published: 6 /
In the second part of his three part feature, Denzil Watson continues to reveal his list of ten obscure and lost indie albums.
Following on from Part 1, Denzil Watson continues his trawl through obscure and lost indie albums from the last four decades. Part 2 of his own, very personal, Top 10 Great Lost Indie Albums shines the light on three undiscovered gems that didn't get as much attention as they deserved first time around. Two hail from the aftermath of the UK Britpop scene courtesy of Scarfo and The Pecadiloes. For the third, we go over the pond to the punk scene of Los Angeles and The Plugz.
Luxury Plane Crash (Deceptive - BLUFF 045CD, 1997).
Scarfo were formed at the tail-end of Britpop in Andover, Hampshire back in 1994 by ex-Goldsmith's College drama graduate Jamie Hince (vocals, guitar) along with Nick Prior (bass) and Al Saunders (drums). The trio soon moved up to the capital and recorded their debut single, 'Skinny' b/w 'Lifeline', for Fierce Panda in May 1995. This brought them to the attention of Steve Lamacq's Deceptive Records and he wasted no time in signing them and releasing their self-titled mini-album in December 1995. Their edgy, abrasive and powerful guitar-driven racket combined melodic songs that paid witness to Hince’s obsession with low-life living and crime (the band took their name from Nicodemo Scarfo, the boss of an infamous Philadelphia crime family).
After the very promising couple of singles, 'ELO' and 'Alkaline,' the band released their second album, 'Luxury Plane Crash' in August 1997. Rumour has it that the album was to have been produced by Nigel Godrich, but apparently Hince resented his presence and called him from a payphone to tell him his services were not going to be required. Godrich duly went on to produce Radiohead's 'OK Computer'. The album continued in a similar vein to the preceding singles, setting obscure lyrics with urgent and catchy melodies over rhythmic, staccato guitars. With superb tracks such as 'Cosmonaut No.7' such an accomplished album should have set them off on a similar trajectory to gigging-buddies and label-mates, Placebo. Sadly, however, the bands progress ground to a halt when drummer Al Saunders was badly injured after being run over by a car in London. After this, the momentum of the band began to falter and the band split in 1998.
Jamie Hince went on to release the equally merit worthy 'The Glue Hotel Tapes' mini album under the name of 'Fiji' on his own Impresario Records in 1999. Jamie 'Hotel' Hince, of course, eventually went on to find fame and (relative) fortune when he formed The Kills with Alison 'VV' Mosshart in 2000, signing to Domino Records. His profile was further raised when he married to model Kate Moss in 2011.
Key tracks: 'ELO', 'Cosmonaut No.7,' 'Lifeline'
Availability: unavailable digitally. Second-hand copies turn up for around the £10 mark on a fairly regular basis.
5. The Plugz
Better Luck (Fatima Records - FTM 80, 1981)
American Latino punk band The Plugz formed in 1978 in LA. Fusing the spirit of punk with their Mexican roots, they are credited with being the first DIY punk band to come out of the city. Initially comprising of Tito Larriva on vocals and guitar, Barry McBride on bass and Charlie Quintana on drums, it was this line-up that recorded the band's debut album, 'Electrify Me' in 1979. It was released on the band's own PLUGZ Records label and remembered for its high-speed cover of the Mexican folk-song 'La Bamba', later made famous by Los Lobos.
Here though I'm going for their second album, 'Better Luck', released two years later in 1981. Bassist McBride had earlier moved, replaced by John Curry from The Flyboys. Featuring distinctive artwork by Gary Panter, the cover wouldn't have looked out of place on a Violent Femme's record. With the song-writing again almost exclusively coming from Larriva, the band's initial raw sound, although still guitar driven, had begun to morph into a more melodic hybrid of new wave and 60's pop, not a million miles from the UK's The Vapors and, more latterly Joe Strummer and The Mescalero's. The band were also able to explore a wider musical soundscape with the addition of extra musicians. The band's utilisation of sax and trombone on 'El Clavo Y La Cruz', a track that closes side one, delivers the album's best moment and a song that found its way onto the soundtrack of Alex Cox's cult 1984 movie, Repoman. The album is worthy of purchase on this track alone with its Spanish lyrics, break-neck beat and mariachi vibe. Side two starts as strongly as side one closes with the sax--driven 'Blue Sofa', the long-lost hit that never was.
Despite then-Plugz bassist Tony Marsico and drummer Charlie Quintana accompanying Bob Dylan on his appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" in March 1984 and the inclusion of 'El Clavo y la Cruz' and two other tracks on the Repoman soundtrack, The Plugz name was retired and the band continued as The Cruzados, albeit in a different musical direction, signing to Arista Records before fizzling out in 1990.
Key tracks: 'Shifting Heart', 'Red Eye No. 9', 'El Clavo Y La Cruz'
Availability: scarce. Unavailable digitally, second-hand vinyl copies turn up, usually in the States, for upwards of the equivalent of £70. It has never been released on CD.
4. The Pecadiloes
Caught on Venus (Fine Art - FINE003CD, 1998)
Once described as "The best band to come out of Bedfordshire", it's almost as if, bar a few records and the odd video here and there on YouTube, the Bedford-based, four-piece have been erased from the face of alternative music history. The Bedford-based four-piece were formed by twin brothers, vocalist-guitarist Nick Mailing and drummer Pip along with keyboardist/programmer Ian Campbell and Nicky-Wire lookalike, Elliot Walsh on bass, early in 1996.
After a few gigs in the Winter of 1996 and having released a trio of singles ('The Wanting Song' and 'USSO' on their own Lime Street Records followed by 'Po Po Pewitt' on Fierce Panda) the band found themselves at the centre of scramble with various A&R men fighting to secure their signatures. In the end A&M won the battle. Whether it was the band's juddering bass lines, other-worldly keyboard squelches and swooshes or their eye for a sharp, edgy robo-pop song, who knows.
My first introduction to the band was via Steve Lamacq's evening show when he played 'My Evolution' from the band's debut 'Initial Transmission' EP for A&M, released via their Fine Art offshoot. And that was that. I was hooked. With the backing of A&M and a publishing dead with EMI the band set about recording their debut album. The result was 1998's 'Caught on Venus', a twelve-song-strong tour-de-force in alt-rock. Mixing electronica, country, pop, blues and new wave the album combined well-crafted songs with high-end production that their label's advance afforded them. Along with re-recordings favourites such as 'U.S.S.O.', 'Deep Reversal' and 'The Wanting Song', the band also introduced a number of new classics including future single 'Kirsten's Beach' and album closer 'Peace and Quiet'.
Despite the band delivering a stunning debut album, commercial success evaded them and A&M gradually lost interest. Despite this, the band struggled on and went on to release two very creditable EPs on their own Lime House label, before splitting up in 2001. Since then, only the Mailing brothers have resurfaced: Pip as drummer for the reformed Quireboys between 2004-10, and brother Nick playing bass, also with The Quireboys, since 2014.
Key tracks: 'Deep Reversal', 'The Waiting Song', 'Kirsten's Beach'
Availability: unavailable digitally. Currently out of print but second-hand CD copies regularly turn up on Amazon and EBay for less than a fiver.
In the final instalment which will be published in our next magazine we look at long lost indie albums No. 3 to No. 1.
Play in YouTube:-