Bill’s Indie Basement (6/22): the week in classic indie, college rock, and more
It's another banner week in the Indie Basement with two anniversary reissues that fans of Creation Records should be excited about, plus Cold Beat prep an EP of Eurythmics covers, Swedish dreampop crew The Mary Onettes are back with a new single, and UK duo Red Red Eyes bewitch on their debut LP. Details below, gentle reader.
Need more Indie Basement-approved stuff? I am now somewhat obsessed with this Japanese band CHAI; Gonerfest 15 has a whole bunch of bands written about in this column; and New Zealand's Wax Chattels prove not all bands on Flying Nun sound like The Clean and The Bats.
When The Jesus & Mary Chain left Creation Records after their debut single, the blossoming indie label struggled to find the next big thing. Would Felt be it? The Jasmine Minks, or The Weather Prophets? (No, no, and no.) In 1987 they found their Golden Calf in the deep voice, great songs and high cheekbones of Guy Chadwick, who had already been signed to a major label with his "dreadful" band The Kingdoms, and was already 30 when he came to Creation's door armed with all of House of Love's early singles and debut album already written.
House of Love's debut single, "Shine On," is a classic, full of dark glamour, shimmering, squalling, pre-shoegaze guitars and a massive chorus. If its follow-up, "Real Animal," was a slight misstep, it had a couple great b-sides, and then "Christine" hit in 1988, giving Creation Records one of their greatest singles ever. Sullen, mysterious, and deeply romantic, "Christine" still sends shivers today. House of Love's subsequent debut album (self-titled, like almost all their albums) is also a classic, filled to the brim with Chadwick's great pop sensibilities, filtered through Terry Bickers' gorgeous guitar-work. ("Love in a Car" might be my favorite House of Love song ever.) The record spawned a full-on bidding war for the band who left Creation for Phonogram and then spent nearly a year and more than a million dollars recording their second LP.
But I digress. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the debut album by House of Love, widely considered an influence on Slowdive, Ride, and other shoegaze bands. Cherry Red, who already released a three-disc 25th anniversary edition in 2013, expand upon that for the new five-disc edition which will be out September 28. On it, you get every song House of Love released on Creation (including great non-LP single "Destroy the Heart"), plus tons of excellent, interesting demos (including songs that never got released), as well as BBC sessions, live recordings and more. Unlike the 25th anniversary set, here the album has been remastered from the original quarter-inch analogue tapes which I'm anxious to hear. There is also, more excitingly for some (like me), a two-vinyl-disc version featuring the original album on the first disc, and then the second disc has all their non-LP Creation singles and B-sides (some of which feature member Andrea Heukamp who left the group early on).
Check out the full five-disc tracklist here and stream the 25th anniversary version here:
Dovetailing neatly from House of Love we have Adorable whose debut single for Creation, 1992's "Sunshine Smile," was just about perfect as anthemic guitar-heavy indie goes. The band were lumped in with shoegaze, because almost everything on Creation in 1992 was kinda shoegaze, but Adorable were closer in spirit to House of Love's textured, romantic pop. They owed a lot to the Pixies and The Wedding Present, held Echo & The Bunnymen in the highest regard, and singer/guitarist/songwriter Piotr Fijalkowski had no shortage of big hooks and mile-wide chrouses in his arsenal.
He knew it too. Fijalkowski shot from the hip and was more than a little arrogant, mouthing off in the press, and once infamously heckled his hero, Bunnymen frontman Ian McCulloch, at a solo show for the lame lyrics Ian had on then-new album, Mysterio. While this sort of behavior would endear the world to the Gallaghers in just two short years, Fijalkowski got a bad reputation, which Creation tried to play up in ads that proclaimed Adorable as "The Band You Love to Hate." This happened in America, too, despite almost nobody even knowing who Adorable were.
All that is really beside the point, as Adorable's debut album, Against Perfection, is one of the great, underrated UK indie records of the early '90s, jam-packed with memorable melodies, roaring/chiming guitars, clever/heartfelt lyrics and lots of swagger. All of Adorable's music is currently out of print and not available on streaming services, but Against Perfection is getting a 25th Anniversary vinyl reissue on July 7 via Music on Vinyl. One caveat: it's the Creation Records UK version of the LP which didn't include "Sunshine Smile" or their other pre-LP single "I'll Be Your Saint" (which were both added to the American release on SBK Records). It does still have their second best-ever-single, "Sistine Chapel Ceiling," the gorgeous "A To Fade In," another catchy single, "Homeboy," the buzzsaw pop of "Favorite Fallen Idol" and "Crash Site," and the melancholic "Still Life." I like every song on this album.
While we wait for the vinyl reissue, you can listen to the American version of the LP via YouTube:
To further tie this week's first two entries together: Pete Fijalkowski now makes lovely records with House of Love's Terry Bickers.
San Francisco's Cold Beat , who made one of my favorite albums of 2017, are back with a new EP, titled A Simple Reflection, which is a bit of surprise; it's all Eurythmics covers. While the cool synths of '80s hits like "Love is a Stranger" and "Sweet Dreams" might seem like an obvious influence on the minimal wave postpunk Hannah Lew makes as Cold Beat, it wasn't until stumbling onto an early Eurthymics b-side that Hannah's eyes (ears) were truly opened. The sounds therein led to her checking out the group's debut album, In the Garden, which left Hannah equally bewitched. Obsessed, what began as just one cover turned into seven, and here we are. "Sometimes a song seems to sing just for you," says Hannah, "as if someone knows your most inner thoughts and feelings and has found a way to describe them effortlessly." The only "hit" on the EP is "Love is a Stranger," which Lew takes into more of a Giorgio Moroder direction, but she also covers Eurythmics debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again," b-sides and more. You can check out snippets from the whole EP below:
Cold Beat's A Simple Reflection EP is out August 11 via Dark Entries. Two of Cold Beat's Eurythmics covers were used in a recent Moschino fashion show in Los Angeles and you can watch that here:
While Sweden's The Mary Onettes haven't released an album since 2014's Portico, they've continued to gift us with a catchy single or two every year. Once mopey gloom-lovers, they left their Cure-isms behind a while back, and have been exploring sunnier territory. Their brand-new single "Cola Falls," with its throbbing synth bass and atmospheric keyboard washes, plops them down on the beaches of Ibiza circa 1988. There's still a little melancholy in Philip Ekström vocals but the clouds are pushed away by the warm breeze:
"Cola Falls" is out today via Cascine. Let's hope we get an album soon.
UK duo Red Red Eyes make hazy, sometimes clinical, occasionally noisy, often beautiful indie rock, with nods to Gainsbourg, Morricone, and Hazlewood. This might lead you to tag them "File Under Broadcast," and if you only heard "Untold" from their debut album, Horology, I might say fair enough. But they have a lot more going on here, with nary a harpsichord in sight. Laura McMahon, who you may remember from indiepop band Betty and The Werewolves, has a voice that is much better suited to this sort of cinematic music than for her old band (in my opinion), and her songs are catchy but elusive. Xavier Watkins, meanwhile, fills in the corners will all manner of instrumentation and ambience. I especially like the minimal songs, like "In Between Birds and Wine," "Control," and "The Watch Ticks On," which play like baroque noir hymns. It's really lovely stuff.