Song of the day – 589: Go Violets
The song to play first is ‘Teenager’. Scroll down, play it and THEN read the rest of this. And sure, there could well be fisticuffs if you disagree with me over its infectious wonderfulness.
Initially, I came to Go Violets via their new single ‘Josie’, but I think I prefer this one, when they were still finding their own voices. I like the fact you can palpably feel the join, that the corners haven’t been smoothed off (and that the drum sound is entirely wrong).
Or maybe I don’t. I’d be a fool to deny that I missed an opportunity when Bust Magazine were talking to me a couple of years back now about putting out a cassette of Everett True’s Perfect Summer Femme-Pop Mix-Tape. And I’d be an oaf if I didn’t realise that Go Violets’ taste in music didn’t owe way more to Vice Magazine then to any weird notions of independence that might have happened in the past. Everyone references C86: no one knows what the fuck it was. I discovered this Brisbane band – no, not cos they’re from Brisbane: the city hates me and I don’t know the city and that way everyone bumbles along happy in their ignorance – because I was looking to remind myself of The Vine’s house style as I’m supposed to be writing a column for ’em, and I chanced across this.
“Dreamy, hazy, beachy, washed-out garage pop.”
Sigh. Even the finest critics of our generation (our? that’s a laugh!) lapse into cliché when faced with cliché. I ain’t mean to disparage anyone, though. It’s a most welcome cliché, this sound. An always welcome cliché round these parts.
This song, though… play this song first! This song is totally great because it clatters, and parades its humanity like its humanity ain’t nothing to be scared of. Really.
And this one has a great vocal. Actually, this song is amazing. It’s called ‘Teenager’. It’s an absolute belter of a pop song. It’s way fucken better than anything Best Coast ever managed (he says, at random). If you wanna go for a Yank dream-pop band, go for Neverever, not bloody Bethany Cosentino anyway. (I know, I know. You have no idea who Neverever are, they were so 2010. Ah, how quickly time forgets. Ah, how quickly folk wanna be like the newest folk.)
Here’s the new one. It’s fine, but I prefer it when Go Violets sound like themselves, not America.
Reprinted from my former blog Music That I Like
C86 – the misfits behind the myth (Tuesday July 28, 2009)
OK. Thought I’d shove up some random archive stuff, especially as my hard drive backup seems to be eating my old files, never to return. First, an interview from 2005 conducted for… where? I have no recollection, but I feel that perhaps I used some of this later in a Plan B feature. There’s already plenty of stuff about some of these bands elsewhere on my blogs (particularly here) and there’s a great article from Alistair Fitchett about it here, but I really can’t be arsed to link to it all. Sorry.
Alright, first the basic questions that I ask everyone:
Which were the most important earlier bands leading up to the C-86 wave?
Orange Juice, Josef K, Aztec Camera (the sound of Young Scotland): the ideology behind Creation Records but not the bands themselves (with the exception of the Mary Chain and The Pastels): anything on Rough Trade records post-1978 (except The Smiths who always were corporate sell-outs): The Fall (because they influences EVERY independent band from the UK post-1977): Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, Captain Beefheart (half the bands on that NME tape ripped the good Captain off), The Velvet Underground (and the other half ripped the Velvets off): Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike, Sophisticated Boom Boom and any of the girl-led pop groups that Peel used to play in the early Eighties: Captain Beefheart again: The Byrds and The Creation and The Kinks and all that white boy jangling guitar Sixties stuff: Television Personalities: plenty more, but that’ll do for now.
If I were to pick 10 bands from the C-86 era to write more about – which should I choose?
The Wedding Present
(This is a random list, drawn from the top of my head – and I’d be amazed if I haven’t forgotten a load of great bands.)
Are there are any bands that surfaced after the tape but are still considered to be C-86?
Not for me to say – but some people may consider what Matt and Claire put out on Sarah Records to fall firmly within the “C86 category”. Talulah Cosh were actually post-C86 if my memory serves me correctly. Comet Gain are totally C86 – as were many of the Riot Grrrl bands (especially the later ones that lost the politics but retained the cutie edge). Oh, and I guess BMX Bandits would’ve loved to have been.
What other musical events (gigs, record releases etc) except for the tape made the year 1986 stand out?
I remember standing at a Soup Dragons Hammersmith Clarendon (upstairs) concert with a basket full of new Legend! fanzines (Wolfhounds/Razorcuts flexi) and not moving all evening – people coming up to me in a constant stream, as I sold about 130 copies. Also, I’d travel up to Bedford Esquires (and other venues) a great deal for their fine triple bills starring folk like Talulah Gosh and Big Flame and Membranes – shows put on by Nigel Turner, who now runs Pickled Egg Records. I can’t recall events – was ’86 Live Aid? USA Against Warmongering By Capitalist Countries? C86 was actually a massive disappointment to me: for a compilation that so clearly had its roots in all the bands I would write about for NME at the time, it was incredible I hated so much of it (it’s cos the compilers were too arrogant to consult a “kid” like me). I still don’t like much of the tape – it’s unrepresentative of its times certainly (as opposed to the brilliant C81 comp, five years earlier) and even unrepresentative of the small narrow strata of music it thought it was representing. I recall a Troublefunk show that I danced my ass off at.
Were there any venues or clubs that were central to C-86?
Was McGee still putting on shows then? If so, then whatever he was behind would have been central. If not, then certainly Dan Treacy’s Room At The Top, upstairs at the Enterprise Chalk Farm, next to the excellent Marine Ices shop where everyone would hang out before bands, was vital. As were Leigh’s shows at Woolwich Polytechnic and Nigel’s shows in Bedford. They were the main three I’d go to.
Was C-86 in general political – lyrically or musically? Or was it just shaped by the politics of the time? And was it working-class or middle-class?
Depends which strata of C86 you’re talking about: the crap pop bands like The Bodines and Mighty Mighty or god-awful Close Lobsters certainly weren’t political. The more obviously Beefheart-influenced bands like Stump and The Shrubs and Big Flame and The MacKenzies seemed to be on the surface – although it’s arguable that was only because of the style of music (angular, awkward, challenging) they were aping. The Age of Chance seemed revolutionary, the way they matched guitar pop to dance rhythms, and were unfortunately (for them) 10 year ahead of their time. Half-Man Half-Morons (who should NEVER have been near the compilation) were an out-and-out joke band.
The temptation nowadays when faced with a crop of ‘indie’ bands is to automatically think of them as middle-class but looking down the list on C86 I’d have to say most of them are working-class (probably in some last echo of punk’s diverse roots that spread out to the working-class communities from its middle-class origins with Strummer and McClaren and that whole London thing). Most of those C86 would’ve played benefits for the miner’s strike and the like… again, I think this was probably part genuine outrage at the Thatcher years, and probably part follow-on from punk and post-punk’s obvious political leanings. Yes, of course the bands were shaped by their times, and among that section of society in the mid-Eighties, dissent was very much to the front.
Interesting that, out of 22 bands on the compilation, only three of them are female.
I’ve heard that there wasn’t a homogenous indiepop sub-culture before C-86. Is that true? And what were the identifying markers of anoraks, both on the surface and ideologically?
No, there wasn’t – not readily identifiable, at least. The most it amounted to was boys like Bobby Gillespie and Edwyn Collins who wore their hair like members of The Byrds: there was definitely a Mod and Sixties crossover with some of the more jangling elements of the independent sector (thanks a lot to the Creation Records aesthetic) but no… To be honest, I don’t think C86 was the main factor behind ‘indiepop’… that was more down to the law of diminishing returns and Sarah Records’ (in particular) sometimes inspirational but more often damn right annoying tunnel vision and insistence on sticking with ONE PARTICULAR SOUND, no messing (and certainly with no room for females, barring the ever-present Amelia Fletcher). Anoraks were NOT the norm in ’86 (Stephen Pastel wore one, but with leather trousers) not at all… it was the younger brothers of the C86 generation who decided that they were cool, not the people of the time.
Where did C-86 go? Did it merge with other genres or did it all turn into twee?
Let’s get this straight. C86 didn’t actually exist as a sound, or style. It was supposed to be a “state of the independents” compilation, similar to C81. The reason it wasn’t was down to the myopic vision of its compilers. The reason it wasn’t stronger was because major contributor behind the scenes, Neil Taylor – who only ever chose to write about bands I’d reviewed two weeks before – had no actual idea about music beyond reading other journalists. I loved soul and dance music at the time of C86. But the compilation didn’t reflect any of that. One half of C86 obviously turned twee – was already on the verge even as the tape was being put together. The other half continued existing merrily on its own terms thanks very much.
What’s your definition of C-86 today?
I don’t have one. See above. And I find it weird bordering on surreal that people are starting to use it again, specifically to sell seven-inch singles on eBay. No one used the term back then. They really didn’t.
And now the more important questions, especially tailored for you:
I assume you wrote the fanzine The Legend! – how would you describe it?
Impassioned, arrogant, self-obsessed, determined to strike its own path separate to the great morass of fanzines who all just seemed to be content with being third-rate copies of NME (I always knew I couldn’t do interviews, so I never ran a single one in any of the five issues of The Legend!)…naïve, futile, excitable, plenty of exclamation marks, instant, brutally honest, refused to take any ads whatsoever (and yes, I was offered some), very proud of what it did… almost entirely written by me, designed and published by me…
What other fanzines do you remember liking and what distinguished them?
Idiot Strength, Are You Scared To Get Happy?, Juniper Beri-Beri, Attack On Bzag, The Rox, that damn magazine Miki and Emma did years before they formed Lush (Alphabet Soup), Incendiary, Hungry Beat… for pretty much the same reasons as I’ve detailed in the description of The Legend! (None were as passionate or extreme as mine, of course.)
You were writing both for your own fanzine as well as for the NME – was that uncommon? And what did you think about the NMEca 1986?
There were several of us who wrote for both our own magazines and the music press – me, John Robb, James Brown, probably several more. It wasn’t that uncommon, there was a great tradition of writers coming to the music press from fanzines that started during the early punk days – and to the best of my knowledge has continued through even till today. I hated NME but of course I secretly loved it too. I didn’t exactly socialise with any of the other journalists there… I was routinely ridiculed and looked down upon by my fellow writers, especially the more august ones (and with some reason: I still couldn’t string a sentence together at that point). Danny Kelly supported me, and Steven Wells and David Quantick. Cheers mates.
Were you involved with compiling the C-86 tape? Why was it put out and what determined which bands were on it? (If possible, compare with C-81.)
I think I’ve already answered this question above: it was basically intended as a “state of the independents” round up – NME had a tradition of putting out tape compilations, like C81, but covering all forms of music (Rebellious Jukebox was my all-time favourite, introducing me as it did to the wonders of Southern Soul Music: there were several others also, covering jazz and hip hop). This was at least a decade before the idea of giving music away with a music magazine had become so thoroughly devalued that nowadays you don’t even bother buying Mojo or Uncut unless they have a free CD attached, and even the broadsheets get in on the act…
I wasn’t involved. I should have been, but I was a jumped-up fanzine kid (who just happened to be introducing most of these previously ignored bands to the music press and their readers). The standing joke at the time was that the tape comprised all the bands who’d slept on my floor when they played London – Shop Assistants, Wedding Present, Pastels, Bogshed, A Witness, Age of Chance, Soup Dragons….If I’d been involved there’s no way bands like Mighty Mighty or Half-Man Half-Biscuit (neither of whom had ANYTHING to do with anything) would have been allowed near the tape.
How come the two in retrospect perhaps most classic C-86 bands, Razorcuts and Talulah Gosh, were not on the tape?
I’m fairly sure Talulah Gosh were only just emerging right about the time the tape came out, so you can hardly blame the NME for not including them. (Why no June Brides, though? That was a bigger scandal.) And same held true of Razorcuts (although I absolutely LOVED that band by the time C86 appeared)… as I say, I had nothing to do with that tape despite being part of the inspiration for it. If I had then of course the ‘cuts would’ve been on it.
What were the connections between C-86 and other related terms such as anorak, shambling, jangle or twee? What did they mean and in what order did they emerge?
Anorak was something Simon Reynolds invented a couple of years later, in Melody Maker (he wrote a big article in ’88 on the whole fanzine ‘scene’, which by that time had moved along to the Canterbury Arms in Brixton, I think, that included massive pictures of John Robb and me – much to NME’s disgust). I think he may have invented ‘twee’ at the same time. Both are horrible condescending words. Ugh! Jangle was probably around since ’81 or so, with Orange Juice and the bands that loved Sixties groups like The Byrds. Shambling (and the thankfully underused grebo) has been credited to John Peel circa ’85 – but I never listened to him so I wouldn’t know. I think it was taken to mean bands like The Fall, and the Beefheart-influenced lot, who didn’t care so much whether everything was perfectly produced or polished, but had a more ‘shambolic’ approach to recording and playing live. I used to think it meant any band that took more than three attempts to start a song… in which case Teenage Fanclub early on were the ultimate shambling band. But to me, Bogshed always were.
Why did the NME turn on a scene of their own creation and start using the term ‘C-86’ in a scornful manner?
That was because most of the writers never liked it in the first place – and also cos the description quickly codified into a certain sound. And that always sucks when that happens.
Some people seem to think the invention of ‘C-86’ killed off indiepop. What were the negative as well as the positive effects?
I can’t comment here; neither term actually means much to me as descriptions of a genre of music (the two are synonymous as far as I’m concerned) so the question is meaningless.