Toni Halliday of Curve was not a warm, sweet girl next door. No. She was all mean, and scary, and beautiful like Fairuza Balk in “The Craft”. This persona was to me best exemplified during a show Curve played at Irving Plaza, in NYC, back in the 90’s. In between songs a guy predictably yelled out “marry me !” to her. Toni, the human embodiment of a raven, stood at the mike, totally deadpan, then said, and I quote , “In your fuckin’ dreams mate“. It was uttered with such hostility, I still have nightmares about it. “Coast is Clear” is a chilly, cold, wondrous piece of alternative shoegazery, is basically the blueprint for most songs by Garbage, and is just the tip of the iceberg as far as Curve is concerned. Definitely check out their first 2 studio albums ” Doppelgänger”, and ” Cuckoo”, as well as “Pubic Fruit”, a compilation of their early EP’s. It’s all scary good.
Kanine Records have brought some truly amazing artists into the spotlight over their 15 years of life, from Chairlift to Grizzly Bear, to Fear of Men, and Pinact. Lio captains the Kanine ship with his wife Kay, and Britpop changed his life. Allow him to epically explain…
Britpop was not just a phase, for me it was a gateway that lead to a strong love for music with a Touch of CLASS.
In 5th and 6th grade my music knowledge pretty much consisted of whatever my Pops played on our family turntable. He had a huge record collection with a wide range of stuff including records from the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Herman’s Hermits, Eric Clapton, Musical Youth, Donna Summer, Lovin’ Spoonful, Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, as well as Disney Soundtracks. By the way, I still have all of those soundtracks, and they are great, my personal favorite being the “Mickey Goes Disco” lp.
But it wasn’t ’til the summer between 6th grade and 7th grade that I truly got inspired by music on my own. I spent the summer with one of my best friends, and his family, in Stuttgart, Germany. Our days consisted of skateboarding, eating gummy bears, talking about girls, and trying to do our hair cool. And at night we spent our time listening to the Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, INXS, and OMD, and dreaming of being invited out to the disco that his older sisters snuck out to at night.
When summer ended, I came back to the States, and hit 7th grade, with a newly spiked New Wave haircut, purple baggy pants, long green army jacket, and high top Vans. I thought my skate buddies would be stoked to hear what I’d been listening to all summer in Europe. They were not. While I’d been away, they’d all become obsessed with American Punk Rock, and made it clear they thought my favored stuff was truly wimpy. Truly wussy.
Kevin, one of my best skate buddies at the time, was really into the Misfits, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, 7 Seconds, Agent Orange, Black Flag etc, and we’d spend a lot of weekends in his room listening to that stuff. Though I admit I kind of began to love all of those bands musically, I still didn’t have a complete connection, style-wise, with what they were all about. It was like I was missing something.
Then in 8th grade, something happened: I heard The Cure, The Smiths, Joy Division, and Echo and The Bunnymen (still my fave band to this day), for the first time, and felt an instant connection. Yes, they all had a dark undertones to them, but their music actually made me feel hopeful.
Luckily, one of my other skate buddies had succumbed to these these sounds as well. Since he lived over an hour away, I’d take a bus to his every weekend, and skate around downtown with him by day, then soak up the newest bands coming from the UK on his cassette stereo, at night.
9th grade hit, and I found a new love, namely the Wax Trax label. I was into the whole style of the scene they represented, from the cool, dark clothes to, most importantly, the heavy synth beats they churned out. Frontline Assembly were my favorite band on the roster, but I also especially dug Revolting Cocks, Ministry, and My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult …yet once again, especially after I started going to their shows, I felt that I was not entirely aligned with what they were thinking, as in, everyone into the scene seemed ultra-aggressive, dirty, and unhappy.
See, I was spending my days in beautiful Florida, waking up to looking out my window at orange groves, then skating all day long in the sun. And so the aggression of the scene didn’t relate to my life, I mean I was not an angry teenager. I was still looking. Then in 10th grade, something even bigger happened to alter my musical landscape. It was a TV show. Yes, really.
MTV’s 120 Minutes was on from 12am-2am every Sunday, and hosted by this guy Dave Kendall. They would play the coolest new music from around the world, which back then was referred to as “alternative”. We used to call girls that were into it “Alter-Natives”, as those were the cool girls. I could never stay up that late, and so I would set up my VCR to record it, and the next day my sister, and I would watch it after school. It was a ton of work, as you had to fast forward through a lot of commercials, and bad interviews, but it was worth it to see an amazing new video from a band like Blur.
And that is where I first heard of the Charlatans, Lush, Stone Roses, Sundays, Inspiral Carpets, Soup Dragons, and Jesus and The Mary Chain. I felt a strong, and instant kinship with these bands. They had a punk spirit, great tunes, and great style. It was love.
At that time Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and other U.S. bands were big on the scene but I couldn’t relate. I mean to me, Kurt Cobain looked like a homeless guy, and sang about wanting to kill himself. I was like damn dude, life is great just enjoy it.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt like an outsider as a teenager, like a lot of us do, but the way the Charlatans described it in ‘The Weirdo”, well that was what it was about. They spoke my language. It celebrated life, and the fact that it was ok to be different. In other words, different was cool. Being happy was cool.
Fast forward to 1994. I had been hungrily following the UK music scene courtesy of the old NME magazines that I found at various record stores in Florida, and Atlanta. Usually I would have to read year old issues, but I didn’t care, as that was my only connection to what was going on in the UK. And hey, remember there was no internet in the mid 90’s.
I was entranced with the UK music scene : it seemed like a magical place. I talked so much about wanting to go to London that one summer, that I ultimately convinced my Dad to take us there. My sister, Mom, Dad, and I, in London for 3 whole weeks. I was in heaven. The mission for my sister, and I, was to hit as many record, clothing, and shoe stores as possible (Dr. Martens were hard to come by in Florida, so of course we couldn’t leave without picking up some).
I remember there were posters of Oasis all over town. We ourselves peeled a huge Blur “Parklike” subway poster off a wall. It had a big picture of a beer in the middle, and so I naturally loved it, and had to have it (p.s. still have it, and it’s since been displayed in bunch of different apartments I’ve lived in). We also bought as many music magazines as we could, as they were also hard to get in the States at that time. Within those magazines I discovered even more cool, new bands to get excited about. Pulp. Suede. Echobelly. Shed Seven. Placebo. Sleeper. The Auteurs. Marion…and on, and on.
Once we returned home, I was stuck by myself listening to this new crop of music from the UK, as my skate buddies were now firmly, officially stuck in Punk Rock land. Cool for them, but by then I was hanging Morrissey posters on the wall. I can remember a few parties at my house where I had to witness my drunk friends actually spitting on my Moz, Primal Scream, and Elastica posters. Spitting. The one, and only band spared from their hatred, was Supergrass who they thought “rocked”, and “had jams” . Once again, I felt separated because of my music taste…but I didn’t care. I had this little, happy place of music in my head, from a “magical land”, and it was far, far away from boring flannel, and torn jeans, and the negative sounds that went with them.
The rest of my college years I spent all of my time saving up money to take trips up to Atlanta to see an occasional British band play, and raid Wax n Facts Record Shop for all of their British Imports. On one crazy trip, I ventured up to see the band Gene, and got to meet Martin Rossiter, the singer, in person hours before the show. At that time I dressed in a pretty similar style to the guys in these British bands I loved, so much so, that the night of the show I was having pints in the upstairs bar, and one of the bouncers grabbed me, and said, “Dude, its show-time you gotta go downstairs and play”. He then ushered me past the door guy into the room. I didn’t even have time to react. I just let it happen. I was so excited that he thought I was in the band, and that I got in for free to see one of my favorite English bands play. I took a picture of Martin singing that night, and to this day it hangs in my office framed. Gene’s “Olympian” was the song that got me through many hard years in college, and is still there for me everytime I need it. The album of the same name, their debut, is by far one of my favorites of all time, and I never get tired of listening to it.
After that show, we went to an underground club called MJQ that specialized in MOD/Britpop. I walked in the door, and instantly, I was in heaven. Everyone was dressed super Mod, Britpop, and cool. No flannel shirts or torn up jeans, or dirty hair anywhere. Everyone dressed up to come out, and party, and dance to their favorite bands. I was stoked. It was heaven. Right then I knew I had to move to Atlanta, just as soon as I finished college in Florida.
Once I migrated to Atlanta, I managed to score an apartment across the street from my new, beloved Brit/Mod club MJQ. I would spend hours after work listening to my favorite new singles from the UK, while watching the early birds go into the club. Then at 12am my buddies would pile into my apartment for pre-drinks, and we’d all walk across the street like a gang into the club, ready to dominate the dance floor. Each year I would save a ton of money so that I could venture to the UK to buy mountains of records ( and they had to have the “Made in UK” stamp on them, that was important ), and see bands. I went to the Reading and Leeds Festivals twice, T in the Park, and some other amazing ones. It was a great thing to see the bands that you love, in their homeland , where the people “really got the music”. After spending years in Atlanta, I realized that there was more out there, and ventured up to NYC, driven by my strong love of Britpop/Mod Culture. Once there, I started my own club night called “Crashin’ In”(named after The Charlatans song), to share my musical love, which lasted well over 13 years. I even worked in an indie record store called Rebel Rebel that specialized in carrying UK band imports so that I could be closer to the music that I love ( and spend my weekly paycheck with way too much ease).
And so you see, Britpop was not a phase, or a fad, not for me it wasn’t. It remains my inspiration to this day, and that will never change.
Lio’s made an INSANE playlist featuring his most beloved Britpop, and Britpop adjacent tunes. Check it out on Spotify below ! Plus bonus YouTube playlist with stuff not featured on the former !
And a Note to NYer’s ! : Lio will be celebrating the magnificence of Britpop from all eras with “Return of the Party People”, a full DJ/Dance party, on Saturday, June 24th, at Brooklyn Nite Bazaar, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY. It runs from 8:00pm to 2:00am. It’s free, and open to all ages. He heartily invites everyone to come Dance, and Drink, and Screw ( hopefully), and bask in the glow of 1995.
Pretty heavenly harmonizing enveloped in a slightly post-punk-ish groove, yes, this is a handsome thing. It’s also slightly reminiscent of the Split Enz classic “One Step Ahead”, all understatement, and melodic twists, and turns, and that’s a fine thing to be sure.
Can’t go wrong with a song named after a flammable liquid ( see: Miranda Lambert “Kerosene”)…but seriously, this is short, sweet, and tuneful, features the most gentle of vocals, and chugs along with a real grace.
Here’s a show of love from Guest Rediscover-er, Andy Moreno, of the Brooklyn Food Monkey blog. Take it away Andy….
Even though War’s “The World is a Ghetto”, was the #1 selling album in 1973, I don’t feel they’ve received their deserved accolades: they were, and are, a treasure. Recently I’ve been revisiting key albums from my brother’s 70’s record collection, ones that moved me enough to ultimately include them in my own pile. He’s 68 now, and battling liver cancer. This ritual helps me to feel close to him while examining that time from an older perspective.
Musically, the 70’s had so many faces, emotions, and ways of mirroring the world. Wherever you were in your life, there were bands to perfectly portray that place. War’s instrumental track “City Country City” is an excellent example of their moody variety of musicianship. Like a song recalling better days, Lonnie Jordan’s organ gives a gorgeous sundowning feel, before he lights it all on fire. That pairs just right with Lee Oskar’s slightly somber, and hypnotic, genius harmonica chorus. A sax solo was never so cool, with conga drums guiding you through it. In this song, you hear all the energy of youth, as reality and struggles pour in. For me, this multi-cultural blend of Latin, funk and jazz especially in both this album, and “All Day Music” (1971), perfectly echo the bleakness, and grace of my Midwest factory hometown.
“It’s Pretend”, jangles, and shines, is a little bit power pop, and a little bit Postcard ( Scottish label that was home to Aztec Camera, and Orange Juice in the 80’s). Also check out “Her Face” from last year above, for some joyful Suede like glitter, and romance. Make no mistake, these guys know their way around a tune.
Colourbox were an unusual, esoteric pop band that were on the 4ad label, and put out a grand total of 1 full length album, in 1985. It was a absolutely a pop record, with proper songs, and ear candy, but it also had an electronic tinge, and featured some nascent sampling experiments. It was unquestionably different, and sounded nothing like the other stuff that was big at the time ( that being Duran Duran, Culture Club and the like). The band consisted of Martyn, and Steven Young, who later went onto to fame, as part of M/A/A/R/S, creators of the massive “Pump up the Volume”, and a vocalist by the name of Lorita Grahame.
“They say he’s got an ’81 Firebird, I’m still in my ’79” – Paul Davis lyric from “Somebody’s Been Gettin’ to You”
For me, that line kind of typifies the “West Coast” sound, a sound which during it’s 1978-1983 heyday, was as pervasive in the U.S., as hair metal was in later in the decade. During those years, the top 40 charts were littered end to end with the stuff. The “sound” was typified by supreme musicianship, slick production, and melodic cleanliness, and the people that made it tended to be straight, white guys, within the age range of 25-35. And as the state of the art recording studios in Southern California were where the overwhelmingly majority of it was created, at some point, years later, it started getting referred to as “West Coast”. When it was actually happening, it was just pop music, but the latterly coined genre name, and the sound are, admittedly, a perfect match.
As for the music itself, I loved it. It spoke to me in ways I did not understand since I had nothing in common with the people creating it, or their life experiences ( I was also obsessed with soul man Billy Preston, so there you go). I listened religiously to Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on Sunday mornings with anticipation , hoping for a new smoothie to spend my allowance on. The deal was, if you had a neatly trimmed beard, and were leaning on a sports car, in a crumpled, yet clean, linen suit, with the sun descending behind you on the cover, and your single was at least # 39 in the chart, I bought your record. I trusted you, and I loved you. My big obsession for awhile was this guy named Robbie Dupree, who turned out to be from Brooklyn, but to me, was the west coast-iast of all the west coasters. His self-titled 1980 album is full of sleek, lonely, and lovelorn tunes, nearly all of which I loved. I would endlessly play it, and simultaneously attempt to draw portraits of Robbie’s sullen, bearded face, as he stared out sadly from the album cover.
Of course, there’s been a resurgence in popularity of West Coast over the past handful of years. Most recently with Thundercat having esteemed West Coast royalty Kenny Loggins, and Michael McDonald, guest on his album. Prior to that, the lovingly curated “Too Slow to Disco” compilations, featuring some of West Coast’s finest, and the first of which was issued in 2014, garnered a lot of attention…and, surprisingly, critical love…but of course, it’s the “Yacht Rock” phenomenon, that really reignited the interest in the artists, and songs. That’s a cool thing. And it’s great that people are openly, brazenly loving these songs without guilt ( hopefully)…but…can’t bring myself to refer to this music as “Yacht Rock”… no. Never. To me it’s no joke, it is, and shall always will be, sigh, West Coast.
And with that, here’s a playlist, and a couple of loose ends from Mr. Dupree , of spineless, wussy, and truly awesome songs to play in your ’79 Firebird, as you drive to 7-11. Go on then.
The initial thing that came to mind upon hearing this was Nico, without the steely voice, and arcane lyrics. And so, I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first, but gradually found myself getting hypnotized by it’s austere simplicity. And the little melodic change in the middle is really fine.
Drinker is Aaron Mendelsohn and Ariel Loh, and this is lonely, moody, and not a million miles away from Chromatics. It’s a lean beauty.