Heavenly – Le Jardin de Heavenly

Le Jardin de Heavenly is the second, and most critically acclaimed, album by twee pop band Heavenly. The album was released on Sarah Records in the United Kingdom and K Records in the United States. Beat Happening and K Records founder Calvin Johnson adds his croaky vocals on the track C is the Heavenly Option, which strangely reminds me of the Haysi Fantayzee track John Wayne Is Big Leggy.  The version I have is the K Records release which has an additional two tracks.  It is much more polished than their Talulah Gosh days laced with bittersweet melodies, perfect harmonies, and fuzzy guitars.  It has the addition of keyboard player and vocalist Cathy Rogers which makes the sound more robust almost makes the transition from twee to indiepop.

Heavenly : Le Jardin de Heavenly

Orange Corduroy Dress
Different Day
C Is The Heavenly Option
And The Birds Aren’t Singing
Sort Of Mine
So Little Deserve
I’m Not Scared Of You

Drop Nineteens – National Coma

After the debut album, the Drop Nineteens went through cataclysmic line-up changes and from listenable indie also-rans they suddenly became a grunge outfit not entirely unlike their fellow Boston counterparts The Pixies.  A different line up meant a different sound Greg Ackell and bassist Steve Zimmerman were the only member leftover from Delaware the other 3 had long gone.  The dreamy washes of Delaware were nowhere to be seen and National Coma sounds very raw in comparison.

Drop Nineteens : National Coma

All Swimmers Are Brothers
Rot Winter
Martini Love
Franco Inferno
My Hotel Deb
Moses Brown
The Dead

Happy Mondays – Yes, Please!

The fourth studio album by the Happy Mondays was the ‘fly in the ointment’ of a glorious career and managed to bankrupt the already desperate Factory Records.  The album was a commercial disaster and a critical flop reviewed by the Melody Maker in just two words “No thanks”.

It is the darkest Mondays album and some reviews draw a parallel with another Factory hit Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures as a bleak last album. When this album came out I was 16 and Shaun Ryder was 30 years old, and all the youthful hopefulness of Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches that was only released two years previously.  It seems that all the Rave On! had come to an end.

The recording of the album was always remembered for the rock n’ roll excesses.  Shaun dropped his supply of methadone at Manchester airport before leaving for Barbados and ended up smoking 25 rocks of crack a day during the recording period.  Bez drove across the plantation near the studio and flipped a jeep and broke his arm.  When they ran out of money, they sold Eddy Grant’s furniture to buy more drugs.  This then led to Shaun Ryder rather infamously holding the master tapes hostage for more cash, even though the songs were still very much incomplete.  (He got £50).

The lyrics are really weird and make no sense.  The Theme from Netto had no meaning until I went to University in 1994, because I was from Bournemouth I had no idea what Netto’s was.  My roommate was from Wolverhampton and he told me that it was a supermarket which was like a warehouse not unlike a Kwiksave.  I am sorry that I do not have another non-UK centric comparison.

Yes, Please! is an album with darker content than the euphoric Pills, Thrills, and Bellyaches and Ryder revisited the party atmosphere in his outings as Black Grape.  It does not make Yes, Please! a bad album it just came out at the wrong time.

Happy Mondays – Yes, Please!

Stinkin Thinkin
Monkey In The Family
Sunshine And Love
Cut ‘Em Loose Bruce
Theme From Netto
Love Child
Total Ringo
Cowboy Dave

Lush – Kaleidoscopic Harmonies

This is a semi-legitimate live CD from Italy that was released in 1992. The sound is passable audience recordings made from their European tour of 1991.  Although Miki Berenyi recently said, “Audio is pretty bad, and sounds like a pub.”  The set is made up of songs from Spooky, Mad Love, and Scar.  The performance is very true to the originals and in the absence of any official live recordings, it has its place in the collection of any Lush fan.  It seems strange that no live recordings were used on the 5 disc extravaganza Chorus.

Lush – Kaleidoscopic Harmonies

Second Sight
Sweetness And Light
Baby Talk
Tiny Smiles
Leaves Me Cold

The Wonder Stuff – Hup!

I listened to Hup the other day and it brought back loads of memories.  It was something very different when it can out in 1989. The others were on the Madchester bandwagon, or it was the darker Echo and the Bunnymen and Jesus and Marychain.

It is an album stuck in a time warp, the Wonder Stuff being mostly remembered for their releases in the 90s, such and Welcome to the Cheap Seats, Size of a Cow and the alliance with Vic Reeves in Dizzy. This is more of a forgotten classic.  At the time Miles Hunt was a self-centered, egotistical and generally a bit of an idiot, I think that this probably did not win them any extra fans.  Incidentally, I met Miles a few years ago and he was really great.

Don’t Let Me Down, Gently is a highlight, Golden Green is a folksy jig that was on the Radio 1 playlist in 1989 for quite some time, and the poptastic Piece Of Sky.  If only Miles would have not been so bolshie and quick to slag off anyone and everyone.

The Wonder Stuff : Hup!

30 Years In The Bathroom
Radio Ass Kiss
Golden Green
Let’s Be Other People
Piece Of Sky
Can’t Shape Up
Don’t Let Me Down, Gently
Cartoon Boyfriend
Good Night Though
Them, Big Oak Trees
Room 410

Blur – Leisure

I wouldn’t class myself as a Blur fan, but I do like the universally panned album Leisure.  Damon Albarn said that it was the worse album that they ever did, along with Think Tank.  Whether it was because it came out in the terrific year of 1991 and it brings back memories of that time.  Or it could be the indie snobbery that I have, ‘Blur were so much better before they were big.’ I am still not quite sure why I like this so much.

Even in 92 Blur were very small.  I saw them at Glastonbury that year, they were onstage at about 3pm with the chancers before the big acts came on.  Leisure is an album that more than nods its head towards the baggy Madchester scene.  It borrows heavily from The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and mostly The Charlatans.  It was even said that Damon copied Tim Burgess’s haircut.  Listening to the album now the indie disco stalwart There’s No Other Way sounds like it is played slower than I remember. I am sure it was an intensely cathartic experience back in 1991, but it does sound less of an indie disco floor filler. Until it was pointed out to me I never realised that there was such a limited lyrical vocabulary in the album, ironically there is a song included called Repetition.

What is album does is takes all the best bits of Madchester and combine them, but unfortunately Blur have not settled on their image, so in retrospect, we get an outstanding Madchester pastiche. There is one song that rises above everything on the album and that is Sing, piano repetition and real band chemistry make this great.  This song feels like a very personal experience with Blur and I do not feel that they really achieved this intimacy again till Tender in 1999.

Blur : Leisure 

She’s So High
Slow Down
Bad Day
There’s No Other Way
Come Together
High Cool
Wear Me Down


The Darling Buds – Pop Said…

The Darling Buds are an indie pop band that sometimes went power pop from Newport, South Wales.  Named after the H. E. Bates novel The Darling Buds of May, which was originally from the third line of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18: “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May”.  They formed in 1988, so this dispells the theory that their name was taken from the 1991 series that propelled the career of Catherine Zeta-Jones and gave us all that irritating catchphrase “perfick”.

Their debut album is their best work to date and it drew many comparisons to Blondie.  It was not that the band was fronted by a statuesque female vocalist, but they had the same catchy pop sensibilities. There was even a music press coined movement called ‘blonde wave’. This included The Heart Throbs, The Primitives, and Transvision Vamp.

Highlights of the album include Hit the Ground, BurstSpin and She’s Not Crying.  Hit the Ground broke into the top 30 in the singles chart and the album also reached the top 30.  Andrea Lewis Jarvis’s chirpy vocals are enhanced by the catchy guitar hooks.  The last song on the album Things We Do For Love is not a 10cc cover.

Pop Said… is a great album that never really is remembered, did they lose credibility by signing to Sony subsidiary Epic, or were they just around at the wrong time?  Largely ignored by the US market, except when they had a monumental bust-up with the queen of pop herself, Madonna.

The Darling Buds : Pop Said…

Hit The Ground
The Other Night
Big Head
Let’s Go Round There
She’s Not Crying
Shame On You
You’ve Got To Choose
When It Feels Good
Things We Do For Love