Saturday, 14 January 2017

LINER NOTES: THE SOUNDS OF BADEN PEARCE [1993/94]





Disc 1
  1. Ana Ng – They Might Be Giants
  2. Lenny Valentino – The Auteurs
  3. No. 13 Baby – The Pixies
  4. Cannonball – The Breeders
  5. Rebound – Sebadoh
  6. Trigger Cut / Wounded Kite at :17 – Pavement
  7. Frenz – The Fall
  8. Drive – R.E.M.
  9. Fade into You – Mazzy Star
  10. Water – Automatic Dlamini
  11. Capital Letters – Moonshake
  12. Marbles – Tindersticks
  13. Transona Five – Stereolab
  14. Tearing Apart My World – Beatnik Filmstars
  15. White Shirt – The Charlatans
  16. For Tomorrow – Blur
  17. Line Up – Elastica
  18. Columbia – Oasis
  19. His ‘n’ Hers – Pulp

   Disc 2
  1. Union City Blue  Blondie
  2. Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) – Buzzcocks
  3. Naked Cousin (Peel Session) – PJ Harvey
  4. Popscene – Blur
  5. Reckoning – The Fall
  6. Red Right Hand – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  7. Hand in Glove The Smiths
  8. Venus in Furs – The Velvet Underground
  9. Reflections in a Flat – Half Man Half Biscuit
  10. Bike – Pink Floyd
  11. Ballad of a Thin Man – Bob Dylan
  12. The Chain – Fleetwood Mac
  13. House of the King – Focus
  14. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five – Wings
  15. Golf Girl – Caravan
  16. Papua New Guinea – Future Sound of London
  17. Chime – Orbital

The Sounds of Baden Pearce: ‘Baden Pearce’ being my specific hall of residence at university, 'The Sounds' being a collection of tunes encountered over the academic year I resided in them.
Baden Pearce tended to be the hall of residence they chucked people into who came through clearing – ‘clearing’ being the system whereby you applied anew for a place at a particular university after receiving your A-level results, maybe because you did better than expected and wanted to explore other opportunities, or worse and were obliged to. Our rooms were meagre cuboids: a tiled floor, a rug, a single bed, a wardrobe, a desk come chest-of-drawers, a shelf, and a large cork notice board with room enough for that Reservoir Dogs poster that came free with Select Magazine. Boys were slept on the ground floor, girls on the first in what was a two-storey building. There was no en suite bathroom – sinks, showers and toilets were shared. My room overlooked portacabin style classrooms. Ducks used to congregate outside my window some mornings. There was a television, piano and table tennis table in the common room. It was a lot of fun but there weren’t enough washing machines and no tumble dryer to speak of. One’s radiator took on a more vital dimension.


In my room

I made an association early on with a guy who was very into indie music. He had tapes of the stuff which I systematically trawled through in an effort to get myself up to speed. I was particularly taken with The Fall – the album was Extricate – and by the summer I would own for myself Bend Sinister, This Nation’s Saving Grace, The Frenz Experiment, The Wonderful and Frightening World Of..., Shift-Work, Code: Selfish, The Infotainment Scan and Middle Class Revolt.
Together we embraced Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish, which was kind of an outlier. It didn’t fit the standard indie template, and Blur themselves had started to dress in a very un-indie like manner: Fred Perry polo shirts, cropped hair, blazers, desert boots. The tour documentary Starshaped saw Blur peddling this precursor to Britpop around the country to long haired indie kids wearing plaid shirts, band T-shirts, loose fitting jumpers, Converse trainers and Dr. Martens. (Skateboarding gear would also feature – apparel for the Slacker Generation.)
Pulp were similarly doing their own thing, and had been for some while – a sort of retro, charity shop get-up comprising Nylon and corduroy. Tindersticks wore suits, and so might David Callahan from the band Moonshake. V-neck jumpers were also doing the rounds. I sifted through my dad’s old clothes and found a few, as well as a stiff brown leather jacket dating back to the early 1970s worthy of Luke Haines (of The Auteurs) himself.
In whichever direction one was drawn the point was very anti-fashion. Footwear and jeans were mostly bought new, but T-shirts, jumpers and coats were typically purchased in charity shops and weekend markets – Camden and Portobello in our case. Brands and labels were meaningless conceits. Having much money did not make you a better dressed person. Clothes were not worn to reflect status or hierarchy. The scene was supposed to be beyond all that. The attitude was that anything was permissible, both with regards to music and a band’s image: alternative, lo-fi, shoegaze, grunge, baggy, dream pop, chamber pop, jangle pop, art pop, drone pop, noise pop, slowcore, sadcore, hardcore, post hardcore, post punk, straightedge, industrial rock, garage rock, gothic rock, experimental rock, art rock, noise rock... This was all happening at the same time, sometimes at the same time within the same band and on the same album.


Starshaped

The Sounds of Baden Pearce was the name I whimsically came up with when I began collating the music I had on cassette, transferring it over to MiniDisc in and around the year 2000. Complication: my tapes are more normally guided by the Gregorian calendar but I wanted my compilations from this period to relate the academic timetable and the places I lived from September through to July. To accomplish this I had to extricate material from a number of different tapes, which left me with a surfeit of tunes. Disc 1 was what I initially came up with, and it’s a fairly honest representation on what was on the original tapes. Disc 2 brings together everything else: tracks from redundant compilations, off of recorded albums I later bought on vinyl and bits and pieces listened to in other persons' rooms that I never got around to copying.
Disc 1 begins appropriately enough with a run of late ‘80s/early ‘90s American indie music typical of the era. Every aspiring indie-kid back then listened to the Pixies and the Breeders, most to Sebadoh and some to Pavement (as well as Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, Nirvana, etc.). If any particular vibe defined indie music and separated it from the more gothic or out-and-out rockist tendencies of other bands, it was expressed via bands like these.
The Fall were at the height of their popularity at this point in time  the album The Infotainment Scan had entered the album charts at no. 9 – but I was still catching up. After playing Extricate almost to death, I purchased The Frenz Experiment, and played that almost to death too. R.E.M. and Mazzy Star follow before giving way to run of disparate tunes by disparate groups, all of them British. Automatic Dlamini was John Parish's band, but their second album, 1992's From a Diva to a Diver, included musical contributions from Polly Harvey. Two years later and Polly Harvey was providing intermittent backing vocals for the band Moonshake. l didn’t know groups like Moonshake even existed; they utilised drum machines and samples in their music but were still considered to be an indie band. Capital Letters is one of my favourite tunes from this period. Tindersticks introduced me to the concept of indie music containing string arrangements, horns and Spanish guitar – another revelation. Marbles is also one of my favourite tunes from this period. Stereolab’s drone-pop had me hooked straight away. The Beatnik Filmstars were pretty noisy, very lo-fi, like a lot of American bands, but with the softer vocal inclinations of the British jangle pop/shoegaze scene. Tearing Apart my World is maybe my favourite tune from this period.
 A nod to baggy, in the form of the Charlatans, followed by the nascent zeitgeist that was to beget Britpop. It was not still known as such back then. You sensed something was happening but didn’t know what it was, but it still fell under the umbrella of indie music. The term New Wave of New Wave was being bandied about, with regard to groups like Elastica, SMASH and These Animal Men, but it never really caught on. In any case, Pulp and Oasis couldn’t have sounded more different than one another. The scene as it was, there was plenty room for both and no obligation to align yourself this way or that. If you stopped the clock here – 1993 running into 1994 – you might think British indie music was a wonderfully diverse and multi-faceted thing, and that all was well in the world.
A newfound friend owned a compilation called The Sound of the Suburbs, all about punk and new wave. This is where the Buzzcocks tune came from, but it also put me in touch with The Jam, The Undertones, The Stranglers, and Blondie. There was a girl I liked who was a massive Blondie fan, so when the opportunity arose, maybe in a charity shop, I picked up a ratty copy of The Best of Blondie.
As well as lending me his cassettes, the guy with the indie tapes introduced me to a number of other things such as the NME and Melody Maker, suede as a viable material, the films of Woody Allen, John Peel’s Festive 50. I must concede to having never listened to John Peel up until this point in my life, and although I didn’t suddenly start religiously tuning in I did make a point of recording that year’s Festive 50. This allowed me to obtain a copy of Naked Cousin by PJ Harvey, which hadn’t hitherto featured on any of her records and was only made commercially available in 2006 when she collated her Peel Sessions onto an album.
Until the release of Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide to Blur, the same could almost be said of Popscene. Although released as a single, it was subsequently omitted from the album Modern Life is Rubbish to spite those who hadn’t bothered to buy it. I was new to the game, so they couldn’t blame me, but circumnavigated the problem by borrowing the record from a friend back in Plymouth.
Middle Class Revolt was the first Fall album to be released since I’d become a fan of The Fall. Unlike most bands, The Fall don’t officially tour in support of their new albums, the reason being that they’re nearly always either recording albums or touring. They could be quite a ‘difficult’ band live – or rather Mark E smith could be – and had been when I saw them the previous October. When I saw them again in January 1994 they were on good form. For any Fall fans out there, here’s the set-list:

Happy Holiday / Return / M5 / I’m Going to Spain / 15 Ways / Free Range / Big New Prinz / The Mixer / Reckoning / I’m Frank / Paranoia Man in Cheap Shit Room / Glam Racket / Hey! Student / A Past Gone Mad


It became evident that to fully appreciate indie music you had to know a bit about the history of alternative music in general and the key acts that comprise the cannon: The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, and so forth. Indie tape guy obliged with the first VU album. I picked up a copy of The Smiths’ debut, on vinyl, in an indoor flea market in Richmond that no longer exists. Somebody must have had the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat because I remember guffawing over The Gift, which tells the improbable tale of Waldo Jeffers, who, lovesick, mails himself to his long distance lover, Marsha Bronson, only for her to inadvertently skewer him with a sheet-metal cutter as she struggles to open the box that carried him. The plot is not so much the thing, it’s all about the language, the phrasing and John Cale’s delightful Welsh lilt. This tune, alongside Bike by Pink Floyd, the album Back in the DHSS by Half Man Half Biscuit, and Golf Girl by Caravan, was the source of much mirth. Students don’t have a reputation for zany humour for nothing.
A Welsh lad with a passing resemblance to Keanu Reeves shared his Beatles collection with me, most prominently Abbey Road, an album that although played by my parents I was not overly familiar with. The White Album also featured heavily. This same guy also introduced me to what might be called progressive psychedelic rock: bands like Gong, the aforementioned Caravan, Camel, Focus. On reflection, unless I was intent on developing an interest in the Ozric Tentacles and/or New Age ideology and Goa trance, a knowledge of such groups was/is expendable. Besides, the musical lineage is rather tenuous.
I was already familiar with Wings and Fleetwood Mac, again by way of my parentage, and although my old man liked a bit of Bob Dylan his music had never really left much of an impression. Repeated listens in Welsh Lad’s room to Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde saw this right.

Despite my previous penchant for hip hop, ‘dance music’ had never really appealed to me. I’m referring to house music, maybe techno – groups like The Prodigy, The Shaman, 808 State, KLF, The Orb, The Future Sound of London, if you want points of reference. DJs Carl Cox, Paul Oakenfold and Judge Jules were familiar names, but I wasn’t concerned either way. There were guys at school who used to trade flyers for raves they’d never been too, which is not to say they weren’t clubbing, because Plymouth had a very active rave scene, but it seemed to be more of a social thing, the music secondary.
At university, I met students with the same level of interest, and others who really knew their stuff. The records that initially grabbed my attention were probably Go by Moby, Papua New Guinea by Future Sound of London, and the second Orbital album. Beyond that, I’d happily listen to techno, trance and acid in people’s rooms or in their cars, at house parties, or at club nights down the student union, but I wasn’t inclined to take it beyond that.
It all relates. The physical environment cannot be separated from its auditory aspect. This was especially true given that my university campus lay beneath a flight path, where Boeing and Concorde and the rest made themselves known every other minute of the day. Despite this, East Twickenham Campus was a pretty chilled place, quite small, low-rise, very green. It backed onto the River Thames which you could follow all the way to Richmond in about 15 minutes, except during spring tides when the paths become inundated.
The local pubs didn't really cater for the students, I expect because the well-to-do residents objected to the noise. We gathered at the Town Wharf by default, not because of cut-price deals or happy hours but because, as a Samuel Smith pub, it was cheap in the first instance. Overlooking Isleworth Ait, it was big and remote enough to handle the Friday night exodus of undergraduates. The rest of the time was spent down the students’ union playing darts, or at the Ailsa playing pool, in the Prince’s Head, The Cricketers, or just hanging around in each other’s rooms listening to music.


Down the Town Wharf

The calm before the storm. I’d seen The Breeders and The Fall at The Forum in Kentish Town (separately), The Fall again at The Brixton Fridge, Moonshake at The Garage in Highbury, the Moonflowers somewhere between Fulham and Hammersmith – all in the company of the guy with the indie tapes – and These Animal Men at Connections in Plymouth. The criteria for going to these gigs were just fancying it and the availability of tickets. There was never any question of being part of something, of it being a communal experience. When did it all change? When did indie music become embroiled in another scene?
Britpop’s ascendency was gradual and by no means assured. The received wisdom is that it started with Popscene by Blur in the spring of 1992. If that’s true then nobody really noticed, and besides, it was Suede who were making waves: their debut single The Drowners was voted single of the year in the NME. That being said, it only reached number 49 in the charts, which isn’t the stuff movements are made of. How about 1993? Did not that April issue of Select Magazine – the one that’s wheeled out every time the origins of Britpop are being discussed, with the serpentine Brett Anderson on its cover – signal the start of something? To a degree: both Suede’s eponymous debut album and Blur’s second, Modern Life is Rubbish, made it into NME’s top 10 albums that year. But then so too did Black Sunday by Cypress Hill, Come on Feel the Lemonheads by the Lemonheads, Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins, Star by Belly, and Bjork’s debut, Debut. (Cannonball by The Breeders was voted best single.) How about April 1994, the month that saw the release of two of Britpop’s defining albums – His ‘n’ Hers by Pulp and Parklife by Blur? Possibly, but the effect was not as immediate as one might presume. Britpop’s prime movers were still sharing a fair proportion of airtime, the front covers of magazines and placings in polls with artistes as diverse as R.E.M., Manic Street Preachers, Stone Roses, a recently deceased Kurt Cobain, Morrissey, Primal Scream, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, The Auteurs, The Prodigy, Jeff Buckley, Beastie Boys, NAS, Public Enemy, Johnny Cash, Pavement, Sebadoh, Pearl Jam, etc, etc, etc.
You have to hand it to Oasis. It was Definitely Maybe that promulgated Britpop’s arrival as a populist movement. The ‘lads’ who had been grooving away to the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and The Farm just a few years earlier were not the sort to be seduced by the likes of Suede, Pulp and Blur. But know this: it took until 1995, maybe even 1996, for the agro vested upon fans of alternative music – or towards people with alternative lifestyles in general – to finally settle down, for the jibes and the dirty looks and the threats of violence to subside, the objections towards how you wore your hair, or how thin you were, or something as innocuous as a leather jacket or a roll neck sweater.

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