Monday, April 06, 2009

Convivial Pirate Material



Happy new tax year.

We were all trying to get there

By the early 1990s, we'd decamped, lock stock and biscuit-barrel, to a cosy domesticity in Bristol, a city then in the vice-like of some vaguely magical happenings. First and foremost, Sarah Records, Clifton's favourite cottage (sorry, garden flat) industry, was continuing to quietly churn out largely miraculous releases. So we got to ride the buses that appeared on Sarah 7"s, inhale the same air as Secret Shine, tread the same pavements as Tramway, make intermittent forays - invariably to the Fleece - to see Sarah bands (sorry, slipped into NME-speak there, we mean bands who happened to be *on* Sarah...)

For us indie-kids of a certain age - the Christine's Cat generation, in our striped T-shirts and frankly pathetic fringes - it was our Altamont, Woodstock, Madchester, rolled into a naif whole. We even, I'm ashamed to say, found somewhere off Cornmarket you could buy sherbet fountains. Not that we ever anticipated at the time that a decade into the next century There And Back Again Lane would be a zealously-fetishised cross between Abbey Road and Mecca (with some even inclined to theft), that nutters (OK then, us) would pilgrim it up to where Brighter had their photo taken on the back sleeve of "Laurel", and that e-bay would be practically overrun by international point-missers trading Sarah plastic for parasitical prices: a sad kaleidoscope of nostalgia viewed through the ugly prism of capitalism.

But there was (heresy alert) a local musical heart beating stridently outside of Sarah: from the Beatnik Filmstars' fidgety, Fall-ish embrace of yelping lo-fi through to the marble-smooth crossover of Massive Attack's "Blue Lines" (yes, a coffee table staple, but that's why it's so criminally undervalued: there is more fire in the belly of that album than in most of the much-vaunted indie crop, now or then: plus, Kyoko's sublime cover of "Protection" later drew the strands together so neatly). There were eminently grazeable record stores in town, among them the alliterative holy trinity of Replay, Rival and Revolver, each giving us many hours of lucky-dip record amassing. There was even the week that Bristol was anointed Sound City by "wunnerful Radio One" and we found ourselves shoehorned into a holding pen from which we were forced, in between vain attempts to heckle Lamacq off the stage, to witness roadshow miming from the Boo Radleys and Ultimate Kaos.

The city even boasted two clubs in the second division: a truly giddy height in the pyramid, in retrospect. The Rovers, workmanlike rather than gifted, nevertheless used Fortress Twerton to launch occasional demolitions of the crosstown enemy as well as despatching divisional rivals of the day like Middlesbrough and Blackburn (King Kev's Newcastle sadly survived big Devon White's all-shoulders onslaught unscathed, accompanied as ever by somewhat over-sympathetic refereeing). We'd fermented a plot that if we could just find a way to come into some money, perhaps via an insurance scam or the bumping-off of a fractious relative, we could stump up to have the Sarah Records cherries emblazoned on the famed blue and white quarters: a plan that evaporated some way short of fruition, though we'd got as far as debating over a jar or three in the Ostrich whether in the event we'd be able to persuade Clare and Matt that the cherries might tactfully be rebranded Rovers-blue.

Radio, live transmission

Anyway. While in Bristol, we made one more enchanting local find. But in this instance, there was no need to leave the comfort of our own home. For our discovery was a radio station. Its name ? Slit Your Throat FM.

Obviously, SYT, as it branded itself, was a pirate. It seemed to be run from somewhere in Totterdown (and used the mailing address of the Greenleaf bookshop, the workers co-op now sadly no more). Like many such enterprises you'd occasionally tune in only to find there'd been a police raid, or the transmitters were on the blink, and wait in hope for the airwaves to re-open. But what was most engaging about SYT was that it bore none of the hallmarks of modern pirates, such as flooding you with adverts for raves atop a non-stop diet of junglist chaos. It neither aspired to legitimacy, nor really flaunted its anti-establishment credentials. Instead, SYT was quite clearly just a few blokes who, with their local accents and down to earth patter, loved music and, for whatever reason, were happy to risk prosecution just to put out a few hours of their favourite tunes every Sunday. And for that, they need to be roundly saluted.

The playlist was *grreat*: the 'legitimate' opposition, BBC's Bristol and Somerset Sound, simply could not compete. Yes, there was a heavy fondness for tuneful post-punk and new wave (Buzzcocks, the Vapors, "Where's Bill Grundy Now ?", the Rejects and the Sham) but we heard everything on SYT from "Pristine Christine" to "Original Gangsta". In short, the platters mattered. But better still were the mysterious men on the decks. Our favourite was a guy who styled himself - one suspects ironically - as "DJ Low Alcohol", the unflappable doyen of the teatime slot. We'll probably never ever know his true identity, but to this day, he's one of our favourite ever broadcasters. His fluttering banter was free-flowing, down-the-pub conversational: everything that legal radio can't give you. Which made it more marked when his tone flipped on occasion to wise, even stentorian: after playing some fevered Ice-T verses about crossfire in South Central, he paused before observing starkly, "There is a man who speaks some sense". You knew he meant it, and you knew he was right.

Dead air time was not uncommon, especially as the evening wore on: it might start with a slowing in motion of the team's Brizzle drawl, from which you coralled the distinct impression either of west country Westwood-ism or, at the least, being dangerously over-cidered. Indeed, by midnight, the DJ-ing was sometimes no more than mumbles and mutters, with long gaps as each record was gingerly cued up. This was real D.I.Y.

Fuck Religion, Fuck Politics, Fuck The Lot of You ?

Trying to track down anything about SYT now, we seem to be at a dead end (a bit like There And Back Again Lane). But there was one clue, a clue repeated a few times on air, as to who might have been behind SYT, or at least helped to inspire it. It was that the various DJs (ooh, DJ Teetotal was another one, we now recall) seemed to display a surprisingly intimate working knowledge of the discography of "a great Bristol band...", as Teetotal once slurred in the witching hour, "...called Chaotic Dischord".

We'd heard, of course, of Chaotic Dischord. Back in yes, 1986, we'd been ardent perusers of the indie charts published every week in Sounds: with newsprint-stained fingers we tracked the "Sorry To Embarrass You"s and the "Completely and Utterly"s as they rose and fell, we waited to see if "Blue Monday" would ever drop out of the singles list, we marvelled at the peculiar titles of albums we'd never heard, usually by Psychic TV or Alien Sex Fiend, that seemed to hover in those charts, lists that gave such bands both mystery and in our impressionable eyes even a smidgeon of credibility. But the title that stood out was Chaotic Dischord's "Goat Fuckin' Virgin Killerz From Hell". God, they must be *rubbish*, we thought at the time.

But we were wrong about 'ver Dischord. Well, alright, not completely wrong, because mostly they were pretty terrible, if pretty deliberately terrible, but sometimes wrong. They were certainly better than the Beatles. "Fuck Religion, Fuck Politics, Fuck The Lot Of You", the title track of their first and finest LP (recorded at Brizzle's SAM Studios, later the birthplace of all sorts of fine Subway singles), is, however accidentally, a blank generation ker-lassic. And "Cliff", a tune you can pick up on the Riot City singles collection even if you can't track down any C.D. CDs, is their still-notorious expletive-filled 'ode' to Harry Webb, two and a half minutes of distilled yet seemingly genuine anger at Cliff's continuing reign that finishes with a bizarre, brilliant and suitably offensive cut-up / sample of his Eurovision moment, "Congratulations". (Once, after playing it on SYT, one of the DJs confided - again, we would guess from a position of some knowledge - that "the bit of splicing at the end took longer to do than recording the whole of the rest of the album"). And that's how we find ourselves in the rather strange position of feeling that we may have ended up owing Chaotic Dischord, of all bands, rather a lot.

Which all makes Slit Your Throat FM one of the finest radio stations that ever existed: with wings of sparrow and arse of crow, it absolutely rains it down on XFM or 6Music. As far as we're concerned, whoever the DJs really were, and however much they did it for the thrill (or for the booze), they also did it *for the love* of the music. Which brings us to a short (ok then, long) canter through the usual.

* * * * *

Y'know, we'd been at least 3/4-expecting the much-trailed Dap-C / L'il Wayne collaboration to be a trainwreck, undoing all the good work that C did in teaming with Blak Twang for the still-delish "Music Game", but it's really very far from that: whatever Wayne got paid was worth it, because unlike the Chef's turn on Geejay's album, or the properly abysmal likes of Wayne's own "Prom Queen", the man from New Orleans properly turns up, with both Talib Kweli (another neat guest spot, following on from "We Gets It In" on Craig and Marl's "Operation Take Back") and old-stager and metric martyr Royce Da 5' 9" in tow. In that company, Dap-C's own verse sounds more surreally out of place (a card-carrying Geordie in the booth with the US's finest) than bad: though he doesn't really need to introduce himself by starting it with a brusque "Dap-C!" because there's no way any listener is going to be getting him confused with Talib, Wayne or Royce. Meantime, the beauty of (homestyler) Quincey Tones' vaguely serene, unflashy string-laden backing is that it just lets each MC concentrate on limbering up their larynxes: there are no attempts to interact, and the five minutes, entirely free of wack chorus lines or wholesale Kanye-style song steals, goes by shockingly fast. It shouldn't work, of course it shouldn't, but it really does.

Similarly fly is Very Truly Yours' debut (a brace on a Cloudberry's new line, the fluffed-up pillows of pop loveliness that are their "800" series), with "Popsong '91" shining the brightest, as it veritably Melbergs-up some 'UK 80s-90s' Brit(indie)pop stylings. VTY also turn up on WeePop!'s "Starting Over" compilation, one fresh for the new year and so which came out nearly as long ago as "Ma Money", but it's just as fine, so excuse our tardiness. Literally a "pop-up" compilation (a modern-day 3D Whittington surveys the big city on the gorgeous, rained-in playtime sleeve), up spring seven tunes from seven stars of the new pop firmament including not only the Yours, but Amida, Electrophonvintage and Horowitz.

Ah yes, and Horowitz. What a single their forthcoming 45 on Cloudberry is, two songs that could fight all day for A-side status and you'd never be able to sensibly resolve it without UN intervention. "How To Look Imploring" is even more ridiculously tuneful than "Popsong '91", all carefree careering down a luge of snowflake-covered melody, while "The Drunks Are Writing Punk Songs" admits little changes of pace while still anchoring them brutally to Tullycraft-esque hooks the size of the Appalachian mountains. There's all sorts of ways of parcelling up vinyl - the "V" and "A" sides of Violent Arrest, the "P" and "E" sides of Public Enemy, the "X" and "Y" sides of those early EPMD 12"s, the silent double-As of "Solace" and "Sensitive" - but there's no getting away from the fact that when both sides rule as much as this, the humble 7" continues to be one of our greatest sources of joy in this sometimes dark, decaying world. PS Our contacts on the new music black market have also secured us access to a pre-release tape of Horowitz's "Government Center", a cover of one J. Richman of course, which you'll recognise from many a stellar 'witz set, and set to see the light of day soon via a comp on an august UK label (clue: "new and untouchable"). It is, of course, dapper.

Now the Hermit Crabs have been skittering to and fro across our radar for the past year or so. We were probably a little unnecessarily ill-disposed to them for having had the temerity to enter, just as much win, a songwriting competition (with "Feel Good Factor"), because in our minds that brought up images of Rockschool or Orange Unsigned or every battle of the bands we'd ever suffered, and in any case we actually vastly preferred the album debut that followed, "Saw You Dancing", a frothy and clever brew of delicate folk-tinged indie pop, but now with the "Correspondence Course" EP on (the really shouldn't be taken for granted) Matinee Recordings we have what we think is easily their breakthrough moment. "About You Before" is as warm, as cosy, as cuddly and catchy as "Eighties Fan", while the title track, which we found ourselves revisiting in earnest thanks to Sam's little review, repaid his (and our) faith, especially with the extra washes of guitar that intrude towards the end. It also namechecks This Mortal Coil, which brought us back in a flash to 1986 and yes, those Sounds indie charts... This might also be the place to point out that Butcher Boy's new and sumptuously-packaged LP on How Does It Feel ? (even if its title, "React Or Die", sounds more like something Negative Approach or Youth Of Today would come up with, but anyway) contains a couple of smoochable tracks with that same cultured, melodic, sauntering, breezy Hermit Crabs / Math & Physics feel... what we're tempted to christen "That Matinee Sound".

Napalm Death's "Time Waits For No Slave" - they're somewhere in their mid-teens of studio albums now - is another uncompromising ND battering ram, and moreover one which has pounded its way into the German top 100 (we're impressed by that, even if you're not), making it probably their biggest hit. And it has much more depth than previous outings: more Swans-type industrial doom, more Deicide-like bumblebee guitar parts, more of Mitch Harris' high-pitched backing screams, more thoughtful and extensive arrangements and there's even a dramatic, epic bonus track, blooming with semi-gothic doom, which reminds us in parts of the Cocteau Twins. Not that any of this should make you think, not even for a second, that it isn't still an unbelievably fast, blastbeast-filled pneumatic drill of a record: it's just more of an extreme metal masterpiece than good old punk-influenced grindcore. And for some worringly conservative reason, that wasn't quite what we wanted from it, and we can't yet clutch it to their bosom as we have all their previous post-Earache albums. Mind you, there is enough here (the breakdown in "Diktat", the the record's lone "guitar solo" - a minimalist Bill Steer-circa 1990 flourish - in "No Sided Argument", the whole of "On the Brink of Extinction") to keep it fairly anchored in any self-respecting CD player. And we're still stoked that the Germans like it so much.

Despite being lauded by Artrocker, and invited to tour with the Cribs, Brighton's Shrag are actually quite good. Their self-titled debut LP, effectively a collection of their five 7"s for the all too-imperceptible Where It's At Is Where You Are, ranges from Fall-influenced '80s-era Peel bands through hints of the spikier girl-sung Comet Gain via the punkishness of Reverend Pike & the shoutiness of bis and Bearsuit and, lest we be unclear about this, the Fall again (most obviously, the combination of Elena-style keyboards and guitar riffs hewn from the Scanlon / Hanley golden era). We prefer most of all the two atypical, slightly calmer tunes, "Hopelessly Wasted" and "Forty-Five 45s", both of which suggest that a certain longevity is open to Shrag should they wish to, um, "progress". No particular hurry though - any band who combines slanted, fairly frazzled nearly-indie pop with Guided Missile-style awkwardness is probably (with the exception of the very weak "Talk To The Left") doing a fair bit right.

Durrty Goodz' "Ultrasound" mixtape (soz, "pre-album") is a blinder, as damn talented, confident and danceable as "Axiom", so much so that we're reluctantly convinced already that his upcoming "Born Blessed" set isn't going to be able to match it. DG obviously has the same beefs with most grime mixtapes that we do - they're too long, they're full of filler, etc - so as well as reeling off one massive tune after another, he has time and temerity to drop in superb parodies of other MC's "sweetboy" songs *AND* the recent spate of feeble electro-crossover singles by grimesters (welcomely declaring the latter bandwagon OVER), to throw in a whole number about fast forwarding through rivals' mixtapes, to team up with Maniac for "Grime Killers", which skilfully works in samples from a Dotun Adebayo phone-in addressing the lack of role models and educational achievement in the black community. Best of all, this is actually a "grime" album that sounds like grime, rather than sludgy hip-hop apologia: sugar rushes like "Destruction" or "Superhero" make you wanna make like Lionel and dance the ceiling to bits. As you know, we're at best sceptical as to musical talent, because it so often fails to translate to exciting music. But what's special about Goodz is that he's palpably, prodigiously talented and *doesn't* let it hinder him. On this evidence, the guy remains simply head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries.

Good news from Stockholm, because Carcass copyists General Surgery (importantly though, copyists who know that "Symphonies Of Sickness", not "Reek Of Putrefaction" is the album to ape, much as that comment will be as hotly disputed as our conclusion on "Solace" vs "Please Rain Fall" or, indeed, our clear predilection for the stunning, massively underrated "Forever" over "36 Chambers") have completed their second LP, "Corpus In Extremis - Analysing Necrocriticism" (such a "Descanting The Salubrious"-type title). You won't need a feverishly over-exercised imagination to know what it sounds like: the title track, a "Symphonies" throwback, is a peach.

Bristol's latest slept-on sensation, the Short Stories, have taken only months from album no.1, "Short Stories For Long Nights", to complete their second long-player, "The Night Is On Fire". Two things jumped out at us initially. One is that it's difficult to recall any album made since, ooh, approx. the dawn of time that starts with such relentless miserableness as the lyrics to (and delivery of) opener "It Only Hurts When I Move": but you need to bear with it, because the song butterflies into a plush, pastoral instrumental with a gorgeous coda the keyboard swells of which deftly and deliberately recall a morose classic of times past (listen, and you'll divine what we mean). Two, for "See My Skin", the Short Stories have achieved what Dave Simpson signally failed to for his otherwise so-comprehensive survey "The Fallen", and managed to coax ex-Blue Orchids and Fall ledge Martin Bramah out briefly from hiding, to deliver a short spoken word overlay to the track's clanging, *cough" Fall-esque guitar serrations.

There is, of course, more to the record than that: similar sentiments to "It Only Hurts" drive "Sink Or Swim", but this time the music is a little breezier, a piece that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Forest Giants' elegant swansong "Things We Do When We're Bored". "Closing Time" is more straightforward still, a slightly whimsical new wavey number that would have sat equally well on their debut, and that would probably be the obvious single choice, were small labels to be afforded the luxury of being able to release those anymore. There's the album finisher, "Adoration", a thoughtful dissection of the differences between us that we usually gloss over: its gently repetitious cadences give it the feel almost of a lullaby. But the whole LP is anchored by the rather tender narrative of "The Loser's Club", a most delectable slow burn of dramatic Velvetsy guitar-shuffling combined with that rambling feel of the young Fall's most cogent storytelling moments. It goes on for around 12 minutes, but - and here's the crucial part - a little like the later Fall's "50 Year Old Man", you get sucked into the narrative sufficiently that you could swear those twelve minutes pass in a mere instant or two.

And the Beatnik Filmstars have a 7", "Slow Decay", on the Satisfaction Recording Company that follows their own masterly album of last year with a song as delicate and pained, yet rewarding, as anything on the Short Stories record... And Recordkingz' "Heat" single, featuring none other than longtime on/off ilwttisott favourites Mobb Deep, is a pretty imperious introduction to Recordkingz' vaguely imminent long-player: while we could do without all of the "niggaz / bitches" stuff in the chorus (and the "play hard like rugby" simile, which seems rather inappropriate for tru gangstaz), it's otherwise a sweet summation of the artistry of Queensbridge's most revered veterans. Ooh, and while neither Chase & Status nor Kano have proved terrifically reliable at producing anything outlandishly good in recent years, they have at least teamed up for a very amiable, if throwaway single called "Against All Odds": a kind of 70s' funk-UKHH hybrid that is one part Hoodz Underground's "How Do You Feel" (the samples), one part Deejay-Punk Rock vs. Onyx's "Roc-in-it" and one part Nightmares On Wax's "70s-80s"... And while entertaining rather than exhilarating, the Qemists' "Dem Na Like Me" single (on Ninja Tune) is fuelled by some typically brazen + enterprisingly bluster from Wiley: "I'll take a hammer to your Audi", he smiles.

We haven't heard much (indeed, we haven't heard enough) from Newham Generals since we saw them at the Electric Ballroom in the early summer of 2005, and they put together the 26th best album of the year in 2006. But their new single, "Head Get Mangled", especially when coupled with the hundredweight of pure old-style "Run The Road"-esque grime that is "Merked Again", could easily be the single of 2009 so far: interpolating sidewinder rhymes with washes of d&b and experimental instrumental, like a grime "Levitate", it makes having your head mangled a true pleasure. They're probably best known for being proteges of Dizzee Rascal, but DR, now seemingly more fond of hob-nobbing with Lily Allen, Joss Stone or the cardboard-indie crowd, hasn't made a record this exciting since "I Luv U". If you would prefer something that more slowly entwines its path into your affections, then that's exactly what Shirley Lee's "The Smack Of The Pavement In Your Face" has done to us... dead romantic, it was the taster for a self-titled album which we're bound to get round to buying before the century is out. Or there's Wake The President's sprightly and in places frankly irresistible "Miss Tierney", one side of a 7" with the often-great Je Suis Animal, which mingles the brash beauteousness of Felt with some Sarah-ish jangle and only intermittently annoying vocals.

We've read a lot, mostly on the money, on the next record to mention, so don't propose to say much, only this. One of the sad things about some of the wonderful bands who sprouted up around '86 was that while they produced blissful singles for the next couple of years, relatively few ended up making equally life-affirming first albums: some never progressed to LPs at all, others only when they had grown up a little, or sold out a lot. So whatever the passage of time does to the Pains of Being Pure At Heart, we can at least all be happy that they have produced a(n eponymous) full-length, on Fortuna Pop! here in the UK, that lays out perfectly, just as it should, all the confidence and poise they have now, and that we'll never have to hold that same regret in respect of them. (The latest 7" from it is "Young Adult Friction", btw. Rightly).

And actually, the same thing goes for Pocketbooks. How many artists can claim to have released a record where the first three songs are really without blemish ? Right now, we can only think of "Straight Outta Compton" (obviously). But whereas from track four "Straight..." then takes a high-dive onto the steepest possible downhill incline to end in a series of musically unadventurous, un-incendiary and frankly egregiously reactionary whimpers, Pocketbooks' new record, "Flight Paths" (hot on the heels of "React Or Die", it's a similarly lusciously designed artefact from the How Does It Feel ? stable) follows the plumes of harmony that verily *rain* down over the perfect first three tracks - "Footsteps", "Fleeting Moments" and "Camera Angles" - with a proper LP-ful of vitamin goodness. Now God only knows what trouble we'd get into if we told you that this record was an even better debut than the Pains', so we'll keep that under our hats and instead record merely that "Flight Paths" is a stream of hummable, always likeable stories, bubbling with lyrical imagination, rippling with a determination to encompass all of London life into a series of vignettes, to treat us to a series of top-deck pop journeys around the city (at one point citing the number 23 bus, which we're sure is the one that I, Ludicrous mention in "Carter - They're Unstoppable", bus route reference fans). They've also largely left that slight church hall-feel long behind, with the songs boasting production that more snugly mimics the art of their arrangements, and we even get re-recordings of the two songs from that superb Atomic Beat 7" that manage not to emasculate the joie de vivre of the originals (y'know, we've been scribbling under the ilwttisott umbrella for a decade-plus now, but there are few more bubblingly, buzzingly sublime songs written in that time than "Cross The Line"). Yeah, this record is about the subtle tangle of connection between us all, our "flight paths to each other", presumably a Pastels nod. There's even a bit near the end of the final track, "All We Do Is Rush Around", where Andy SHOUTS and then they *ROCK OUT* for 20 seconds and the excitement of that is a breathless tribute to all that's gone before, a fall of ticker tape to top off the parade. So. Hold my hands, and tell me that Pocketbooks will never leave me.

"Briefly" picking up on a couple of bands mentioned on these pages before: the very great Doom have their ultra-rare 1996 LP, "Rush Hour of the Gods", released on CD together with four tracks from their 1998 split 10" with Cress. It's the usual bleak, repressive and swishingly *fabulous* grind-influenced hardcore punk / crust: listen to it all in one go for a real rush, being pre-warned that opening track "Feel Good Factor" is not that "Feel Good Factor", and indeed won't have placed in any songwriting competitions we know of. And Earache have released a single CD compiling the works of Narcosis: "Best Served Cold: Discography 1998-2007". Of the 51 tracks, the highlights are probably still the twenty that made up their "Romance" set, touched on here, but their sheer unflinching commitment to icy blood-and-thunder, somewhat trebly noise-grind deserves this more comprehensive testament. And as we're on an Earache tip, here's a freebie, and an absolute banker: you *MUST*, whatever else you do this year, buy Earache's welcome release of Insect Warfare's "World Extermination" LP. Much much more from us on that one day, we hope.

Don't think we're going to pass up this chance to big up Aswad's newly issued "BBC Sessions" double-CD set. Within about three seconds of getting the cellophane off, their first Peel sesh from 1976 was in the player, and it's as illuminating, as invigorating, as you can sensibly imagine. Of course, in the many years of patience from their first Peel session to their first number one single, their style changed dramatically, but their work up until the early 1980s, when they signed to Island and managed to deliver at least one landmark UK reggae LP, is well reflected by this exhaustive package. The bass on their nascent recording of "Natural Progression" is unfathomably deep, lending it a different kind of magic to the horn-bled version that would appear on "New Chapter" half a decade on: and the heartrendingly beautiful (really) "Pressure" even outflanks its polar opposite, Negative Approach's song of the same name, in quality. Like "Fussing and Fighting" or "Bluebeat & Ska", it's a pristine e.g. of how roots reggae can be peerless. CD2, to be honest, is best ignored - we're not quite sure why Aswad, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, indeed everyone suddenly became so terrible in the 80s, though think it may have had something to do with (a) production trends at the time and (b) the evil, ever-encroaching shadow of UB40 - but CD1 has enough on it to help you through the darkest of days. Buy it as a treat for yourself.

While we're in revival mode, 555's "The Wetherbeat Scene" is a little treasure chest too. Whereas the Sound of Leamington Spa comps (now up to volume 233, stat attack stalkers) bely their name by necessarily zooooming all around the UK to chuck together both the gold and less-so soundz of late 80s janglers, this CD does consist solely of tunes extracted from the alchemic Yorkshire town of Wetherby 'twixt '88 and '91 (indeed, as far as we can tell, by bands from Wetherby High School who shared the honour of being within a teenage musical web that had a certain Stewart Anderson at its epicentre). What this means in headline terms is that we get some early belters from two combos who grew to become two of the best groups in the world, no danger - yep, Boyracer and Hood - and in the latter case we're talking "Structured Disasters"-type fragments, including an even more excitable "Swan Finer" and the wondrous three minutes that is "Tacoma Narrows Bridge Collapse" (a precursor of "Your 6th Sense" or "Sirens" or some of "Cabled Linear", being all sweet adolescent fumblings and anxious boy / girl vocals, but then topped off by a completely random burst of noise that nearly brings the whole thing toppling down abt 2 mins in). (Some old ilwtt,isott stuff from Hood here, here and here, btw). As for the Boyracer numbers, "My Town" reappears (the unblinking, scratchy, semi-precious and surprisingly catchy number that turned up on "Boyfuckingracer") along with two we didn't know, "Man" and "My Favourite Pastime". Neither of those quite have the spleen or confidence that the band were to display by the time of that first Sarah single, or even the rawness that made "Boyracer" (the song) such a sit-up-and-listen moment, but as a glimpse into the evolutionary process behind a great songwriter, they are maxi-welcome.

* * * * *

And somewhere in a parallel universe shaped from our youth, a pirate station is even now playing Goodz and Horowitz, the Hermit Crabs and Doom, Aswad and Butcher Boy, Napalm and Pocketbooks and the rest. And there's no way you'll ever convince us that DJ Low Alcohol and our other SYT heroes wouldn't have been with us - and them - in spirit, all the way.

Thanks for reading.

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