Sunday, 13 November 2011

LIST 75 - 11/11/11 (25th anniversary of Indie Top 20 - part one)

Hello again,

As telegraphed last week, this is both the first of three Lists this weekend alone and the first of two dedicated to my favourite compilation series of them all.

Indie Top 20 was devised by Beechwood Music and first released on cassette in 1986, with a line-up strong on the prevailing C86-era scene but broader than just that in remit - in essence, if a good song of any genre was released on a label with independent distribution, it would be considered for inclusion. Hence the appearance over the first few volumes, for example, of pronk gods Cardiacs, African-American vocal ensemble Sweet Honey In The Rock, Manchester acid house figurehead A Guy Called Gerald and any number of purveyors of goth, dance and rock alongside the perhaps more expected jangly guitar fare.

This was "indie" as I understood it, how it always was, and how it should have remained before the term got horribly misappropriated during the 1990s - "Indie" the state of being, rather than a guitar-based genre.

Ironically, Indie Top 20 was at least partly complicit in the gradual misuse of the term "indie" - covertly with the inclusion of one or two major label releases on volume 17 in mid-1993, and rather more explicitly on volume 18 a few months later. "Let's face it", opined Tim Millington, who had taken over the compiling of the series from founders Chet and Bee Selwood half a dozen renewals earlier, "who gives a toss who the distributor is as long as the music is good?"

That rated an atonishing statement given the compilation's original raison d'etre, and was made to appear all the more so as the subsequent volumes became ever more in thrall to the New Wave Of New Wave and eventually Britpop, narrowing in scope all the while.

More bizarre still, at least some of the final, mid-20 numbered volumes were officially endorsed by Melody Maker, which of the two weekly music magazines of the time favoured a broader musical remit more in tune with Indie Top 20's earlier sentiments - "C96 bands", Romo, DIY indiepop (from labels such as Slampt and Vesuvius), rural psychedelia, post-rock, intelligent hip-hop, etc, rather than the rather more Britpop-loving NME.

"Depressingly generic", one of Melody Maker's own reviewers wrote of the final volume of Indie Top 20, "Remember when the term 'indie' actually meant something?" Quite.

For each of this and tomorrow's List (number 76), I set myself the task of finding one track from as many Indie Top 20s as I could fit onto our usual notional blank CDR of just under 78 minutes, starting at volume one and finishing when I ran out of space. In the event, this happened to be after volume 20 on both Lists, about which I'm not especially sorry. Truth be told, it was hard enough to find two tracks I really liked on volumes 18 to 20 as it was!

The earlier editions, and particularly those from around 1988-1991, posed a slightly different problem, as there are so many tracks I loved from the releases around that time that many of them have already appeared in previous Lists. Nevertheless, I think I've been able to put together a couple of reasonably representative Lists from the material still available - see what you think. Do note that the selections are not in any sort of chronological order - I know this. Don't write in! ;-)

J x

TALULAH GOSH – Talulah Gosh (1985)

THE SHAMEN – Jesus Loves Amerika (1988)

FRANK BLACK – Hang On To Your Ego (1993)

SUICIDE – Rain of Ruin (1988)

THE STONE ROSES – Made of Stone (1989)

1,000 VIOLINS – Please Don’t Sandblast My House (1986)

THE FARM – Stepping Stone (1990)

THE BOO RADLEYS – Lazy Day (1992)

DANIELLE DAX – Big Hollow Man (1987)

STEREOLAB – Lo Fi (1992)

CARDIACS - Is This the Life (1987)

ELASTICA – Stutter (1993)


SP!N – Scratches (In The Sand) (1990)

WELFARE HEROINE – Cry-Blood (Dub) (1991)

REVOLVER – Heaven Sent an Angel (1991)

THE BLUE AEROPLANES – Broken and Mended (1994)

DAISY CHAINSAW – Love Your Money (1992)

RIDE – How Does It Feel to Feel? (1994)

SAINT ETIENNE – Nothing Can Stop Us (1991)


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