Oh to be a teenager in the early 90´s. After initially having my eyes opened by early dance music & techno, it was only matter of time (i.e. a few months) that I gravitated towards the natural music home of a teenager in those days…. indie!
Oh those days were great to be an indie saddo. Most people say the best bit about indie was the mid/late 90´s with Britpop, Blur Vs Oasis and the rise of Menswear (?). But if I´m being honest, those days truly grated me a lot. I felt that it was just monolithic vacuous nonsense, the way that your music credentials required a vast champagne/cocaine/tabloid lifestyle (as i wasn´t having any of that myself), getting on Loaded magazine as if it was Ironic and “laddish”, and conducting a circle jerk with Tony Blair and New Labour.
No. The golden age was those late 80´s/early 90´s when Indie was still a little bit awkward and sexually underdeveloped, and they were making such great albums, before Alan McGee disappeared up his own arsehole.
At that time in Shetland (as mentioned in this post), the musical talent and traditions were strong, but it was all predominately traditional folk (fiddles up the yazoo and everything). Many teenagers were clamouring to hear the sounds that they were experiencing on tape and CD, but there were no bands or live experience that catered to this new Indie sound. Most bands played blues or old 70´s rock like Lynyrd Skynyrd.
And then a band came on the horizon that finally sated our desires. They were called Careless Flow. Yes I now determine that the name was a bit shit. And they were also a covers band. But they did one thing that no other shit name covers band did in Shetland at the time. They did INDIE covers!
Their playlist could invariably sound like the jukebox from a student bar at the time. Neds Atomic Dustbin, REM, Stone Roses, The Beatles (well the rockier parts of it), Inspiral Carpets, the Wonder Stuff, Blur and Northside (well they were a bit popular back then). And god did we love it! I remember they more or less played to packed halls wherever they went. Imagine if you will, about 400 teenagers getting a little bit off their faces (these gig´s were supposed to be over 18, but they were kind of our training ground for adult partying at the time) in a tiny village hall in the middle of nowhere. You´d book a taxi with 4 mates to take you out there and you were armed with £10 which was enough to get your drunk as a can of beer was only about £1, and we were were 15 years old remember?
The result of the success that Careless flow received from their gigs was that a slew of young bands cropped up, some were also covers bands, some producing original material. Some were really good, some were truly awful. One that I still remember with fondness from those days was a band called Shadowplay. They played indie covers, but they were of the darker post punk/80´s Goth kind. The thing I thank them the most for was introducing me to cult 80´s band The Chameleons, as they did an excellent cover of “Monkeyland“, a completely brilliant song.
It also meant that a few enterprising souls became mini promoters and a few C-grade bands came to gig in Shetland. Bands such as Big Boy tomato (a very interesting story about that – but for another time…), The sultans of ping FC, and Thousand Yard Stare. That gig in particular actually managed to get on the front page of the NME!
As for my personal favourites from that period, due to my weird music tastes, I never got into some of the more classic albums until yeeeears later. For example, at the time My Bloody Valentines “Loveless” was completely lost on me, even though it was hailed an album of staggering genius. A lot of other Shoegaze passed me by, although i´m sure that was due to my musical immaturity at the time, as well a some of it being total codswallop . I´m much more receptive to it now in my older years.
For me it was about the poppier stuff. For example I was into a lot of Grebo bands such as The Wonder stuff and Neds Atomic Dustbin. I also listened, for some inexplicable reason, to Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, although i´ll blame that on youthful ignorance. I also had a weird fascination for Kingmaker´s debut album “Eat yourself whole” which no one else seemed to share funnily enough….
But I have 3 definite favourites from that time which still make up part of my daily listening pleasures. The First obviously is the Happy Mondays and “Pills thrills n´Bellyaches”. Many of the critics go on about “Bummed” and it is good, but i first caught onto the Mondays when “Pills” came out. It´s a much smoother sounding record, but every single tracks was brilliant, no questions asked. In fact i know they have a vinyl copy at Bakkus bar and whenever i get a “Little” bit drunk (i.e. most of the time ) i usually hassle the DJ to play a track from it. Because i´m just that right kind of annoying…
Second was Teenage Fanclub and “Bandwagonesque”. the way they had those fuzzed out tunes linked to the Likes of Big Star and the Birds. There was a lot of soul and heart in those track. Take “Starsign” for instance. It just pings your brain with shards of crystallised guitar goodness…
The last one is obviously “Going Blank again” by Ride. Obviously one the bands that spearheaded the Shoegaze genre of Indie, they were able to transcend it a bit by at least having both having the sonic goods and more stagecraft than just 4 mops of greasy hair staring at their shoes for an hour. Sometimes i daydream that i´m watching Söngkeppni framhaldsskólanna (see previous post) and a bunch of spotty teenagers come on and play this all the way UP TO ELEVEN! and blow everyone’s little acoustic heads away. Oh well one can only hope…
If you want to listen to some of this then….
you can try the Happy mondays Here
Or try Teenage Fanclub Here
Or maybe even Ride Here