Looking For The Boys Again

I’ve spent some of the week just gone addressing storage issues- records and CDs, but mainly records, spilling all over the room and a shortage of shelf space. An Ikea Kallax shelving unit has been purchased and assembled and the order has been restored. Several years worth of record buying has been filed away- some of the ones at the back of the oldest unfiled stack of records dated back to 2012. The situation has now been resolved with all parties happy.

In a box of CDs, mainly discs given away free with music magazines, I found a freebie the long departed Select magazine, dating from December 1999. The CD was a tie in with Xfm (when I hear Xfm Manchester in the barber’s they seem to only have the songs of three artists and those artists are Oasis, U2 and Arctic Monkeys). Select did some really good CDs with remixes, B-sides and exclusives that were often worth hanging on to. This CD is not one those CDs so I couldn’t work out at first why I’d bothered to save it and why I still had it two decades later.

All the songs are radio sessions and the list of bands is a mixture of late 90s mainstream indie (Travis, Stereophonics, Reef, Gomez, Catatonia), American indie survivors (Sebadoh, The Flaming Lips, Guided By Voices, Mercury Rev), Suede, Skunk Anansie and two bands that I don’t know (Seafruit and Merz). None of which explains why this CD must have escaped several culls in the last twenty years. I can only assume it was this- Shack, live in the Xfm studio, playing Mick Head’s description of desperately trawling through Kensington, Liverpool, looking for heroin.

Streets Of Kenny (Xfm Session)


If indie guitar bands in 1987 wanted to sound like the band in yesterday’s post (The Motorcycle Boy) by 1991 things had moved on. A post- Madchester world had ambitions for a bigger, looser, different sound. In 1991 Shack recorded their second album Waterpistol. Mick Head was inspired by The Stone Roses, The Charlatans and Flowered Up and he was chasing that 60s psychedelic sound, acoustic and electric guitars, crossed with that early 90s groove. In an ideal world Mick’s song writing would set him apart. Unfortunately things went wrong- producer Chris Allison had difficulties getting Mick to finish songs and in late ’91 the recording studio burned down taking the master tapes with it. Shack’s record company went bust soon after. Chris Allison left the DAT tapes in a hire car while on holiday in the US. Bassist John Power joined The La’s. Mick got into heroin.

Waterpistol eventually surfaced in 1995 after Allison tracked down the hire car company and the lost DAT tapes, and a German label Marina put it out. By this point Britpop was at its height and Mick’s songs should have found an audience but despite rave reviews Mick and Shack remained mired in substance problems. In 1999 a reformed Shack released HMS Fable and began to reap a bit of what they had sewn but Waterpistol remains a lost gem. It’s been re-released a couple of times since, by different labels, with different sleeves and different numbers of tracks (mine has twelve songs, the Marina release with the smoking schoolboy on the cover). If you haven’t got it, it’s well worth tracking down- never has cosmic Scouser psychedelia been so well realised as on this album’s songs.



I first heard this last week at Echorich’s place and have been coming back to it daily since then- a new song from Mick Head, formerly of Shack, The Pale Fountains and The Strands. Michael’s new group is The Red Elastic Band and they’ve got an album ready to release in the autumn, his first for a decade. Mick knows his way around a tune and this one is a lilting, folk-influenced thing, with harmonies and hooks to spare. The video is made up to archive footage of Liverpool in the early-to-mid 1960s and is a treat too.