WHICH ALBUMS TO OWN FROM THE C86 ERA

Back to the music now. As you probably have understood by now, there are many many albums and singles available from the C86-era, and although many of them are good, and often very good, there are some that are less good (and some that really stink, to be honest), so I thought that I should guide you through this jungle. But remember that this is my own view on these records, and I don't expect anyone to agree with me 100%. So, the best thing you can do (as always when reading record reviews) is to listen to them before you buy anything.

The obvious one to start with is the actual C86 album or cassette. I think you are more likely to find the album version, although it's quite hard to find that too these days. Just look for the album with the golden sleeve. There aren't too many like that around.

Sarah Records have of course issued a lot of "must have" records. Some of the most important ones are 'Feral Pop Frenzy' by the Australian band Even As We Speak (whose members later formed The Singing Bush) and 'Le Gardin Du Heavenly' and 'Heavenly vs Satan' by Heavenly. Sarah also released a "best of"-set with Heavenly entitled 'This Is Heavenly' some years ago, which is probably ithe best way to get to know this brilliant band. Also, if you would like to hear The Field Mice, the 2CD compilation 'Where Did You Learn To Kiss That Way' is a great way to start. It was released on Shinkansen and is available for the price of one single CD. Great value! And to wrap things up in the Sarah region, I can recommend the label compilations they released during the years. The early LP compilations are almost impossible to find these days, but if you do, buy them! The last release on Sarah, SARAH100, was a retrospective CD called 'There And Back Again Lane', and is superb CD and a must in your CD collection. Sadly, it's quite hard to find. But keep on looking…

Then we have McCarthy, probably the best and most original band in the C86 genre. They released three brilliant albums during their career. If you want to buy the original LPs, you will have pay around 10 pounds each for them, but luckily the nice guys at Cherry Red have reissued them all on the CD, and have also added some extra tracks. Their debut 'I Am A Wallet' has been coupled with their last effort, 'Banking, Violence and The Inner Life Today' on one CD, while their second album, 'The Enraged Will Inherit The Earth' has been issued together with tracks from an EP 'McCarthy At War EP' again on one CD. And if that isn't enough, you can also buy a compilation, 'That's All Very Well, But…', which features a lot of songs only available on rare 7" singles and Peel Session tracks which sometimes differ quite a lot from the album versions. So, those are four albums that you must own!

Furthermore, Vinyl Japan have done a great deal to keep the C86 bands alive by reissuing original albums and compilations by important bands. Among these are The Man From Delmonte, who released some great 7" singles and EP's during the 80's. Just listen to 'Drive Drive Drive' and 'My Love Is Like A Gift You Can't Return' and you will know what I mean. Also, The Haywains deserve some attention here. They released a bunch of 7" singles and (I think) two albums in the 80's and 90's, but sadly split up in 1995, after releasing their last single on the Spanish Elefant label. Vinyl Japan has reissued those original albums, plus a compilations called 'Get Happy With The Haywains'. A must have if you like the Housemartins in their 'Happy Hour' mood, or alternatively the faster songs of The Lucksmiths.

Another nice label is the Scottish 53rd and 3rd, formed by The Pastels' frontman Stephen Pastel together with some friends. They released records by The Vaselines (a band that Nirvana covered a few songs by on their Unplugged show), BMX Bandits, the already mentioned Talulah Gosh, Shop Assistants, Househunters, The Boy Hairdressers and The Groovy Little Numbers. Some of the members from these bands can now be found in the Teenage Fanclub. Strangely, this label never, however, released anything by The Pastels.

If you want to hear what 53rd and 3rd released, there are two nice compilations available, 'Fun While It Lasted', Volumes 1 and 2. These are released by Edinburgh based Avalanche Records, who took over the handling of the 53rd and 3rd catalogue when they folded in the late 80's. They have also released a compilation of all The Vaselines' recorded material on one album , entitled ' All The Stuff And More' . In my opinion, I think they are a bit uneven, but there are some great songs on it.

If we continue to concentrate on labels, we shouldn't forget the London based Subway Organisaion. They started out in the mid-80's, and released records by bands like The Flatmates ( featured here exclusively in the Pennyblackmusic Magazine), Choo Choo Train, The Soup Dragons, The Chesterfields, Razorcuts, The Clouds and The Groove Farm. The original 7" singles on Subway aren't that hard to find in second hand shops on the Internet, but if you want to know what it was all about, I recommend the compilations 'Whole Wide World' volumes 1 and 2, and 'Take The Subway To The Suburbs'.

IS THE C86 SPIRIT STILL ALIVE?

Yes, I should say so. Many critics often put bands like Belle & Sebastian in the category of C86-followers, and that may be partly right. But there are many bands that sound more like their idols, like the Australian group Sweet William (who have now split up, and whose singer Jason Sweeney has recently formed Simpatico), the Trash Can Sinatras. There are, of course, as well some of those C86 bands that were part of the scene 15 years ago still left such as The Pastels and The Windmills. The US has a strong popscene these days as well , with labels such as Magic Marker (which has bands like Kissing Book and Dear Nora) and K Records (formed by Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening fame, and the home of bands like The Softies and Heavenly in their final year ). Also, you can see some C86-influences in the Riot Grrl scene that exploded in the mid-90's. Bands like Bikini Kill and Sleater-Kinney released their own records on their own labels and again had a DIY attitude Their music was,however, much more aggressive and punky than all the C86-bands. But the though spirit lives on, and hopefully, will never die.









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