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Miscellaneous - Profile

  by Tommy Gunnarsson

published: 23 / 2 / 2020

Miscellaneous - Profile


The fifth instalment of Cherry Red’s impressive C box sets is here, this time focusing on the dismal pop year that was 1990. Tommy Gunnarsson is far from impressed with the music, but more so with the compilation itself.

In 1986, the NME released a cassette only compilation (it was later re-released on vinyl) called ‘C86’ to showcase some of the up-and-coming indie bands that they felt were worth checking out. Among the contributors were future superstars Primal Scream (with their best song, ‘Velocity Girl’), The Wedding Present and my personal favourites, McCarthy (which should come as no surprise if you’re a devoted Pennyblackmusic reader). A few years ago, Cherry Red decided to release this iconic compilation again, making it a 3CD package, with other songs that could have been included on the original cassette, and since then they have continued to put out sequels for each of the following years, and now the time has come to 1990. And well… if you ask me, 1990 wasn’t a brilliant year for pop music. The house music craze spilled over to the pop charts, as did the Italo craze, and even though I quite liked it at the time, I really can’t stand the stuff nowadays. Just let me give you a hint of what I’m talking about by mentioning acts like Technotronic, Nomads & MC Mikee Freedom, C&C Music Factory and Black Box. By now some indie bands wanted to cash in on this fad, which really is a bit sad, and suddenly a band like The Soup Dragons, who used to release brilliant, noisy indiepop songs (check out ‘Hang Ten!’ and ‘Whole Wide World’ if you don’t believe me), now recorded horrible songs like ‘I’m Free’ (where they collaborated with Black Uhuru vocalist Junior Reid, who two years earlier recorded the catchy ‘Stop This Crazy Thing’ with DJ duo Coldcut). And the new ‘indie’ bands that were introduced were trying their best to merge the pop music with the dance music, like for instance Jesus Jones (who had a big hit with ‘Right Here, Right Now’) and EMF (huge success with ‘Unbelievable’), bands that are now more or less forgotten (thank God). So, what about this compilation, then? As you might have guessed, this wasn’t a brilliant year for indiepop, and it’s painfully clear while listening to the three CDs. Future UK superstars Ocean Colour Scene are represented here by ‘Sway’, their debut single, and it’s quite typical of the indie sound of the early 90s, what is sometimes called the ‘baggy’ sound, or ‘Madchester’ if you like, with the guitars mixed with dance influenced, ‘groovy’ drums. Happy Mondays are probably the best-known example of this sound, I would say, and as far as I know, they haven’t released one single good song. Enough said. But! There are of course some good tracks on this compilation as well, as some bands dared to swim against the stream and continued to record jangly and tuneful pop songs. Some of the best examples here are the brilliant ‘I Really Do Love Penelope’ by Hey Paulette, ‘Out Of My Mind’ by Avo-8, ‘Sunday Never Comes Around’ by Po!, ‘Can’t Be Sure’ by The Sundays and ‘Sean Connery’ by The James Dean Driving Experience. This was actually the heydays for the classic indie label Sarah Records, but the best singles released by them were actually featured in the previous boxes by bands including Another Sunny Day and The Field Mice, and the one here by Gentle Despite isn’t one of their greatest hits. As normal with Cherry Red’s releases, the compilation in itself is brilliantly executed, with a highly informative booklet, with track-by-track notes etc, and I really think they have done the best they can with this one. It’s not Cherry Red’s fault that 1990 sucked for pop music.

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