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…
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:
- 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.
- 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).
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:
- 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.
- 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.
Ah, 2004, just a few short years ago. The Edmund Fitzgerald were putting out records on little labels like this one and Vacuous Pop. Who’d have thought at the time that some of them would go on to form Foals, who stormed the world of music through 2008 to become proper famous music stars? Oxford lads done good, bringing awkward post-rock disco music to the masses, etc etc etc.
I prefer The Ed Fitz – as those of us in the know refer to them, ‘cos we’re ultracool – to Foals. They may well have sipped from a thoroughly over-sipped fount of angular music along with roughly one trillion other outfits of the time, but they always did it very well, injecting not only a sense of epic scale to their music but also ratcheting up the complexity meter by several degrees, with some of the most ridiculously intricate inter-woven guitar lines ever committed to vinyl. What was most impressive for me was the fresh-faced youth of the band, who were all about sixteen or so when they first started playing shows. I put them on at the music festival that I co-run in 2003, and remember the humble politeness of their lead singer as he nervously approached me at a gig beforehand to ask if they could get involved. That guy has now been all over the place; on Never Mind The Buzzcocks, on the front of the NME, all over MTV, etc etc. I guess maybe he’s now had that humble politeness toured and interviewed out of him…
Bilge Pump were going to play the festival one year in the past too, but in the end they didn’t – I can’t remember if they pulled out or if our negotiations were rubbish or if they couldn’t make it, or what. I’ve seen them a few times since then and they’re a cool band with a penchant for setting up their equipment in front of the stage – all very trite in today’s world of Lightning Bolt and hundreds of other hip cutting-edge bands, but I’m sure that they were doing it first. Maybe.
Oh, and this record? It’s on very pleasant clear blue vinyl. And who knows, now that Foals are famous perhaps it’s worth hundreds of pounds? Tough luck eBayers, I’m hanging on to it…
Back in the early-to-mid nineties I used to write a fanzine called Circle Sky, named after the marvellous, wonderful Monkees song featured on their Head soundtrack. The Head soundtrack as mentioned in the Pooh Sticks’ ‘On Tape’. A variety of record labels and PR companies used to send me records, tapes and CDs to review. One of the best labels that ever sent me stuff was Hemiola, based in Leeds. One of their releases was a 7″ by Cha-Cha Cohen, which came in a cool foil-wrapped sleeve. At a similar time, Chemikal Underground was finding its feet as a label and had released a variety of great records by bands like Bis and The Delgados. So, imagine my joy in hearing that Chemikal Underground were putting out a Cha-Cha Cohen record!
One mail-based financial transaction later (Paypal was just a flighty dream back in these times), here was my new purchase in its stylish-looking sleeve. In those days, buying a 12″ was something of a challenge for me, so deeply was I mired in the world of indie-pop 7″ records and tapes. A 12″ was – to my younger self – almost to real, too conventional a format for music, and at more than a couple of quid, outside my usual spending range for a slice of music. But this one was an exception and, obviously, a small educational step towards not having such completely flawed, pointless views on music carrier formats.
Wikipedia tells me that Cha-Cha Cohen were formed by three members of the Wedding Present. I’m not doubting this, or suggesting that Wikipedia is incorrect (heaven forfend!) but this is news to me, and was never part of the scant information that was available about the band back in the ’90s. For some reason, I was always convinced that they were from New York. Who knows. Listening to the record back now, they do still sound more New York than Leeds – it’s all loping rhythms and slinky, sly vocals, sounding almost like a proto-Clinic. ‘Spook On The High Lawn’ has dated well and is actually a bloody great song, and the weird, excellent remixes on here (by Hood and Sasha Frere-Jones, aka Ui) do nothing but add value. It’s been a pleasure and a small revelation to listen to this again after over a decade.
Post-Millions Now Living Will Never Die, a few of these remix 12″ers were released for no apparent reason except to serve as interesting counterpoints to the album proper. I really like their sleeves – a kind of ‘factory sleeve’ created just for this set of releases. This one’s printed using very pleasing silver ink. Can’t remember where I picked this and a couple of the other remix records up from – I seem to remember it was something bog-standard and uninteresting like HMV. This was back in the days when HMV sold actual records containing real music. The Reading HMV (I was living in Reading when this record came out) had a superb selection, with handwritten stickers on each one, describing the record. Whoever was working there at the time deserved a firm, manly handshake.
Anywhere, this record has remixes by Spring Heel Jack and Jim O’Rourke versus Bedouin Ascent. The former sounds kind of dated now – it’s all drum’n’bass scattershot rhythms which were once exciting and new. The latter is much more interesting – still kind of d’n’b, but much more random, with a tendency to disappear into odd scratchy areas with little warning. Both sides are oddly warm and comforting: maybe that’s the Tortoise influence. I’m sure that around the time of this record I saw Tortoise, supported by Stereolab, play live in Reading. Tortoise were very late due to being held up at customs, or something. That’s all I remember about the show – although that’s more likely due to my poor memory rather than it being a forgettable one. Tortoise and Stereolab? That must have been good.
I used to bleedin’ love Cud between the years of around 1990-1994. They were one of the first bands that saw me diligently buying every single release they put out, whilst constantly scouring record shops for their earlier work. Remember those days before eBay when it actually took some time and effort to build up a record collection?
This 12″ is from their A&M days, after they’d bizarrely hit the big time – or, well, the small time, at least. ‘Bizarrely’ because they were always a bit of a weird outsider band, and just seemingly not normal enough to really make it, despite some superb songs and a brilliant (if deranged) frontman. Gone were their limited releases on Imaginary Records, distributed in hard-to-find places – these were their days of national press, big tours, and what seemed like endless marketing money to spend on freebies and gimmicks. This record, for example, comes with a free poster, which is a pretty straightforward trick – but other A&M Cud releases came with, off the top of my head, a set of commemorative stamps; a three-dimensional cardboard house; and some kind of cut-out-the-eyeholes face mask. Then, as so often happens when the industry steps in to ‘help,’ they were gone as quickly as they were famous.
A friend of mine played a gig recently with the now-reformed Cud, and said it was a mix of nostalgia and pain – nostalgia at the obvious thrill of seeing a great old band playing some great old songs; pain at it being fifteen years later with no apparent forward movement from the band and, most awkwardly, the fans. The fans aren’t the young blades they once were any more; it’s all ‘a night off from the kids’ nowadays and an excuse to work on an already-expanded beer gut. (Not in my case of course; I don’t have kids).
Here’s a true fact: I once met William Potter from Cud at a comics convention in London – he was at the event representing his cartooning as part of the Deadline magazine team. He drew me a picture. That same day I also got pictures from Jamie Hewlett (you know, the guy that did Tank Girl and then Gorillaz), Raymond Briggs (you know, the guy that did The Snowman and When The Wind Blows) and Dave Gibson (you know, the guy that did Watchmen). I was in awe of these meetings back then, and in fact am still now…