published: 6 /
Denzil Watson takes us on a brilliant journey through 10 lost indie classics, starting here with the first four
How long have we all spent in second-hand record shops, madly flipping through CD cases, turning the vinyl, in search of that long lost classic LP? Trying to find a hidden diamond amongst all the scree, by a band that no one else has heard of? So often though there's a good reason why so many albums have been condemned to obscurity.
However, occasionally you turn up an undiscovered gem. I've been listening to music, going to gigs and buying records for over three decades now so what follows is my own, very personal, list of 10 Lost LPs that really did deserve more attention than they got at the time. Here they are now for your listening pleasure.
In this first part of three, we look at places 10 to 7 on the list.
10. Shock Headed Peters
Several Headed Enemy (Cyclops Prod CP 131-01CD, 1992)
Truth be told, any number of Karl Blake's various guises could have featured here (Lemon Kittens, The Underneath, Evil Twin). Instead I've plumped for his most prolific vehicle, Shock Headed Peters. Perhaps best remembered for 1984's Peel-banned single 'I Bloodbrother Be', by 'Several Headed Enemy', their second album, the band were down to a two-piece of Blake and multi-instrumentalist David Knight.
The album showcases Blake's two-pronged attack to good effect: his William Blake-inspired lyrics and his Black Sabbath/prog guitar crunching. Over the album's 13 tracks electronic rhythms collide with fuzzy guitars and thundering basslines while Blake's almost classical baritone voice unfolds tails of emotional torment and bleakness.
Although heavy both in terms of the playing and from a lyrical perspective, there's an earthy, almost life-affirming, quality to the album (despite the special thank-you to EXIT in the album's credits) that prevents things from becoming too much of a dirge. Occasionally Blake even flirts with pop music ('Are You Happy Or Are You Real?' and 'Burn The Fun Guarantee') albeit a darker and more twisted form than your regular variety. With the majority of Blake's work still unavailable in digital format, he looks set to remain a left-field and relatively unknown cult artist.
Key tracks: Are You Happy Or Are You Real?, Burn The Fun Guarantee, Protestation Of Love.
Availability: unavailable digitally. Second-hand copies on CD turn up on a fairly irregular basis and will cost you £20 plus.
Not in a Million Lovers (Schoenwetter 013, 2008)
Rarely do I come across a band because of the ridiculing of their name on a discussion board. But that's exactly how I came across this fabulous Maltese power-pop trio. "Never mind slagging their name off, have you actually listened to them?" "Erm, no," came my reply. They describe themselves as an attempt "to cross Sonic Youth with the Carpenters" and within a few songs I was hooked . Despite ticking all the boxes (killer pop-tunes with guitar hooks delivered by every indie boy's dream, frontwoman Alison Galea) the band remain something of an unknown outside of their native Malta and Germany, where they have enjoyed more commercial success than in the rest of Europe.
It wasn't really until their third LP, 2004's 'Dance Dance Baby' that the band's true potential came to the fore. Here, though, I'm going with their fourth album, 'Not In A Million Lovers'. For most bands an LP of this quality and consistency would have ushered in the big time. Sadly not for the Beanies.
The cinematic pop of 'Quaint Affair' finds Galea's husky vocals at their most sultry and sexy. On the lead track 'Not in a Million Lovers' the catchy staccato bassline and accompanying ground-breaking video should have been a ticket for MTV success. Somehow, though, their cool, Pixies-influenced shimmering shoe-gaze pop failed to make headway, despite occasional visits to the UK and to America's SXSW festival. Maybe the band needed to relocate away from their beloved Malta in order to gain more widespread acclaim. They still play occasion shows in Malta despite Galea and drummer Ian Schranz's side project The Shh.
Key tracks: Not In A Million Lovers, Quaint Affair, Life's A Bitch Then She Sings In Your Band.
Availability: available digitally from iTunes/other services. Occasionally second-hand copies on CD turn up on Amazon.
One Afternoon in a Hot Air Balloon (Red Flame, RF18 1983)
Cult Sheffield band Artery have had a colourful history. Line-up changes, different labels and being in the shadow of Manchester's Joy Division without a local label like Factory to champion them probably denied them the wider recognition their fractured and off-the-wall post punk.
Starting in 1979 the band notched up five impressive EPs in as many years while releasing their debut mini-album 'Oceans' in 1982. The band also did two highly acclaimed Peel Sessions in 1981 and 1982. It wasn't until 1983 that their debut full-length album came out with the band finding a level of stability label wise with Leeds-based label Red Flame. Unfortunately that couldn't be said of the line-up.
'One Afternoon...' found them down to two original members, Mark Goldthorpe on vocals and Garry Wilson on drums, the distinctive guitarist Mick Fidler having been sacked for missing rehearsals, and with Christopher Hendrick drafted in on piano, keyboards, bass, electric guitar and xylophone. As a consequence the sound of OAIAHAB is different to anything they'd released before.
By now Jarvis Cocker was a big fan of the band and it is easy to hear how the album formed the blueprint for Pulp's future sound. Gone was the abrasive, sheet metal guitar-driven intensity of previous recordings only to be replaced by vaudeville and theatrical honky-tonk piano and plenty of space for Goldthorpe's fine vocals. With the album barely untoured and more line-up changes ensuing this fine slab of pop music was forgotten as the band reformed into a more conventional guitar driven four-piece.
Key tracks: One Afternoon in a Hot Air Balloon, Unbalanced, Perhaps.
Availability: available digitally from iTunes/other services. Occasionally second-hand vinyl copies turn up on Amazon/eBay.
7. David Devant and his Spirit Wife
Work, Lovelife, Miscellaneous (Kindness Recordings, KIND CD1 1997)
David Devant and his Spirit Wife are an indie/art rock band from Brighton named after a Victorian illusionist, shadowgraphist and film exhibitor. The band was formed in May 1992 around singer/songwriter Mikey Georgeson along with ex-Monochrome Set guitarist and keyboard player Foz Foster, bassist Jem Egerton and drummer Graham Carlow. Having built up a cult following of devotees it wasn't until five years later they released their debut LP. Perhaps the long gestation period contributed to their debut album's accomplished feel.
Preceded by two moderately successful singles, 'Ginger' and 'This is for Real', their eccentric and humour-tinged debut album has to be one of the greatest lost pop albums of the 1990s. With typically theatrical themes from the twisted 'Cluedo' game of 'Ballroom"'to album closer 'Goodnight', every track on the album is woven with the Devant magic. The band clearly had a bit of a Glam and Bowie fixation that shines through on a number of tracks.
There isn't a bad track on the album and in a parallel universe, it would have been number one, rather than the rather lowly number 70 slot at which it peaked. The key to the album is the fact that the band managed to effectively bottle their theatrical live shows on their debut. Although the follow-up albums (2000's 'Shiney on the Inside' and 2004's 'Power Words For Better Living') also delivered strong sets of new songs, neither quite topped the eccentric jollity of their debut.
Key tracks: This is for Real, I'm Not Even Going to Try, Re-Invent the Wheel
Availability: available digitally from iTunes/other services. Second-hand copies on both CD and vinyl available on Amazon/eBay at affordable prices.
In the next instalment we look at long-lost indie albums numbers 6 to 4.
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