Trembling Blue Stars – Lips That Taste of Tears

Another dose of wrenching heartbreak and despair. To add to the momentous sadness Bobby Wrattons’s former love and Field Mice member Anne Mari Davies appears here too. There are some electro touches here, namely Tailspin. This is a completely different level to the synth used on the The Field Mice’s Triangle. It is more of a house dance groove song than the Trembling Blue Stars having a cursory dance track. The album was engineered by Ian Catt (multi instrumentalist and Saint Etienne touring band member), and he is responsible for the new direction. The Rainbow has even some trip hop bleeps, which sit beautifully on the song and doesn’t seem out of place.

They still stick to their indiepop roots in Made for Each Other. It still doesn’t raise a smile, but is some of
the most beautiful music around.

Trembling Blue Stars : Lips That Taste of Tears

All I Never Said 
Headlights
Never Loved You More
The Rainbow
Made For Each Other
Letter Never Sent
I’m Tired, I’ve Tried
You’ve Done Nothin Wrong Really
Old Photographs
Never Loved You More 2
Deserve
Cecilia In Black And White
Tailspin
Farewell To Forever

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Mclusky: The world loved them and was their…

Tricky one this. More recent than most for me, so the wounds are still fresh.

I first came across Mclusky on the rather oddball compilation (back when compilations were a ‘thing’ and sound quality meant anything – I’m looking at you Spotify) “Sonic Mook Experiment 2: Future Rock & Roll” in or around 2002.

Sitting alongside massive bands like “Joan Of Ass” and “The Toes” and miles above chancers like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (‘Bang’) and The Hives (‘Hate to say I told you so’) was the spit and fury of “Lightsabre cockingsucking blues” by “Mclusky” – assumedly named after the standout character from Grange Hill.

Mclusky1

Well most standout unless you count;

Mclusky2

Mr. Bronson. (Though his eponymous band weren’t as good)

The track stood out. A mile. Even in that company.
It’s opening lyrics, scream rattled off at lightning speed are;

“Eat what you are while you’re falling apart

And it opened a can of worms

The gun’s in my hand and I know it looks bad

But believe me I’m innocent

I’m fearful I’m fearful I’m fearful of flying

And flying is fearful of me”

And it goes from there.

I was smitten.

That the “Rather good” team did a video with a screaming faced cat (as was the style of the time) helped.

Mclusky3

That the lyrics were clever, clear, coupled with vitriol but written as if constructed for a much less aggressive sounding act helped even more and for the first time in some time (the early 00’s being a bit weaker than usual for indie I’d thought), I had a new favourite band.

The accompanying album “Mclusky do dallas” I got soon after, produced by Steve Albini (in a week!), chock full of more witty lyrics and power and recorded in a week, it was similarly amazing.

To the surprise of no one, Mclusky were a John Peel fave (a late period John Peel fave to boot, when sadly the pull wasn’t as strong) which meant sessions and people actually hearing them. In 2002 Peel even broadcast a gig from the Nottingham Boat Club (Datsuns, Mclusky, wolves!, Bays, P Brothers, Echoboy, Six By Sevem Bearsuit, Miss Black America…see what I mean about Mr. Peels’ pull waning in his later years?)

I’m tired of explaining that it wasn’t supposed to be allowed

I’d buy it but it wasn’t supposed to be like this

You can’t touch me cos I’m never over

But your heart’s gone the colour of coca-cola

I’m laughing cos I’m saving for an overdraft

Because I only want a video or photograph

Of that time you knocked my sister over

But your heart’s gone the colour of a dustbin”

Line up wise, the band were Andrew “Falco” Falkous who played guitar and shouted Jonathan “Thieving Bassist” Chapple who played bass and shouted and Jack “Eccleston” Egglestone who replaced previous drummer Matthew Harding late on in 2003.

I dug out the earlier records with Harding, but they weren’t as…well to be honest they did naff all for me, all a bit ‘early songs’, but everything from the 2001 release of ‘lightsabre’ onwards was great for a good long while.

The singles from the album kept coming and were never dissapointing, even the b-sides were awesome in a lot of cases (EG Exciting Whistle-Ah, Join The Mevolution) and watching them live in 2003 (they really didn’t seem to play London much in 2002, I know, I tried to watch them) they were full of the same passions as they had on record, an awesome live spectacle.

“Kkkitchens, what were you thinking?

Your quality units never stood a chance

With a little forward planning and perspective

You’d have avoided this

But you’re a spook, a legend

An urban myth with a twist in the tail

A precautionary nod to the licensing trade

And children still whisper your name”

Even the T-shirts were (as you’d expect) understated and fantastic.

 

The third album in 2004 dipped a bit, but it was still pretty damn great in places (“kk kithcens what were you thinking”, “without msg I am nothing”), still had the power, still the lyrical and vocal quality and dexterity, possibly lost the immediacy and had some padding.

Gigs were still great.

And then on November 2nd 2004, Mclusky’s tour trailer was stolen from a La Quinta parking lot in Phoenix, Arizona, about 5 grands worth of kit gone. Somehow this seems to have heightened some issues between Falco and Chapple and lead to them wrapping up the band by December.

Mclusky’s last gig was in December 2004, where they supported Shellac at the Scala. I went and, frankly it was an odd (and a little muted) gig to finish on, certainly it would have felt more satisfying to close out with the previous ULU gigs (some of which ended up on the compilation ‘Mcluskyism’ released in 2006)

Chapple would reform his previous band Shooting At Unarmed Men, release 2 albums, then move to Australia in 2006, reforming the band again with a new lineup and then appear in other bands (Harmony and Poor People).

Falco would almost immediately continue with the amazingly similar (mostly due to his vocals and lyrics) Future Of The Left (recommended listening ‘Manchasm’, ‘Small bones small bodies’), which was basically him and Jack from Mclusky and, for the next 5 years Kelson Mathias from Jarcrew on Bass.

Still, by 2014, Mclusky would be missed enough that when FOTL started advertising Mclusky gigs again for charity causes – they sold out faster (much faster) than FOTL gigs did. Odd when you’re 2/3 the same band (Albeit with an added singer for Johns songs in one case).

But for now, let’s relive the power and lyrical dexterity of Mr. Falcous most famous band with a few punchy Mclusky tracks;

Mclusky

 1. Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues (Reading Festival 2004)

This live version gets across the power of this set opener extremely well.

  1. That Man Will Not Hang (Peel Session 2004)

I’d tried to source a 1st Peel session track, but the quality was so poor I went for this excellent 2nd session effort. Peel expressed surprise he’d had them in the studio so few times by the end.

  1. KK Kitchens What Were You Thinking (Colin Murray BBC Session, 2004)

Entirely live from Maida Vale comes one of the best tracks from that 3rd album (My Pain And Sadness Is More Sad And Painful That Yours) and as a Brucie bonus I’ve welded an interview snippet onto the end.

  1. To Hell With Good Intentions (Reading Festival 2004)

Their Reading performance was a belter, (only 4 months before the split too) and whilst it was tempting to use a 2002 live track for a little balance, this version again shows the punch and quality of the band in full flow.

(By the way, I thought I’d choose non studio recorded tracks, or risk Falco’s wrath);

“Please be careful, or we’ll get the world we all deserve. Hobby bands who can tour once every few years if they’re lucky, and the superstars, freed from such inconvenient baggage as integrity and conscience, running the corporate sponsored marathon of £80-a-ticket arena tours and television adverts til their loveless hearts explode in an orgy of oppressive branding and self-regard. Some of us, in all honestly, just want to make the music we love and play it around the world without living in poverty”

Mclusky6

Well, quite.

By Ed The Saint

The Belltower – Exploration Day

The debut single from the shoegazers of New York, The Belltower.  Exploration Day was produced by House of Love legend Terry Bickers.  It was NME’s single of the week upon release, as it features the instantly recognisable Outshine the Sun. While their album concentrates on the vocal talents of Britta Phillips; in Exploration Day, Mark Browning takes the vocal duties in Beatnixon Blues and Solstice.  These are just as strong as the songs performed by Britta.  Thankfully Mark’s vocals are left intact when Solstice appeared on Popdropper. It has icy organ in the background.  Britta sings on Never Going Home, this song is described by some as beautiful and heartfelt, and by others as sounding a bit like Celine Dion.  I am firmly in the first camp of thought for this song.

The Belltower : Exploration Day

Outshine The Sun
Beatnixon Blues
Solstice
Never Going Home

The Boo Radleys – Kaleidoscope

The second release after the legendary Ichabod and I, just a three months after the original release and featured a cleaned up version of Kaleidoscope as the lead track.  Eventhough this was head and shoulders above Ichabod in terms of production, it is still amateur compared to their Creation Record releases.  At the time they were signed to Rough Trade Records, after the initial Ichabod release on the indier than thou Action label.

Sice’s voice is weak and wishy washy in this release, and I believe this happened because of the mix of the songs but he finds his voice for the classic Everything is Alright Forever album.

The Boo Radleys : Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope
How I Feel
Aldous
Swansong

Bennet: Out Of The In Crowd

1993 – Pre Britpop

Bennet formed in Reading in the Summer of 1993.  Peddling cheeky, upbeat indie, they picked up more and more local support slots, possibly assisted by the lead singer’s job at Virgin Records store in town.

1994 – Peak Britpop
Bennet increased their gigs and improved their onstage patter.  By 1995, they were signed to a record label and opened the second stage at Reading Festival 95.

1995 – Britpop in early decline, still selling
Bennet got signed at this point.

Now you’re thinking, so what? These are late period Britpop stalwarts, surely?
Odd I’ve never heard of them.

Except they were a Britpop sounding band. Who signed to Roadrunner.

Now, for the uninitiated Roadrunner Records began in 1980 and used to import US metal into Europe, becoming one of the largest heavy metal indie labels as the 90’s wore on, with key bands being Sepultura, Motorhead, Machinehead, Fear Factory, Biohazard, Sick of it all and Corrosion of Comformity.

Bands who looked like this;

bennet 1 - biohazard

And this
bennet 2 - metal band
When Bennet looked like this;
bennet 3

What could possibly go wrong?

Firstly, many of Bennet’s better songs were let down by imperfect production and pushed out as B sides.
The A sides were excellently produced by Marc Waterman (previously produced albums by Ride, Elastica and Ash).

The 1st album was also done decently by Wolsey White (who’d go on to produce Hard Fi’s better received stuff) with Phil Vinall doing later singles again just fine, but really that accounted for a quarter of material at a time when people were focused on end to end great EPs and singles (See Suede et al).

The B-sides, (where some of their best live songs like Polka, ‘Bennet have left the building and Hello, we are Bennet ended up) got mauled (seemingly in one long session by Patrick Hannan, with no production credits I can find before or after. Incidentally he seems to have been the drummer for the Sundays, of massive selling ‘Reading, Writing and Arithmetic’ fame).

This destroyed any possibility of Bennet being taken seriously. Blur had suffered similarly early on, but had kept the songs back enough – or just been lucky and had time to get better at writing so had more in the bag.

Bennet were always tight live along with being entertaining, energetic and even more fun. I saw them a number of times in the earlier days and never failed to be entertained, but the versions on singles were (and are) shocking; songs like Bennet have left the building a roaring beast of an indie tune with a fantastic chorus live, is done so badly you can only imagine you’re listening to a rough demo by mistake. The whole song is imbalanced, the drums are tinny, the guitars overloud and mewing, there’s no life in the performances and vocalist Jason sounds almost bored, like he doesn’t know this is the actual version and is doing a guide vocal.

Bennet did a peel session in 1996 (‘What a jolly noise they make to be sure’ enthused Sir John), which features two of the afflicted tracks; Polka and Jordan Bennet and an Evening session which had a version Hello, we are Bennet, and these tell the tale – making mincemeat of the released versions, showing flashes of well laid out backing vocals, the bands power and above all, the energy that marked the band out as such a live treat.

Anyway, the lesson was clear – buy a Bennet single and get dull tracks (apart from those on the album anyway).

Secondly, promotion.

I used to spend my Saturdays in a record shop in Ware and it was the devil’s own job to get hold of the Bennet singles despite knowing the staff. The singles almost seemed to start their shelf life in the bargain bin.

The rep literally didn’t seem to know what to do with the first single – used as he was to pushing metal records (Roadrunner had had the Prodigy ‘Experience’ and an Erasure album at some point, but those had been heavily trailed prior, needing little push) and said so.
To be fair, adverts duly appeared in the NME, no one seemed to have a bad word to say about their live performances, but with confused selling and cover artwork that was shockingly bad, a weedily coloured mess of cheap looking photos, by the time the album came around, few cared.

1996 – Britpop’s last indie albums released early on in the year (Morning Glory/Expecting to fly)

Bennet released Super Natural on the 2nd September, with Suede dropping ‘Coming up’ (to mixed reviews as they were coming to the end of their peak period and failing to break the US) the same month.

Super Natural is a wonderful album, chock full of great songs and it did well in reviews (7/10 in the NME) “they’ve always got a smile on their face and a song in their heart. And, in Bennet’s case, it’s nearly always a bloody great song.” (Mark Sutherland)

The lyrics were always a strength, something you really couldn’t say for so many indie bands of the time. Printed proudly on the inner sleeve of the debut album and quite obviously one of the reasons that, even as the light heartedness of the material gave fuel to lazy writers, the criticism was never that cutting. Some of the best songs that hadn’t been mauled on the singles fared well here, it’s a great album, but albums with one trick pony singles all over them and a confused promotion (and more dreadful cover art), it was never going to be a massive seller.

Still, as 1996 closed, no one would have been surprised if Bennet had been dropped. If anything I expected it myself – and I was a fan…

Early 1997: Britpop at this point = Spice Girls and was thus dead – and here come the dance acts…

And then, in February 1997 Bennet released Mums gone to Iceland. Presumably the last single.

Now I’ve no idea how much this took Roadrunner by surprise. Certainly they must have signed them for a reason and I’m doubting it was for my favourite song at the time Wanker (I was very immature for someone in their early 20’s, not much has changed)

It had a shockingly bad single cover even by the standards of the day. Literally the four of them standing in a white room with Jason drinking Orange Juice. The height of not trying on the labels’ part.

I don’t have any adverts for it, despite running up a website for them and having things like postcards, I’m not even sure it really got promoted…
Dead in the water, surely?

It got to number 34.

Now that’s not a massive hit it would seem. But back then getting in the top 40 meant something and for Bennet, everything. It meant radio play, it meant at least some people were interested and some were buying them.

So now Roadrunner have to give even a simple push, maybe this wasn’t such a failed experiment?

Noticeably some ads appeared and artwork on the follow up single improved a lot….but too little too late, a re-release of an earlier single wasn’t going to cut it with more woeful b sides and it slid in at 64.

Confused, Roadrunner must have felt compelled to do a second album. Because now, well, this lot have actually done something lots of indie bands – labouring in those days – hadn’t done with much bigger pushes and budgets.

Even to this day indie fans know Mums Gone to Iceland if they’re of a certain age/dedication.

But at the time not a lot happened. More touring, but without new material. And then, radio silence.

The recorded a second album. I saw them preparing for album 2’s release at London’s Water Rats venue. Fantastic, but still…Water Rats..it wasn’t up and the nicer supports (Carter USM being one of their biggest) weren’t forthcoming.

I Like Rock came out as lead single album, barely charting, but still charting…but too little too late, no one seemed to care – at least not enough.

And then somehow, they got a BBC 1 radio broadbast from a show in Exeter.

And in that radio show, a possible second hit, a secret weapon, a last gasp: Generation Pepsi.

A anthemic track, much more intricate, much bigger chorus – it showed a side of Bennet starting to learn how to do ‘bigger tracks’, bit of word of mouth…

Best showcased on that live gig broadcast by Radio 1, it had a great chorus and…

And then Pepsi got wind of it. They weren’t having it and I can’t imagine Roadrunner were going to push back, given the status of the band.

Generation Pepsi staggered, punch drunk, out of Roadrunner, renamed as Horses Mouth, some truly underwhelming production, more awful artwork (neon pink arrows anyone?) and very strangely adjusted lyrics even in the verse killing any chance of it doing well and indeed it didn’t.
The second album also waddled out, a few muted ads around the papers – but not much – this one had a decent opener, lots of energy, a few decent tracks scattered around the filler (typical ‘written on the tour’ stuff it struck me), but it wasn’t amazing (though again it garnered decent reviews).

And by the end of 1998, Bennet were done, dropped.

So what has this taught us about what happens when a great little band sign to the wrong label?

Who knows.

So for now, sit back, relax and enjoy the best song Bennet had – even if it didn’t have the hilarious (to an immature 20 year old) sucker punch of Wanker

Bennet
Karaoke (Live – Exeter University)
Someone Always Gets There First
Wanker (Live – London Astoria, 20th September 1996)
Young, Free And Sorry
Alright, so I lied about Wanker.

Karaoke is from the awesome Radio 1 Broadcast from Exeter, Wanker is from the tape given away at a Highbury Garage gig in 1996, SAGTF is the single version and Young, Free And Sorry is just..my favourite Bennet song.

I’d have put the Bennet Christmas single here but a) I don’t have it b) It’s not their best song. ;O)

Thanks for reading,

Ed The Saint

See See Rider – Stolen Heart

See See Rider were brilliant when I saw them at the Joiners Arms, Southampton.  They were signed to Lazy Records after being spotted by Birdland manager Wayne Morris and the secured support slots for Lloyd Cole and the Jesus and Mary Chain (See See Rider were from the Mary Chains home town of East Kilbride).  They only made a couple of singles and the album was abandoned before it was released.  Their output actually made My Bloody Valentine look busy. But it was not necessarily their fault as they were victims of a series of unfortunate incidents.  These included a motorbike accident and bust ups onstage.

Stolen Heart is the second and last release from See See Rider.  It features a cover of The Rolling Stones, Happy only on the vinyl edition of the EP. So I have been slightly completest and have included both the CD and 12” versions. With an output limited to only 2 releases you can be excused for being slightly obsessive.

See See Rider : Stolen Heart

 

The Bedflowers – Songs : Summer 1990

In the early nineties before widespread internet use and podcasts if you wanted to discover new music, you listened to the radio. I fondly remember coming home from a night out on a Saturday, switching on the radio turning the volume off and recording John Peel while I slept. I would wake up in the morning and the light on the radio would still be on. From this I made many discoveries. Some of the things I heard I would never listen to again, like a spoken word radio parody Broadcast Booth by The Drag Racing Underground, the other was The Bedflowers I’m So Cool. This is no longer a distant memory, with the help of the internet.

The Bedflowers were a duo from Tottington north of Manchester. Janice White and Danny Moran formed the band in 1989. They recruited some help in the form of Howard Goody and Shelia Seal both from The Man from Delmonte to create a three track demo. Songs – Summer 1990 would be their only release and it was on the Manchester Bop! label, which was home to Demonte too.

It has a catchy, fresh gangly twee guitar feel. Janice Whites’s vocals sound not unlike Amelia Fletcher’s from Talulah Gosh. The whole thing was recorded on a shoestring budget which adds the the amateurish appeal.

It is the lyrics and the wit that are the real selling point of the demo. Candidate for the greatest song title ever would be You’re Not Blonde and Stupid, But Nobody’s Perfect. The standout track is I’m So Cool. In just under 3 minutes it mentions everything that was important to me in 1990. It has references to Dr Martens, the NME and The Wedding Present. It is a sideways look at youth culture in the early nineties.

The Bedflowers : Songs : Summer 1990

Madly In Love With 25 People
You’re Not Blonde And Stupid, But Nobody’s Perfect
I’m So Cool