The Salient Braves Delusions of Grandeur Broken Down Records
After three EPs, well-received by those in the know, Barnsley indie pop outfit The Salient Braves return with their debut album on vinyl. Backed with a crowdfunding effort, it was released on September 22, 2017 by Broken Down Records. It’s a treat for the ears once again, marrying great melodies and guitar pop with songwriter Matt Bailey’s lyrical wit.
The gritty cover art and tracklist suggests there’s more of the familiar theme of social injustice. There’s clever wordplay on everything from depression and mental illness to addiction and domestic violence, but you wouldn’t necessarily take notice at first. Trademark harmonies, chiming guitars, and brass are at the forefront of the songs. Standout track “They Must’ve Seen Me Coming” in my opinion, is destined to become a classic indie pop tune.
The album is given musical balance with the dreamy My Alter Ego. And on the somber but stately Bangkok (think McCarthy) there are gorgeous strings laced throughout, but you soon find out that a relationship found on holiday doesn’t end well for him. The record finishes with the aptly titled Evening All (Satchmo’s Song). It starts off with a simple bass and piano, with the song continuing to build until Matt reads off a list all that Louis Armstrong did not get right with the world. Pure genius.
Thankfully, as I’ve stated before, The Salient Braves continue to wear their influences on their sleeves. This is one of the year’s finest releases, if done so with little fanfare. You’ll want to add this to your record collection and file it alongside the likes of The Wedding Present, The June Brides, The Brilliant Corners, The Smiths, you get the idea. A record that harks back to the golden era of indie pop but remains relevant in today’s complicated world
A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________
Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.
Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.
Following our recent foray in to the world of “Variations On The Theme of Desert Island Discs” courtesy of @Shinpad11, we were delighted to be approached by another party wishing to step up to the indie confessional.
Seb Gevers aka @zerozero31 on Twitter has washed up on our indie desert island bearing only his collection of valued tunes and the memories associated with them. We’ve not known Seb a huge amount of time and in fact getting to grips with his many monikers has been a challenge in itself. Maclogg was an early trading style of @zerozero31 on Twitter and then he popped up on Facebook as Bas Gevers. When we got an email from him offering to contribute to the site, he was called Seb.
Whatever his real name, we certainly know him a lot better after reading this remarkable insight. So without waffling further we would suggest you just kick back and immerse yourself in Seb’s indie world as he guides you through his musical life.
My first musical memory comes from 1976. I had been left sitting in the car (it was the 70’s, so …) while my parents quickly went to the post office to do whatever it is you do at post offices. They must have left the radio on because, as I watched them disappear into the building, “Dancing Queen” by Abba came blasting out of the speakers. Even allowing for the fog of memory and the dreadful quality of the speakers in the car, Dancing Queen was, is, just a joyous happy song albeit with questionable lyrics (again, the 70’s …) that just puts a smile on your face whenever you hear that opening piano glissando (Editor’s note: a glide from one pitch to another, after consulting wiki).
I grew up listening to music from the 50’s and 60’s. My mother was the one with whom I share a love of music, her tastes being very broad. On any given Sunday in our house you could hear Amalia Rodrigues, Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, something Tex-Mex, blues, R&B, doo-wop and, of course, Abba. My father was more into classical music and brass bands, two influences that have not, so far at any rate, rubbed off on me.
So there was always music in my life. Music remains important, because I can still hear pretty much any song and be able to relate a moment in time to it, like musical milestones on the road of my life. Looking back now on the music on my iPhone, it’s clear that my musical highway traverses the ages of 13 to about 26, which equates to the years 1982 to 1996, a golden era for indie music – post punk, new wave, C86, grunge, alt rock and Britpop. And as indie music is what this blog is all about, it comes as no surprise that having been left on a desert island, I need music to keep me company. I need indie music. The following eight are probably a good place to start …
The Lotus Eaters – The First Picture of You
Years ago, my local TV station up in Aberdeen, Grampian TV, used to kill the dead space between programmes with adverts, obviously, but occasionally also music videos. I’m not sure why they did this, but my guess is that somehow advertising revenue was hard to nail down between 3pm and 5pm, when the task of selling shampoo, tampons and washing-up powder to kids just home from school was something that even Saatchi and Saatchi would have had difficulty with.
So instead they’d play videos. And you have to remember that this was of a time when this was quite unusual for a regional broadcaster to do. Not many people had even heard of MTV, even though it had been around since 1981, so to see an actual music video was very unusual. Most of the time it was real dross, but occasionally something interesting would appear. It’s been a while, but I remember being introduced to, amongst others, Madness (“House of Fun”), The Stranglers (“Golden Brown”) and Dexys Midnight Runners (“Come on Eileen”) in this way.
They’d have played hundreds of songs I’m sure, but one in particular caught my attention. I don’t recall when I first heard it, but it must have been somewhere around 1983. Thatcher had just gotten re-elected on the back of victory in the Falklands War, the first episode of Blackadder had just been shown and I was about to go into my second year at Hazlehead Academy.
When the song came on, I stopped whatever I was doing, because in a year in which you had Wham, Culture Club, Kajagoogoo and Rod Stewart filling the charts, nothing sounded quite this different (the Flying Pickets perhaps being the exception, but, well, hey ho ..). So if you know the song, you’d know what that intro sounded like. A quiet, pulsing synth leads it off, it’s then joined by a woodblock, then even more synth voices (basically imagine any early 80’s synthesizer pad), then jangly guitar, finally a piano .. it all goes on for about a minute and half before the vocals, a bass, a particularly difficult drum pattern and lovely lyrics kick in making for a wistful tune, but a belter nevertheless.
I had no idea what the song was called, or who the artist was. In the days before you had SoundCloud on your smartphone (or you even had a phone, or the internet for that matter), there was no alternative other than to sit in front of the telly every afternoon waiting for the commercial breaks between episodes of the godawful “A Country Practice” and reruns of “Columbo” hoping that it would come on again so I could get my fix of not only the song, but also the rather delightful young lady in the video.
Having remembered to keep a pencil and a piece of paper near the TV to write down the name of the song (“The First Picture of You”, as it turned out) and the artist (the exotically named Lotus Eaters), I rushed out to our local record shop – One Up, which was then still on Union Street – to get hold of a copy. I ended up buying the picture disc version which I cherished and looked after, the disc itself being, in a sort of easily-impressed-13-year-old kind of way, a work of art. But whatever hopes I had of it somehow ending up being the next undiscovered A&M copy of “God Save The Queen” are long forgotten – I hear my lush picture disc might be worth as much as £8 now.
So this was pretty much their only hit, everything else that followed not even coming close to repeating the highs of “The First Picture Of You”. Their final single “Hurt” reached number 5 in the Italian charts, by which time the band had been dropped by their label before eventually splitting somewhere around 1985. Of course, they didn’t know any of this yet. Back then, Peter Coyle, Jem Kelly, Ged Quinn, John Hendry and Phil Lucking believed this song would lead them to bigger and better things, to fame and fortune beyond their wildest dreams. It didn’t, but I still have this single somewhere, in a drawer, in a box. I can’t play it anymore, the record player long having disappeared into the nearest charity shop. But now we have the internet I can play this song whenever I want. Time may dull the memory, but the song remains the same. A fabulous slice of summer pop so it is.
Billy Bragg – Greetings To The New Brunette
Round about the same time I was being introduced to The Wedding Present by John Peel. One evening he played a track called “They’ve Got A Bomb” by delightful anarcho-punk band “Crass”. He had a way of doing that you know, John Peel, taking you out of you comfort zone, hitting you with something completely unlistenable just when you were bopping along to the Undertones, or some Ukrainian folk music collective.
Now, I had been listening to a lot of punk at the time – the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers etc and so on, but Crass, Jesus, they made Johnny Rotten look like Johnny Mathis. Crass were everything I thought punk stood for: politics, action, revolution and change in a way that the sort of stuff I had been listening to just didn’t. “London’s Burning” is all very well, but no one I was listening to sang about the things that Crass did on Do They Owe Us a Living: “At school they give you shit / drop you in the pit / You try, you try, you try to get out / but you can’t because they’ve fucked you about”. And even now, thirty years later, listening to “Asylum” still gives me the shivers.
Listening to Crass in the early 80’s in Britain made me stop and think about the world around me. I was only about fourteen at the time, but seeing the striking miners on the news every night as they struggled to keep their jobs and their communities together in the face of the brutal onslaught of the monetarist economic policies unleashed by Thatcher at the height of her powers, I knew that the world was not a fair place. Punk was supposed to be a catalyst of revolution, but somehow it had failed to materialise. In bands like Crass, and to some extent Angelic Upstarts, I realised that safety pins and fashionable boutiques along the Kings Road selling swastika t-shirts are not the answer. I mean, I still listened to Prefab Sprout, but at the same time I began to look more critically at was was going on.
Having asked my dad what segment of the political spectrum Thatcher represented, I vowed that whatever she believed in, I would believe the complete opposite. So, one evening in the Central Library in Aberdeen, I picked up a copy of the Communist Manifesto and slowly worked my way through that. It was hard going, but I understood the general thrust of what Marx was saying. A bit later on I picked up Animal Farm, 1984 and A Brave New World to reinforce my fundamental belief that the world was basically a dysfunctional place, led by a corrupt elite that had only their own selfish interests at heart and would stop at nothing to keep the status quo.
Throughout all this period, during which I must have been insufferable, I also picked up at the library a copy of “Workers Playtime” and “Talking with the Taxman About Poetry” by Billy Bragg. I’d never heard of him, but I was initially attracted by the Workers Playtime album cover, with its flag waving communists proudly on show. Figuring that this sort of artwork could only mean I’d found a political musical soul mate, I took the records home and played them pretty much non-stop.
I loved Workers Playtime, there’s a lot of great tracks on there, but it was “Talking..” that really enthused me with it’s mix of politics (“Ideology”, “There Is Power In A Union”) and everyday life (“The Home Front” , “The Warmest Room”). Those last two tracks in particular still invoke a particular sentiment nearly 30 years later, a nostalgia for an era I never knew, an era that comedian Stewart Lee would call “the post-war socialist utopia, contract with the people, Call The Midwife etc”.
But the song that stands out for me is the opening track – “Greetings To The New Brunette”. On an album that’s got some heavy moments on it, lyrically, “Greetings To The New Brunette” is like a breath of fresh air. Think of it as a Ringo Starr number, like “Octopuses Garden” just turning up in the middle of Abbey Road, and you’re like “what the hell… “. That kind of thing.
So “Greetings” (only real fans get to call it that) is really about politics and sex. The former was a big issue for me back in 1986, when “Brunette” (ok, just joking now) was released; the latter less so, but not for the lack of hoping. Put it this way, it was easier to get my hands on a copy of the collected works of Chairman Mao than it was getting my hands on Yvonne Mintie from the 5th form who lived on the end of our street and for whom I had “a thing”, as was the parlance of the day.
Interesting trivia – being a political song, I always thought the Shirley referred to was Shirley Williams, the former Labour and Lib Dem grandee. Tehee. So this song is important because it happened to me at that point in time when my burgeoning social conscience met plain old crude puberty. A tense meeting of minds, as seen in a mixtape I made at the time, where “Suspect Device” is followed by Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet. A lovely song then, both lyrically and musically that evokes so much. Another track to pull me through the lonely evenings on the island.
Portishead– Wandering Star
Life on a desert island is not always going to be fun. There’s going to be times, probably at night when the animals come out and a murky gloom falls over the lagoon. And if we’re talking gloom you can only go one of two ways: either Jesus and Mary Chain gloom (think “Deep One Perfect Morning”), or film noir gloom. And that’s where this track comes in. Actually, that’s where the whole first Portishead album, Dummy, ought to come in.
It’s a masterpiece of the trip-hop genre, the sort of atmospheric yet slightly edgy music that, when you close your eyes and just immerse yourself in it, you can just see a whole scene in front of you. Black and white, late at night, in the rain. Cobbled streets, a club somewhere, dark and gloomy, avant-garde patrons, an expectation of something strange and dangerous and otherworldly going on.
This track is as near to that sort of perfection as you can get. From the steady du-du-du-du bass line, the harmonica sample, the jazzy solo – wonderful. Yeah, “Glory Box” is a better song, but “Wandering Star” just sounds different to me every time I hear it. And every time I see with my eyes shut, it plays a different scene in my mind. It’s a track that keeps on giving, making it an essential track on the island – it’s a track that I could never get bored listening to.
Slowdive – Celia’s Dream
This track, from 1991’s “Just For A Day”, is one of those constants on whatever music storage device I’ve owned over the years. To think that most of this is done using feedback and a wall of effects pedals (and this is where the term shoegaze comes from, from musicians on stage looking down at their pedal banks) is just astonishing. I mean, I’ve owned a few guitars and effects over the years but never quite managed to make feedback sound this good.
Slowdive (the name alone is brilliant) were one of those shoegazing acts (see also Chapterhouse, Ride and Lush) that broke through around this time. There’s something very immersive about Slowdive. My favourite way to listen to a Slowdive album is in the dark, on the floor, with a decent set of headphones and, above all: volume! My idea of shoegazing heaven would be listening to the first two Slowdive albums whilst floating in one of those isolation tanks. Again, not sure where I first heard this but it’s been a perennial favourite ever since, along with “Alison” from the Souvlaki album.
Ned’s Atomic Dustbin– Happy
Having spent most of my teenage years young (by default), free (inasmuch as you can be free whilst living at home) and single (through general outward appearance), by 1991 I had somehow managed to get myself a girlfriend. We were both in college at the time. I was studying computing science (not very well, see track 6) and we’d spend literally hours sitting next to each other, sending email back and forth on the college’s Univac computer with it’s brown and yellow screens and the interminable keyboard shortcuts. We had arranged a date, all without direct verbal contact, all done through email much like the way it’s done nowadays.
So on the afternoon of the date I went out and bought, apropos of nothing, two things from the HMV in town: Ry Cooder’s first album (I wanted to get a copy of “Police Dog Blues”, a track I had heard on Paul Jones’ Rythm and Blues Show on BBC Radio 2 the week before) and the single “Happy”, by Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. I was into The Wonder Stuff and The Levellers at that time, so from there to the Neds was not a huge leap into the dark.
I think I might have seen them on Top Of The Pops or something, the whole two-bass thing being quite a novelty. In fact, that’s what makes the song for me, that bass line on the intro. Again, not one of those lyrically deep songs that says something to you about your life, but it’s the sound, it’s the bass, it’s the guitars that plant this song firmly into the “I remember where I was when” category. In this case, I remember where I was when I first heard Happy: on my way to a disastrous first date that ultimately led, three years later, to a failed relationship and a rather hefty financial settlement. Still, those basses, eh?
The House of Love– Hope
Another survivor from the drives around the town, “Hope” comes from the House of Love’s eponymous debut album. Like much of the Wedding Present’s early work, the lyrics only became clear once the internet had been invented and someone bothered to put the words to the songs up. “It’s a lie on a seat of a night / When you’re bawling like a baby”, which I heard as “It’s a life on a seat of a knife / when you’re bold and lack a baby”. The fact that these words made absolutely no sense bothered me not a jot as I drove my little Vauxhall Nova (with the alloy wheels and sporty steering wheel) around the streets of Aberdeen at night, terrorizing pedestrians with 80’s alternative pop, mouthing misheard lyrics in their general direction.
I first heard The House of Love somewhere around the early 90’s. I had just started a course at Uni (see also track 5) and rather than listen to my maths lecture (a deeply tedious subject given by a deeply tedious man whose name I cannot recall but whom we all called Doris) I would sit at the back of the lecture theatre and listen to “Destroy The Heart” and “Christine” and “I Don’t Know Why I Love You” until the batteries on my Walkman gave out. Which, for anyone who remembers Walkmans, happened fairly quickly.
But this song always sticks out for me, partly because I used to listen to it all the time (probably because I was constantly rewinding the tape to make sure Guy Chadwick really didn’t sing “when you’re bowling like a lady”) and partly because it’s one of the songs I’ll always associate with living in Aberdeen.
The House of Love, like most of the tracks in this list have not only a spiritual home, they also have a geographical home, mostly around the north east of Scotland. As far as I know The House of Love are still going, but it’d take a lot to better this album and this song. So, this one makes it onto the island to remind myself of home.
The Wedding Present– Never Said
Like most of the songs I’m taking to my desert island, I was introduced to the Wedding Present by John Peel. It was probably around 1989, and I was out on one of my drives around the town. I liked to borrow my dad’s car and go driving around Aberdeen, the music providing a backdrop to the world rushing by outside the windows.
It was at the traffic lights somewhere along Union Street while waiting for the cassette deck to wind back “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” by the Clash that I first heard that “da da da dadadadadada da da da dadadadadadada” intro to “Kennedy” from 1989’s Bizarro. I remember being struck first and foremost by the guitar sound, an unrelenting wrist-damaging assault by pick on string, and by the lyrics, and by the extended outro (some 2 minutes long). Having heard that, after the roaring silence that followed the end of that song my life was never the same again.
As a 19-year old for whom the ladies were not exactly lining up around the block, or indeed any form of architectural construct, David Gedge spoke to me directly. It was like listening to The Smiths at 78 rpm, at once mixing my drab existence with unattainable hopes of (ultimately failed) romantic encounters. If Alan Bennett had played bass and not written for a living, this is the band he’d have been in.
Having been initiated into the world of the Weddoes, I sought out their albums. In 1989 having only released Tommy and George Best that wasn’t that difficult, my local Our Price Music obliging. I finally got to see them in the Music Hall in Aberdeen somewhere around 1991. And jings, they were LOUD. Having somehow ended up near a speaker, I spent most of the next two hours being aurally punched in the stomach whilst simultaneously having my eardrums punctured.
There are three versions of the Wedding Present. There’s the Tommy/George Best jangly guitar, student bedsit Wedding Present. Then there’s the mid-career, edgier Bizarro/Seamonsters/Hit Parade Wedding Present, and then there’s everything else that followed. In that last incarnation I’m not that interested (though ‘The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girlfriend” is a stand-out track).
And so the song I would pick, the one that just encapsulates everything the Wedding Present are about – and there’s a lot to choose from – it would be “Never Said”, from Tommy. “I’ve walked behind you for more than an hour / I don’t even think I know this part of town / I think I’m trying to find a way to talk to you again / I think I’m trying to find a way to bring you back again / Oh won’t you please come back again”.
You can keep your Ed Sheeran, that’s real teenage angst right there kids.
Oasis– Cast No Shadow
Ah. Britpop. Whenever I think of Britpop I always think of the bloke who lived in the flat above me. Stan, his name was, and he’d play Robbie Williams every night before he’d go up the town. I reckon he only had the single “Angels” as it was all he ever played. After a night out you’d hear him struggling up the stairs at 2am, more often than not with some bird he’d picked up on his trawl, followed by a lot of crashing and banging. Then silence (“wait wait wait, you’ve got to hear thish song from Robbie Williamsh, itsh <belch> fabuloush.”), then “Angels”, the loud singalong version, and then after two repeat plays there’d be more banging, if you get my drift.
None of which has anything to do with my final choice of track on my indie desert island other than that it came from the same period.
So, I was an Oasis fan. Well, to my friends and acquaintances at least that is, because I was in fact, during that whole period, a sheltered, closeted Blur fan. To me and most of the popular press at the time, Blur where the Beatles, purveyors of carefully crafted, lyrically clever music, while Oasis where the Stones. Grunts, balls to the wall, in yer face RAWK. Blur had cheeky chappy music, they had Phil Daniels, they had music with wit and humour. Oasis just had volume, an overdrive pedal and somone named Bonehead. Oasis was real man’s music, Blur whimsical art-college faffery. But to this day I still prefer the Beatles, even though I’ll admit to anyone who asks that the Stones wrote the better music.
Still, it’s Oasis that seem to have stood the test of time. Every weekend, “Wonderwall” is played at some wedding somewhere around the country. After a Christmas single (apparently Paul McCartney still rakes in more than £500k per year from “Wonderful Christmas Time”), this is the next best thing, having your songs sung in chorus in a Best Western hotel next to a motorway by groups of drunken middle-aged men standing in a circle with their ties tied around their heads, air-guitaring away and getting the lyrics wrong. (I suspect this is very much the way that my neighbour Stan spent his early Sunday mornings back in the day.)
So, where was I? Oh yes. Oasis. Desert Island. So in the early 90’s I was working for a large computer company that no longer exists, having been bought over by a company that makes printers as well as, it turns out, a malt vinegar-based sauce, blended with tomato, dates, tamarind extract, sweetener and spices. They’d send us down for a week to Farnborough where we had a training center. Essentially, this training turned into a week-long binge-drinking session on account of our ridiculous per-diem rates which allowed us, if we pooled our resources together, to clean out the hotel mini-bar every evening for a week and still come out the other end with money to spend. So we’d get drunk, then decamp to someone’s room where we’d all sing along to “Angels” at top volume.
After one particularly gruelling trip in which I had learned nothing except the price of a pint of Bailey’s (£27 back in the day, or £45 in today’s money) I remember hearing “Cast No Shadow” on the radio, and I remember thinking that this was not the way I imagined my life to go, in a shitty hotel, eating shitty food with a stinking hangover in a dining room full of photocopier salesmen from Guildford while the airshow was going on (“shut the fucking windows!!!!”).
Somehow the words “Chained to all the places that he never wished to stay / Bound with all the weight of all the words he tried to say/ As he faced the sun he cast no shadow” resonated with me, and I resolved there and then to change my life, just as soon as I got back to Aberdeen.
So whenever I hear this song, it reminds me of a time in my life when change was needed. It’s a song that fills me with hope, even though the lyrics are not that positive. I guess the message is not to turn into the man in the song – casting no shadow, being invisible, a nobody. It’s what I strive for everyday I think, though not always with success.
Must Have Track
There’s so many tracks that I considered that would make any list, but I can only choose eight. Gone are The Smiths, The Sundays, The Stone Roses, Nirvana, Tad, Dodgy, Sleeper, Blur, Belle and Sebastian, Turin Brakes, the Delgados. I could just have asked for the entire soundtrack to Monkey Dust series one, two and three. I’d have had Goldfrapp with me on the island in that case, or Eels. But alas.
No, the track the rescue party would have to pry from my cold, dead, sunbleached hands would be: “Greetings To The New Brunette”. Lovely song, lovely lyrics, lovely times.
I’m not really sure what an Indie book would be. Apart from “A Beat Concerto” (Paolo Hewitt’s autobiography of The Jam) I don’t own any music books. Music is for listening to, not for reading about. So I’d probably bring something by Irvine Welsh, perhaps the Trainspotting, Filth, Glue and Skagboys anthology, if such a thing exists. Welsh often references music in his books, so I get by here on a technicality.
A luxury item
Tricky this. I’d like to bring a guitar so that I can do my perfect cover of “There She Goes” at passing ships as they sail off into the distance, but being an Indie island I’d have to bring my best baggy cardigan. It’ll keep me warm when I’ve burned my way through the Bible and the collected works of Shakespeare.
In short: Bloke. Life. Mortgage. Music. Football. Scotland. Holland. The odd photograph. You’re going to need a tray.
Okay, a bit longer then: I’m Seb Gevers, a mid-forties father of four and husband of one. I play a bit of guitar and sometimes also a bit of drums. Neither with any great proficiency, but then that didn’t stop most of the bands that I listened to in my teens, bands which I realise now would be called ‘indie’. I live in Netherlandshire, a small country just to the left of Germany. In a country not exactly known for its indie credentials (Betty Serveert aside), I dream of the good old days when John Peel was on the radio, The Word was considered ‘edgy’ and Chris Evans would have Sleeper on his show.
Back in the day I used to do a lot of writing about Scottish football (hey, someone had to) and sometimes also about music, both topics I’d very much like to get back into writing about. So if anyone wants to talk about that space where Scottish football, midlife crises and indie music overlap, I can be found on Twitter (@zerozero31) and occasionally on Tumblr (zerozero31.tumblr.com). Also, less interestingly, on Instagram. I’ll leave you to figure out the username.”
Thank you to Seb for that fantastic and enjoyable insight and for taking the time to contribute to EIO40. If you would like to contribute to our Indie Encounters feature and share your indie moments please email us at email@example.com or DM us on Twitter
In this regular feature we ask the Everything Indie Over 40 social media community to help us compile a top ten list of a chosen topic. Our resident curator John Hartley (@JohnyNocash) then ponders, disects and finally presents.
In this edition:-
The Indie Top Ten Songs For The Festive Season
The lot of a music journalist is not an easy one (as most will all too willingly tell you in their memoirs), so imagine how bad it is for me pretending to be one. Everything that should be so easy becomes all so complicated. Our esteemed Editor issues a simple instruction from EIO40HQ: ‘furnish us with your top festive songs’, or words to that effect. And yet not a single one of the readership is able to come up with a song suitable for the annual celebration of the Winter Solstice that is the twelve day festival of Yule. Not a single one. So, I’m afraid ‘yule’ just have to make do with a whole load of Christmas songs instead.
1. The Fall -“Xmas With Simon”
In the real world, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without millions of folk across the United Kingdom digging deep into their pockets and helping the poor and needy. By purchasing the X Factor’s winning song in their droves, poor Simon Cowell is able to feast on the milk of human kindness. It might be the only decent meal he gets, you know. Mark E Smith has quite possibly spent more than one festive season at the Cowell household; why else would The Fall be driven to write ‘Xmas With Simon’, as nominated by @daznixon1989 and @knoxy15?
2. Tom Waits – A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
I can almost picture the scene: Smith and Cowell sat at the table, Louis Walsh – his nose pressed firmly against the artificially frosted window – gazing longingly at the turkey rump and trimmings. Mistletoe dangles from the candelabra, tinsel decorates that signed photo of Sinitta from 1988 and… wait: what is that tucked away on the mantelpiece? Oh, it’s ‘A Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis’ sent via Tom Waits. Well spotted @caroline_binnie.
3. The Ramones – “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)
Is Tom Waits indie? Does it matter? It is Christmas after all; the season of cheer and goodwill to all men and women. That means no arguments. Not even when Simon Cowell turns down the chance to sign up The Fall to his money-making empire. Just when it looks like old Smithy (or should that be Smith E? I don’t know the exact protocol here) is about to slay his host with a plethora of flat vowels, a sudden realisation hits. His mood changes: ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)’, he says. Cowell raises his eyebrow. ‘Sounds like a Ramones song to me’, he says. ‘I’ll stick that in the next series’ Punk Week and thereby guarantee viewing from at least @todclaret and @Miss_D_xx.’
4. The Polyphonic Spree – “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
But hang on a minute… punk? Is that indie too? Of course it is; as anyone who watched the excellent BBC4 documentary (and that’s why we pay the licence fee folks, remember!) on the story of indie, we wouldn’t have what we commonly term ‘indie’ without the staunch independence of the punk movement. It’s just horses for courses, genres for whatever-rhymes-with-genres. We want a Christmas without any of the usual round-the-table family bickering this year. Let’s get on with unwrapping the presents. Here’s a gift from @GLPNE73: it’s ‘The Christmas Song’ by The Polyphonic Spree.
5. The Wedding Present – “No Christmas”
Just as Mark and Simon look as though they are about to start squabbling over who gets the first listen to the song, fate intervenes and Cowell notices a small, thin square-shaped gift leaning humbly against the base of the Christmas Tree. Being from @BullAntics and @thirtysixholes it is clearly musical, and so the host offers an olive branch to his guest. ‘Go on,’ he says, ‘open it.’ Of course, Smith’s face is a picture when he realises its ‘No Christmas’ with a gruff voice singing songs of heartbreak. And we don’t mean Chris Rea…
6. The Bitter Springs – “A Christmas No 1”
‘This is great’, says old Mark E-boy. ‘It reminds me of when music used to be good, instead of all that commercial Christmas guff-uh’. Simon Cowell looks sheepishly at his paunch, now fairly bursting through his white satin roll neck top. Smith is getting well into this song. ‘I’m getting well into this-uh’ he tells Cowell. ‘If I had my way, this would be a Christmas number one’. Cowell responds; ‘Unfortunately for you, it would appear that only I get my way at Christmas. Unless some fiend organises a Rage Against The Machine campaign. And anyway,’ he says pointing at the YouTube video he has now found on his smartphone, ‘This is ‘A Christmas No. 1’. It’s by Bitter Springs, and was nominated by @Clive_Stringer.’
7. The Cannanes – “Christmas Tree”
The festivities pause for a few minutes whilst Simon Cowell watches the Queen’s Speech and Mark E Smith fires another member of his band. However all is not lost; in the nick of time Smith spots the perfect replacement almost straight away. Standing tall at six feet, barely moving and certainly not answering back, Mark offers the post of bass guitarist without hesitation. Unfortunately, the candidate doesn’t leap at the opportunity. In fact the candidate doesn’t do anything. ‘Mark,’ offers Simon after an uncomfortably long silence, ‘That’s the ‘Christmas Tree’ I was given by The Cannanes’. Oh dear. I don’t know what Ma Smith would make of this scenario, let alone @MaScrievin.
8. The Research – “For Christmas I Got Pityriasis Rosea”
‘Bloody hell you’re right!’ exclaims E Smith without pausing for punctuation. ‘It must be great being so popular. Have you been given anything else?’ Cowell scans the vast living room for gifts he has decided not to save for a rainy day. Should he mention the Girls Aloud reunion tour programme Cheryl has given him? Would Mark be jealous? It is signed, after all. ‘No, not really’ says our Simon humbly. ‘Just a platinum disc from the BPI for Ben Haenow’s single last year’. ‘Oh FFS (that’s text speak, Simon)’ says The Fall frontman. ‘According to The Research, ‘For Christmas I Got Pityriasis Rosea’ from @tfdefence, and that’s it.’
9. Fountains Of Wayne – “I Want An Alien For Christmas”
Surprisingly, Mr. Cowell has sympathy for his guest. It would appear that even the rich and famous don’t always get what they want for Christmas. ‘It’s true,’ says Simon, wiping a tear from his eye. ‘In fact, 2014 was the first time in eight years that one of my acts won the X Factor. And that was Leona Lewis’. Whisky in hand, Mark drapes a consoling arm over the multimillionaire’s shoulder. ‘It’s ok. I don’t think Father Christmas even reads my letters. ‘I Want An Alien For Christmas’, but the closest I ever get is a song by Fountains of Wayne thanks to @KevSkibbers.’
10. Low – “Just Like Christmas”
Our two stalwarts of the music industry slump onto the sofa (by the way, that’s the plush red leather one opposite the real wood-burning fireplace, not the Winchester at right angles to it. Or the velvet-covered four-seater in front of the aquarium.) ‘Just look at us,’ sighs Mr. Cowell. ‘I’d rather not’, slurs Mr. Smith. ‘Can we just watch some telly? Are Little and Large on?’ ‘No,’ says our Simon, ‘but Top Of The Pops is.’ Our Mark exhales contentedly. ‘Oh good,’ he says. ‘Do you know, Simon; life isn’t too bad after all. If only @durutti74 and @Chops_Top_Fiveswere here, then it’d be ‘Just Like Christmas’.
We were delighted when @Shinpad11 contacted us offering to contribute to the website. Obviously that’s not his real name and neither is his Twitter moniker Shinny. His mum probably calls him Anthony and we suspect his teachers called him “McDonagh!” when summoning him to the front of the class at school
We loved Shinny’s idea of a Desert Island Discs for the website. It fitted in nicely with the Meet The Community feature and offered a chance to get to know a community member from an alternative angle.
Our only concern was that a cease & desist letter from the Beeb’s lawyers claiming some sort of breach of copyright over the usage of the format and name would land on the EIO40 dormat. We therefore decided to put our own variation on the name in an attempt to put the legal eagles off the scent. We also liked the reference to the epic album closer on Shed Seven’s Change Giver. Let’s hope Rick Twitter doesn’t share the same lawyers.
We’ve never actually listened to Desert Island Discs so had to leg it over to Wiki to get a handle of the format. If you are like us and not familiar with it’s workings then simply guests are invited to imagine they ended up on a desert island somehow and can choose 8 tunes, 1 book and a luxury item to take with with them (which suggests they went to the island by choice if they are packing stuff in advance).
So let’s cast ourselves away with Shinny to his own little indie desert island and get to know him a bit better. What you will learn is that Shinny loves his music and knows how to express his love of music in what is a rather poignant and emotional piece at times. But, as Shinny was keen to tell us, “that’s the whole point of DiD.”
I quite like Radio 4, particularly Desert Island Discs. Given that I’m now over 40 it’s ok to say this kind of thing out loud. Recently I was digging out some old stuff to put a “mix tape” together. I still don’t like the term MP3 Playlist. That’s when I had my brainwave – why not do an Indie themed Desert Island Discs
So that’s what I started to do. I soon discovered putting this together was much more difficult than I’d ever expected it to be. What I have noticed is that my choices are very representative of me and where I’m from. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise but it was still a bit of a jolt! My selections focus on the 90s – perhaps that’s when my life was at its simplest and most enjoyable?
Anyway here goes, it’s served its purpose for me:
Born to Graham & Nora in Wigan in the winter of ’74 is as dull and ordinary as it gets. In fact I’m amazed Alan Bennett hasn’t been in touch. My parents never got to share vows or rings and so the life of a bastard awaited me, it’s a role that I’ve relished in for 40 years!!!
Like most homes, the radio and record player were a big part of family life, be it the Irish Country music of my grandparents, my mums Rod Stewart LPs or her brothers and their night radio.
My 1st ever single was Flash by Queen, I was only 5 but I loved it and it could have been worse, I remember buying the Frog Chorus. As a 5 year old, it had everything – space rockets, good guys v bad guys and was, well, quite frankly a rocking tune. However, it’s not very Indie so it doesn’t make the cut.
Oasis –Slide Away
To be fair I could have picked any off this album, I was going to go with the 1st single ‘Supersonic’ but what about the others??? I’ve opted for the epic ‘Slide Away’, as it also popped up as a B-side on ‘Whatever’
I was in my late teens, had a weekend job and felt like the North West was the centre of the universe. Both Manchester and Liverpool are about 30 to 40 minutes away by train, there was no better place to be!
’94 saw the release of some albums that have gone on to be loyal friends of mine, and I could have done this list from tracks off any of these albums; Weezer- Blue Album, REM – Monster, Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Blur – Parklife, Beastie Boys – Ill Communication, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds – Let Love In, Nirvana – MTV Unplugged in New York, Morrissey – Vauxhall & I, Pulp – His ‘n’ Hers and Portishead – Dummy
Those early Oasis singles started to arrive as I sat my A-levels and by the time I’d moved to York to start Uni, everyone had the album. You could walk along halls of residence (faster than a cannonball) and you’d hear the album creeping out from every door you passed.
Definitely Maybe still sits in slot 6 of the CD Multiplayer in my car, it’s been in there since the day I bought the car some 10 years ago and it gets played at least once a week.
An Emotional Fish – Celebrate
I first heard/saw this when they played on the James Whale late night TV show on ITV. The opening bass line is an absolute killer. Being 15 in the summer of 1990 I knew I was on to a winner as a) they had a band name that would command a response of “Who”? and b) well quite simply it was a fantastic tune. The album has a few other decent tracks, particularly Colours, Julian and Lace Virginia. They went on to support U2 but by then I’d moved on.
Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene
This only works when played at full volume! The only drawback was that it didn’t appear on Where You Been – as that is *THE* album for me. This track is full of teen angst and frustration. As good as Sonics Youth’s Teenage Riot and Territorial Pissings by Nirvana.
For me, J Mascis is the greatest rock guitarist I’ve ever seen and certainly the loudest. He may carry the look of a hobo and have zero stage presence but f**k me, he can’t half play guitar (I’ve seen him play drums too). If Dinosaur Jr are new to you, try the album Where You Been, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
Morrissey – Suedehead
Yet another indie staple – I quite simply can’t help but sing along. I’ve probably killed this song for most people whose company I share. I will never tire of the sadness and bittersweet happiness that this tune delivers. Shoulders back, flailing arms and an open shirt, if this doesn’t move you, you’re probably already dead.
The Wedding Present – Granadaland
My number one band. David Lewis Gedge is up there with Mark E Smith, Mozza, Ryder, Cooper-Clark & NG when it comes to summing up the lives and times of being a Northerner. What I love about this track is the rousing boo from the Leeds crowd on the “*punk” video, DLG smirking as the Yorkshire faithful take the bait.
The song is a marriage of frantic break neck speed guitars and tales of falling in and/or out of love wrapped in dark Northern humour. TWP are masters of good, bad, ugly and painful memories. I’ve been listening to them since my mid-teens, when a mate’s older brother did a copy of the George Best album for me on a tape, also adding a few Peel Sessions on the 2nd side. I played that cassette until the tape wore thin and translucent. I can still recall the cover he did and the football sticker of Careca the Brazilian striker on the outside of the case.
Track 6 Orange Juice – Rip It Up
It’s an oldish tune and one that I wouldn’t have ever encountered when first released (given that I was only 8 years old at the time). It’s a wonderful number. It’s poppy, its easy on the ear and its radio friendly – I’m beginning to wonder how it’s made it this far.
Sometimes a song doesn’t need a reason, this is that song…
Sugar – If I Can’t Change Your Mind
Some songs do need a reason. This one is painful for me, sums up my recent domestic episodes. Bob sings about a fella that isn’t sure why he’s just lost everything that was central to him:
“How can I explain away
Something that I haven’t done?
And if you can’t trust me now
You’ll never trust in anyone”
Basically, if felt like Bob was singing about me…
I didn’t think I’d ever be able to play this track again and that would have been a real pity. The fact I can, tells me I’ve turned a corner…
Billy Bragg – The Milkman of Human Kindness
Be nice to one another. This shouldn’t be a revolutionary concept should it? So why are so many incapable of it? When it comes to love songs, this and Pulp’s ‘Something Changed’ are as close to perfection as you’ll get. Billy keeps it simple. From his playing style to his singing, there’s no need to over complicate matters. When we do that, we lose focus.
“I love you, I am the milkman
Of human kindness
I’ll leave an extra pint”
It doesn’t get better than that, be nice to each people.
This is a fantastic choir version cover
Book John Sellers “Perfect From Now On / How Indie Rock Saved My Life”
The Amazon review is better than mine…
“Despite vowing never to get caught up in music due to his father’s overbearing Dylan-obsession (which haunts him to this day) the young John Sellers found himself powerless to resist the lure of indie rock. When his favourite band went their separate ways in 2004, Sellers examined his own listening rituals and began to analysis how his love of music had a massive hold over his life and what that meant. His obsession, above and beyond mere music fandom, has taken him on some adventures; to ground-breaking shows with his favourite bands; getting drunk with his heroes and even a pilgrimage to lan Curtis’ grave. Seller’s examination of his own obsession of his favourite bands such as the Smiths, Joy Division, Duran Duran (and later Nirvana & Pavement) exemplifies, why music, and in particular certain bands, mean so much to those whose worship them. Sellers has written a fan’s perspective in a tremendously humourous and passionately detailed memoir – one that any fan of music, not just indie rock, will relate to”
So I can listen to Test Match Spe
Must have Track?
Hardest choice of all, it has to be The Wedding Present, my favourite track changes from day to day but for today Granadaland…
Thanks for sharing my musical trip down memory lane.
Thank you to Shinny for sharing that and for taking the time to contribute. If you would like to contribute to our Indie Encounters feature and share your indie moments please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on Twitter
It is pretty unusual for someone to spend their whole working life at the same organisation and that can pretty much be said for band members and artists. In this regular feature Rob Morgan (@durutti74) maps out the career chronologically of a selected band member.
In this edition Rob compiles the CV for Margaret Fiedler
Born: Chicago, Illinois Education: Sarah Lawrence College, Trinity College Dublin Instruments: Cello, guitar, keyboards, samplers
1987 to 1988 – Child’s Play / Ultra Vivid Scene
Fiedler’s first foray into music was during the mid 80s when she formed Childs Play with Moby in New York. Both Fiedler and Moby became members of an early lineup of Kurt Ralske’s Ultra Vivid Scene project (for want of a better word, as UVS never felt like a band). Sadly there are no recordings to prove this, unless Ralske wants to dip into his vault which seems unlikely. She didn’t even appear in the “Mercy Seat” video broadcast on Snub TV in 1988 where Moby can be briefly seen. But it was a start. In 1990 Fiedler moved to the UK.
1991 to 1993 – Moonshake
Fiedler’s move to the UK allowed her to form Moonshake with Dave Callahan, former guitarist with The Wolfhounds. Inititally they signed to Creation Records who issued their debut EP “First” during the summer of 1991, the summer of shoegazing. In some ways the EP fitted in with that trend – the first track “Gravity” was hazy, full of distorted waves of guitars and Fiedler’s calm vocals.
Other tracks showed more promise. “Coward” was a speedy blast of noise, “Coming” was based on looped percussion and was all tension and release while closing track “Hanging” was slower, more considered but equally tense. Fiedler’s gentle sigh of “Left me hanging yesterday / I cut the rope today” was frightening in its lack of intensity. The EP was produced by Guy Fixsen, who was also working with other shoegazing acts like Revolver, Moose and of course My Bloody Valentine.
Around this time Fiedler also recorded a cello part for “Please tell mother” by The Telescopes, a high point on their second album which wasn’t released until June 1992, by which point Moonshake had fallen out with Creation and moved to Too Pure Records.
Too Pure issued Moonshake’s second EP “Secondhand clothes” in the Spring of ’92 and the band were becoming more distinctive, moving away from the waves of guitar and more into loops and samples. The title track featured Callahan snarling about modern life, a subject he would develop over time, while Fiedler’s “Blister” accentuated off kilter rhythms, and was more personal, a stark description of PMT and the feelings surrounding it. Moonshake’s debut album “Eva Luna” came out in the autumn of ’92, heralded by Fiedler’s “Beautiful pigeon” as a single,featuring more tension and threatening drums that sounded like cannons firing into a ballroom (a sound Fixsen had used on “Untitled Love Song” by Moose).
“Eva Luna” was the perfect Moonshake record – Callahan’s tales of urban decay matched by Fiedler’s more intimate and personal songs while the whole band work as a perfectly oiled machine through strange rhythms and bass lines that wander around bar lines and irregular rhythms. If “Spaceship Earth” was Callahan’s best moment, “Little thing” was Fiedler’s. While loops fall over themselves in 7/8 time, and more layers of sound are thrown into the mix Fiedler whispers in character about unmaternal feelings for an unborn baby inside her. “Shut my eyes, make a wish, count to ten, will it be gone? Maybe I’ll start bleeding, maybe I’ll stop breathing”. Unnerving and slightly terrifying.
Moonshake toured with The Wedding Present at the end of 1992 (a bill that also included little known but wonderful Leeds quartet Tse Tse Fly, three quarters of whom ended up in the Wedding Present) and contemporary reports state that Moonshake were at the height of their powers. Tightly coiled with every song running perfectly into the next and alternating between Callahan and Fiedler. Also around this time, they recorded a Peel session where Callahan sang Fiedler’s songs and vice versa. An interesting experiment, Callahan snarls through “Sweet Heart”, Fiedler is lost in the loops within “Mugshot Heroine”and the version of “Coming” is a thrill ride of rhythm and feedback, more ferocious than the original version on their debut EP.
1993 would see another Moonshake release, a six song mini album called “Big Good Angel” and the creative tension between Callahan and Fiedler nearly explodes over the songs. Fiedler’s trio of songs point to her future. The frantic looping of “Two trains”, swampy textures of “Girly loop” and a celebration of bodily fluids in “Flow”. Callahan can barely compete. Whilst his songs are great, Fiedler’s are in another class. During an American tour the creative tension between the two became toxic and personal and Fiedler left Callahan with the band name and the drummer, taking dextrous bass player Mig Morland and producer Fixsen with her to her new band.
1994 to 2003 – Laika
The trio of Fiedler, Fixsen and Morland were the perfect fit, all they needed was a name. So Fiedler ran a competition in the Melody Maker inviting readers to submit names and she would pick the winner. A few months later the band name was revealed as Laika, the name of the first dog sent into space by Russia back in the late 50s. Laika’s debut album “Silver Apples Of The Moon” was also a perfect fit for 1994, which wasn’t just nascent Britpop. Laika’s music fused the loopadelic sounds of trip hop with the more adventurous sounds of the dance scene, as likely to be played on Peel as on Radio Three’s Mixing It show. “We’re just like trip hop, but much much faster” as they said in interviews. Debut single “Marimba Song” was more frantic looping and falling over rhythms while Fiedler sings about… god knows actually.
“Coming Down Glass” is a strange song with a steamy atmosphere to match the lyrics. “If You Miss” sounds like a train approaching, while Fiedler sings about aiming for the stars. The album was well received and earned a lot of praise. Around this time, Laika recorded a cover of Wire’s “German Shepherds” for the “Whore” Wire tribute LP, a fine cover of a fine song.
Second album “Sounds Of The Satellites” was issued in 1997 and earned them a support slot with Radiohead who loved them and offered them much support and praise in the media. Maybe it gained them a few more fans too, it certainly raised their profile. The sound was slightly smoothed down, less rough edges but still off-kilter enough. It still wasn’t exactly pop music, and Laika remained a cult band. Third album “Good Looking Blues” was issued in 2000 and includes probably the best known Laika song, “Badtimes”, where the jazzy groove is built up then Fiedler starts talking about what the Badtimes virus will do. From rewriting your hard drive to drinking all your beer and generally ruining your life.“Badtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin…it will kick your dog…it will leave your toilet seat up…”.
By the time of Laika’s next album in 2003 the band itself was falling apart, Fixsen at home making tracks while Fiedler was performing as part of PJ Harvey’s band. Laika would end around 2003, although they are said to be on hiatus. Fiedler also claimed that the increase of illegal downloading effectively killed the band, noting how sales of their fourth album were a third of previous albums, which she claimed was down to fans downloading the album instead of buying it.
2003 – Present
Fiedler studied in the College of Law where she received a post graduate degree in 2005, then working in the copyright department on the BBC, while also starting a successful business making candles in teacups.
She married David McGinnis of Mute Publishing (she is now known as Margaret Fiedler-McGinnis). In 2008 she toured with Wire (in support of their “Object 47” album) as second guitarist, replacing Bruce Gilbert who had retired at this point, though she does not perform on the album. On the other hand, she appears on the rare “Strays” EP by Wire, playing guitar on “German Shepherds”, which rather squares the circle.
So raise a teacup – with or without a candle in it – to Margaret Fiedler-McGinnis