If ever there was something designed to make you acutely aware of your advancing years, it’s a compilation of records you remember buying back in the day, and then the slow dawn of realisation that these songs were released a full THIRTY YEARS AGO!
Nevertheless, C90 is a fascinating artefact of the period. There are many heavy hitters here, most notably Saint Etienne‘s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart‘, which surely still ranks as one of the greatest reworkings of any song EVER, let alone just a Neil Young one, and national treasures The Charlatans, whose always effervescent ‘Polar Bear‘ opens disc one. Those first two discs, in fact, read like a veritable who’s who of the music that filtered into the cool alternative clubs of the early nineties, featuring staples such as Paris Angels‘ how-the-hell-was-that-not-a-hit ‘Perfume‘, the almighty Swervedriver (with the near-perfect ‘Juggernaut Rides‘), the legendary Slowdive (‘Avalyn I‘) and the always dependable New FADS (or New Fast Automatic Daffodils for those of you who are nearer to your college years than your pension!), the latter’s inclusion being the thrilling Gang Of Four meets The Wedding Present reverie of ‘Beam Me Up‘.
The most successful band included here is undoubtedly Manic Street Preachers with the feisty title track from their 1990 EP ‘New Art Riot‘, but misty eyed nostalgia aside, where this collection really hits home is with the nearly-dids, the never-coulds and the “Who the hell were they?” artists. Eternal, anyone? No, thought not (and no, not THAT Eternal), but that’s a crying shame, for it’s surely the kind of record that the term “shoegaze classic” was invented for. Elsewhere, The Seers make a welcome appearance with the brilliant Elvis Costello like composition ‘Welcome To Dead Town‘, as does one of the great lost tracks, ‘Lovesville USA‘ by Montgomery Clifts, which is very gladly received, its slightly woozy feel being reminiscent of a cross between The Smiths, Aztec Camera and the Trash Can Sinatras.
Perhaps the band that most encapsulate the spirit of C90, and all its other incarnations, is Mousefolk, a truly DIY band who couldn’t play any instruments but formed the group anyway, and within a few years were playing gigs across Europe and finding college radio airplay as far afield as the USA and Japan. Their much sought after cult classic ‘Crazy Mixed Up Kid‘ brightens up disc two and brings back long-forgotten, fond memories.
Of course, not everything stands up quite so well today. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with Northside‘s ‘My Rising Star‘, of course, but it suffers from being very much ‘of its time’, a problem which similarly applies to Thousand Yard Stare‘s ‘Wonderment‘, but in truth, even those tracks are still enjoyable enough to look back upon with a kind of wistful fondness.
There are some 63 tracks contained within this three disc set, so it would perhaps be overkill to refer to every single one of them. So it will suffice to say that, as usual with Cherry Red, it comes packaged with a fascinating booklet giving insights into each of the artists included here, and that really is worth the price of the release itself. Go on, let yourself be young again!
C90 is out now on Cherry Red.