Rearranging The Flowers – A Pointless Whodunnit with musical interludes and 7 chapters – #5

(In which our hero has a good idea or so he thinks)

Five years ago I got made redundant from a firm of builders that I had worked for since I was about nineteen.  Seemingly thrust onto life’s scrapheap at the relatively young age of 43 I decided to start my own business and since then I have never looked back.  Since the pandemic I have been able to scale things back a bit and I am now pretty much the man to call in this village and three neighbouring villages if you need something fixing – there are not many kitchens in a five mile radius that I haven’t fitted cupboards into or patios that I haven’t helped lay.  One old lady paid me £200 last Christmas to build her a table that her granddaughter can build Lego on. 

Busy Earnin’- Jungle (2014, XL Recording, Taken from ‘Jungle’)

It was about five minutes after Mrs Checkley told us all that Angela Finch was staying with her sister that I had my first brilliant idea (well I thought it was brilliant).  The fuss of the broken vase and the possible missing person had, if you excuse the term, died down a bit. Taking my cue I asked Kevin, who, was unusually quiet, a question.

Plan A – Letters & Colours (2007, Mother Tongue Records, Taken from ‘Gaunt’ Single)

“Kev” I said, trying to appeal to his chirpy London demeanour, “A few weeks ago, Angela asked me if I could fix a cupboard in her kitchen for her, I said I’d do this week.  Do you mind if I do it when you pop round to feed the cats?  Shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes, it was just a bracket that needed rehinging.”

Silence.  So I continued.

“Or you could just give me the key and I can go and do it now, its on the way home after all, I’ll drop the key back when I’m done. Be nice for her for it to be done when she gets home.  Her tins of rice pudding keeps falling out of the door you see”.

I’m usually a rubbish liar but I think I’d sounded pretty convincing, almost as convincing as Mrs Checkley I would say. Although I might have been pushing it a bit with the rice pudding.  Angela Finch would make her own rice pudding for sure.

Lies – Deap Vally (2013, Island Records, Taken from ‘Sistronix’)

Kevin stops sweeping the floor and, after the briefest of glances across to Mrs Checkley, who I am absolutely sure nodded her head, reaches into his pocket, and produces a set of keys.  They are dangling off a pink dinosaur keyring which has ‘Dinosaur World’ stamped on its belly. 

“Can you drop them back to me before 7 tonight please, as the cats will want their dinner”,

and with that he lobs the keys through the air and fall on the pew next to me with a clunk and I pick them up and literally run out of the church.

Don’t Look Back – Teenage Fanclub (1995, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Grand Prix’)

I went the long way round to Angela’s house, and I parked my van in yard by the farmers barn, phoned my wife to tell her where I was (in case I never returned) and then walked the couple of hundred metres down to Angela’s house.  I stopped twice to check that I wasn’t being followed by Kevin or Mrs Checkley and then let myself in the back door.  

The first thing that greeted me was Matthew, one of the cats, a big noisy brown shorthaired who leapt off a sideboard and meowed loudly at my feet and scared the life out of me.  I gave him a quick stroke, popped my bag down on the floor, and told myself that despite not knowing Angela’s sister name I should look for an address book.

Where Do I Begin? – Chemical Brothers (1997, Freestyle Dust, Taken from ‘Exit Planet Dust’)

I walked into the small sitting room, there was a big bookshelf on the wall by the door and a wall cupboard containing crockery and a series of framed photos on my left.  I had just picked up a photo of Angela with her arms around two small children when the phone on the table behind me rang.

Retrospective Musical Naval Gazing – #1 (1991)

The recent rundown of the best tracks of the year has sent me into some sort of musical nostalgic revelry.  I have for the past month or so been compiling list of playlist of my favourite tracks from every year since 1991.  These may or may not turn into some sort of series over the coming months but until then, over the next few weeks I will present five or six tracks one from each year 1991 to 2021 of the songs that made my end of year top tens.

Let’s start with music that is now well over thirty years old, and if that doesn’t make at least one of you feel utterly ancient then I’m going to give up and go and live out my days in a comfy home and watch daytime telly.

1991 was a landmark year for me, for a start it was the year that I became a proper music aficionado.  It was the year I started going to gigs with mates and the year that I kind of threw off the shackles of childhood and starting investigating girls, cigarettes, alcohol and staying out later that ten pm. It saw, according to last three pages of my old CDT text book, brilliant life changing music releases from Nirvana, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, Leatherface, The Wonderstuff and the KLF but the track that topped my singles of the year list was this: –

Pearl – Chapterhouse (1991, Dedicated Records, Taken from ‘Whirlpool’)

Which is still sounds brilliant today.  The drum sample, the whispered vocals, the feedback laden guitars, everything.  In the summer of 1991, shoegaze sounded fresher and more exciting than pretty much anything that I had listened to before.  That was of course until the Reading Festival when Nirvana arrived on a Friday afternoon played before Chapterhouse and killed the scene dead.

Nirvana featured in the Top Ten as well, with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ being placed quite low at Number Seven.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana  (1991, Geffen Records, Taken from ‘Nevermind’)

At number two in my rundown that year was this:-

The Concept – Teenage Fanclub (1991, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Bandwagonesque’)

It was the brilliant run of singles lifted from ‘Bandwagonesque’ that made me start to enforce the One Song per Band rule, because below ‘The Concept’ at Number five was ‘Starsign’ such was the draw of ‘Bandwagonesque’ at the time.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten at Number Three and Nine respectively were these two blasts of indie pop marvellousness.

Size of A Cow – The Wonderstuff (1991, Polydor Records, Taken from ‘Never Loved Elvis’) – I listened to ‘Never Loved Elvis’ again the other day and I’d forgotten just how must reliance there was on fiddles and mandolins running through it.

After the Watershed – Carter USM (1991, Rough Trade Records, Single) – Of course, Carter USM would be catapulted into musical history a few weeks later when live on TV at the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, Fruitbat would suddenly fly through the air and rugby tackle a clearly baffled Philip Schofield to the floor.

Lost Indie 45’s – #19 Silver Sun

Lava – Silver Sun (1997, Polydor Records, Taken from ‘Silver Sun’)

In 1996, I went for a drink in a Camden pub with a guy called Ned who worked for a promotional company based around the corner from this pub.  For half an hour a pretty endless stream of white boys dressed in Fred Perry shirts who all looked Liam or Noel Gallagher and all thought that they were the future of indie rock would amble past, Ned left the pub with about thirty CDs in his hands.

Most of the bands were nobodies, chancers who thought that because they owned a copy of ‘Beggars Banquet’ by the Stones or ‘Revolver’ by the Beatles that they were musicians of stature.  Chancers who thought that 12 months after the great Blur vs Oasis single battle (which folks as I’ve gone there, was apparently a marketing idea dreamed up in the very same pub during a very liquid lunch by their respective managers.  It was also the same pub that around six months before then had seen Menswear sign a record contract on a table next to the gents toilets) that record labels were still looking for the next Oasis, the next Blur or even the next Marion (more of them later).

It turns out that Britpop had moved on and record labels via their scouts and promotional teams were looking for a new type of band.  After our pint, Ned handed me a CD, not one of the several handed to us that we had started to use as coasters but one he plucked out his jacket pocket.  It was a promotional CD of a band called Silver Sun.

Silver Sun had been around for a couple of years, they had formed, oddly enough, in Camden and had previously gone by the name of Sun! until they got into some legal problems with a toilet roll masquerading as a newspaper and had added the word Silver to their name.  Silver Sun were according to Ned, along with Placebo, who had just signed to Hut Records, responsible for reigniting his love of guitar music.  That was quite a recommendation, baring in mind that the last CD Ned had given me was a Renegade Soundwave Best Of Album (talking of which, next year will see a short series which looks at Best Of Albums).

Biting My Nails (Bassnumb Chapter) – Renegade Soundwave (1989, Mute Records, Taken from ‘RSW 1987 – 1995’)

The thing that I think interested Ned so much about Silver Sun was that they were, despite forming in Camden at the height of Britpop, not trying to be a Britpop band.  They were trying to be Teenage Fanclub circa ‘Starsign’ or they were trying to be Weezer circa ‘The Sweater Song’. 

Starsign – Teenage Fanclub (1991, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Bandwagonesque’)

Undone (The Sweater Song) – Weezer (1992, DGC Records, Taken from ‘Weezer’)

It was all multi layered harmonies, falsetto vocals from more than one singer, a more focused attention on the guitars which were ratcheted up a notch or three and as Ned put it and as I can’t better it I’ll quote him direct.

 “Not a fucking trumpet or string section in sight

‘Lava’ was probably Silver Sun’s finest moment, a glorious three minute indie pop blast that straddled the lower echelons of the top 30 when it came out.    Their eponymously titled debut album went top twenty and for a short period they looked set for stardom, but their second album was poorly received, and they fell from favour.

100 Songs with One Word Titles (95 – 91)

The next five tracks in the rundown were apart from the first one, songs that I expected to do much better, two of them are stone cold indie pop classics, one is American alt rock at it finest and one is on the soundtrack to ‘The Smurfs Movie’ which of course essential viewing.  But let’s start with the one that did rather better than I expected, although it is course the best thing you will hear all day.

95. Vomit – Girls (2011, FantasyTrashcan Records, Taken from ‘Father Son Holy Ghost‘)

‘Vomit’ was the first single to be released from Girls’ second (and last?) album ‘Father Son Holy Ghost’ and is a sprawling seven minute slow building monolithic freakout of a tune.  Singer Chris Owens spends most of those seven minutes, sighing the lyrics, rather than actually singing them, as the band then all kick in with crunchy rock guitars, organ solos and twinkly percussion bits.  But when you think it can’t get any better a gospel choir jump in from left of screen and its just splendid.

94. Radio – Teenage Fanclub (1993, Creation Records, Taken from ‘Thirteen’)

Until the release of their fifth (sixth?) album Teenage Fanclub had never had a Top 30 hit (and even now they have only had one).  The closest that they had got was in June 1993, when ‘Radio’ backed unsurprisingly by a lot of radio play, rocketed to Number 31.  It’s odd because as good as ‘Radio’ is (and its very good indeed) its probably one of the bands weakest singles. Still saying that I expected it to be much higher in this list.

93. Big – New Fast Automatic Daffodils (1990, Play It Again Sam Records, Taken from ‘Pigeonhole’)

When I was 16 I had to do some coursework for my statistics GCSE.  We had to pick something on ordinary life and introduce statistics to it.  So I decided to show on a bar chart the bands that were most played by John Peel over a six week period (excluding sessions).  There in third place on that chart (behind The Fall and The Cure) were New Fast Automatic Daffodils.  My statistics teacher Mrs Bruce put a star by them and said “Did you make this name up?” 

92. 100% – Sonic Youth (1991, DGC Records, Taken from ‘Dirty’)

‘100%’ was the first Sonic Youth song that I properly loved.  It came out at a time when grunge was really popular in the UK and it was the start of a love affair that continues right up to today.  It was of course, the first single to be released from the bands seventh album ‘Dirty’ and was recorded largely as a tribute to a friend of the band who was murdered in armed robbery in 1991. Which I didn’t know until about five minutes ago.

91. Holiday – Vampire Weekend (2009, XL Records, Taken from ‘Contra’)

If you were in doubt, this is the one which features in ‘The Smurfs Movie’.  It’s the scene where the Smurfs have just arrived in New York and are travelling on top of a taxi to the house of Doogie Howser MD in order to rescue the Smurf who has fallen into a box of cosmetic paperwork.  What do you mean you’ve not seen it?  Seriously go watch it.