JACOB’S MOUSE: Hawaiian Vice (7″, Wiiija LTD 001, 1994)

Jacobs Mouse: Hawaiian Vice

Wiiija put out a few of these cheapo one-sided 7″ singles – they were just 99 pence each – presumably to big up some of the bands that they were working with at the time. A ‘try before you buy’ ethic, that downright failed with me, unfortunately. I’ve got this one and another by, I think, Free Kitten, and as far as I know they’re the only releases I own by either of those bands. I was certainly drawn in by the 99 pence price tag, and happily picked up these records for that reason, and to satisfy my curiosity about the bands. In neither case though did the single song on offer wow me enough to warrant shelling out more of my hard-earned cash.

It’s a similar reaction to that which I often find with compilations: I’m happy enough to listen to single tracks by bands, and quite enjoy their being compiled, especially if there’s some kind of theme or link (viz. the Sergeant Pepper Knew My Father or Fortune Cookie Prize compilations collecting covers of songs by, respectively, The Beatles and Beat Happening). I don’t have the gene or the memory, however, to place a kernel in my mind to subsequently investigate a band based on just one song. Not unless that song is very, very good. Is that just me?

(PS: the horrific artwork on this record didn’t help much in inspiring me, either…)

HOOD: A Harbour Of Thoughts (7″, Orgasm SPASM 08, 1995)

Hood: A Harbour Of Thoughts

On the insert that comes with this photocopied-sheets-hand-pasted-on-sleeve record, it states ‘Theres [sic] plenty more where this came from’ before giving the band’s contact address. They’re certainly not kidding – in the early days of their career, Hood put out a relentless stream of music on all kinds of labels and formats. I was always impressed that from their very first record onwards, they kept the same scratchy, now-familiar Hood logo. It’s not so much that I’m advocating some kind of cynical band branding exercise; it’s more that to me this consistency suggested an attention to detail that respected not only the variety of labels they were working with (the record we’re doing with you is equally as important to us as any of our releases) and the listener (we take care over our art; so much so that we insist on quality control all the way through to the presentation of our band name).

Orgasm, as memory serves, was a French label, tight-knit with the scene that built up around Hood/Boyracer/Leeds/Spofforth Hill. It was always exciting sending off some coins, taped down to a piece of card, to a mystery address, and eagerly awaiting a record/fanzine to appear in the mail a few days later. It was even more exciting to be doing this stuff on a country-to-country level. I wonder how much the mainstream press and larger labels were (indeed, still are) aware of the amount of industry and contact-building that was going on ‘under the ground’ (as Slampt once put it)? I used to regularly correspond with people across the globe – sending music and letters back and forth over many years – and thinking back, can’t believe the amount of time I used to dedicate to this stuff. Now and then, years later, I re-establish contact with some of these old pals, via Facebook or whatever. It’s nice.

JANE BOND & THE UNDERCOVERMEN: Politically Correct (LP, Dreamworld BIG DREAM 001, 1986)

Jane Bond & The Undercovermen - Politically Correct

This was stumbled upon in a charity shop in Reading, at some point in the mid-1990s. Dreamworld Records was run by The Television Personalities, so I figured that this album should be interesting and of quality, or at the very least – being catalogue numbered as ‘001’ and therefore an early release for the label – some kind of collectable item. I’d read many things in old Record Collectors about the rarity and value of early TVPs records so figured that the 50p, or however much I paid for this, was likely to be some kind of steal.

Musically, it’s way outside what I like to listen to – it’s shiny, slickly produced independent pop music that seems unsure of what it is or who it’s for. Not unpleasant by any stretch; just not much of anything to my mind. I’d like to know more about the band though, and how they ended up releasing this on Dreamworld – all I can ascertain from the internet is that this issue of the album wasn’t its first, and that the band seem to be American. Enigmatic!

LUSCIOUS JACKSON: Deep Shag (12″, Capitol/Grand Royal SPRO-79482/79499, 1994)

Luscious Jackson - Deep Shag

Another record bought after hearing an band’s work on home-recorded tapes made for me by friends. ‘Home taping is killing music’? Not for me, bub! Home taping expanded my listening horizons and still contributes to my ongoing collectification of records and CDs. Two tapes from the past helped to generate my interest in and enjoyment of Luscious Jackson. As follows:

  1. Recordings of the first two LJ albums, bookended by a variety of cool riot grrrl-type musics: collated for me and sent in the post by a now long-lost mail friend called Angela. We never met, but we exchanged many letters and even a couple of phone calls; for a time she was going out with a member of Bis and this to me was a wildly exciting thing, me being a big fan and all. I cornered this Bis member once when they played at the now-gone Alleycats venue in Reading, blathering drunkenly on about how I kind of knew him by association, before stumbling off to purchase a copy of the first release on the still-active Where It’s At Is Where You Are label.
  2. A recording of the third LJ album, made for me by a real live individual who I actually knew in person and everything! This was my good pal at university Jo, who had a collection of records by the Groove Farm, Stereolab, Fatima Mansions, and all kinds of other great bands, which was astounding at the time when I was surrounded by hundreds of musical nitwits who wouldn’t know the value of the first Field Mice 7″ if they came across it for 10 pence in a charity shop (yeah, I know!). As an early-90s university student, existing largely pre-internet and e-mail, it was a joy and a rare treat to meet somebody who shared some of the more rarified musical tastes that I had back then. You young ‘uns have never had it so good these days.

HURRAH!: Tell God I’m Here (LP, Kitchenware 208 201, 1987)

Hurrah - Tell God I'm Here

Years and years ago my great old pal Matt (who I unfortunately lost touch with and now haven’t seem for a long time) made me a brilliant mixtape, that I was listening to regularly until very recently. It was a combination of whacked-out drug music (including a ten-minute Timothy Leary trip and some very early Spiritualized), excellent oldtime classics (Bowie in particular) and a variety of indie-pop including The Loft and two tracks by Hurrah! The latter tracks – ‘Hip Hip’ and ‘Flowers’ – I particularly loved for their mix of ringing, clear guitar melody and sardonic-sounding lyrical style.

It was because of those tracks and that tape that I bought this album, hoping it would be a lot more of the same. The two tracks mentioned above aren’t on here, and in many ways it’s a blander set of songs than those. That leads me to wonder whether those tracks were a fluke, or were out of character for the band. Or perhaps it was a signifier of Hurrah!’s move from indie to major label? Whilst this record bears Kitchenware’s logo is does also that of Arista, suggesting some kind of second-album-sees-band-and-label-do-press-and-distribution-deal-with-major scenario. That’s pure conjecture; but I’d still like to seek out Hurrah!’s first album, which was released ‘purely’ on Kitchenware. What I’d like to hear are more songs in the vein of ‘Hip Hip’ and ‘Flowers’ – more reminders of that brilliant tape!

THE FOREVER PEOPLE: Invisible (7″, Sarah SARAH 54, 1991)

The Forever People - Invisible

Sarah was one of the first labels that I got truly fanatical and collectorish about, diligently buying up all of their releases and doing my utmost to plug gaps in my collection of their earlier releases. I liked the fact that they were so consistent and principled about their business – releasing music that they liked (which, contrary to popular belief, wasn’t all wimpy indie-pop – just some of it…), generally on vinyl, always with an eye on using their records as an opportunity to connect with listeners and push their political or ideological views. Typing that out now makes it sound like a grand affair, but it was always more subtle than that, and I never felt that as a label they were doing anything beyond releasing good music with some interesting additional aspects to the packages.

The Forever People was Greg Webster and Tim Vass of the Razorcuts (and a ton of other bands), and I think that this record was either the only one that they released, or at least one of a very small number. Sarah broke with tradition on this one by using their traditional 7-inch square insert not as a carrier for their own information, but instead to spread a message about Friends of the Earth and the importance of their activities. Indeed, the back of this record’s sleeve states ‘A Friends of the Earth Benefit Recording’, so I presume that some or all of the profits from it were donated to the charity.

This being a later Sarah release (not that that means much now, as it was released eighteen years ago in 1991!) means that they’d moved beyond the lovable wraparound sleeves held inside poly bags, to a more traditional 7″ record sleeve style – with glued-down edges, die-cut record insertion area, the works. Have to say, I always preferred the old poly bags. I liked the idea that each and every record had been placed into a hand-folded sleeve, an insert popped in, and the whole lot placed into a bag at Sarah HQ.