This article originally appeared in Strangehaven issue #6, May 1997.
My offhand remark in response to MikeKidson’s letter last issue resulted in my receiving a number of interesting cassettes in my mail over the past couple of months. Just to prove I’ve been listening to them, here’s what I thought:
Jeroen Beynon sent me a tape all the way from Holland, with Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” on one side and Dead Can Dance’s “Aion” on the other. Jeff Buckley I enjoyed, ranging from melodic acoustic songs to noisy, Skunk Anansie-type metal, occasionally in the same song. Tortured vocals and jangly guitars. Never heard his stuff before, but I’m glad I have. Dead Can Dance on paper sounds just up my street – a real mixture of different ethnic instruments, monk-type chanting and modern rhythms, but in actuality it leaves me cold and uninvolved.
A nutcase called Gerald Williams asked me to sign a copy of Cerebus #203 and to add a word balloon to an interior page at Page 45’s Independents Day. I obliged and have been rewarded with three letters and two tapes in the post, the first being a compilation of The Smiths’ latter day material; I was bludgeoned into grudgingly liking them by a dear friend in their heyday, but I only ever bought the “Hatful of Hollow” compilation. The second tape was a selection of Gerald’s chosen “Epics” including tracks by many of the so-called Britpop bands, totalling twenty songs in all. Surprisingly high hit-rate here (Massive Attack’s “Hymn of The Big Wheel”, The Verve and Baby Bird standing out) with only the anachronistic Ultravox and Frankie Goes To Hollywood really letting the side down. Really enjoyed hearing Belle & Sebastian for the first time, although they sound a lot like Syd Barrett to me.
Les Chester took the biscuit though, with a three-volume, four-and-a-half hour selection collectively entitled “Abruptly… The Sound Ceased: Psycho Radio”. The twist here was that Les didn’t bother to send a track listing, so I had a great deal of fun trying to figure out who was who, and the various obscure connections between them; i.e. Led Zeppelin/The Yardbirds; Rolling Stones (circa `67)/Primal Scream’s “Loaded”; The Clash/Big Audio Dynamite; Jefferson Airplane/The Great Society; two tracks which Nazareth covered; two tracks which The Damned covered; two tracks which Status Quo covered; two tracks by psychedelic era Status Quo; and then many other early psychedelic bands like Electric Prunes, The Misunderstood, Vanilla Fudge, The Blues Magoos, and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd.
I enjoyed the line “Tried cartoons and comic books” in The Creation’s “Painterman”, but “The Days Of Pearly Spencer” I could have lived without. Great to hear Ian Hunter’s “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” again though. Like Gerald’s selection, a surprisingly high percentage I liked (Steve Miller being the weak link for me here). Or maybe I’m just easily pleased.
Next time anyone sends me a tape and wants me to play “guess-the artist”, maybe they could please send the track listings in a sealed envelope, or at a later date.
Thank you to everyone that sent me tapes this time, but I was really surprised that I didn’t receive any unsigned band demos. There must be some Strangehaven readers who are also semi-pro musos who want to send me cassettes or CDs so I can publicly humiliate them? Or any independent film makers or animators with a video (PAL only) they want dissected? Photography? Poetry? Pottery? If you’ve made it, I’ll review it. Deal?