AVOCADO BABY: Queenboy And The King Girl (7″, Slampt 10, ?)

Avocado Baby - Queenboy And The King Girl

Good old Slampt, possibly one the UK labels closest to the ideals and dynamics of those legendarily inclusive US independents like K, Kill Rock Stars, Dischord and so on. I was led into their world through my tangential involvement in Riot Grrl; moving quickly from receiving a mixtape from a friend containing a Huggy Bear track, to buying Huggy Bear’s first 7″, to having my mind blown by the sheer weight of positivity and creativity that existed at a grass roots level within a ‘movement’ that was very quickly derided and sneered at by fools and people that couldn’t grasp the concept of not being involved purely for fame and/or fortune. Phew.

I wrote a lot of letters to and from Slampt’s Rachel and Pete, and still have a lot of the records, tapes and fanzines that they released over the years. The fanzines always looked great, and the crowning glory of Slampt was Fast Connection, a short-lived but grandly-envisaged dossier of reviews, opinions and comment covering a scene that had grown up around their label and many others. The magazine laid the way for longer-standing publications like Plan B and Loose Lips Sink Ships, and so a lot of people owe it a lot, whether they realise it or not!

Avocado Baby was the Slampt in-house band, playing ramshackle-as-you-like indie-pop with an arched eyebrow and a subtly-hinted threat of violence. Great packaging on this record – photocopied hand-stamped sleeve with (on the back) a page torn from a recipe book pasted on. In small writing on the front it states ‘Avocado tape too!’, and indeed I still have that tape – A Million And Nine – and remember it fondly for its sheer lo-lo-lo-lo-fi quality. My copy was marred by a quarter being plagued with a strange tweeting noise over some tracks: such are the hazards of magnetic tape, I guess.

GANG OF FOUR: Solid Gold (LP, EMI 1 C 064-07 460, 1981)

Gang Of Four: Solid Gold

I can never quite get my head around the catalogue numbering systems used by major record labels. Look at the example here: 1 C 064-07 460. What does that mean? There must be some rationale behind the five components that make up that catalogue number, but it’s lost on me. Even comparing numbers from different releases on the same label doesn’t help. Often they seem to exist as their own numbering system, devoid of connection from anything else whatsoever. If somebody can help with this, I’d love to be educated. As it is, I can never understand why the catalogue number isn’t just part of a simple, sequential pattern – as tends to happen with most independent labels. If I was some kind of whacko conspiracy theorist I’d suggest that major label catalogue numbering systems expose the blatant commodification of their product as just that – product, rather than slices of art. Doubly strange is when independent labels attempt to ape the major label numbering systems – sadly I’ve seen too many examples of an indie’s first release being numbered with something like 43489-4371-D or whatever. What’s going on there? You want the release you’ve just invested your cash, efforts and sanity into to be just another piece of product, rather than part of a crazy head-in-the-clouds master plan?

Anyway: Gang Of Four. Good band, but I hear that Andy Gill is a moody old sod these days.

THE TELESCOPES: Celeste (12″, Creation CRE 103T, 1991)

The Telescopes - Celeste

I bought this in 1991 when I was a cash-strapped teenager, saving up my meagre part-time work pay in order to regularly pop into Langland Records – generally to browse, sometimes to buy. Langland Records was something of a legendary record shop when I was growing up in Telford, if for no other reason than you could pop to the White Lion over the road, buy a pint and bring it back to the shop whilst looking through records and hearing whatever bizarro metal/prog music was being played over the shop’s crappy sound system. It’s long gone now, as are so many record shops. Shame.

The Telescopes were one of those primo-era Creation bands that everybody loved for a while, and this record is a stellar example of their shoegazey middle period. Quite a history, The Telescopes – from white noise screaming misery in the mid-80s, through blissed out shoegaze in the early 90s, through to a period of nothingness followed by the improvised soundscape drones that they regularly release these days. Hell, I’ve even released a record by The Telescopes, which is something I never dreamt I’d be saying when I picked this up back in ’91.

This record reminds me of much simpler times, when every record bought was listened to over and over and over, before disposable income stopped each purchase being quite so magical and special. At the start of my record buying in the late 80s I didn’t even have a record player, and I’ve got many fond memories of camping out in my parent’s dining room or my sister’s bedroom, listening to weird and wonderful stuff to the bemusement/amusement of my relatives. Things haven’t changed so much – although I’ve now got my own record player…

VERONICA LAKE/CRAYON: Sleepyhouse/This Dream Is Gone (7″, Cher Doll CHER 001, 1992)

Veronica Lake/Crayon

It doesn’t get much more DIY indie pop than this… hand-finished, sprayed, brilliant wraparound sleeve, hand numbered in pencil (number 130 out of just 400 copies), a couple of inserts included. I love it. How could anybody ever prefer a slimline jewel-cased CD over the artistry so obviously inherent in this record’s packaging? (Not that I have evidence that anybody would prefer that, you understand – I’m just attempting to make a point).

Thinking about it, when I state ‘just 400 copies’ up there, I should consider more carefully what I’m saying. Four hundred copies of this record exist. That might not sound like much, but as I’ve found out myself (at the expense of both finances and storage space), it’s a tough job to shift even a hundred copies of a record by hand, let alone four hundred. Just try keeping four hundred copies of a record under the bed – your nose will touch the ceiling, almost.

Pretty mind-boggling when you hear these statistics about Thriller or whatever selling, like, fifty million copies. How much space would fifty million copies of a record take up? Are there even fifty million turntables and CD players in existence?

FUTURE PILOT A.K.A. VS. RANJIT NAGAR CHORUS/KIM FOWLEY: We Shall Overcome/Night Flight To Memphis (7″, Creeping Bent BENT 025, 1997)

Future Pilot A.K.A. vs...

Future Pilot A.K.A. is Sushil K. Dade, one of The Soup Dragons and a sometime BMX Bandit too, if I’m correctly informed. I’m not so sure what the deal is behind this single and another ‘Future Pilot A.K.A. vs…’ 7″ that I’ve got, and how/why they came about, but this one is certainly an interesting meeting of minds. Ranjit Nagar Chorus are, I presume, an authentic group: hard to know, though, as the internet tells me nothing about them beyond the fact that they appear on this record. Kim Fowley is, of course, the insanely connected line drawn from 1960s punk through 1980s punk through 2000s reflection.

I picked this record up during a very brief period writing reviews for the University of Reading’s in-house paper. The agreement was that the writers would regularly get together and dig through a box of submitted releases, picking whatever took our fancy. I grabbed this one quick as it ticked a couple of boxes for me – not only a Soup Dragons connection, but also Kim Fowley? It must be worth hearing… I never did review it, though. Shirking my reponsibilities.

Listening back now, I imagine that the reason I didn’t review is that there’s just not too much of consequence that can be said about it. The Ranjit Nagar Chorus side is an Indian-tinged indie dance tune in the vein of late-period Soup Dragons; the Kim Fowley side is a nicely hazy, echoed-up swirl of psychedelic navel-gazing. But neither really leap off of the turntable. ‘It’s all just so much fluff’, as somebody said on an episode of Seinfeld once.

Great cover photo, though – evocative as you like.

VARIOUS: Rubble Nine: From The House Of Lords (LP, Bam-Caruso KIRI 065, 1986)

From The House Of Lords

I love these 1960s garage/psychedelia/punk/r’n’b compilations, which is just as well, as there’s a never-ending supply of them. Everything from Nuggets through to Pebbles and Rubble and a billion other (some non-geologically-named) compilations have been part of the microscopic documentation of a relatively brief period of time. A furiously creative and productive time as well, as despite some element of crossover between compilations, there must be thousands of tracks compiled as a whole. Although having said that, I guess a compilation of rare, underground tracks from (for example) the first five years of this century would yield roughly a billion tracks.

This volume of the Rubble compilation series is interesting in that it exists in two versions – this, the original 1986 release, and a later 1991 release named Plastic Wilderness, sporting a completely different set of tracks in a different sleeve yet still claiming to be Rubble Nine. Not sure what that is all about; some kind of licensing problems? Just a mix-up?

I bought my first Rubble at a record fair in Oxford Town Hall about eight years ago. I came across a plastic crate full of Rubbles and was dismayed to only be holding enough cash for a single volume. It turns out that I had been forced to make the correct decision – that crate was full of reissues and since then I’ve amassed a tasty set of original releases. Except for Rubble Nine of course, of which I now own both versions. Me, a tragic and misguided collector? Never!

A note: the main typeface used on this album’s cover is Peignot. Never liked that typeface. Just in case you’re interested.

ERASE ERRATA: Live At Eagle Tavern (7″, Lungcast ORGAN 14, ?)

Erase Errata: Live At The Eagle Tavern

Picture discs are weird things, aren’t they? For a start, there’s the endless confusion in my mind about the spelling involved: is it picture disc or picture disk? Does it matter? Any ideas? Beyond that, they always seem to me like a fantastic theoretical idea that never quite plays out as it should in reality. This Erase Errata record is a case in point – the imagery, as nice as a design as it is, is hampered in its visual representation by having to contend with the differing radial textures that are inherent in a seven inch record, along with the moiré patterns that can so easily be a side effect of printing onto a concentric spiral. They’re never quite as satisfying as they should be – although they’re always on heavy vinyl. Is this required by the printing process?

Aside from my pickiness over picture discs/disks, this is a nice-looking package: the record comes in a plastic sleeve and is wrapped with a vertical obi that’s hand-numbered, and thin enough not to include all of the relevant band/track information that is added here in the form of a tiny rectangular insert. It’s a pleasure to regard, and more to the point, a pleasure to listen to, as Erase Errata were a great band. I picked this record up from, as memory serves, Norman Records, soon after seeing the band play at a Ladyfest gig in Bristol, some years back. Also playing that day were a band called Kling Klang, who I remember featuring an ex-member of Elastica and now remember not being the same Kling Klang that are doing quite well for themselves at the time of writing. But, you know what? I’ve just looked up my facts on the internet and the band I saw were Klang. I added the Kling myself as part of forming that memory. So, no need to call in the band-name-copyright-protection lawyers just yet.

As a nearly final aside, I note on the obi on this record that it’s part of the ‘Lungcast Records “Music” Series’, which amuses me greatly – I wonder what other series, other than music, a record label would be releasing?

As a final aside, Erase Errata reminded and still remind me of Kleenex, aka Liliput, the outstandingly awesome Swiss punk/post-punk band of the late 70s/early 80s. This makes me happy.

LITHOPS: Tubino See Through (7″, Static Caravan VAN 1, 1998)

Lithops: Tubino See-Through

The very enigmatic first release from Static Caravan Recordings: you can see pointers here to affirm that this label wasn’t one trying to play the majors at their own game. The cover is a scratchy, hand-finished print with no suggestion of who this record is by. Even on the back there is scant information – the design is 75% white space. Marvellous! Clear vinyl; hand-stamped labels; an insert in the form of a scrappy hand-cut photocopy. This is how first releases on proper independent labels should be.

Lithops is Jan St Werner of Mouse on Mars: quite a coup for a first release. Here the usual MoM chaos and complexity is eschewed, and instead there are two sides of light, airy, abstract electronic ambience. Pretty austere stuff, and limited in scope by the time constraints of a seven inch record, but somewhat beautiful nonetheless. Continuing on the ‘this is our first release’ theme, this is quite a bold record to put out there as a marker. It suggests ‘This is a label with out-there tastes – if you’re with us good, if not we’ll carry on without you.’

I’d love to claim the übercool status of having bought this when it was first released, but no, this was an eBay purchase a couple of years ago. Static Caravan releases are generally so quick to disappear from print that without being that kind of übercool early adopter I fear that that’s how I’d get my hands on most of their releases.

THE WEATHER PROPHETS: She Comes From The Rain (12″, Elevation ACID 1TX, 1987)

The Weather Prophets: She Comes From The Rain

This is a 12″ packaged in one of those thin sleeves without a spine. I never much liked this kind of sleeve, it always seemed too insubstantial for a record of this size, as if it wasn’t giving enough kudos to its contents, or something. Give me a 12″ with a spine and I’m predisposed to like the music more, no question. Irrational perhaps, but that’s psychology, I guess. These thin sleeves make the record seem pointlessly not 7″ in size – pointlessly large for no good reason. Maybe they were a bizarre offshoot of the more more more ethos that saturated the 1980s? More size, less style, equal content. Dunno.

What looking at this record has reminded me of, however, are two very good things:

  1. The Weather Prophets are the band that followed The Loft. The Loft were outstandingly good. ‘Up The Hill And Down The Slope’, if you’ve never heard it, is getting on for a perfect song in terms of structure, brevity and accessibility.
  2. The Weather Prophets/The Loft have a very interesting and exciting history – all kinds of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll feature in there. You wouldn’t think it from their music but this band were quite the psychotic monsters for a time. That seemed par for the course for a Creation Records band for a time (in case you’re confused, Elevation was a second-tier indie label run, I believe, by Creation’s Alan McGee).