Various Artists

I was having a conversation online recently about the wonders of the Various Artists compilation album, which at certain times has been a real work of art. There are others I could go on about at some length but these are the three that immediately come to mind, all released within a few years of each other (and all tied together as well).

I’ve written before about Creation Records 1991 dance/house compilation Keeping The Faith but it is a perfect example, a well put together round up of similar minded artists and tracks defining a moment in time. From the opening minutes where Fluke take off on a Pan Am to Philly through to Hypnotone, a pair of Primal Scream remixes, Weatherall’s definitive remix of My Bloody Valentine, Love Corporation, J.B.C., Sheer Taft, Danny Rampling’s The Sound Of Shoom and World Unite here isn’t a duff track and it is full of great moments. The Tears For Fears sample in J.B.C.’s cover of We Love You sums up how far Creation Records have shifted in 1991- ‘dj’s the man you love the most’. World Unite by World Unite is a majestic ambient house dub excursion- bubbling synths, up vocals with an eye on the dancefloor. The only thing I know about World Unite is that it was written by Potter and Stacey. And I love it still.

World Unite

In the mid-to-late 80s Creation excelled at budget compilations, often a way to keep the wolf from the door and keep the cash coming in. At a knock down price of £1.99 1988’s Doing It For The Kids was an essential purchase- The Jasmine Minks, Felt, Primal Scream (early indie version), The Weather Prophets (their song Well Done Sonny is below), The House Of Love, The Jazz Butcher, Biff Bang Pow!, My Bloody Valentine, Momus, The Times, Nikki Sudden, Pacific, Heidi Berry, Emily, Razorcuts. It is almost the complete picture of post-Smiths indie. And completely untouched by what was already brewing that would lead to Keeping The Faith. A snapshot of a time.

Well Done Sonny

The last one is this one, Retro Techno/Detroit Definitive Emotions Electric, a 1991 double album of the futuristic sounds of Detroit, a pulling together of the work of Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May, wall to wall techno classics that still sounds like its ahead of everyone else. From Model 500 at the start of Disc 1 Side 1 through to the massive drums, rhythms and bleeps of  The Groove That Won’t Stop, this is better than most ‘proper’ albums. The closing track is a sublime version one of dance music’s set texts, the unreleased mix of Strings Of Life by Rhythim Is Rhythim.

Strings Of Life (Unreleased Mix)

This could become a series I fear. Feel free to chip in with your own suggestions.

My Right Hand

Pete Astor is back (new album Spilt Milk out tomorrow). This song channels the later period Velvet Underground and is fucking ace. Lovely little guitar riff, drawled vocals.

From The Loft to The Weather Prophets to Ellis Island Sound to the Dead Trumpets solo album a few years ago, there’s loads of good stuff in Pete’s back pages- maybe nothing has ever quite topped this classic 80s indie single from The Weather Prophets.

Almost Prayed

Almost Prayed

A lot of the early Creation bands wore leather trousers. I guess it was semi-ironic- floppy fringed boys wearing rock’s most rockist item of clothing. There is some dispute about who were the first- it’s most clearly associated with The Jesus And Mary Chain and Primal Scream. Apparently though the leather trousered pioneers were The Weather Prophets, Pete Astor’s post-The Loft outfit. I think that Almost Prayed is their finest moment. It’s also one of Creation Records’ finest moments and in fact one of the entire fucking genre of 80s independent guitar rock’s finest moments. There are two versions, one the single and the other a re-recording for an album. This is the shorter 2.42 one and is perfect.

Almost Prayed

Prophets Creation

Pete Astor’s second Creation band following The Loft, The Weather Prophets wrote one stone cold indie classic, Almost Prayed, which has been here before. This is a little gem from the B-side.

Out Of The Loft

Pete Astor has featured at Bagging Area before as head honcho of 80s indie bands The Loft and The Weather Prophets and 90s/00s ambienty act Ellis Island Sound. As well as becoming a lecturer in Popular Studies he’s got a new album out called Songbox- 2 cds, one of new songs and the other cover versions of his songs by others. It comes in a very nice cardboard box. Pete’s an underrated songwriter but a good one, as this swinging, bluesy song demonstrates, and the woodwind instruments make this as good a way as any to start the working week.

>My Magpie Eyes

The Queen Is Dead is twenty five years old this week, which makes this piece of UK indie twenty six years old. The Loft were signed to Creation in the days when Creation was all about shambolic guitar bands. Up The Hill And Down The Slope rattles along, chasing it’s own tail for most of it’s four minutes, while singer Pete Astor declares his ambitions (‘My magpie eyes are hungry for the prize’) and asks to be given a shot at the world (‘please don’t say no, once around the fair, so I know’). The Loft would implode in 1985, splitting up onstage, which seems like a pretty spectacular way to go out. Pete Astor would go on to form The Weather Prophets (also on Creation), and write several minor classics, Almost Prayed for one. Neither Up The Hill And Down The Slope nor Almost Prayed of these will be remembered like The Queen Is Dead but that doesn’t mean they ain’t no good.

Your Face Is A Hammer In My Head

Whatever that means.

The House Of Love were the new Weather Prophets. In Dave Cavanagh’s biography of Creation Records he describes The Weather Prophets slagging off Guy Chadwick’s band as ‘too psychedelic’. The House of Love’s first album The House Of Love was 1988’s indie heavyweight, chock full of great songs and two blistering singles- Christine and Destroy The Heart, all guitar effects and mystery. They signed to Fontana and came back with Never, which the press didn’t like, and then this I Don’t Know Why I Love You. Recorded with guitarist Terry Bickers but released after he’d been dumped at a motorway service station for unreasonable behaviour- drugs, ego, burning a tenner in the van, punched by the drummer etc etc. This is a great song, played to death on my stereo when it came out. Yes, it has iffy lyrics and lacks some of the ‘ethereal’ nature of the first album’s songs but it’s got a great drilling riff. After this it was all downhill, then scuppered by Madchester but briefly they were very good.

10 I Don’t Know Why I Love You.wma

I Struck A Match

The Weather Prophets 1986 debut single Almost Prayed is a gem of mid 80’s indie- great guitar playing, lovely chiming riff, softly sung- it’s close to indie perfection and a real Bagging Area favourite. There are two versions, one two and half minutes and one three and a half. I can’t remember why there are two. I imagine it was re-recorded for the album or something. This is the longer one, for extra jangle.

Almost Prayed.mp3

Spine Bubbles

In 1999 Warp celebrated their birthday slightly less expansively and expensively than they have this time around. There were some compilation cds and a load of remixes. This track is about as laidback as Two Lone Swordsmen ever got. Spine Bubbles was a track from their 1999 Stay Down album -the one with the lovely cover painting of Deep Sea Divers, and many of the tracks had a bassy, submerged, underwater feel. When Warp got a load of remixes together for the Warp 10+3 cd Spine Bubbles was remixed by Ellis Island Sound. Somewhat improbably Ellis Island Sound included Pete Astor, formerly of Creation records 80s indie kings/flops The Weather Prophets, and before that The Loft. Ellis Island Sound released a whole album of understated, ambient, instrumental subtleness. I’ve got it downstairs and apart from the fact I know I liked it whenever I last listened to it, I really can’t remember any of the songs. But that’s kind of the point of the ambient end of things- wallpaper music to wash over you without leaving much of a trace. Now I come to think of it the Warp remix cd also included a decent stab at remixing the Sabres Of Paradise wonderful Wilmot by Red Snapper. I better go and have a look hadn’t I?

This remix, as I started out saying, is laidback and lovely. It hangs around for a bit, bubbling and chirruping, patter patter drums, and then fades away. Nice stuff for a Friday evening if you’re not doing fireworks and have had one of those weeks.


The Weather Prophets ‘Well Done Sonny’

Some small but perfectly formed c86 style indie for Sunday morning. I was going to post Almost Prayed, my favourite Weather Prophets song, but it’s been posted at various blogs over the last few months, so you can have this instead. I first came across this song on a Creation Records sampler called Doing It For The Kids, an whole album for the value price of £1.99. It was chock full of indie goodness- fringes, leather jackets, stripy t-shirts and winkle-pickers. Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing.