Various Artists – This is England ’90 – Original Soundtrack

One of the remarkable things about many of the songs on the This is England 90 soundtrack is how fresh they sound. Not so much because so much time has passed, but more because their time had passed so much. Or so we thought in the late ’90s and early noughties: first everything was pushed aside for the bright lights and political handshakes of Britpop, then we were buried under landfill indie. In the last decade or so, though, old bands have reformed and recorded new material, and new artists have stretched never-the-twain boundaries that once felt so strong.

What’s going on tonight? Is there a discotheque?

Or am I just old and nostalgic? Has watching Shaun Ryder on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and warming to his gruffness and charms bridged a generational gap between then and now? I didn’t see The Stone Roses play Spike Island, but I did see them play the Sziget (translation: “Island”) festival, Budapest in 2012. It was exciting, of course it was, so much so that Ian Brown could have had an off day (as if…) and I wouldn’t have cared. But I was enjoying it as a late thirty-something with a small part of his mind on hoping not to have to wait too long for a train back to the city afterwards, and with 20+ years of Stone Roses listening to fall back on to fill any auditory gaps in the live performance.

Still, there’s no diminishing the glory of the opening bars of “Fool’s Gold”, no matter how much time passes; a preceding snatch of dialogue from the series sets it up perfectly. And no matter that it’s only the single edit, it remains the apotheosis of that glorious indie/dance melting pot. The odd snippet of dialogue are one of the ways This is England ’90 manages to rise above the normal retro-compilation crowd. And it needs to, because the compilation industry has been making hay with some of this material for a long time. “There She Goes”, for example, is no stranger to the compilers, or indeed advertisers, and “classics” radio stations. The problem with these songs is that you don’t really ever need to consciously choose to listen to them: someone will do that for you at some point. See also: Beats International, Adamski, 10CC (the one track here that I am mostly skipping most of the time), and to a lesser extent Happy Mondays. “Come Home”, by James, on the other hand, gets a pass for its appearance on the legendary but flawed Happy Daze compilation.

The album’s running order means “Step On” gives way, jarringly at first, to “Underwood”, the first of three Ludovico Einaudi pieces on the soundtrack. In their every bar they are the essence of twenty-first century soundtrack: sparse melancholy, simple construction, and more moments when This is England reminds you that life isn’t all larks and funny Bez dances. It’s the modern way of signalling misery: keening strings are out, suspense, anticipation, quiet dread are in.

There’s just enough time to for it all to sink in: this is basically still the 80s in all but name. And then you’re into Kiko Bun’s cover of Toots and The Maytals’ “54-56” and the across-decades sampling “Dub Be Good To Me” crash in…

It also demonstrates another win for This is England ’90: even if you can find most of these tracks on plenty of compilations, you probably won’t find one with all of them on. You might, however, find a playlist or two somewhere on some streaming service that comes close: something curated; something with feeling and love, even if it is just the e-talking. Which is maybe how you get “Cubik” by 808 State alongside Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without A Face”, next to a final Einaudi composition.

And then at the end, there’s “God Song”, a rumbling, pounding new track by Toydrum. It’s fitting that it should close the soundtrack to what Meadows has hinted marks the end of This is England, given songwriter Gavin Clark’s longtime influence on Meadows’ art. After Clark’s death earlier this year, Meadows wrote:

He’s penned at least one unforgettable song for pretty much everything I’ve ever made and his latest, as yet unreleased songs, are his greatest and have once again become the emotional heartbeat of my latest project.

It’s a final reminder that this is not so much a nostalgic genre piece as a time capsule. The clever trick is that in some way it’s all our soundtracks, whether you were at The Hacienda or just mentally in madchester. For me, tracks by The Stone Roses, James, The Las kick off all sorts of reminiscences. My indie birth certificate puts me slightly after this time – 1991 was where it all kicked off – and I was very much in the indie guitar camp, looking across at the daft dance crowd. If the likes of 808 State, Adamski and The Scientist crept in, it might only have been through some random compilation backdoor – the sort of album where the compilers either had diversity targets or a preternatural desire to demonstrate their cool chops. Here they’re together for all the right reasons.

Swerve – Everything

I’ve said it before, and with great certainty I know this won’t be the last time: sometimes you just can’t beat simple things done well. At first, “Everything”, the second single from LA’s Swerve, sounds like it might be taking that idea a touch too far, but it’s all part of a greater plan. As the song develops, a little extra riff gets added here, a harmony is dropped in there, and new vocal melodies are found here, there and everywhere. By the end, you’re listening to a full-on exhibition of top-notch indie guitaring in the ’90s Brit-style.

Swerve is the creation of Los Angeles based songwriter Gregory Mahdesian. Officially formed in early 2015 with drummer Casey Baird, guitarist Ryan Berti, and bassist Brandon Duncan, the band are gearing up for a big 2016: expect festival appearances, a debut EP, and who knows how much more…

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Butterfly Child – Lost in These Machines

For anyone into the melodic end of the shoegazing and dream pop spectrum, the sound of Lost in These Machines – a new track from Butterfly Child – dropping languidly from the heavens 17 years after their last album, could be chill-inducing.

This is one of those times when music surely is sweet anticipation: textures both vocal and instrumental, and perfectly summed up in the track’s press release by the description “euphorically melancholic”, revolve around a goldilocks beat that’s just the right size to complete the whole soundscape.

When I started working on the record I happened to find the same drum machine that I used on the old Butterfly Child records from the early 90’s at a thrift store for £10. I enjoyed the simplicity and lack of options it presented. Even though I rarely follow this train of thought, sometimes less is more.
Joe Cassidy

Lost in These Machines is taken from the album Futures, out on November 27th 2015, on Dell’Orso Records.

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Football

Football, eh? Mid-August and already we’re two games into the new league campaign. It just starts earlier and earlier each year, doesn’t it? Love it or loathe it, you can’t always avoid it. Not even here, I’m afraid. Luckily you don’t have to give a hoot about the beautiful game to admire these songs about footballers and their profession.

Half Man Half Biscuit – All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit

Up first, a tale of childhood days spent on games with high set-up overheads to negotiate and not all that much actual game to be played. I wasn’t that into Scalextric, but Subbuteo was another matter entirely. I wasn’t completely accessory-crazy, although I did have the scoreboard and some match officials to provide a bit of match-day atmosphere.

It was written in 1983 in order to celebrate the name of one of those mysterious European football teams who popped up against our British sides every now and again. It was originally intended for the club to be Ujpesti Dosza, but this didn’t seem to scan with the music as well as the Czech team and so the strip of the “somewhat unpopular crack army unit” was awarded the dubious honour.Nigel Blackwell

Googling for old Subbuteo kits and boxes has brought on some pretty severe feelings of nostalgia, and to think it so nearly referenced a Hungarian team just makes this the perfect way to start this set of picks.

Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give A F**k

Unless you were a Reading or Cardiff fan in the mid to late 1970s, Robin Friday probably was “the greatest footballer you never saw”. His talent and charisma led him to be voted top cult hero at both clubs, and is frequently cited as Reading’s best ever player. In 1996, Super Furry Animals released this single and dedicated it to Friday, and his stand against the man. A 23-minute long live version, released in 2000, is said to be the sweariest single of all time.

https://youtu.be/Gp5IDrTqUBE

Kirsty MacColl – England 2 Columbia 0

From the bard of Barking to an artist who had a top 10 hit in 1984 with a cover of his track “A New England”. A little less known than that enduring classic is this track, taken from her final album Tropical Brainstorm, released in March 2000, just nine months before MacColl’s tragic death in Mexico. Not at all about football, in fact, the song acerbically tells the tale of a date with the kind of lying treacherous toad who gives all us decent chaps a bad name.

Billy Bragg – God’s Footballer

A bright, shining contrast to Robin Friday can be found in Wolverhampton Wanderers and England Under-23 striker Peter Knowles. In 1969 he used his post-season break to represent Kansas City in a promotional league. While there he became a Jehovah’s Witness; on his return he announced he had lost his desire for the game, and retired a short way into the 69-70 season. In 1991 Billy Bragg told his story in this beautiful orchestral track, which appears on his album Don’t Try This At Home

Sultans of Ping FC – Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass

John Robertson was a very unattractive young man. If one day, I felt a bit off colour, I would sit next to him. I was bloody Errol Flynn in comparison. But give him a ball and a yard of grass, and he was an artist, the Picasso of our game.Brian Clough

Confusingly, it is claimed that the track containing this Cloughie quote, by Cork’s knitwear-losing Sultans of Ping FC, was in fact a tribute to his son Nigel. Certainly, from Clough’s quote it’s hard to see Robertson as “a nice young man, with a lovely smile”…

New Order – World in Motion

Well it is the greatest football song ever recorded, despite, or possibly because of, John Barnes.

Subbuteo 2

Del Amitri – Twisted

When I originally considered what the “rediscover” series should be about, it was around writing about an album which I thought was great, but might have passed people by at the time. There are so many to choose from (which might indicate that my taste is somewhat different to everyone else) and I’ve tried to think about artists I love and want to share with you all. While I was pondering who to write about next, I noticed a friend on Twitter mentioning a band that I liked and decided that they could be my next subject. But which album should I go for? It was a tough choice, but after some contemplating I picked the one that I thought needed a bit of love and attention.

1995 saw the release of the fourth studio album by Scottish rockers Del Amitri entitled Twisted. Prior to this album the band had enjoyed some success with singles such as “Kiss This Thing Goodbye” and “Always The Last To Know”. They were known I guess for their melodic folk sound with lyrics which focused on mainly love and loss. The reason I have chosen this album to write about rather than one of the previous releases is that Twisted came with a change in sound, caused a change of line up and also features their biggest chart success to date with a throwaway song that lasts just two minutes, and which gave them a massive hit in America.

Del Amitri - Be My Downfall

I first heard of the band when a mate at school played me some tracks from the Change Everything album. The whole premise of gentle, acoustic songs of longing must have appealed to my teenage sensibilities and I decided that I liked them and wanted to know more.  I went off and purchased the self-titled debut, Change Everything and Waking Hours and spent some time catching up on what I had been missing over the past few years. I loved Justin Currie’s voice and being of the inclination that acoustic music was a thing of total beauty it sat very well with my current listening at that time. I was therefore very excited when I knew that a new album was due to be released.

That album turned out to be Twisted. As I was no longer playing catch-up, I enjoyed discovering the new tracks at the same time as everyone else. This album showed a new direction for the band as there was more emphasis on electric guitars than on the previous albums. The first single to be released was “Here And Now”, which peaked at 21 on the UK charts.  With great lyrics, it also has a more upbeat feel to it with a nice build up to the guitar break towards the end of the track.

Three further singles were released from the album: “Tell Her This” was a rather lovely little acoustic number which reminds me slightly of the earlier and very beautiful “Be My Downfall”; “Driving With The Brakes On” was one of the album tracks that harked back to their previous stylings, and was the highest charting single from this album in the UK, hitting number 18; “Roll To Me” gave the band their most commercially successful single in America. This is the one that people seem to remember as it peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The video was also mildly amusing (or possibly a bit creepy!), featuring the band as babies being pushed around in prams in the sunshine.  At just over two minutes long, this was a pure and simple pop song, nothing more. I don’t think this track was ever meant to be their biggest song, and I’m sure the band are not necessarily pleased that it is, but it goes to show that a straightforward formula of jolly, repetitive lyrics can drill down into the listeners psyche and stay there. I mean, I still know all the words now and can sing the whole song at the drop of a hat.

This album also marked the end of the band’s current line up with guitarist David Cummings leaving at the end of their American tour in 1995 as he felt the touring would put a strain on her home life.  He would go on to be a successful screenwriter working with Paul Whitehouse on various projects.

Twisted came with a more electric sound to it which is why this album marked something of a change in their path.  Probably it was just a natural progression for them, but reading some old reviews of the album, it seems that some people felt they should have stuck to the acoustic folk feel that they had on their previous efforts.  I don’t have a problem with artists trying to move onwards and bearing in mind this album gave them one of, if not their most recognisable song, is it really a bad thing to try to mix it up?  I think it was just a band trying to find their own sound and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

One thing that never really changes about the band is the overall feel attached to their music and their lyrics.  The themes of love, loss, frustration, longing etc are evident throughout their work and very much continue on this album, especially on tracks like “It Might As Well Be You” and “It’s Never Too Late To Be Alone”. I played this album pretty much on repeat when I first bought it and still have many of the tracks on my playlists now. I do think though, that it possibly didn’t get the attention that it deserved at the time and that it was never looked at for being much more than that single which is a great shame.  As a piece of work that represented various changes to the band, it should’ve got better recognition for at the very least the beautiful song-writing that it contains.

Del Amitri - Driving With The Brakes On

Del Amitri went on to release two further albums and were responsible for the 1998 Scottish World Cup song “Don’t Come Home Too Soon”. A best-of album was also released that year entitled Hatful of Rain: The Best Of Del Amitri, which reached number 5 in the UK album chart. It included one new song – the very gorgeous “Cry To Be Found”. Justin Currie has since gone on to have a successful solo career, releasing three albums to date. Although the band never officially split up, they announced a UK reunion tour in 2014, which was well received.

So, why should you listen to this album? To be fair, you could actually listen to any of their albums as they are all pretty damn good. I chose Twisted because it was the first album of theirs that I purchased and experienced at its actual time of release. It very much represents a period in my life when I was discovering music and finding out what I liked to listen to and it remains an album that I revisit with genuine love. If you take it for what it is, a wonderful mix of brooding lyrics and great musicianship, then I think you should be able to find something within it that you will enjoy.  It may well be that track, but so what. At least you’re listening and sometimes that’s all that really matters.

Radiohead – The Bends

I’ve read quite a lot of articles recently as The Bends by Radiohead is 20 years old this year.  It has always been an album that I’ve loved and it was the one that got me into listening to them as a band in the first place.  I didn’t think too much about it (apart from how old it made me feel), but a friend of mine sent me a message this week which said the following:

Just listening to 6 music breakfast show and Sean played The Bends and said it was 20 years old!!!  Made me think of you as it was lovely you who introduced me to Radiohead back in the old days and introduced my 20 year relationship with them.  Thank you!  The mantle has been passed onto my daughter who is probably the same age you were when you lent me that CD!

I thought it was such a lovely thing to hear, but more so I was amazed that I had any musical influence all that time ago!  I would’ve been around 18 then so still learning what my own taste was, let alone trying to share it with other people.  It clearly worked though so I guess even back then I must have had an inkling as to what was good.  Or else I was just a lot better at forcing someone to listen to something!

Anyway, I decided to use this as an opportunity to revisit The Bends and write about it as a rediscovered album.  A few facts to start with then.  It was released in March 1995 and was Radiohead’s second studio album.  It was a shift in sound from their debut Pablo Honey, which was a bit more grunge – I guess due to the time that it came out (1993).  The Bends features more multi-layering and has an overall bigger, experimental feel to it with heavier guitar and sprawling instrumentals.

Radiohead - My Iron Lung

Five singles were released from the album starting with “My Iron Lung” as an EP in October 1994 followed by “High and Dry” as an A Side with “Planet Telex” as the B side in February 1995.  “Fake Plastic Trees” followed in May 1995, with the mighty “Just” appearing in August that year.  Finally “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” which is also the last track on the album made it as the final single release in January 1996.  This track made it into the charts and became the bands’ first top five UK hit.

I can remember when “Just” was released as it has the most amazing, if not slightly strange video with it.  You know the one.  Where the man is lying on the street and refuses to move or tell people why he’s actually lying there.  It brought a lot of conversation with it as people were trying to work out what the man says at the very end of the video as they took the subtitles off and left it to your own interpretation.  This was totally the point and I don’t think we’re actually meant to know.  Great video though and a brilliant song.

The album regularly appears in various charts or polls as one of the all-time best albums ever both by critics and listeners and I can see why.  It’s an album that you need to repeatedly listen to as I think you gain something each time that you may have missed previously.  I remember reading some comments earlier this year where you were asked to name your favourite song from the album as part of a poll.  I struggled with this and actually commented that I don’t think there is a bad track on this album at all.  It’s very rare that you find an album where every single song is worthy of a listen and you don’t skip over any, and with The Bends you listen to it from start to finish.

Radiohead - Planet TelexThis album was the one that introduced the band to a lot of people (myself included) as in the era of Britpop it was something completely different to the other music we were hearing at the time.  There was a lot of talk about Thom York’s lyrics being a sure sign of his alleged depression which I think was pretty unfounded.  His writing turned from being overtly personal to more social/global with this album and this continues from then on with the themes in their later work.

Their follow up album OK Computer was more successful reaching number one in the UK charts whereas The Bends only made it to number four.  It did however, stay in the charts for an incredible 203 weeks while OK Computer managed just 100.  When I talk to people about the band most people rate OK Computer as their favourite album, possibly because of the direction they took with it or maybe because the themes they explored with it, I’m not sure.

Radiohead - OK Computer

For me, The Bends is an album which sits as one of my all-time favourites and I have many of the tracks on my iPod and in playlists.  It brought the band to my attention and allowed me to experience something new in terms of music, song-writing and meaning.  I have remained a fan of the band, although I don’t own their very recent albums I must confess, but I might delve into that at some point in the future.  I was lucky enough to see them live in 1997 (with my friend who sent me the message above and started me writing this piece) and I recall that it was a great gig for many reasons.  The fact that they were supported by Teenage Fanclub was wonderful for me as they are another band I love, but it was a shared experience between friends and something we would not have had if I hadn’t waved a CD at her over 20 years ago.  A wonderful memory and all thanks to this fabulous album.

So I guess I should finish by telling you why you should listen to this record then.  Actually, I think the question should probably be why wouldn’t you listen to it?

We’re putting the band back together…

The Blues Brothers happens to be one of my all-time favourite films and I love the premise of Jake and Elwood putting the band back together again for one last show. They managed it in the end, with quite a bit of trouble along the way and the reunion was a great success. Well, they ended up in jail, but at least they were together again as a band!

It seems to be something of a regular occurrence nowadays that bands split up and then decide a few years later to give it another shot. Being somewhat of a cynic, I could say that financial reasons are probably the main driving force behind band reunions. Makes the most amount of sense I guess, but for the fans having their favourite artists back together again whatever the reason is probably good enough for them.

Crowded House - Woodface

I am a massive Crowded House fan. I have been since the release of Woodface in the early ’90s and I was heartbroken when they split for good in 1996. Drummer Paul Hester had left the band in 1994, but reunited with them for the farewell shows, marking the end of an era for this amazing band. It was a sad time, but as Neil and Tim Finn continued to perform both as solo artists and also under the Finn Brothers guise, it was a comfort to still be able to hear new music coming out. It was, however, truly devastating when Paul committed suicide in 2005 and the original Crowdies were no more. I remember hearing the news and shedding many tears for the loss, and in fact every time I write about Paul (even now) I have tears running down my face remembering what a talented individual he was. Crowded House went on to reform in 2006 and have produced some great music including the stunning Intriguer album in 2010. I guess the moral of the story is if you wish hard enough the band will get back together. Maybe.

In the UK we have been inundated with a TV show called “The Big Reunion” where various “artists” reformed for live telly. Bands like Atomic Kitten, Five and Liberty X took part and have toured on the back of the show. I didn’t watch it (it’s not really my cup of tea), but it seems to have provided some of these acts with a new lease of life so to speak. I guess this is a good thing for them, but I reckon their demise was more about them not being particularly good rather than anything else.

Ride - Going Blank Again

I suppose the reunion that caught my attention the most (apart from Christine McVie returning to Fleetwood Mac) was shoegazing band Ride getting back together again at the end of 2014. I was never a Ride fan I have to say, I was more into offshoot band Hurricane #1 if I’m honest, but they seemed to have a big influence on the scene back in the early ’90s. I know that when they announced a reunion tour tickets sold out pretty damn fast which shows the fanbase is still out there. Andy Bell seems to have reinvented himself in many other bands since the end of Ride by joining both Oasis and Liam Gallagher’s Beatles tribute act Beady Eye. Interestingly though, another band to reunite last year were Hurricane #1, but Mr Bell is strangely missing from the line-up. Clearly the chance to restart Ride was a better offer to him than the alternative. Enough said.

The Bluetones - Expecting to Fly

I suppose the question could be “which band would you like to get back together again?” For me personally it would be The Bluetones, but I don’t think there is much chance of that happening. Their debut album, the wonderful Expecting to Fly reaches the grand old age of 20 next year, but are we likely to see them getting together for some reunion shows? My instinct tells me no. Lead singer Mark Morriss is off doing the solo thing and I don’t think he has the desire to put the band back together again. I may be wrong though. In fact I hope I am cos that’s one tour I’d be extremely happy to see.

False Advertising – Wasted Away

“Wasted Away” is the debut single from Manchester band False Advertising. They bring a fuzzy kind of noise that’s got more than a little of the ’90s about it and a whole truck load of potential. The power chords and just the right level of in-your-face vocals of “Wasted Away” have me thinking Universal Heart-Beat era Juliana Hatfield crossed with Speedy Ortiz – mind you, False Advertising themselves have cited Smashing Pumpkins and children’s TV themes among their influences so I might be way off there…

False Advertising are a trio, consisting of Jen Hingley and Chris Warr, both of whom take it in turns out front and behind the drums, with the recently recruited Josh Sellers on bass completing the line-up. Currently working on a debut album, the band have lined up a live date at The Deaf Institute, Manchester, on April 3rd, supporting Turrentine Jones. Buy tickets HERE.

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Heyrocco – Elsewhere

When I was a much younger geek than I am today, I had a friend whose Dad worked at the BBC, down in that London town. One year, for his birthday (my friend, not his Dad) we popped into Television Center, because that sort of thing was an unimaginably exciting treat back then. We saw recording studios, all manner of things the props department had left lying around, met Ian McCaskill in the canteen, and most excitingly of all got to play with the latest video technology in the Six O’Clock News production suite. Twiddling a few knobs and pushing a few buttons we could easily achieve remarkable effects like Picture-in-picture, at the time a remarkable technology only really available commercially.

Which brings me to the video for “Elsewhere”, the new track from “Disney Grunge” group Heyrocco, which makes my Nicholas Witchell impersonations look like the old hat they are by using the very latest in cutting edge editing techniques. The bleeding edge is so sharp here it’s a wonder health and safety didn’t step in to put a stop to it. This video brings us right up to the modern day, if by modern day we mean sometime in the early 1990s, when the likes of The Soup Dragons and Blur were hovering unconvincingly in and out of trippy neon backdrops and mostly featureless studios. The greatest aspect of it is how it works with the music (a little bit grunge-pop, a little bit Weezer, a little bit Pavement-on-a-high) and never once makes you hate yourself for still loving the 90s.

“Elsewhere” is out on Monday 23rd February.

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Neighbour – Taste Me

Every now and then a band comes along with a promise of recapturing a part of the 90s, making it fresh and exciting all over again with a new take on an old sound.

“Taste Me” is the latest track from Kettering Britpoppists and dreamy-sound makers Neighbour. Its breathy vocals and an easy vibe that’s somewhere between baggy and Britpop give it an early 90s postcode, where it lives among all the bands of the day who were lazily described as “shoegazers” even though they tended towards a more expansive sound. It catches us here at RRP while we have our own 90s thing going on, and we’re thoroughly addicted already.

“Tasteless lately – just lick it up and taste me” go the lyrics, as a cavalcade of Japanese game show contestants do the sort of things that you probably first saw introduced by Chris Tarrant, or Clive James if like me your memory stretches back that little bit further.

Listen to more Neighbour over on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/neighbourband

Find out more at the band’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/neighbourband

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Belle & Sebastian – Lazy Line Painter Jane

Before hipster (in its most recent incarnation) was a thing, there was fey. And it was OK. It was perfectly fine to wear a cardigan and enjoy harmless indie-pop. It was not only fine, but rather splendid in fact to be a member of the Sinister mailing list, set up in 1997 by and for Belle & Sebastian fans, and which allowed a free flow of their most endearing and innocent musings through bedrooms up and down the land. Or in my case, the office’s “internet computer”. That’s right, the computer that was connected to the internet. The one we could use to check our emails if it was free. Because, for a while, there was only one. What a world we lived in. I probably still used phonecards (I definitely still used phonecards), and cashback was exciting enough that you might ask for it even when you didn’t need any.

Belle & Sebastian released a hat-trick of superb EPs in 1997, starting with Dog On Wheels, and finishing with 3.. 6.. 9 Seconds of Light. Sandwiched between them was Lazy Line Painter Jane, which was released in July, and very nearly broke the Top 40, peaking at #41.

Having already released two albums the previous year – the limited release Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister – and with another one on the way the following year this was a time in which the Glasgow band seemed to have an unlimited supply of sweet tales to tell and gentle melodies with which to tell them. 1997’s EPs effectively amounted to a whole album between them, and together they amounted to the first disc of the 2005 compilation Push Barman to Open Old Wounds.

There’s nary a filler track to be found, and although the opening track on each EP is the obvious picks, there are gems to be found throughout, such as a different version of “The State I am In” from the one to be found on Tigermilk, and the glorious runaway train that is “Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie”.

“Lazy Line Painter Jane” itself is undoubtedly the pick of the songs. Beefier than “Dog on Wheels”, it features a glorious guest vocal from Monica Queen, swirling organs, guitars turned up, handclaps, and a noise and energy that Belle & Sebastian had kept mostly hidden up to this point. As it gathers steam, the force is irresistible, culminating in an outro that is completely owned by an organ seemingly played by an uncredited crazed madman who wandered into the church where the song was being recorded and felt like hammering away for a few frenzied minutes.

Tindersticks – Tiny Tears

Tindersticks weren’t completely new to me when I chanced upon their second album at a listening post of one of those high street music retailers who have probably since gone bust: I knew “Marbles” from an NME Singles of the Week compilation CD, and “Snowy in F# Minor” from a cassette given away with Melody Maker the previous August. I stepped up to the listening station and clasped the headphones around my ears; the opening bars of “El Diablo En El Ojo” made their mournful way into my soul. It felt like those other tracks had been planted in front of me for a reason, and this moment was that reason.

I’ve never fallen as hard or as fast for a band like I did in that moment. There’s a magic in the sound that’s hard to contain in words. Dickon Hinchcliffe’s hushed vocals sometimes joined by the even more hushed Stuart Staples, the strum of an acoustic guitar, and a low rumble that will gradually become a cacophonous wail of strings. When it’s all over you have a couple of seconds to let it sink in before the no less intriguing “A Night In” sets the ball of mystery rolling in another direction. This time Staples takes his usual lead vocal role, and the strings dance around him, playing flighty counterpoint to his baritone. This is very much the template that defines much of Tindersticks‘ second self-titled album: “No More Affairs”, “Mistakes” and “She’s Gone” all tread a similar path of love, loss, regret and broken-heartedness. “Talk To Me” – like “El Diablo En El Ojo” – adds chaos to the recipe, climaxing frantically.

The crowning moment of this orchestral feast is “Tiny Tears”. Strings have seldom wept so sweetly, or contrasted so dramatically as here with Staples’ gravel-tones and the warbling organ.

How can you hurt someone so much, you’re supposed to care for
Someone you said you’d always be there for
But when that water breaks you know you’re gonna cry, cry
When those tears start rolling you’ll be back

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On Friday 28th April 1995, having paid the princely sum of seven pounds for the privilege, I saw Tindersticks play live for the first time, with support coming from indie-pop legends The Pastels. I’ve seen them play many times in many locations since – ranging from the ICA to the Royal Albert Hall and Somerset House, acoustic sets to full orchestral productions. Each, in its own way, has been special, but as the saying goes you never forget your first time, and on this occasion there was magic in the air. Standing, rapt, eyes closed amid the smoke and “Patchwork”, I had never felt anything quite like it. This was the true power of live music, what music should always strive for: to take the listener somewhere, anywhere, and give them something, whatever they wish for. Not to make them dance, or sing, or jump, necessarily, but to just fall in in love in their own way, with no means or inclination to resist.