Thursday, 29 March 2018

Oliver! Adorable - Sunshine Smile (10 April 1992)

I suspect that I dreamt this but when I was in my Britpop cups, I’m sure I read someone dismissing imperial era Oasis as Adorable without GCSEs.

I’m aware that this track, the Coventry based quartet’s first single on Creation Records is a sacred text to many fans of British guitar pop.  I hadn’t heard it at all until about 6 months ago when I first heard the Peel show from 10/4/92.  And in doing so, I join the throng of people who contend that when all the mysteries of the mind, soul, body and universe have been answered, the one unanswerable puzzle the human race will be left to grapple with will be trying to figure out just why Sunshine Smile never became even as much as a Top 75 hit, let alone the Top 20 one it should have been.  My own theories, and bear in mind I’m nowhere near as invested in this band or song as much as others have been over the last 25 years, are:

1) People still wanted the real Stone Roses, not an approximation of what the Roses could have been doing in 1992 - Robert Dillam’s opening riff has a definite John Squiresque tone to it, Pete Fijalkowski comes in clear and tuneful over the top of it talking about love warmth and radiance, bassist Steven Williams has a hairstyle that’s quite similar to Mani’s. With the genuine article still eking out singles from a three year old album in the weeks before Sunshine Smile was released, there was a definite opening for Adorable to come in and seize the spotlight, but two years of legal purgatory had not quite torn people’s gaze away from the Roses and besides, once the guitars really kick in they sound like nobody else except Adorable, apart from the quiet midsection, which leads me to suspect the band had been listening Haircut One Hundred.

2) Being the bridge means you’re nowhere - One YouTube comment I read about Adorable called them “the bridge between shoegaze and Britpop”.  Fijalkowski’s voice blew any number of shoegazers out of the park, he was made to be heard, not buried under the spacy thrash and he looked every inch the pop star who could have been gazing out from the front pages of Loaded, FHM and SKY magazines in the mid-90s.  But it never happened.  Whatever British pop music was looking for in 1992, Adorable didn’t embody it for enough people in the way that they may have done 2 or 3 years later.  It’s worth remembering that 1992 was an odd year when the thought of presenting yourself as a pop star within a guitar band meant you weren’t to be trusted and to willingly present yourself as a shoegaze act was to invite open derision.  Pop music thrived on scene culture for years, but if you happened to break before a scene could be comfortably built around you or you could be fitted into one, you had every chance of falling through the cracks.  Ironically, by the time a scene sprang up that genuinely wanted pop stars, Adorable had become so fed up with it all that they split before they started hating each other.

3) No tastemaker ever went to Coventry - I like Coventry and have been there several times, but it would never have the same cache as London, Manchester or Liverpool.  Even Birmingham has to try really hard in order to get the credit deserves.  Pity Adorable.  They were the most exciting band in Britain in a year where no-one whose opinion could have set them on their way, gave a damn.  Spitfire would at least have known how that felt.

4) Was it the greatest love song of the 1990s or did the heroin overtones turn people off it? - It’s a tremendous piece of music and the “smile that lights up the corners of my cold room” is a terrific image, but there’s a con trick being discreetly pulled off here with themes of listless ennui and inability to feel anything being covered with a sparkly, noisy tablecloth of guitar noise.  The Some Candy Talking trick for the early 1990s in other words.

But if it is a love song and nothing more, I dedicate this blogpost to my own 5ft 2in of sunshine xx

Video courtesy of AdorableVEVO

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Oliver! Terry Edwards - Four/Knife [Peel Session] (10 April 1992)

The mix of political and domestic news on 10/4/92 left Peel in a state where it wasn’t safe for him to be alone around sharp objects.  Fortunately, he had some company to distract him from his despondency, as session guest Terry Edwards joined him for a chat throughout the show.  Without the pressure of a schedule to keep to, the conversation was much more engaged than Peel’s car crash phone interview with Lesley Rankine of Silverfish had been three months previously.  Edwards, a personable chap with a disturbing laugh, revealed that his old band, Serious Drinking, were reforming to make an album.  Indeed, Edwards had spent the evening playing with them.  The album never saw the light of day, though an EP did.  Peel reminisced about Eugene McCarthy, guitarist with Serious Drinking, selling him some seriously large shirts.

This session proved to be very popular having initially been broadcast in February 1992, it would get three further airings through the course of the year.  The only tracks from the actual session that I’ve found were Edwards’s Napalm Death medley - death metal through the medium of saxophone, it doesn’t seem obvious until you’ve heard it.  Edwards was playing solo on this session, but the recordings presented here were taken from solo records and his work with The Scapegoats.  Four is a Miles Davis composition taken at, well, four times the tempo of Davis’s original.  Of greater interest was Knife, an Edwards composition which in the session concentrated on the descending saxophone phrase (transposed to the bassline in the recording) supported by shrieking horn embellishments. Given more life and support by The Scapegoats when recorded for My Wife Doesn’t Understand Me, it becomes a thrilling, noirish jazz/funk hybrid in search of a TV detective series to soundtrack.

Miles Davis and friends - four times slower than Terry Edwards:

Videos courtesy of Terry Edwards - Topic (so enjoy them while they last before the bots reset themselves) and jazzman2696 (Davis).

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Oliver!: Polvo - The Drill (10 April 1992)

I’m delighted to be able to blog about the brilliant North Carolina band, Polvo.  Not least because it allows me to pay public tribute to YouTube uploader Vibracobra23, who has provided this blog with plenty of material from Peel sessions to write about.  I’d always been fascinated by that username - Vibracobra - a name that sounded simultaneously dangerous and poetic.  And yet imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was the title of a Polvo A-side.  However, on this show, Peel plumped for the B-side, The Drill and I think his instinct was absolutely spot on.  For while Vibracobra would have been a toss-up inclusion, The Drill drips with raw excitement all the way through.
Admittedly, it doesn’t sound at the start like it’s going to be any great shakes when it opens with what sounds like an off-key attempt to replicate the main riff of The Lemon Pipers 1968 hit, Green Tambourine.  But once it starts chocking its main riff out over the underlying running chainsaw-like background, it becomes a more thrilling proposition altogether.  I love the clash running throughout the track - it sounds like two completely different songs working in opposition to one another, but it works and Polvo would demonstrate their mastery of syncopation within noise over and over again in their subsequent releases.
Lyrically, the track is harder to pin down.  I find myself veering between attempts to try and revitalise  a dying relationship - “I’ll try to keep the conversation alive” etc and in this setting, the drill refers to something done regularly (monotously?) - or the song could be about hanging out with a disturbed individual - “Even though, I know you’re not sane” etc.  In this instance, the drill becomes something far more dangerous.  All suggestions and clarifications are welcome.

Video courtesy of montrealrec 1

Monday, 5 March 2018

Oliver!: Dave Angel - Bounce Back (10 April 1992)

So let’s get the elephant in the room dealt with first.  I wonder which member of The Fast Show liked techno music?  My guess would be Rhys Thomas and Dave Angel himself, aka Simon Day.  Especially given what they went on to create.
I’d like to think of them both workshopping ideas on the Eco Warrior character while listening to DJ Dave Angel’s 12” Stairway to Heaven.  Opening track, Bounce Back fuses together a classic metallic techno alarm call with dabs of Orb-like expressionism, before briefly dallying in its final minute with an excursion to club-land.  An intriguing aural mix throughout and a deserved runner-up in the race to find the best record released by R&S Records and played by Peel during the rehearsals and performance of Falmouth Community School’s production of Oliver!  Sorry, Dave, I had to side with the Cornishman ultimately.

Video courtesy of OLDSKOOLWAX.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Oliver!: Pavement - Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (10 April 1992)

Pavement’s debut album, Slanted and Enchanted was providing plenty of meat for Peel’s playlists through the spring of 1992.  Such is the level of regard that the album is held in that I decided to listen to it before adding any thoughts about Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era, mainly because with that prog-like title and the sudden cut-off at the end of the track (which caught Peel out when he played it on this show), I wondered if it may be part of some larger, linked narrative within the album as a whole.  Alas no, but as with the previous track by The Boo Radleys, what you don’t get in terms of lyrical sophistication is offset by the shifting moods and tones in an exciting and involving piece of music.  From the spooky Halloween guitar wailing away behind the main riff, through to the warbling sound evoking a journey through altered states of being to the none more lo-fi, minimalist guitar solo, it packs a lot into its 3 and a bit minutes.  In guitar music terms, it feels like, at the time, Peel’s heart may have been with the rockers and noise merchants - but his head was with the likes of Pavement and The Boo Radleys; bands who sought to fuse energy and ideas so as to inspire others to look beyond three simple chords.

As for Slanted and Enchanted, it’s half a great record.  Or to be more precise, the second half of a great record.  I enjoyed immensely, to varying degrees everything from Chesley’s Little Wrists onwards with Here the real standout.  By contrast, I found most of the tracks in the first half rather forgettable, but in the context of a record that comes brilliantly into its stride from halfway onward, those opening tracks give the album its lustre by acting as the sound of a band audibly finding its way.  There are blind alleys run up and lo-grade, lo-fi follies to be gotten out of the system - like puberty set to music.  But then the chrysalis opens, and the beautiful butterfly that entranced and inspired groups all over the world makes itself visible.

Video courtesy of WeezerFan4Ever.