The Big Black Plastic Explosion...
Scared To Get Happy – A Story of Indie Pop 1980-1989

(Cherry Red)

I admit it. In my youth I was something of an indie kid.

Until the Manics came along and told me to grow up.

Now, the people at Cherry Red Records have here lovingly and painstakingly compiled a collection of many of the best, most influential and most interesting of the releases spanning the years 1980-1989 which loosely fit under the flowery umbrella of 'indie pop'.

The genre itself began as a reference to those post punk bands putting put tracks on genuine bedroom labels, but as independently distributed labels including Stock, Aitken and Waterman and PWL started to infect the indie charts with their unnervingly mainstream trashy pop, the term went on to stand instead for a whole 'indie' world view. This might have included some or all of the following: jangly guitar pop, heavily reverbed miserable male vocals or chirpy female ones, a continuation of the punk aesthetic, simple drum beats, DIY lo-fi production values, sweets, hello Kitty bags, swirly keyboards, silly haircuts and soppy hair-clips, worse anoraks...

And often, an empowering triumph of enthusiasm over ability.

There are 126 tracks on this 5 CD collection all epitomising this maxim to some degree, but even then there's still masses of scope for non stop argument and heated debate about what's included, and what's not.

The compilers start their copious, well informed and beautifully laid out notes by admitting their disappointment at not having been able to feature important genre-defining tracks by The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine, Orange Juice, Felt, The Vaselines and The Pastels. From the 8 million other indie stories out there, every POP! kid is going to find other of their favourite tracks which are missing. My overlooked delights would be anything by Thrilled Skinny or The Wilderness Children, so I'll inflict share them with you here:



And of course everyone's going to find tracks they wish weren't included : I'm not going to waste time naming my least liked songs, but would say that some tracks on here do sound like the clichéd critique of indie snarled out cattily by a self righteous Nicky Wire – whiney, twee, inept, clunky, shambling and flat. With nothing to say.

But, no need to be at Loggerheads - this is all a subjective matter of taste.

So, enough of that. There's easily enough raving pop blasts here to counter the inevitable miserabilist nit picking. How fantastic to hear the 3 chord energy and committed indie aesthetics of The Groove Farm, the sassy intelligent confidence of Girls at our Best, the naïve trumpet-lead dance-ability of The June Brides, the song writing nous of The Shop Assistants defying the deficiencies of their recording studio, the scuzzy swirl of The Primitives, the golden blur of an early Jesus and Mary Chain demo, the sonic collision crush of Age of Chance, the ridiculously snagging lyrics of Pop Will Eat Itself, the jangly excesses of The Wedding Present, Rodney Allen's inimitable acoustic wistfulness, the indie par excellence jingle of The Popguns and Talulah Gosh, the Flatmates surfin into your subway, the sadly once almost forgotten but now revitalised 14 Iced Bears and the once heard, rarely forgotten Weather Prophet's catechismic chorus, the nearly ground breaking House of Love, the wonderfully Welsh Darling Buds from Newport and Swansea's mysterious chancers The Poohsticks, the reassuringly still very weird Cud, the frantic pogoing perfection and obligatory buzzsaw guitars of the Soup Dragons, the morose genius of The Waltones, the frantic panic of The Bachelor Pad and the pure pop perfection of Primal Scream's 'Velocity Girl', all presented here forever on CD.


See how genuinely enthusiastic I am?

And that's still without mentioning the gems I've stumbled upon for the first time here. Nor my possibly unprintable reaction to hearing Jamie Wednesday (an earlier incarnation of Carter USM) for the first (and probably last) time ever.

And that's why although Manic Street Preachers are the defining voice of my generation, the indie kid ethos here epitomised has definitely had a big influence on me and thus on R*E*P*E*A*T too – the cut'n'paste zines, the DIY coloured vinyl singles, the continued belief that anyone can (and indeed should) do it.

Some sort of implicit manifesto, some sort of inspiration for action.

Be a creator, not a consumer!

However, as The Manics were to tell me, and as I have since found out for myself, while a DIY pop explosion may change a few heads, singles in paper bags (which are nearly impossible to find in shops), lots of cheap fuzz, lashings of 'ba ba baas' accompanied by ridiculous bowl haircuts and awkward anoraks were never going to change the world.

[For that you need something else.]

But, as long as you're not expecting a boy girl revolution, this carefully presented and imaginatively compiled collection of 5 Cds sure packs some top tunes, brings back some fond memories and leads to some exciting bubblegum splash surprises.

Go out and get 'em boys (and girls).

Rosey R*E*P*E*A*T

The beginning of the end of this indie kid?
Manic Street Preachers showing their indie roots.

More neutral product description from Amazon, tho' I'd urge you to get yours straight from Cherrry Red via the link above.

Product Description
Inspired by the Nuggets compilations, the box set boasts 134 tracks spanning the Eighties, drawn from all the key labels of the period Creation, Factory, Cherry Red, Rough Trade, Sarah, Subway Organisation, Zoo, Kitchenware, Pink, Chapter 22, In Tape, Medium Cool, Lazy, Dreamworld, 53rd & 3rd, Ron Johnson, el, Vindaloo, Red Rhino, Food, etc. Many of the bands later tasted mainstream success: Primal Scream, Aztec Camera, Stone Roses, Pulp, the Wonder Stuff, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, the Inspiral Carpets, the Soup Dragons, the Wedding Present, James, the La s, del Amitri, the Primitives, the Jesus & Mary Chain, Prefab Sprout, the Shamen, Cud, the Bluebells, Black, the House Of Love, Strawberry Switchblade, Pop Will Eat Itself, the Darling Buds, Fuzzbox, That Petrol Emotion, the Railway Children, Jamie Wednesday (as Carter USM), the Milltown Brothers and the Boo Radleys. The box set boasts a stylish 54-page booklet with a lengthy sleeve-note detailing each track and illustrations of the records and bands involved. A few tracks (Strawberry Switchblade, Soup Dragons, Bluebells, Close Lobsters, etc.) have never officially been released before. Many others are extremely rare and make their debut on CD.