Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Bedroom Files

Close the door. Stick on the headphones. Turn up the volume...

So I was home at my mum and dad's at the weekend, and before I'd fully assessed whether or not it was a good idea, I'd gone into my old room and started digging around the literally hundreds of old singles which are hiding under the bed (let's just make sure we don't tell mum exactly how many of them there are...).

Inevitably, there are huge swathes of dross (witness a shocking number of Rialto singles). But I did pick out a handful that reminded me of old times in a good way. Here's hoping they bring back a few memories for you too...

Ben Folds Five - Brick (Whatever and Ever Amen, 1997)

If there was one song that was going to inspire me to start digging under the bed in the first place, it was this. Leaving it under there was criminal from the start. I've never been mad about Ben Folds Five, but if ever one song alone could make me love a band, this would be a serious candidate.

Fountains of Wayne - Sink To The Bottom (Fountains of Wayne, 1996)

This neatly sums up so many of the singles under my bed - when they were first released, I was obsessed with them, and then half the time I never even bought the album. However, whereas that was probably a wise move in so many cases, I can't help feel like I'm missing out in having Fountains of Wayne as a blind spot.

Laxton's Superb - The Sugar's Gone (The Sugar's Gone single, 1997)

Fitting in neatly with the acoustic-driven indie pop that dominated in the immediate wake of Britpop (see the Bluetones later), Laxton's Superb came out with a handful of singles that suggested they were on to something, but before we got to know them, they were dropped by their label. Allegedly, a self-released, self-titled album materialised in Japan, but I can't say I've been over there to verify this. Still, nice to remember this one...

Blameless - Breathe (A Little Deeper) (Breathe single, 1996)

This Sheffield band released only one album, The Signs Are All There, but somehow forgot to include their best song, which is this. You wonder who makes these decisions.

Geneva - No One Speaks (Further, 1997)

I've been having a lot of arguments/debates/polite discussions about singers' voices this week, which is probably something to do with each of the following three factors: the new Wild Beasts album being released; Joanna Newsom being on in the pub the other day; my ongoing, always-present obsession with Neil Young. But however you look at it, there are certain voices which pretty much dictate the kind of music you make. Geneva front man Andrew Montgomery could never, for instance, cover an Arctic Monkeys song. A set of lungs like that, you're pretty much locked into epic soundscapes. They were on Suede's Nude label, and you can hear a little of that in there too, just not, ultimately, quite so good.

British Racing Green - Penniless Man In Guccis (Penniless Man In Guccis EP, 1997)

Last week saw Jack's Records in Sheffield finally succumb to this sad era we live in. The best second-hand store in the city closed its doors for the final time, and I didn't even find out until after the event. Perhaps that was kind of something to do with it. I did buy my fair share there back in the day, and one of the highlights was this. Locally tipped as the next big thing, British Racing Green died almost as quickly as they arrived, but I don't care what anybody says, I still love this song.

Drugstore feat. Thom Yorke - El President (White Magic For Lovers, 1998)

The number of songs on this list that have stood the test of time is perhaps small, but this would be among them. Getting Mr Yorke to pop along to your recording session helps, but there's no denying that is was quite rightly the career-defining moment of a band who started out doing largely forgettable punk songs. As if it to prove its longevity, I've just picked up Uncut and seen they're doing a comeback gig in Camden next month.

Hefner - The Day That Thatcher Dies (We Love The City, 2000)

Perhaps it's because its so deliciously wrong that we love this song. Unlikely to figure on any official tributes when the former Prime Minister finally leaves us, I'm guessing this will nevertheless accurately reflect how a lot of folks will feel. To follow lyrics like "Even though we know it's not right, we will laugh and sing all night" with the sound of school children singing the "Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead"...well, there's only ever been one word for it: Fantastic.

Silver Sun - Golden Skin (Silver Sun, 1997)

Is there such a thing as comic book-rock? Can I create that label now? Plenty of riffs get cranked out of the guitars involved, but its all so well animated as to not quite be real. Anybody even slightly involved in the movement will also, by default, be huge in Japan. Should this label stick, let's have Silver Sun as the faces of the genre. Hey, it's not groundbreaking, but it's great pop music.

Smaller - Is (Badly Badly, 1997)

First, even if you've never heard of Smaller, know this - you have. Meet lead singer Peter 'Digsy' Deary. That's right, the Digsy who wants to have you over for dinner, to give you strawberries and cream, until your friends all go green for his lasagne. Noel Gallagher's mate actually claims to hate lasagne and that song, so we'll move on, but I thought you should know who we're dealing with. Hearing this again takes me back to the greatest gig I think I ever went to, at Leeds Metropolitan University back in February 1997. These boys opened, followed by an as-yet unsigned Embrace, and then capped by the band who defined my entire adolescence (and much since), the Longpigs.

The Presidents of the United States of America - Peaches (The Presidents of the United States of America, 1995)

This is entirely silly. But it takes you back, right?

Dark Star - I Am The Sun (Twenty Twenty Sound, 1998)

Just for a while there, I entirely adored this whole album. Sticking it on again at the weekend was like being 17 all over again. Maybe it was the fact that they landed a support slot with the Longpigs that had me convinced they were the world's next great act. For a band that made such a rollicking noise, they instead died with an unbecoming whimper. Sigh.

The Bluetones - The Fountainhead (Expecting To Fly, 1997)

The combination of its re-release earlier this year and a mate who swears by it have caused me to revisit Expecting To Fly recently. And what a pleasant experience it has been. While I'm not going to say its great or anything, its an entirely charming album that I'd totally left behind. Comparisons made at the time and since comparing them to the Stone Roses were always taking it too far, but I'm glad to have this one back in the main collection.

The Longpigs - When You're Alone (Lost Myself single, 1996)

Very, very little of the Longpigs' back catalogue is buried under my bed. It's all too good. But I did come across this, a rare example of a Richard Hawley-penned song from before the band imploded. It's fair to say it wouldn't find a home on any of his solo albums, but not because it isn't pretty ace.

Ocean Colour Scene - The Riverboat Song (Moseley Shoals, 1996)

Maybe it's just because it featured so prominently on TFI Friday, but this seems like one of those tracks that, just briefly, defined a whole period in time. There was so much talent in Ocean Colour Scene that they almost feel like something of a supergroup, formed out of the backing bands of mod greats like Paul Weller. Having a mate in the form of Noel Gallagher helped them get attention too. Sadly they ran out of ideas after only two albums of real note, but what they left behind is worth remembering.

Look out in the next couple of days for the Under the Covers special edition on the Bedroom Files. Then we'll look into growing up (not really).

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