- Gene – Olympian
- Morning Runner – Hold your breath
- Modern English – I melt with you
- The Smiths – There is a light that never goes out
- The Cranberries – Dreams
- The Fat Lady Sings – Arclight
- James – She’s a Star
- Iron & Wine – Love and some verses
- Embrace – Gravity
- In Tua Nua – Don’t fear me now
- The Lemonheads – It’s about time
- The Julian Hatfield Three – For the Birds
- The Calling – Wherever you will go
- Broken Records – A Promise
- Pete Docherty featuring Wolfman – For Lovers
- Delays – You and me
Like Vol 1 (British) and unlike Vol 3 (US/Canadian) this collection is mainly home grown. Gene burst onto the British Indie scene in 1993 led by the showmanesque Martin Rossiter who is related to the well known Britsh actor Leonard Rossiter. They formed in London after guitar player Steve Mason saw Watford-based Welshman Rossiter cross the floor of a club, Mason approached him and they began to talk. Their meeting ended with Rossiter handing out his business card (‘Martin Rossiter: Soothsayer to the Stars’) and Mason giving Rossiter a chance to sing with the band. Rossiter appeared on the Band’s earlier incarnation Spin’s last demos as “Martin T. Falls” (a nod to the Mancunian band The Fall) shortly before the decision was made to adopt the name Gene.
Gene comprised Matt James (drummer), Kevin Miles (bassist), Steve Mason (guitarist) and Martin Rossiter (vocalist, keyboards). After disbanding in 2004, the band members have all continued to work in music, in a variety of different ways. Roy Wilkinson went on to manage the band British Sea Power, while Snake Newton went on to mix an assortment of acts including Duran Duran, Sugababes, Pet Shop Boys and Snow Patrol.
With a passing similarity to the Smiths, the Band never really achieved high acclaim and their debut ‘The Olympian’ charted at Number 8 in 1995 with the single of the same name going to Number 18. I loved their slightly jaundiced romanticism and occasional political incorrectness and when their second album – a collection of B sides and rareties – ‘To See the Lights’ came out in 1996, my affection increased. Why? Because they used Worthing Pier as a backdrop for the album photography, thus sealing for all time their association with British seaside seediness.
Formed in Colchester, Essex in 1979 by Robbie Grey (vocals), Gary McDowell (guitar, vocals), and Michael Conroy (bass, vocals), Modern English were originally known as The Lepers. The group expanded to “Modern English” when Richard Brown (drums) and Stephen Walker (keyboards) were subsequently added to the line-up of the band.
After a single on their own ‘Limp’ label in 1979, the band signed to 4AD the following year, with two further singles released, and a session for John Peel recorded before the band’s debut album, ‘Mesh & Lace’, in 1981, the band in the early days showing a strong Joy Division influence. A second Peel session was recorded in October 1981. The follow-up, After The Snow (April 1982), was more keyboard-oriented and was compared to Simple Minds and Duran Duran. It was also released in the United States by Sire Records the following year, where it reached number 70 on the Billboard chart, and sold over 500,000 copies. Grey said of the album, “We used to think ‘God, we’ll never make a pop record. We’re artists!’, but things don’t always turn out as you planned and when you actually create a pop record, it’s so much more of a thrill than anything else”. The second single from the album was also a hit in the US, the jangly ‘I Melt With You’ reaching number 78. When he reviewed the album, Johnny Waller of Sounds described the track as “A dreamy, creamy celebration of love and lust, which deserves to be showcased on as 12″ single all by itself, with no b-side”, while his colleague Tony Mitchell described it as “suburban amateurism at its most unrewarding.’
The band relocated to New York and worked on a third album, ‘Ricochet Days’, which again made the top 100 in the US, after which the band left 4AD and were solely signed to Sire outside the UK and Canada. The album ‘Stop Start’ (1986) was the last record Modern English record released by Sire, with the band splitting up after its release.
The link between The Smiths and The Cranberries is of course Stephen Street who produced both bands – although Morrissey and Marr self-produced ‘There is a light’ – the other connection is Geoff Travis who was Boss of Rough Trade, the Smiths earlier label and who also managed the Cranberries. Both songs relied upon later re-releases in order to become hits.
The Irish connection continues with The Fat Lady Sings, formed in Dublin in March 1986. Fronted by singer and songwriter Nick Kelly, the initial line-up also comprised Robert Hamilton (drums), Dave Sweeney (guitars) and Finbarr O’Riordan (bass). The band decided to relocate to London almost immediately after forming, and were based there throughout their subsequent eight year career.
Perhaps more unusual still was the fact that they never recorded a demo – five months after forming their first visit to a recording studio produced ‘Fear And Favour’. This single was paid for out of the band’s own pocket and released by Terri Hooley on his Good Vibrations label. ‘Fear And Favour’ brought the band immediate critical attention from the English music press. Over the next 18 months, self-managed and self-financed, the band began building a live following in both the UK and Ireland.
In March 1988 their second independent single, ‘Be Still’ was released on Harbour Sound Records, once again to critical acclaim. By this time, following various shifts in personnel, the band’s classic line-up was firmly established, with Nick and Robert now joined by Dermot Lynch (bass) and guitar player and multi-instrumentalist Tim Bradshaw.
In October 1989, The Fat Lady Sings released their third single ‘Arclight’ on their own Fourth Base Record label. The critical and public interest in this song, and for the band’s follow-up single ‘Dronning Maud Land’ (released January 1990), together with the enormous live following that they’d build up in both Ireland and the UK (they sold out both the National Stadium in Dublin and the Town & Country Club in London, an unprecedented feat for an unsigned band) attracted major label interest.
In 1990 the band signed to East West Records in London (Atlantic in America). Their first major label single ‘Man Scared’ was released in October 1990. In May 1991, the band’s first album, ‘Twist’ was released. This album spawned 3 more singles: a re-release of ‘Arclight’ (April 1991), ‘Twist’ (May 1991) and ‘Deborah (August 1991).
Arclight is one of my personal favourites – almost unbearably romantic and irreparably doomed – definitely one of the most moving songs of the past two decades and now you can get emotional with it too.
Iron & Wine is the performing name for US Singer Songwriter Samuel Beam who released his first Iron & Wine album, ‘The Creek Drank the Cradle’, on the Sub Pop label in 2002. Beam wrote, performed, recorded and produced the album in his home studio.
Also in 2002, Beam recorded a cover of The Postal Service’s then-unreleased song ‘Such Great Heights’. Rather than being included on an Iron & Wine release, the track was initially included as a b-side of the original version by The Postal Service. He then followed up on his debut album in 2003 with ‘The Sea & The Rhythm’, an EP containing other home-recorded tracks with a similar style to the songs on the debut.
Beam’s second full-length album, ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’ (2004) which features this love ballad ‘Love and some verses’, was recorded in a professional studio with a significant increase in fidelity. Produced in Chicago by Brian Deck, the focus was still on acoustic material, but the inclusion of other band members gave rise to a slightly different sound. That same year, he recorded the song ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ for the film ‘In Good Company’, and had his version of ‘Such Great Heights’ featured in an advertisement for M&Ms and in the film and soundtrack for Garden State.
For the moment, let’s reflect on this song – ‘Love and some verses’ and its strange vulnerability. I guess love is like that.
‘Gravity’ is the lead single from ‘Out of Nothing’, the fourth album by British band Embrace. Written by Chris Martin, the song was first performed live by Coldplay in 2002. Ultimately, Martin gave the song to Embrace. ‘Gravity’ peaked at No 7 on the UK Singles Chart in 2004. It was released on CD format and red 7″ vinyl. It later became the theme song to the TV show Mike Bassett: Manager, starring Ricky Tomlinson.
The B-side, ‘Wasted’, started off as ‘Logical Love Song’ and was originally conceived during the Drawn from Memory sessions.
The song had another lease of life when it was re-recorded by Coldplay in late 2005 and included as a B-side to their single ‘Talk’. Great song with an impeccable pedigree – the Embrace version is a more poetic performance and it deserves its place in any Indie love song collection. Because of the Yorkshire origins of the Band, the song takes on almost Byronesque proportions.
Another Dublin band In Tua Nua (A New Tribe in Gaelic) was formed by Leslie Dowdall, Jack Dublin, Vinny Kilduff, Ivan O’Shea, Martin Clancy, Paul Byrne and Steve Wickham in the early 1980s.
In 1984 the band were the first to sign to U2’s Mother label and released their first single ‘Coming Thru’. Shortly afterwards Island Records signed the band. A number of singles were released and a debut album recorded. The first Island single was the critically acclaimed ‘Take My Hand’, co-written by a young Sinéad O’Connor. This was followed by a second single, a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s hit ‘Somebody To Love’.
In 1985 Steve Wickham left to join forces with The Waterboys and Island dropped the band. The album recorded for Island remains unreleased.
The album from which this song is taken – ‘The Long Acre’ was released in 1988. It spawned two radio hits ‘All I Wanted’ and ‘Don’t Fear Me Now’. A third single from the album, ‘Wheel Of Evil’, was also released.
The band went to Los Angeles, California to record a third album for Virgin. After the recording was finished the band split, and Virgin did not immediately release the finished product.
Although officially disbanded in 1990, some original members reformed in 2004 to occasionally play live together again. In 2010 MP Records, Italy released Vaudeville and The Long Acre re-mastered with bonus tracks on CD.
Singer Leslie Dowdall still performs, solo or guesting with other Irish and international singers. She released two well-received solo albums in the 1990s; ‘No Guilt, No Guile’ and ‘Out There’.
Paul Byrne and Jack Dublin still play together as the rhythm section in Rocky de Valera and The Gravediggers. Paul manages Irish band Von Shakes while Jack is the main songwriter for Dublin band Audiokiss.
‘Don’t Fear me Now’ is distinguished by a strong rock/county vocal from Leslie Dowdall and the same romantic melodicism found on early Rod Stewart solo recordings – with a very personal lyric that concludes that ‘I’m too tired, but if you wish it I will kiss you once more’. Irresistible.
Evan Dando (The Lemonheads) and Juliana Hatfield went out together in the early nineties. These two songs show how well they went together. The song ‘My Drug Buddy’ was written about her. Does anything more need to be said?
Broken Records have a genealogical link with Modern English as both were and are signed to 4AD Records. Broken English was originally a three-piece comprising Jamie Sutherland, brother Rory Sutherland (violin, guitar and accordion), and Ian Turnbull (guitar, piano and accordion). After a few performances they added Arne Kolb (cello), Dave Smith (piano, trumpet), Andrew Keeney (drums), and David Fothergill (bass).
They released their debut album ‘Until the Earth Begins to Part’ on 1 June 2009. The album has been described by frontman Jamie Sutherland as “based around all the s**t things men do.”
‘A Promise’ is taken from this album and its piano based lyricism and use of strings is reminiscent of The Blue Nile in the 80s. A beautiful track and the most recent included here. An honour for them. A treat for you.
Pete Docherty and Wolfman released ‘For Lovers’ in April 2004.
James Jam in the NME sums this track up rather well:
“Man tugs at the heartstrings. Pete takes his hands from the rudder of the good ship Albion to release this lovelorn ballad. Still, it should be glaringly obvious – even to those without a passing interest in the Libs’ never-ending soap opera – that this is brilliant. Encased within the twinkling piano arrangements of old chum Wolfman, Pete proves himself capable of weaving both hope and honesty into the lining of his exquisite melodies. That it’s actually a bittersweet dedication to Wolfman’s broken marriage and the romantics they’d watch from a Paddington station bar matters little – it’s Pete’s choked croak that musters the shivers. Soulful, sublime.”
Delays feature Greg Gilbert’s falsetto vocals – this song ‘You and me’ is a soaring anthem to two-ness. They hail from Southampton. The City never sounded so good.
‘You and me gonna be fine’. Exit hand in hand walking into the sunset. In love? This is your soundtrack.
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