Twelve years on and this still sounds fresh as a daisy – one of Blur’s musical pinnacles. There were many. This cover is great and it sums up the song perfectly: a stupid, brightly-coloured American car comin’ straight for you. And it’s, er, flying across some kind of Martian landscape for no good reason. The yellow of the car and the Blur logo contrasts beautifully with the purple vinyl, it’s truly an aesthetic delight. The packaging was designed by Yacht Associates, who worked with the band during their weirding-out American indie rock phase. Before that it was Stylorouge, I believe, who helped to create some of the band’s memorable early sleeves. I remember once visiting a certain design agency in London and being impressed by the hypercool minimalist interior decor I found myself within – but I was even more impressed by the fact that Stylorouge had the office upstairs. Not sure what I was expecting to happen – a representative to pop downstairs, know that I was a fan of their work and offer me a job on the spot? It didn’t happen… it just seemed to be an office like many others. Always good to remind oneself that heroes are just people, I suppose.
The sticker in the top left corner of the sleeve states ‘Also available: CD1 / CD2’. Do labels still do this kind of nightmarish multi-formatting? It was all the rage back in the nineties. Has downloading and belt-tightening stamped out this greedy strategy?
I’m not normally much of a ‘multi-formatter’ – I don’t tend to buy the same release on every format that a record company feels the need to issue. I’ve never reached the level of fanboy obession that’s driven many to covet the same songs on 7″, 12″, CD1, CD2, tape, eight track, flexi, wax cylinder etc etc. Even the ‘bonus’/’extra’/’previously unreleased’ filler material that normally backs up the main songs tends to be slightly outside the reach of interest for all but the most special of bands.
Weirdly though, I’ve got ‘Streets Of Your Town’ on both 7″ and 12″. Not by design or by obsession, but by virtue of having an awful memory and hence having bought each format completely separately, years apart from each other, in different places, with no clue that (in the latter case) I already owned this record.
BUT… for some reason the 7″ is BEG 232 and the 12″ is BEG 218T, suggesting that they’re not actually multiple formats of the same release at all. Checking the Beggars discography online confirms this: the song was released twice within as many years, with different B-sides taking up the slack on each version. No idea of the story behind this, but Beggar (ho ho) me if I in fact don’t own the same release in two formats – I own two releases from Beggars’ and The Go-Betweens’ discographies respectively, and I am hence a better collector than I realised.
To finish, Grant McLennan R.I.P.
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.
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).
Ah, happy mid-90s Britpop times, I was at university, enjoying life, swaggering about wearing a charity shop Adidas tracksuit top and a pair of Puma States, smoking fags inside and getting caught up in the post-Oasis-going-big revelry that – deny it if you will – was genuinely exciting and fun. I think that the Charlatans were at their peak at that time, having matured from their early, brilliant Hammond-infused incarnation into a groovy, danceable band that totally exuded confidence and warmth. Tim Burgess was looking particularly cool in photos around this time, too.
I saw the Charlatans play a couple of times; one that springs to mind was at the Rivermead Centre in Reading, in a basketball-court-turned-venue that was, the same night, the happy coincidental time of a surprise meet-up with my old pal Colin, who had popped over from Worcester for the night to see the band. Always good to see him, and it’s been a long time now since I did. I was with my sister, if memory serves correctly; we weren’t often at the same gig but she loved the Charlatans too (and, indeed, introduced me to them through her own listening habits a few years beforehand).
Peter Hook’s super-dull outfit Monaco were support at the show, and amusingly drove around 75% of the crowd out of the room and into the bar for the duration of their set. Yes yes, he was in Joy Division and is therefore an untouchable, but my word Monaco weren’t good. It was a pleasure to see that he did indeed wear his bass guitar as low to the ground as legend has it, however.
Not sure why Tim Burgess has no shoes or socks on on the cover of this record. He has big feet that look like they’d whiff a bit. Is that rock and roll, ’96 style? I just can’t remember.