Category Archives: Indie Rock Punk Noise

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…

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.

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…)

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.

CHA-CHA COHEN: Spook On The High Lawn (12″, Chemikal Underground CHEM014, 1997)

Cha-Cha Cohen - Spook On The High Lawn

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.

HIGH RISK GROUP: Daddy Rolex (7″, Harriet 006, 1991)

High Risk Group - 'Daddy Rolex'

This record came in to my possession via the magic of eBay, seven or eight years back. Some kind soul in Brighton was selling a pile of around thirty underground/indie-pop seven inches in one lot, which I snapped up for some bargain price like £15 or something. Good times. It was super-exciting when a chunky parcel arrived some days later, as not only was there a whole load of new music to check out, but most of these records had nifty wraparound sleeves as well as all kinds of inserts tucked inside. Whilst eBay has destroyed a lot of the work that used to go into searching for and purchasing interesting and difficult-to-find records (is that a good or bad thing?), I can’t deny that it’s still a bit of a buzz to secure a record on there and then wait for it to turn up in the mail.

As an aside, I’m even playing all of these records on a stereo that I got from eBay! That was another fantastic, bargainous purchase – I get the impression that the seller was fleeing the county very quickly for some reason, but thought it best not to ask. Travelling to Woking to pick up the stereo was my first and only (so far) trip to that fair town. Have to say, it didn’t look up to much – and I didn’t see any obvious Paul Weller was born here tourist-bating stuff going on, either.

Due to some kind of administrative mix-up, this record actually contains two copies of the same insert – a messy, square handwriting-and-photocopying job detailing the lyrics and including a few contact details and credits. I seem to remember that Harriet Records released a lot of good stuff, and must at some point check out the other of their releases that I’ve got. (Pop fact – Harriet was run by a genuine Harvard professor!) This record, with the only two High Risk Group songs I’ve heard, is moody and growling lo-fi indie soft rock with a few pleasing discordant bits here and there. Sounds like they may have been a pretty fine live band to me.

MUDHONEY: Superfuzz Bigmuff (LP, Glitterhouse GR 0034, ?)

Mudhoney - Superfuzz Bigmuff

Such a great cover on this record. The only thing that narks me about it is that the text on the spine runs up the other way than what I’m used to… and obviously I’m just a xenophobe in this respect, as this is a German release (Glitterhouse seems/seemed to be the German licence for many Sub Pop releases?) and that’s the way they do things over there. But still. Tchuh! Perhaps I should cut off the spine and sellotape it on the other way up. Anything to maintain unity in the spine-facing side to my record collection.

I bought this on eBay, I think, a couple of years back. Many many years before this though, I remember regularly visiting a shop in Birmingham called Second City Sounds, and seeing it there every time. I was constantly enthralled by the cover, but not hip enough (or indeed rich enough) back then to decide to buy it. I think that Second City Sounds has gone, now. It used to be great. I was always impressed as they had SARAH001 on the wall, along with some super-rare original singles by The Creation that I always lusted after. It was always worth walking down there despite it being on a seedy road stuffed with adult shops and long-mac-wearers – and some kind of Food & Drink College, as far as I remember.

Once I was asked in a pub – the White Lion in Wellington, Telford, I think – whether I was Mark Arm from Mudhoney. “No”, I said. Because I look nothing like him. I was always confused by that, but secretly pleased that I was 0.01% a famous rock star in some kind of way.