles & accordions. The composition builds from a minimalist drone at the start to an almost Spectre-esque wall of sound toward the end.

Here She Comes by Archie Bronson outfit is fuzzy, Indie Garage with with harmonica & bluesy vibes. Seems to be a common theme of the early ’00’s. Jason Lowenstein continues this with Codes. More fuzzy Garage with soaring chorus & catchy leads. No harmonica this time though (I almost expected a harmonica solo to begin as soon as I’d finished typing that sentence).

Quasi

We’re in extremely analogue synth territory with Hot Shit by Quasi. An Indie Rock two piece consisting of keyboards & drums. I can’t be sure but the keys on Hot Shit sound like an original Mellotron to me, complete with the warbling tape effect. There’s a psychedelic feel, reminiscent of madcap American Indie oddballs, The Flaming Lips. Vocalist, Sam Coomes, has more than a little Wayne Coyne about his vocal style.

U.N.P.O.C. drops some lo-fi Indie folk with Been A While Since I Went Away. There’s a cinematic, surfer quality which I find it hard to pin down. Maybe some of the chord progressions & vocal melodies seem to have a Beach Boys vibe to them. This is followed by more widescreen cinematic Pop music from, the aptly named, Movietone with the swooning lo-fi of Ocean Song. Sloppy percussion & choppy guitars almost seem to mimic the motion of the ocean waves. No doubt an intentional sonic choice.

Mangled vocals & electronic drum patterns are the order of the day in Max Tundra’s madcap electronica of lights. The pitch shifting on the vocals has a similar disconcerting effect to the ubiquitous autotune effect which permeates modern music. It’s slightly less grating (opinion alert) than modern autotune though.

Adem

Everything You Need by Adem is footstomping singer songwriter folk music with acoustic guitar unusually accompanied by dusty, bleepy synth noises & recorders all embedded in a lo-fi soundscape. It’s there’s a hint of melancholia but overall upbeat vibes carry the day. Reminds me a little of American Folk singer Willy Mason, who was also active around 2003, if memory serves. The Mason comparison is particularly noticeable on the soaring chorus. Perhaps a touch of Neutral Milk Hotel too?

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy (the moniker Will Oldham was using in 2003) brings The Way, a hushed folk ballad. It’s pretty, melodic & slightly off-kilter. Slightly unrelated, but I’ve just remembered that Palace Music from disc one is another Will Oldham moniker. I can’t believe I forgot that yesterday.

Rock On, Lovers by To Rococo Rot is more oddball electronica. Solid, Hip-Hop influenced beats, wobbling analogue synth parts & synthetic strings. Another synth string part that I’m fairly sure is a Mellotron. This is minimal & melodic. More about listening than dancing. The strings lend it a cinematic, 1940’s Hollywood feel which is quite jarring with the ultramodern sound of the rest of the track.

To close out disc two, and Worlds Of Possibility , we have Matt Elliot’s The End. Appropriately titled I suppose. It’s dark instrumental Folk Music which begins minimal but builds in sonic intensity throughout. Most components of the soundscape are organic like guitar, accordion & piano, but there is a synthetic element right at the end when the plaintive warble of a theremin rises out of the reverby murk. You can almost picture end credits rolling as you’re listening to it.

There ends my celebration of Worlds Of Possibility. I’m really not sure about the availability of it now, in 2020, but if you can get your hands on it I would completely recommend it. It’s an extremely eclectic mix of genres & would be suitable in anyone’s record collection.

Additionally, since Worlds Of Possibility is a celebration of Domino Records, I cannot recommend their catalogue enough.

Support Indie Labels (even ones who’ve grown quite big these days)

& remember

Ich heisse Superfantastisch!
Ich trinke Schampus mit Lachsfisch!

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Worlds Of Possibility – Domino Records 10th Anniversary Compilation, 2003 [disc one]

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE BEST ASS IN SHOW BUSINESS you’ve come to the wrong place. Or for doors to places for which there is no way back. They’re not here either. No one is making claims about recalibrating the paradigm or uniting the taxonomies of teenage castes under one mighty sound. These are the Foxfire Midlands they are. Near Snowrat Illuminated Church. Specifically we’re beside the Timesicle at Clover 4. Perhaps this is a return to just saying things. That sounds like it’s in the area of right. Good songs build rooms in time. Think of “Tacoma Rain” or “Woodchilde Masquerade”. And no one’s even written them yet, for goodness sake! Yes there are second aspects to all this. Good times will turn lies into the truth, and advantage still pours haltlessly into the hands of the untrue, boring and useless but we’ll keep at this basically moral work, until these garnet palisades are flush with exits and our eyebrows have become like snowy ledges because there is nothing like your love in all this world.

David Berman, Worlds Of Possibility Liner Notes, 2003

Worlds Of Possibility, the 2003 compilation album celebrating the 10th anniversary of, much loved Indie label, Domino Records feels, to me, like an old friend. I’ve recently unearthed it form my box of CD’s which hadn’t been opened since before a house move three years ago. It feels a little like a relic of a bygone age. It’s nicotine yellowed & scuffed at the corners. A time capsule from a time when I didn’t treat physical music media with the respect it deserves. An age of cracked CD cases & coffee stained lyric inserts. I haven’t used a CD player for years. Except the USB one that plugs into my laptop, and which I use solely for burning CD’s into my music library. Most of my music these days is streamed digitally. I still love the physicality of a CD or an LP though. I like the sense of ownership I feel over such things.

The first exciting discovery – or rediscovery – I made when I opened the case was that it had a beautifully poetic liner note written by the late, great & sadly missed David Berman. Early readers of my blog will be aware that I love David Berman. This is typically Bermanesque. Reading it feels like gazing into a magical carnival hall of mirrors which only reflects parallel universes back at you. You marvel & wonder at the unwritten classics “Tacoma Rain” & “Woodchilde Masquerade”. Your brain tries fruitlessly to decode the location of the “Foxfire Midlands” or the “Snowrat Illuminated Church”. You find yourself staring at what you imagine a “Timesicle” to be in your head. A frozen, elongated piece of time which tapers off to a point. Would it be the perfect crime to stab someone with one? What about if you committed the crime at “Clover 4”. These are questions we can only wonder at. But the impression we’re left with from this surreal & pretty piece of writing is one which seems to encapsulate the sound of Domino Records generally, & the collection of songs on Worlds Of Possibility specifically. Even if you can’t say quite how this is so.

Sebadoh fan art by Ian J Dodson

Worlds Of Possibility kicks off with the earthy, warm tones of Sebadoh track, Soul And Fire. It’s a kind of lo-fi update of ’60’s jangle Pop but with oodles of atmospheric melancholia & Lou Barlow’s hurt sounding voice. Similar ground is tread with The Spectre by Royal Trux but with less melancholia & a darker sound palate. There’s a reverential tone to The Spectre. The subtle distortions & the unconventional percussions taking on an almost chant-like quality.

Laidback Indie Pop with a soulful swoon greets us in Palace Music’s More Brother Rides. There’re hints of Beck to this, but it’s hard to draw a comparison to a particular song or album. Things become even more lo-fi with Standard 8 by Quickspace. Mumbled, barely audible vocals embedded deep in a crunchy melody which Mark E Smith wouldn’t feel unwelcome in. Maybe a touch more in the direction of Guided By Voices.

Flying Saucer Attack turn in a thrillingly noisy cover of Wire’s melodic New Wave classic, Outdoor Miner. Layers of shoegazing fuzz & reverse reverbs form a trebly wall of sound which, due to a weaker low end, falls just short of what it could’ve been. This transitions, far better than it should, into the sunny, upbeat Pop of Worlds Of Possibilities by The Pastels. Head nodding is not optional.

Plush

Plush bring some bluesy, fuzzy, downtempo Indie Rock with Three Quarter Blind Eyes. It’s roots lie in ’60’s classic Rock. Neil Young playing guitar solo’s for Lynrd Skynrd maybe? Strong, clear vocals which almost break up as it moves into falsetto ranges. Following track, Held by Smog, actually pairs quite well with the prior track. It’s a melodic, lo-fi slacker ballad from the same parallel universe as David Bermans’ Silver Jews (who we’ll hearing from later).

Neskwik by Woodbine is sweet sounding, home recorded twee pop in the vein of The Vaselines or Beat Happening but with edgier guitar sounds. Elliott Smith Elliot Smiths his way through the Indie Folk standard Speed Trials. Loping rhythms & unusual vocal melodies tie it into the Domino style. There’s a demo quality to every element but the vocals, which sound much more professionally recorded.

Clinic’s Distortions is slow & purposeful Psyche Pop built around atmospheric organ sounds, lazy rhythms & melancholic falsetto vocals. Ghost Ship In A Storm by Jim O’Rourke is pleasant enough Indie Folk with nice foot tapping rhythms & lapsteel guitars giving it some nautical, surf-ish vibes.

Pram in 1994

Sleepy Sweet by Pram starts off with some chirping crickets & swampy background effects before dropping into a bass driven, lazy Pop song. It’s hard to pin down it’s influences exactly but it’s gives an impression organic Trip-Hop, led by thick, warm hammond organs. There’s an almost tropical, Reggae feel to it so I was surprised to see Wikipedia lists Pram as a Post-Rock band. I guess I need to check out more of their material.

Papa M’s Plastic Energy Man seems to belong to a genre which was fairly popular around the turn of the century, but which you never hear mentioned anymore: Folktronica. One of the British music press’s horrible portmanteaus I’ll wager. Used to describe what was essentially acoustic guitar noodling over minimalist electronic percussion, bass & synth layers. I’m actually quite a fan. I remember the legendary Four Tet (later) been described this way too.

Preston School Of Industry

Whale Bones by Preston School Of Industry (side project of Pavement’s Scott Kannberg aka Spiral Stairs) is the perfect balance of sunny Indie Pop melodies, lo-fi production values & off kilter vocals & lyrics which I’d expect from a member of the band who pretty much defined the sound of modern Indie Rock. Personally, as much as I love Stephen Malkmus, I think Spiral Stairs is Pavement’s best kept secret & I really love Whale Bones & pretty much all of his output.

Fresh from his appearance at the start of this compilation (Sebadoh) one of Lou Barlow’s other bands, Folk Implosion, contributes Free To Go. Anthemic bedroom Pop almost too perfect for radio.

Speaking of too perfect. The penultimate track of disc one takes us back to those beautifully written liner notes. David Berman’s Silver Jews classic Random Rules is an absolute gem of a song. Perfect lyrics sung in Berman’s lowkey, underdog drawl & a backing band featuring Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus & Bob Nastanovich (these guys get everywhere on this compilation) playing the lowkey, underdog Indie Rock which made Silver Jews such a touchstone of the Indie Rock canon.

Anyway, before we get to the end of disc one, here’s Pavement again. This time in their own right with the epic The Hexx. The Hexx was recorded twice. Originally for Brighten The Corners but this version is taken form their farewell album Terror Twilight. Produced by Nigel Godrich (of Radiohead fame) The Hexx is an absolute classic Pavement song with obscure lyrics, oddball Indie melodies & oddball guitar jams.

Since we’ve reached the end of disc one & this post has already become longer than I originally imagined, I think I’ll cover disc two in a followup blogpost tomorrow. Sitting and listening to a fantastic compilation album while writing about it is no great chore, after all.

Categories
Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Patient Zero (A Sub Pop Sampler, 2004)

I’ve just received a new copy of this excellent Sub Pop compilation. This one is from 2004. Unfortunately, the first thing I notice (& which I’d forgotten from years ago) is that it features a song in common with it’s 2003 predecessor, Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time, The District Sleeps Alone Tonight by The Postal Service. I have to say that I find this dissapointing.

However, like Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time, Patient Zero is a wonderful collection of songs from the time.

Patient Zero opens with Kissing The Lipless by The Shins (at the time pretty much unknown). An upbeat Indie Pop anthem with acoustic guitars & handclaps. Fairly straightforward Indie-by-numbers but enjoyable nonetheless.

A personal favourite, The Thermals return with a track from their second album, Fucking A, How We Know. It’s lo-fi post Grunge with quiet, repetitive verses & loud, explosive choruses. Definitely a great band & you have to admire the commercial suicide of naming their second album Fucking A.

The Constantines deliver some atmospheric & anthemic Indie Rock with roots in Gargage Rock. Possibly rode in on the coattails of the Garage Rock revival which was, in 2004, giving way to the Post-Punk revival. It’s an upbeat tune, loaded with positivity & some decent noise guitar playing which wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sonic Youth record.

Classic Blues inspired Rock n Roll, dripping in noisy guitars, pounding rhythm section & soaring chorus, The Catheters return with the song No Natural Law. It’s exhilarating stuff & you could hear a lot of this kind of music around 2003-4. Bands like The Von Bondies & The D4 spring to mind.

Rogue Wave’s Endless Shovel is upbeat & sunny sounding Psychedelic Pop. Despite the ’60’s vibes, the bass & drums give Endless Shovel a level of heaviness that was practically unheard of back then. Definite Kinks vibes. The outro, which to me is the highlight, is heavier & noisier than the rest of the song.

Frausdots deliver Soft Light, an enjoyable enough Interpol-esque exploration of ’80’s dark Indie (Joy Division, The Cure etc.). Kind of what The Killers would sound like if they were more sonically adventurous & their lyrics weren’t meaningless drivel. The chorus lifts up into radio friendly, soaring Power-Pop.

The Helio Sequence bring some smooth, soulful Synthpop & robotic drum machine rhythms with Blood Bleeds. Delayed guitar patterns build up into squalls of friendly sounding noise.

Naked As We Came by Iron & Wine is soft voiced, fingerpicked lo-fi Folk music. Pretty vocal melodies float gracefully over the minimalistic track & the warm hissing of analogue tape.

The Elected’s Greetings In Braille is soft, sunny Folk Pop with upbeat guitar strumming & pretty melancholic melodies. It feels like there’s a whistling solo missing to me.

Rosie Thomas’s Red Rover is a lush Folk arrangement with warm vocal harmonies & pretty fingerpicking.

On Your Way by The Album Leaf is lush Indie Pop with downbeat glockenspiel & keyboard melodies floating dreamlike over drum machine rhythms & clean guitar sounds.

I’m not going to discuss The Postal Service’s The District Sleeps Alone Tonight as it also featured on the 2003 sampler, Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time.

Daylight Til Dawn, All Night Radio’s contribution is widescreen cinematic pop with lush string arrangements & bouncy ’60’s Pop melodies & Beach Boys style group harmonies.

Comets On Fire’s Antlers Of The Midnight Sun brings squealing, scraping guitar abuse, art Rock arrangements & Psyche Punk vocals to create some truly exciting oddball Indie Rock. Pitched somewhere between original wave Punk bands & the fuzzy Indie of Pavement, I can barely believe I forgot about this absolute gem of a tune. Definitely a surprise standout tune for me (note to self: investigate Comets On Fire further).

Finally, to round out the compilation, my first introduction to the wonderful noise band, Wolf Eyes. Stabbed In The Face (an amazing title, I’m sure you’ll agree) is a hot mess of pounding electronic kick drums, synthesised bass, squealing guitar feedback & abrasive amp noise. Not long after I heard this, and while John Peel still lived, I remember taping their Peel Session off the radio & playing it until it was chewed up & destroyed. That’s right people, I was still using cassette tapes as recently as 2004 (hell, I distinctly remember making tapes for people as recently as 2007). Wolf Eyes were probably the first noise band I got into.

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Categories
Indie Compilations & Label Samplers Indie Rock Music

Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time (a Sub Pop Sampler, 2003)

As the result of one of my Song of the Day posts, I remembered this amazing compilation album which I used to love. Infecting The Galaxy One Planet At A Time is a 2003 label-sampler by the indie label Sub Pop (particularly famous for introducing the world to Niravna & infamous for losing Nirvana to major label Geffen).

Unfortunately, this isn’t available on Spotify etc. so I was forced to buy a new physical copy online. I ordered it a couple of days ago & it arrived today. It features a great selection of music which runs the whole gamut of early ’00’s indie rock music.

It begins with old-guard grunge-rock heavyweights Mudhoney with a song from what still feels to me like their new album (despite being 18 years old) SinceWe’ve Become Translucent, Sonic Infusion.

Ugly Casanova’s Things I Don’t Remember is synthy Indie rock with lyrics alledgedly taken from a stolen Modest Mouse notebook.

Fruit Bats’ Rainbow Sign is hippy dippy ’60’s-esque Psyche Pop par excellence.

Rosie Thomas and Iron & Wine are Lo-fi Indie Folksters, perfectly at home on Sup Pop.

The Shins Past And Pending, like Fruit Bats, owes a lot to ’60’s Psyche Pop.

Post-Punk Revivalists like Hot Hot Heat & The Rapture both contribute excellent tracks. The eminently danceable Get In Or Get Out by the former & the jagged, dancefloor smash Out Of The Races And On To The Tracks by the latter.

No Culture Icons by The Thermals was an early taste of the great things to come from the trashy Lo-Fi Indie Punks.

Michael Yonkers Band are like a ’60’s version of Johnathan Richman. The Murder City Devils & The Catheters deliver two tracks of noisy distorted Rock & Roll which celebrates how much the two artists love noisy distorted Rock & Roll.

Arlo deliver some Punky Power Pop with Runaraound.

Pleasure Forever come across like an American version of The Fall on Post-Punky jam, Axis Exalt.

Kinski’s epic Semaphore takes a heavily modulated guitar line & transphorms it into a Post-Rock soundscape with morse rhythms built into a swirling wall of sound.

We’re back into Indie Folk territory with Damon & Naomi’s pleasant squeeze box & acoustic guitar composition, Eye Of The Storm.

The Postal Service’s The District Sleeps Tonight is electronic, synthesised Indie Pop which is quite popular in 2020, but was fairly unique in 2003.

Sadcore Indie Rock closes the album with the melancholic near-psychedelia of Holopaw’s Cinders.

This album is a powerful artefact of the early ’00’s. Many of the bands on here are no longer around & somewhat forgotten, while others are well known & well respected now, considered classics & enjoyed by many in the Indie Rock community.

I really like the spacefaring aesthetic of the artwork & things like the baggy, hoody-like quality of the spacesuit the back cover astronaut is wearing.

If you can find a copy I highly recommend picking it up. If you cannot, then you can always make the tracks from it into a playlist on whatever streaming platform you use.

Until next time…

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