Archives for posts with tag: C86

East Village

East Village are described as “one of the great lost bands”. As I had somehow managed to never hear them, or even hear of them, despite obsessive consumption of every jangling guitar pop artifact from the 1980s and 1990s, including some on labels East Village were on, I can attest to them being “lost” to my ears at least until now. Here’s “Strawberry Window” from their recently re-issued singles compilation “Hotrod Hotel”

East Village sound bolder than many of the ‘c86’ sound bands they are associated with, more American or Australian even, the mix of 6 & 12-string acoustic and electric guitars more sparkling than merely jangling. “Strawberry Window” and the other songs on “Hotrod Hotel” have more in common with the 1980s US ‘Paisley Pop’ movement (I’m thinking the peerless Windbreakers or Rain Parade here) and Australia’s The Go-Betweens.

Although I hadn’t heard East Village prior to this release I had heard more recent music by songwriter, guitarist, vocalist Paul Kelly. He teamed up with Debsy Wykes of Dolly Mixture as Birdie in the late 1990s and everything I have heard by Birdie is wonderful (and also hard to track down… which is all part of the adventure). “Deborah Wykes and Paul Kelly met whilst taking sabbaticals as members of St. Etienne’s band in 1994. Both had been writing their own songs and discovering a mutual love of The Shangri-Las and Love’s “Forever Changes”, formed their own band, BIRDIE.” (Birdie on Discogs) [There’s more on the East Village/ St Etienne/ Birdie overlaps on the Birdie page on Elefant Records website]

“Hotrod Hotel” is a perfect introduction to East Village, and an easy recommendation – and risk-free acquisition – for anyone who counts The Go-Betweens, Windbreakers, or Shack among their favourite bands. The LP release from Slumberland Records looks glorious too, packed full of sleeve notes and photos. It is also available from UK mail-order specialists Norman Records if the US Postal prices give you heart palpitations.


Don’t know how many bands in the history of forever have been called Flowers but I’ll bet there’s been a few. Possibly not quite as many as the number of bands playing indie-pop strictly following the C86 Purity Laws* of unadorned guitar, bass, drums and vocals.

But this Flowers and this song “Pull My Arm” pretty much grab you by the scruff of your neck and demand your undivided attention.

“Pull My Arm” features a clarion call of a lead vocal so effective at cutting through and grabbing attention Flowers could warn shipping away from a dangerous reef in dense fog.

Rachel Kennedy is the owner of that wonderful voice. Her bandmates are Sam Ayres (Guitar) and Jordan Hockley (Drums).

The minimalism and strum’n’churn of the guitars does invoke the likes of The Wedding Present or Heavenly perhaps. But on the quieter tracks it’s actually NZ’s The Bats who come to mind in the guitar and even some of the melodies. These are all fine touchstones for any band happy to fly the ‘indie-pop’ flag – as Flowers clearly are.

But it’s rare to find a voice as assertively confident whilst still retaining the unaffected purity of tone required classic for indie-pop. Adding to the fun and the fury, the guitar here also packs a bit more of a power when the buzz-saw fuzz/ distortion is engaged, transforming it into something altogether heavier at times.

There’s plenty of variety and texture from the relatively limited ingredients making up Flowers’ sound. Indie-pop this may be, but on steroids and capable of heavy lifting when it matters.

Flowers have a new album “Everybody’s Dying to meet You” out this month on Fortuna POP! in the UK and Kanine Records in the US.

If you wish to go on an archival dig you’ll find an early EP and some demos on Flowers’ Bandcamp page.

[* I made up ‘The C86 Purity Laws’… they don’t exist. It was just a throwaway hook-line for effect to get your attention. Relax.]

Mercury Girls

There’s a whole jangle-pop corner of the universe I didn’t know about called Philadephia… “Golden (Demo)” is a perfect sugar-rush calling card from Mercury Girls ahead of a debut single on (naturally) Slumberland records.

Not sure where I first came across Mercury Girls, but they are part of a tangled web of Philadelphia guitar pop bands past and present.

Members are shared with the wonderful Literature for example, or the heavier (in an excellent Speedy Ortiz kind of way) Little Big League and the defunct PET MILK, all of which are internet rabbit holes I recommend you disappear down if you are that way inclined.


This thrilling sub-two-minute blast of fuzzed out feedback pop comes from London band The Fireworks from their “Switch Me On” album, released last month.

It could just as easily have come from Edinburgh label 53rd and 3rd in the late 80s, so perfectly does it recreate the energy and style of The Shop Assistants, even down to the perfect vocal style of Emma Hall.

Sure, this has familiar elements of C86 fuzz-pop and The Shop Assistants (“Let You Know” manages to combine everything by stealing the chords of the Shoppie’s “Somewhere in China” while sounding like Jasmine Minks or Stars of Heaven). But it also mixes in some Jesus And Mary Chain feedback and Buzzcocks style power-pop.

So it’s not exactly doing anything new, but it IS very good indeed and there were never enough songs of the quality of this album released in the 80s anyway. Good clean fuzzed-up fun.

Shop Assistants
The Shop Assistants were a band from Edinburgh, Scotland which existed for 3 brief years from 1984 to 1987 (and again in 1990), leaving one album and a trail of rather spectacular singles on multiple UK indie-pop labels. Here’s their 53rd & 3rd label 12″ single, “Safety Net”:

Their story is intertwined with that of Glasgow contemporaries The Pastels, originally sharing Aggi (Annabel Wright) in common (in the first Shop Assistants line-up before joining The Pastels). Later, after a brief 1990 reformation, guitarist David Keegan joined The Pastels.

The Shop Assistants featured on the NME C86 cassette which helped define the mid-80s UK indie-pop sound.

I have Shop Assistants singles on The Subway Organisation (A Bristol label around the same time as Sarah Records), 53rd & 3rd (an Edinburgh label run by Shop Assistants David Keegan and Stephen Pastel), the Blue Guitar (Chrysalis subsidiary label) album and an Avalanche records single from the 1990 reformation.

They are one of my favourite bands ever. There’s a charming simplicity and energy about them that was, and still is, utterly magic. I still play the singles and the album (still available on CD as a 2008 Cherry Red label re-issue called ‘Will Anything Happen’ if you look for it online) regularly.

When I first heard Trick Mammoth play “Delphine (With A Purpose)” I thought of The Shop Assistants, particularly songs like “I Don’t Want To Be Friends With You”. Trick Mammoth had never heard of The Shop Assistants, nor of ‘C86’.

SARAH Records

Sarah Records was a record label based in Bristol UK which ran from 1987 to 1995. It is forever associated with ‘twee’ pop – a term intended as an insult by the music press in the UK, who were more fixated on championing various ‘laddish’ genres (who remembers pre-grunge ‘grebo’?) than sensitive guitar pop. Sarah Records was the home to The Orchids, 14 Iced Bears, The Field Mice and Talulah Gosh but also later to Secret Shine, another of my favourite bands in the early 90s. Secret Shine were more ‘shoegaze’ – another UK music press term initially intended as a derogatory insult.

Sarah Records, as with so many of the smaller independent labels operating in the UK at the time was always much more than ‘twee’ pop (whatever that even was). There was a lot more social commentary & politics (often of the personal or gender kind) going on from bands on Sarah than most of the other noisy genres championed by the UK music press at the time.

Labels like Sarah Records (and The Subway Organisation, another small label also based in Bristol at the time, and 53rd & 3rd from Scotland, all of which had releases by some of the same bands) seemed a natural extension of the DIY ethos from labels like Postcard & Creation in Scotland several years earlier and continued music of that spirit.

A Sarah Records Catalogue. This one came with my copy of Sarah 23 (The Orchids) along with a postcard.

A Sarah Records Catalogue. This one came with my copy of Sarah 23 (The Orchids) along with a postcard.

There’s a documentary called “My Secret World. The Story of Sarah Records” which tells the story of the label. Here’s a trailer for it, just released on 1 January 2014:

The film has yet to be premiered and still has a way to go before it is available on DVD or screened widely. But hopefully it will get the support it requires to become available in some format sometime this year.