The first RW/FF column in three weeks takes a look at the brilliant debut albums from Temples and The Hosts, plus 90’s-era deluxe reissues from Cast and Gene, as well as the new 2CD compilation celebrating 30 years of ZTT Records. As well as those, there’s new music from the likes of Beck, Thought Forms, Tim Burgess, Yuck, Mogwai, Metronomy, Coves, Goldheart Assembly, Menace Beach and Tom Williams And The Boat. Plus, after over a decade of waiting, there’s finally news on Mansun man Paul Draper‘s long overdue solo album!
So last week (Tuesday 4 Feb) me and my mate Jason B paid our first visit to the new Raves From The Grave shop in Bath. As well as trading in Frome and Warminster, the independent record retailer opened their third branch of the shop in Bath last year. You can find a feature about it HERE. At the beginning of this year, the shop moved from its previous location in Widcombe Parade to Broad Street, a place closer to the city centre. Broad Street was where I used to go to get all my records in the late 90’s, since the wonderful Replay records was there. Since that shop closed about ten years ago, it has always felt rather sad every time I have walked down Broad Street. Now, I can smile again.
The shop’s treasures are all to be found in a small but packed back room, filled with vinyl albums from many genres, old and new. As well as a selection of singles, CD albums, books and music memorabilia, the shop offers a friendly and knowledgeable service, with discounts on multiple purchases. The shop (as well as its two other branches) will be taking part in Record Store Day this year on April 19. Their website can be found HERE, and their Facebook page HERE.
Following the news that Thought Forms and Esben and the Witch are to release a split LP on Invada Records on April 7th, the label has premiered a track by each band from the forthcoming record. It will be available on 12″ vinyl and digital formats, and features 4 new songs from each group. The new Thought Forms offering ‘Sound of Violence’ has a title that does what it says on the tin, and doesn’t disappoint. With its earworm riff, intense drumwork and post-rock panorama it’s a storming combination of many things Thought Forms excel at, and this time vocals are more prominent than ever before.
A new single from Tim Burgess will be released as part of Record Store Day, which takes place on April 19. ‘Oh Men’ will be released on The Charlatans legend’s O Genesis label and once again finds him collaborating with Lambchop main man Kurt Wagner. On the B Side to the release there will be a cover of Arthur Russell’s ‘I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face’, a song Burgess has been performing live on recent tours. Tim told The Quietus (in an interview that you can read HERE) “We loved performing it but it was always on my mind to record it. By a series of various alignments of New York minimal disco planets I found myself working with someone who worked closely with Arthur, a composer/arranger/genius called Peter Gordon, who also happened to be the head honcho of Love Of Life Orchestra. Peter had worked on much, if not most, of Russell’s recorded material and was the key member of his live set up too. I wasn’t sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable to ask him to work with me on a cover of a song that he played on so long ago. Peter said it took him 35 years to get that song out of his head, now it’s back again… He wasn’t sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable, too, so we recorded ‘I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face’…”. Here is the A side, built around a low key electro loop complimenting soulful piano, dreamy saxophone and an introspective vocal from Burgess that slips into a charming falsetto near the end… The stream of the siong has been taken down temporarily, but will be back online soon, and links will be here: https://www.facebook.com/timburgessmusic
Having completed writing my memories of the early 90’s HERE, 1994 HERE, and the great year of 1995 HERE, I am about to start gathering together my recollections of 1996. However, the last few weeks have seen a number of Britpop era reissues, which I have been heavily indulging in, as well as a two disc ZTT Records compilation…
During the mid 90’s, British music suddenly became very exciting again, entering a golden age not seen since the 60’s. Although nowadays not ever regarded by critics as legends of the Britpop era, Liverpool four-piece Cast still earned their place in musical history with a string of memorable singles and their classic debut album ‘All Change’. Like many others from the time, the band went their separate ways in 2001 and reformed nearly a decade later. After their comeback album ‘Troubled Times’ from 2011, the four albums that Cast released between 1995 and 2001 are being reissued as 2CD deluxe editions, each containing all the extra songs, live tracks and remixes featured on the original CD singles. In addition, there are all the BBC radio sessions and a few interesting rarities.
For fans, all of these reissues are essential purchases, just for the b-sides being collected together. For those looking to investigate Cast’s music, I would recommend these versions of all the first three albums for the extra tracks that bring together the rest of the group’s output, which was often just as interesting as some of the album material. They may have had their musical limits, and they certainly weren’t the most consistent of bands, but Cast’s best moments were just as essential as anything from the era. Read my full in-depth report on the entire Cast back catalogue HERE.
In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Gene stood out amongst all the other British guitar bands that emerged in the mid 90’s, but it would also be a lie to claim that they had nothing to do with Britpop. Some who dismiss the genre as homogenised and derivative forget that as a whole the scene consisted of a variety of groups with their own individual styles. After all “Britpop” is an abbreviation of “British Pop”, a term that hardly narrows things down. Gene may have had their own sound but they arrived when Britpop did, and were one of the groups who were able to break through to a wider audience thanks to indie guitar music being very popular at the time. Now, two decades have passed since the band’s rise into the public eye, and over it’s been over ten years since they split amicably, bowing out with dignity. Bringing together their entire output and some rarities, five deluxe edition reissues of each Gene album offer an ideal opportunity for listeners to delve deeper into the back catalogue of this hugely underrated band.
Attitude and style-wise, they had very little in common with the likes of Oasis, and never considered themselves to be part of the Britpop movement. However, there’s no denying that Gene’s music reflects the positivity and hopefulness of the era, and their success may not have happened in a different musical climate.
They didn’t fade out in an undignified manner or crash dramatically, instead they bowed out with class and integrity still intact. Rounding up their entire back catalogue with reissues of ‘Olympian’, ‘To See The Lights’, ‘Drawn To The Deep End’, ‘Revelations’ and ‘Libertine’ provides a fine opportunity for people to discover more about this incredible and often overlooked band whose output certainly deserves further exploration. Read my full reviews on all the Gene albums HERE.
If you feel like gorging yourselves on more Britpop-era goodness, God Is In The TV is running ‘Britpop Month‘ all the way through February, which I have been making plenty of contributions to. Read all those articles here: https://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/tag/britpop-month-on-giittv/
If it wasn’t for ZTT, popular music during the 80’s would have certainly been less interesting.
Redefining what pop could be, the label wanted to create an experimental hit machine that could break boundaries as well as entertain. In a way it was a music factory producing songs strategically aimed at the charts, but with far more substantial and imaginative ideas than the rubbish that comes from Simon Cowell’s modern day shitepile. The artists had talent too, skills which were taken to odd yet accessible new places with the famously perfectionist production skills of Trevor Horn. With Horn dealing with the musical side, his wife Jill Sinclair took charge of the business element, and NME journalist Paul Morley took the role of PR man to completely unprecedented levels, catching the attention of the public with unusual slogans and maverick promotional tactics. Until the late 80’s, the label had its own internal cataloguing system where singles and albums designed with hits in mind were released as part of the ‘Action Series’, while the ‘Incidental Series’ featured experiments and more unusual records. Even objects, people and moments that the label had contributed to the era’s culture were given their own ‘ZTTIS’ catalogue number, with examples including the day ‘Relax’ was banned and Holly Johnson‘s walking stick.
“The business is as good as people make it… We’ve got to make the marketplace a more exciting place for everyone to be” Horn said. Celebrating three decades since the company’s birth, the tracklist of this two CD compilation (‘The Organisation Of Pop: 30 Years Of Zang Tuum Tumb’) reflects the diversity of ZTT’s roster, inevitably making for a rather hit and miss collection. It would tell more of a story if it was sequenced accordingly, yet I suppose if they put all the label’s best hits in chronological order, you’d have multiple tracks from the same artist together, which is often grating. But then again it’s not as bad as just separating these tracks slightly… We get two helpings of Seal during the first 7 tracks, and just three songs are placed between two of the Frankie numbers. So they may as well have just featured the songs in order of release rather than put such little thought into the running order.
It does also feel like an incomplete document, and maybe they could have instead featured all 45 of the label’s UK Top 40 hit singles across the two discs, and released the oddities plus more on another compilation. Since the hits ran dry after the 90’s, ZTT has focused mainly on constantly reissuing it’s back catalogue and no longer looks forward like it used to, so maybe a more extensive overview of the hits could appear one day. However, the eclectic nature of ‘The Organisation Of Pop”s combination of hits and oddities is one of its most endearing qualities. An interesting and varied bag. Read my full 7/10 review HERE.