Who the heck is Martin Green, noted here as the compiler of this collection of tunes? Well to answer this question I should take you back to the London nightclub Smashing, whose existence between 1991-96 was highly influential on the rise of Britpop. Martin, a DJ, curator and contemporary scenester, ran this club, and artists we all know now, the likes of Blur, Oasis and Pulp, were all attendees, making the club a breeding ground for many future bands. The term Britpop is now looked upon, in retrospect, as being more of a marketing tool, and although the likes of the big hitters; Oasis, Blur and Pulp had undoubtedly taken their influence from the likes of The Kinks, Pink Floyd & The Beatles, bands like Elastica (also part of the scene) had the seeds of their sound embedded in the roots of Punk, so Britpop was quite a wide marker and to reflect this, so are the 40 songs collected here.
Powder‘s ‘Afrodisiac‘ fittingly leads us by the hand to begin this journey. As a single, it was one that really should’ve done better; with its bouncing trajectory, the band saw their brief moment in the spotlight between ’94 & ’96. These were a group who were picked up by public relations agents Savage and Best in ’94, a company I recall being one with a particular ear for the music of this genre and have been widely credited as being one of the main instigators of Britpop. Although agents played their part in this burgeoning scene, it was the DJs and dance floors that saw first hand what was happening and with that in mind, we’ll continue here with Linoleum who follow with ‘Marquis‘, another bouncing number, although with darker undertones of a rough night out. This tune is heavy on bass from the onset, which is shortly accompanied by riding guitars, and these were a band whom, on releasing their debut album Dissent in 1997, did so with the CD clothed in a suitable linoleum sleeve (perhaps for press purposes only, but I still have my copy). Their journey lasted a little longer than that of Powder and were active between 1994 and 2001. Posh follow with the sonic surge of ‘Rough Lover‘, again with a questionable lyric line “Move over rough lover, don’t do that it’s time to get tougher…“, but it certainly filled the dance floors of its day. So with bands Mantaray (pretenders to Blur), Pimlico (60s beat poetry in tow), Showgirls (Chrissie Hynde inspired punk), Kenickie (6music’s belle from the North East Lauren Laverne – punk if you’re unclear) and Shampoo (girl-pop, only this time with teeth), these first few numbers might act as some sort of musical gauge of just how far this genre spanned. Without a doubt, there are more Damon Albarn pretenders, bands such as The Weekenders, but other musicians, like lesser-known World of Leather, who may not have seated themselves in a furniture store, were led by Liverpudlian Mark Chase and were certainly one-to-watch during the 90s, albeit for their vast turnaround during their short lifespan. Rounding off with the Anglo/Indian Voodoo Queens ‘Supermodel-Superficial‘, these were riot grrrls who were signed to the indie label of the day Too Pure. These might’ve paved the way for the “Me Too” movement, in the UK at least, that took hold in the early Noughties. So anything from the conventional, to the angry, on this first disc and what’s interesting is just how wide a direction this genre takes, as we head toward disc two.
The second part of this collection starts with the tried and tested Stephen Duffy, an artist who had already taken several bites of this cherry called music, among many others as a founding member of Duran Duran and as Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy with his single ‘Kiss Me‘. Having already explored several different genres with his ability as a musician/songwriter, most famously writing with Robbie Williams, Stephen this time returned as Duffy as he released ‘London Girls‘ & slipped into this up and coming scene effortlessly. What comes next is something of a key change. We have heard where punk fits in, but when it comes to the electronic post-rave genre, did less so, The High Fidelity did this very well with ‘Sometimes The Kids Are Not Alright‘. As I remember, this was something of a wakeup call and without a doubt might have acted as a conduit between the scenes of dance and indie. Add N To X did the same with their ‘Inevitable Fast Access‘, this was a lo-fi take on making music which proved another turn that expanded the genre yet further. We continue from here with Va6‘s ‘Pit Stop‘ and We Are Pleb‘s ‘Mood Music‘, who, like the former Add N to X, saw lo-fi as there access point. Next is Velocette, who continue in a similar vein; they used Stereolab as their launching point in ‘Strip Poker‘, music that could quite easily fill the dance floors. David Devant And His Spirit Wife is one band that speaks of a melding between art and music, as the band brought this character from the Victorian/Georgian era to life. ‘Pimlico‘, their second single, was pop music with majesty and the band’s lead singer Mikey Georgeson is a born frontman. He sings with clipped vowels here and I remember possessed a wonderful stage presence. These are a band who are still active, having released 6 albums as of last year and are a great flag bearer for the scene. Sexton Ming And Steady continue and ‘Conker Fight In Wendy’s House‘ is, as you might expect, nothing less than bizarre. I can’t honestly see how this would fit within a DJ set, maybe at the end of the evening, but I have to say it does possess a kind of genius. Through Pram with their ‘Chrysalis‘, to the extreme Scala and ‘Vdt‘, again lo-fi meeting extreme-noize with intent, is strangely compelling. Earl Brutus‘s ‘On Me Not In Me‘ (something which might speak for itself?), is followed by Menswe@R, as another 6music contributor makes his appearance as the “Student Union Mix” of ‘Daydre@Mer‘ is lent to Super Sonics and is both memorable and a number that might live on among the minor leagues of music’s history. Like that offered by Menswe@R, Sweetie‘s ‘Curl Up‘ possesses a riff that would rip up any dancefloor and whose inclusion here is undoubted. Bis follow with ‘Keroleen‘. With its howling guitar, solid drums and banshee-like vocal presentation, it is in complete juxtaposition to the indie-come-rave of Elizabeth Bunny who present ‘Crawl‘, although the “Raw Mix” of this number might’ve had a bearing on how this was presented, being complete with sitar and tabla, so perhaps Indian-come-rave might be a better description? Another band who arrived courtesy of the Too Pure stable were Mambo Taxi. Like Voodoo Queens, they were associated with the riot grrrl posse and were a band who in just 4 short years saw their star burn out, but not without leaving splinters scattered in the musical projects that followed them; these included Delia and Karin’s Punjab Rovers who was a short-lived project with members of Cornershop. Too Pure’s Minxus make an examination of the human body and ask “…do you always dress like that, in front of other people’s boyfriends?“, a number that epitomised indie in its day and to follow Gretschen went further in that they went back to the Sixties in the very Gerry Anderson inspired number ‘Judy Garland Life‘. To complete this journey, another band that were following the path of Menswe@R, Rialto, saw their ‘Underdogs‘ speak of a London music scene in the late 90s, in which, as I hear it now, sounds like Richard Hawley, but when a band speak with such eloquence surely there is enough space for both to exist?
So having travelled this journey from what you might call punk, through dance music (whose bpm wasn’t raised excessively), taking in riot grrrl this brings us back to Britpop – even though we’ve learnt that this was something of a misnomer, a terminology created by a music industry hungry for more sales. My work within the industry was borne out of this time and I have to say that revisiting these tunes has been a welcome one, as although I realise that a quarter of a century may have passed, I don’t feel a day older (honestly, but I guess that everyone says that?) A compilation that avoids mentioning the “big four”, but still hasn’t missed anything, is deserving of ultimate kudos and certainly deserves of a round of applause.
Super-Sonics is released on 17th July through Cherry Red.