Those of us who spent our teenage years perusing coffee-stained copies of The Catcher In The Rye or Tess of the d’Uberville while bitterly lamenting the fact that not a single girl in our school, college, or workplace had the Good sense to notice the painfully shy Bookworm sitting with his tongue tied at his side, often taking refuge in a particular form of popular music. Scorned and tormented, we wasted our teenage years in the self-imposed exile of our back bedrooms, comforting ourselves there listening to a flutter of indie bands that had somehow cornered the market in self-pity and youthful anguish. We took perverse pleasure in the confessions of these kindred spirits, as they meekly extolled the trials and tribulations of loveless lives that reflected our own tearful existence.
The Smiths, in this sense, were beyond comparison, and Morrissey possessed a songwriter unmatched in the miserablist pop pantheon. However, there were other bands that had a lot to say on the subject of unrequited love. A whole genre of indie-pop, whether you call it twee, shambling, or C-86, after NME’s legendary mix-tape, I was absolutely stuck with it. While bands like The Wedding Present (and for me David Gedge was the unofficial spokesperson for the legion of shy guys who couldn’t muster the courage to cope at the disco on Friday night) they enjoyed a long stint downtown. of attention, many of his C-86 compatriots simply faded into darkness. In some cases, this was undoubtedly a blessing in disguise. However, bands like The Servants and Mighty Mighty from Birmingham surely deserved to be more than a footnote in indie-pop history.
Pop Can: The Definitive Collection 1986-1988, on Cherry Red, tries to make things clear. It comprises all of Mighty Mighty’s excellent singles, B-sides and EPs along with a few select cuts from their otherwise disappointing debut album Sharks, featuring a handful of tracks from the ‘lost’ second album The Betamax Tapes (finally released in 2013), Pop Can certainly does what it says on the tin, putting together the best moments of this short-lived combo.
The album, though not arranged in chronological order, begins with the debut single “Everybody Knows the Monkey,” a haunting affair that sets the tone (orange juice and a hint of organ vox), for Pop Can’s sparkling content. Other highlights from Side One include the improved single “Built Like a Car,” which reached no. 6 on the Independent Chart, his highest-ranking effort, and supremely catchy follow-up, “Ley.” Fortunately, it’s the C-86 version that appears here, rather than the lower “dance remix” that Chapter released on 12-inches in late 1987.
Side two begins with “Is There Anyone Out There for Me”, which is probably still the band’s best known song, reaching no. 44 on John Peel’s Holy Fifty Holidays of 1986. This is also the Mighty Mighty song that, unsurprisingly, appears on Cherry Red’s definitive compilation, Scared To Get Happy, The Story of Indie Music 1980-1989. The song features a terrifyingly effervescent chorus that also captures the brutality of teenage loneliness, with Hugh McGuinness miserably pleading for true love to come his way.
“Is there anyone out there for me? Is there anyone else alone? I can’t take one more summer.”
Other highlights on side two are “Let’s Call It Love” and a couple of tracks from The Betamax Tapes; “Touch of the Sun” and particularly “Unsteady”, which recalls the literary / sophisticated pop of Lloyd Cole or Prefab Sprout. While lyricist Mick Geoghegan may not sit alongside Cole or Paddy McAloon, “Unsteady” indicates the more mature direction the band would surely have traveled, had they continued:
‘Do you remember that letter of mine / When I changed my mind every other line / Now that I’m sure, you will condescend / to be introduced, as my unstable girlfriend.’
Interestingly, the Mighty Mighty had notable posthumous success in Japan, while still being honored prophets in their own land.
Well, we are all big now! Decades separate us from our old self-pitying selves. Gone are the days when David Gedge’s whining ‘aaaaaargh’ of despair echoed through the streets of Leeds city center at closing time. Yet even when taken out of its original context, music continues to stand the test of time. Pop Can is filled to the brim with cute vignettes, brimming with lost love stories that you can sing along to. Ultimately, this is a truly worthwhile trip down memory lane and a fitting tribute to one of the lesser-known practitioners of the genre.
Since we’re on the subject of the genre that doesn’t dare to utter its name, here are my top ten twee-related songs.
1. The sun, a little star: the servants
The distracted and dreamy voice, the sepia-tinged harmonies, the golden touches of the guitar raining down on the verse and chorus alike should have ensured that “The Sun a Small Star” became a mainstream radio staple during the next decades. style of “There She Goes” by The La. However, the track, which was taken from the sublime EP of the same name, went flat on release, achieving just a lonely week on the Indie charts reaching no. 47 in November 1986.
2. Is there someone out there for me? Mighty mighty
The song that recorded a succession of summers in love in rain-battered South Wales as Thatcher pounded the valleys into submission. Dry humor, self-pitying sixth grade poetry, and a star-studded tune that still manages to send shivers down your spine, as well as making a weary eye cry!
3. Almost Prayed: The Prophets of the Weather
The sun-speckled guitar licks, alone, were enough to give many of the fair-skinned wallflowers who bought this debut single from The Weather Prophets a serious case of sunburn and the past decades have done little to diminish its luminescent beauty.
The group, consisting of Peter Astor and Dave Morgan, after The Loft raised the roof for the last time, achieved minor chart success when “She Comes from the Rain” peaked at no. 62 on March 87. Their second album Mayflower, from which this track is taken, is arguably the best album in a sub-genre from which (apart from Wedding Present) cannot be said to have produced anything resembling a classic 33 record. rpm.
4. The word in the city: Westlake *
After firing his Servants, David Westlake released a self-titled Mini-LP, via Creation Records, before pursuing a career in academia. “The Word around Town” is Westlake’s place on the list of the best British lyricists of the decade, alongside artists such as David Gedge, Robert Lloyd, Elvis Costello and Morrissey. A masterpiece of literate pop that includes this ironic piece of self-analysis:
“The word in the city among those for whom nothing is sacred / is that the Emperor’s clothes do not exist but he is beautiful naked.”
* Be careful to avoid the demo version that is currently circulating in the Small Time build.
5. My favorite dress: the wedding gift
“A rare delight in the city of Manchester / It took six hours before you let me down / to see it all in one drunken kiss / An unknown hand on my favorite dress.”
David Gedge, the George Clooney of indie pop, may be resisting the company he’s asked to keep here. There was always something fundamentally more muscular and unhealthy in the amorous reflections of this angry young man, allied to the bellicose guitar outbursts that characterized songs like “Brassneck” that put his C-86 compatriots to shame. For starters, there was a sense that Gedge’s dysfunctional relationships were actually with real women, rather than the imaginary girlfriends of his faerie counterparts and, in most cases, his devoted followers fantasized sickly.
The band released two classic albums, George Best and Bizarro, before the law of diminishing returns was imposed. However, they enjoyed spectacular chart success, amassing half a century of hit singles between 1988 and 2005.
6. Pristine Christine: sea urchins
This cheerfully upbeat single was the debut release on Sarah Records (twee’s unofficial home) and spent six weeks on the Indie charts. However, his love affair with Sarah was short-lived and they sought solace in the attractive arms of Cheree’s London albums, before finally parting ways in the summer of 1991.
7. She always hides: the servants
A passively beautiful pop song, postulated somewhere between Galaxie 500 and Real Estate, with a closing guitar solo that glides languidly, like an Indian summer, before dissolving in the bright haze of our subconscious. The reason David Westlake swapped the sublimely elegant sound of these early Servants singles for the more claustrophobic tones of his scruffy albums will forever remain one of pop’s most baffling career moves.
8. Disordered Towns: The Lucksmiths
Although newcomers to the “anorak” scene (the Melbourne-based combo formed only in 1993), the group can claim to have produced the most consistent body of work the genre produced on both sides of the world. These shy guys landed eleven mostly good albums before breaking up in 2009. Influenced by all the usual suspects (The Smiths, Orange Juice, and The Go-Betweens), they also acknowledged a debt to the author’s bittersweet love songs. Britain’s most underrated letter. , Billy Bragg. “Untidy Towns” is a random selection, there are over a hundred elegant vignettes as comforting as this one hidden in your backpack.
9. Fabulous friend: field mice
If New Order hadn’t discovered Arthur Baker and the New York club scene, as they struggled to come to terms with the deaths of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, they would have been frozen forever in time as The Field Mice! Little tunes like “Sensitive” and “Emma’s House” couldn’t take the foam off a pint of bitters, but that’s part of the band’s frangible charm.
10. I’m in love with a girl who doesn’t know I exist: another sunny day
The title alone deserves its inclusion in this list, managing to summarize the entire rationale of the genre in one indisputably painful phrase. Harvey Williams, twee’s young Werther, deserves recognition, however, for his work as an ASD and as a guitarist with the stablemates on his Sarah records, The Field Mice.