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Music samplers, compilations, tasters… September 13, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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Thinking about last weeks post on music I suddenly realised how a number of compilations almost made it into my albums of a year. Now, not that many, but enough.

First I must admit I never heard C86. Still haven’t. To my shame. And surveying the track list I find that interesting because about half the bands have fetched up on my iPod. Primal Scream (Velocity Girl, which curiously sounds very very like the Stone Roses later Made of Stone), the Might Lemon Drops (oh yeah, I stuck with them waaaaay too long), The Pastels – obviously, the Shop Assistants, Age of Chance, Half Man Half Biscuit, McCarthy, the Wedding Present. Well, okay, perhaps a quarter. Makes one wonder what happened to A Witness, or Miaow. Nah, don’t tell me…

But other compilations made a big impact. Partially because they tended to be cheap, often had excellent selections and were cutting edge.

Perhaps my favourite is Doing it for the Kids released by Creation. I really love this, and on reflection it might almost be my album of 1988. What’s not to like? Cracking songs from My Bloody Valentine (whisper it – better IMHO than anything on Loveless bar “When you Sleep”), House of Love, the Times, Pacific (who were they? What a great song), The Weather Prophets (an unusually muscular workout from their unusually muscular second album), the Razorcuts, Felt… all great. Even Momus to provide something – well – a tad dancey.

But a close second is Pop… (Do we not like that?) from Too Pure. Mouse on Mars, Laika, Voodoo Queens, PJ Harvey, Stereolab and the incomparable Seefeel. Amazing stuff, and from as recently as 1995.

A third would be a garage rock/psychedelia compilation on tape I got my hands on in the late 1980s which was done by a guy in Kilbarrack if I remember correctly and came with a laboriously typed fanzine on those areas. It came in two parts with ‘original’ garage/psychedelia such as the Seeds and then stuff from then contemporary bands like the Crystal Set, the Lime Spiders, the Chills, the Clean, Fleshtones, Chesterfield Kings and many many others. I eventually lost it in a move, and I’ll bet it was never put on CD, let alone digitized, but it was a remarkable piece of collation in its own right and a genuine education.

Can I add to this Top 3 as it were – and also to my shame – that I originally forgot Pillows and Prayers from Cherry Red, and would have continued to do so had Wednesday not reminded me (Much appreciated. I hope I’d have had a head slapping moment sometime next week… but). All I can plead is advancing age. That was crucial (although clearly not quite as crucial as I thought), not least for Xoyo by The Passage, Portrait by Five or Six (anyone know anything about them?), All About You by Thomas Leer (a nice earlyish slice of slightly warped electronic pop, Felt’s arguably finest moment with My Face is on Fire, The Monochrome Set, Eyeless in Gaza, Tracey Thorn, the Marine Girls…all that and Attila The Stockbroker and Quentin Crisp! Bah! Just get the thing if you can, it’s genius as a slice of post-punk experimentation and bad bad me for forgetting to include it.

I guess one could throw in the Artificial Intelligence albums from Warp which across two discs gave a fantastic impression of the labels output – which could charitably said to be similar if not samey.

But then, what of an earlier Creation compilation Different for Domeheads with a fetching cover depicted a solarised red toothpaste tube which, if I recall correctly also had Primal Scream “It Happens” on it. I’m a bit hazy as to the track list.

Then there was the 4AD sampler with a truly beautiful sleeve done by Envelope23 from the 1980s which had Clan of Xymox’s Muscoviet Mosquito amongst other offerings. Late in the 1990s they attempted to replicate it with less success on a disc given away with – I think – Uncut, although it had a rather fine track from dance crowd Cuba.

Blast First had an amazing compilation, again dating from the 1980s, with Big Black and other luminaries on it. And I seem to recall an Alternative Tentacles one from 1992 which had L7, a favourite of mine, on it too.

One Little Indian had a sampler from the start of that decade which had The Shamen with Omega Amigo and Kitchens of Distinction with The 3rd Time We Opened the Capsule on it.

Magazines still have them, on a monthly basis. The best part of a decade ago I used to buy RockSound, which dealt with all things metal, gothic and darkwave, and I still cherish their cardboard sleeved CDs which sit in a pile beside the desk I’m typing this out at. The joy in them wasn’t so much the metal and gothic, but the occasional oddity thrown up presumably by music company promotional machinations, so you’d hear some obscure Norwegian punk band, or American post-rock band and they’d be good and worth hearing more of.

But, familiarity breeds contempt in these matters and the very fact that the magazines produced them so regularly made them less valuable – I sure don’t cherish my Uncut samplers. Well, that’s not entirely true, their alt-country Sounds of the New West from 1998 still sits in the collection. But that was different, I tell you! It opened a door into something entirely new with Josh Rouse, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Calexico, The Pernice Brothers and Lambchop to mention a few. And that’s interesting in itself because just as C86 shaped one set of tastes – even indirectly for me and many others, so SOTNW did the same a decade later.

Of course samplers are limited. Too diverse, in a sense too shallow, but offering for any fan the possibility of further lines of enquiry. But weirdly suited for this time when albums appear to be in retreat before the overwhelming force of individual songs. So, any thoughts as to great compiliations would be appreciated. Incidentally what’s amazing is going back through the list and ‘researching’ this I was amazed to find that with most of the above although originally output on vinyl some fans have assiduously ripped them into MP3 format. I tend to be painfully (or stupidly) honest about not downloading music that’s not sourced legally (I like the bands to get some money), but these being out of date or deleted albums… hmmmm. A grey area!

Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - September 13, 2008

I mean, of course, 23 Envelope (Vaughn Olivers crowd). Any of you interested in 80s and 90s album art should check out a rather fine book focusing on their work.

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2. harpymarx - September 13, 2008

“Might Lemon Drops, Half Man Half Biscuit, the Wedding Present.”

Ahhh, takes me back to my yoof.

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3. WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2008

It’s funny, I sort of wavered over the Wedding Present, always liked them but found an entire album a bit much in a single go. The MLDs I liked a lot better, but they were pretty shallow. Did you get C86 when it came out?

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4. Wednesday - September 14, 2008

*cough* Pillows & Prayers *cough*.

Doing it for the Kids is brilliant, but most of the really crucial Creation pop stuff from that era (e.g. “Velocity Girl”, the Jasmine Minks’ “Cold Heart”, the Bodines’ “Therese”) can be found on the shorter Purveyors of Taste collection. I’d also add Sarah Records’ Air Balloon Road and Flying Nun’s Getting Older.

An obscure gem in my collection is Wilde Club’s I Might Walk Home Alone featuring, among other things, a languid version of Catherine Wheel’s “She’s My Friend” and the criminally overlooked Bardots. SpinArt’s One Last Kiss had a lot of good American shoegazy stuff. And I also have a peculiar nostalgia for the first Punk and Disorderly comp … some great stuff there if you’re into that kind of thing!

As to what happened to A Witness, the guitarist died in a tragic accident and the others didn’t have the heart to continue … a sad end to a very interesting band.

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5. WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2008

Arghh.. there you go, dangers of writing it too quickly. I shall amend… I never heard A Witness, that’s a pity.

Hmmm…. they sound good.

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6. Wednesday - September 14, 2008

They were good. Sort of a Fire Engines, Josef K quirky thing going. By no means one of my favourites but there was definitely something about them.

That Mighty Mighty song on C86, that’s a classic too. I don’t know anything else about them.

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7. ejh - September 14, 2008

Makes one wonder what happened to A Witness, or Miaow.

As it happens, that’s how Bach is referred to in my house.

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8. crocodile - September 14, 2008

Hope you’re not feeling any guilt, WBS, about filleting magazine cover CDs for your computer/mp3 player. These are promotional items and that’s exactly what they (magazines, labels and artists) want you to do. They’re like the free baseball cap/golf umbrella with a company logo.

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9. WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2008

That’s a good point you make crocodile. I wouldn’t think twice about contemporary ones so why would I worry about older ones? Which is an interesting reflection on how age lends credibility/authenticity… still, what about deleted albums, etc?

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10. Starkadder - September 14, 2008

You might not have cared for the Uncut samplers,
WBS, but I did-they introduced me to Frank Zappa, Suicide,
Kristen Hersh, the Auteurs,etc. When I started collecting
them in the late ’90s I was short of money and they
were a valuable introduction to many kinds of
alternative music.

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11. harpymarx - September 14, 2008

WbS: “Did you get C86 when it came out?”

No I didn’t. I shoulda though….

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12. Damian O'Broin - September 14, 2008

I’m glad you mentioned Sounds of the New West – cracking collection. Beyond Nashville is a similar collection, but much wider is scope.

A couple worth mentioning: A Historical Debt – released in 1991 to raise money to pay back some of the debts owed to independent labels and artists after the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution. Wonderful stuff from Aztec Camera, Scritti Politti and MARRS through to Charlatans and Sugarcubes.

Another great oddity sitting on my shelf is Live At The Underground from 1986 with early recordings by Stars of Heaven, A House and Something Happens, along with The (wonderful) Gorehounds, Hughie Purcell and the Fallen Angels.

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13. WorldbyStorm - September 14, 2008

That’s a fair point of view Starkadder. It’s more a case that by the late 1990s they were de riguer. So the thrill had gone! But then I guess their function had changed as well, or at least somewhat.

Me too harpymarx… Truth is I was more a Melody Maker kind of person than NME, so it passed me by. Still, until very recently I had MM’s Romo collection from the early 1990s.

Damian, A Historical Debt rings a bell. Never heard Live at the Underground, sounds pretty good.

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14. Phil - September 15, 2008

Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned C81, which was actually 81 minutes long and included at least one of the greatest songs ever in the world in space (track 1, side 1).

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15. Damian O'Broin - September 15, 2008

Here’s Live at the Underground. Probably most notable for the classic A House title – On Your Bike Wench and Let’s Have the Back of You. Nearly as good as their What a Nice Evening to Take the Girls up the Mountains from the Street Carnival Rock EP (the same year, I think).

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16. WorldbyStorm - September 15, 2008

Function of age Phil. It looks good.

Ah hah, I do love that website Damian.

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