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Various Artists – Come Together: Adventures on the Indie Dancefloor 1989-1992 (Cherry Red Records)

Given what a huge deal it was at the time, indie dance gets maybe a little bit overlooked these days; the market is in no way overflowing with retrospectives from the dawn of the 1990s. Cherry Red have done their bit to address this, with a 4CD compilation covering that very sound and era. Come Together… may take its cue from the ‘Madchester’ scene of Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, 808 State and Inspiral Carpets, but it delves a lot deeper into the scene than the obvious touch points, bringing together a considered selection that includes some interesting choices.

In my mind, the whole genre was pretty much born with one of the most copied singles ever, the aforementioned Stone Roses and their indie disco staple ‘Fools Gold’, included here in its full 12” version of almost 10 minutes, and let’s face it, brilliant and groundbreaking as that track is, it is five minutes too long as anyone encountering it at an indie night will (maybe secretly) agree. And although Happy Mondays’ offering here, ‘Wrote For Luck’ dates from the year before (1988), Paul Oakenfold’s ‘Think About The Future’ mix of the song re-branded it ‘WFL’ and it actually beat ‘Fools Gold’ into the Top 40 by a couple of months when re-released in September 1989.

A bit like Britpop half a decade later, a lot of artists then used those singles as inspiration to re-think their own sounds, and record company executives around the country insisted on a ‘funky drummer’ beat and a bit of wah-wah where there was even the slightest chance that their artists could join the party. Even James got swept up in the scene, eschewing their off-kilter, folky (and brilliant) beginnings with ‘Come Home’, which arrived in various mixes and also made the Top 40 on its second outing. Who could have imagined a 12’ single by the band coming in a ‘Skunk Weed Skank Mix’ (the version included here)? Not very ‘Johnny Yen’! Inspiral Carpets meanwhile contribute the frenetically excellent ‘Joe’, which is still more ’60s garage band than ‘Madchester’, but is a good choice and one of the few tracks here to appear in its 7” version.

However, this compilation certainly doesn’t suffer from obvious programming, and is another example of a Cherry Red ‘labour of love’ type compilation, where the curators of the set have displayed some excellent judgement in rounding up tracks that deserve a second life: the wonderful 12” mix of Paris Angels ‘All On You (Perfume)’, the remarkable ‘Papua New Guinea’ from Future Sound Of London and the beautiful ‘Danny’s Love Is…’ remix of The Beloved’s ‘The Sun Rising’ that cemented their transition from their early New Order guitar-heavy sound to acid house stars – it would be fair to say that the band were the first of all those on this compilation to make that change and deserve a lot more credit in inventing the indie dance genre than they get (they had already released a number of dance records by this point).

Candy Flip’s ‘Raspberry Ripple Mix’ of their smash hit Beatles cover ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ makes a welcome appearance. Its follow-up, ‘This Can Be Real’ is one of the real lost gems of the era; perhaps there will be a Volume 2 that can give it its due. Another big cover version from the time was the much-missed World Of Twist with their reading of The Rolling Stones‘She’s A Rainbow’, which also features here (I would have gone with their own ‘Sons Of The Stage’, but it’s always nice to see them crop up anywhere!). Another couple of big pop songs appear in Northside’s ‘Shall We Take A Trip’, which sounds like an old familiar friend and The Mock Turtles‘Can You Dig It?, which might not be the coolest song here but has certainly become ubiquitous over the years.

The Charlatans were mostly based in the West Midlands, but were included in the ‘Madchester’ scene courtesy of the tenuous link of singer Tim Burgess hailing from Northwich (!), but there is a treat here in the shape of their monumentally brilliant debut single ‘Indian Rope’, which sadly never made it onto the band’s debut album Some Friendly. It’s also a joy to hear the short-lived Spirea X (formed by Jim Beattie, original Primal Scream guitarist) and their ‘Re-Action’, a version of their second single ‘Speed Reaction’ from its 12” incarnation (in truth, the regular version is ten times better though!). And as good as anything here is The Telescopes‘Celeste’ in which the band fully embraces that indie dance sound and is in stark contrast to their earlier, harder-sounding material and later drone-rock.

The Shamen are another band who entirely changed direction from a ’60s underground guitar sound to a much more dance-orientated sound – like The Beloved mentioned above, their change was quite organic over a couple of years leading up to ‘Pro-Gen’, which later hit the charts after being re-christened as ‘Move Any Mountain’. The band’s progression was genuine and not at all bandwagon-hopping, (it was way too early for that), but who can blame them for making the most of the ongoing scene? Chapterhouse gave us ‘Pearl’, a continuation of their shoegaze-dance sound, and celebrated in a nice new Cherry Red box set of their own this very month. The Primitives ‘You Are The Way’ is heavily re-mixed and you do wonder whether this was done with the band’s blessing – the same thought could apply to Cud who had similarly not really shown any previous ambition to be dance artists – they contribute a remixed ‘Magic’. The Soup Dragons give us their biggest hit, ‘I’m Free’, and were unfairly castigated at the time for an often-cited misquote where the band actually said “There’s always been a dance element to our record collections’”- rather than ‘records’ – a big difference!). Still, the single is a lot of fun and it was lovely to see them in the upper echelons of the charts after releasing a string of fantastic singles that didn’t enjoy that level of success. We even get Julian Cope and a version of his ‘Beautiful Love’ and the excellent That Petrol Emotion albeit with an all-but unrecognisable mix of ‘Tingle’.

There is so much on this compilation that there, unfortunately, isn’t room here to name-check all of the artists involved, (there are 56 tracks, mainly 12” mixes), but the curators have struck a really good balance between the familiar, (as well as those mentioned above, we have Electronic, Saint Etienne and of course the set’s title track from Primal Scream), alongside lesser-known gems from the likes of The Wendy’s, Spin and The Dylans) and then a handful of quite big hits that are nevertheless rarely heard these days (easily Jesus Jones’ finest moment, ‘Real Real Real’; The Farm and Flowered Up) and then of course 808 State’s peerless classic ‘Pacific’ here in its original form.

For anyone frequenting those indie nights at the time, it’s a trip down memory lane and a comprehensive look at that unique period in pop music.

Come Together: Adventures On The Indie Dancefloor is released by Cherry Red on 28th July 2023.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.