Would you say there’s an indiepop revival? Band-wise I would say definitely not. I don’t see the same amount of bands that were appearing in 2007-2008. And if we don’t care about quantity, then quality, I would say it doesn’t compare either. There are fantastic bands these days but they are a handful. Same with labels. Whereas back then new labels were appearing all the time, from DIY CD-Rs to small runs of vinyl, these days there are no more than 5 or 6 bonafide indiepop labels, and the trend is for them to disappear, not much of new ones appearing all of a sudden.
But there’s an interesting fact that I’ve noticed in the last two years or so. And that has to do with documenting indiepop. Sure I’ve been doing this blog for so many years now, trying to do my part in a small scale, but I’m talking of other people doing it in a much larger scale. I’m talking about books and documentaries.
Truth to be told none of these projects have anything to do with each other. For example the release of Morrissey’s Autobiography doesn’t have any sort of link to “Yeah Yeah Yeah” by Bob Stanley (though of course Moz is mentioned in this book). To me though, the interesting fact is that these two books, and other ones too, are being published in this same timeframe, in this 2013-2014 sort of guitar pop rediscovery.
It was just a couple of days ago that I watched on Netflix the Creation Records documentary. Aptly titled “Upside Down”, it was pretty enlightening to me. I didn’t know much of the story behind the label though I was very knowledgeable of their catalog especially the 80s period. Of course I enjoyed watching it, and even though so many bands are not mentioned much like The Jasmine Minks or The Bodines, it’s cool to see Douglas from BMX Bandits, or Joe McAlinden from Superstar/Groovy Little Numbers, giving their two cents about the rise and fall of one of the best labels of our era. The indiepop connection was all over the place. It was so refreshing to hear people mentioning The Pastels, The Shop Assistants, Television Personalities and more.
Another book that came out not so long ago is the one called “A Scene in Between”. In due honesty I don’t think the book adds much to the conversation. And although it’s beautifully done, with great pictures that document the era, similar pictures have been seen before and text-wise, content-wise, I was left a bit empty. There are a couple of interviews that don’t say that much, interviews that might as well appeared on any blog. But there’s something that struck me about the book. It is pretty popular. A friend of mine even picked it up at the MOMA store. And that made me happy. So at last the likes of Edwyn Collins, Phil Wilson, Stephen Pastel and other heroes of us all, were easily available for people. That’s a big success. I wouldn’t have ever thought that the fashion twist of indiepop would be so appealing!
Not so long ago it was announced that the Sarah Records book, written by Michael White (who has written a bunch of liner notes for Cherry Red indiepop reissues), found a publisher. This is definitely another triumph for indiepop. A hopeful like me would think that if publishers are willing to publish the story of a small-ish label (let’s be honest, Sarah is great but when it comes to sale or popularity, books about say Creation make more sense for a publisher), maybe smaller publishers would also be interested in say the story of other labels? What about the story of El? or Siesta? or Pink?
There’s another project that seems will see the light of day this year, and is also Sarah related. The Sarah Records documentary is supposed to screen this year for the first time. It’s been many years in the making, possibly the idea of making it even comes back from that first wave of indiepop excitement I was talking about, the one from 2007-2008. I wouldn’t be surprised. I remember seeing the girl making the documentary interviewing a bunch of friends at Indietracks. That must have been either 2009 or 2010. I can’t recall. But it was quite some time ago. It’s really interesting that both book and documentary will be out soon, complimenting each other perhaps, but at the same time it could be pretty interesting as they hopefully have different points of views as they have been crafted by two totally different people. Let’s wait and see.
This documentary will be a very welcome addition to the documentaries about Creation, Dolly Mixture, The Magnetic Fields and the BMX Bandits, that have been made in the last couple of years. (Actually today Wednesday – I started writing this yesterday – I got an email from Lucy asking for a little help contacting an 80s indiepopper! Made me happy to help!)
For me though the best book I’ve read about POP! lately is the Bob Stanley’s one. Sure it doesn’t talk that much about indiepop, just a couple of pages. But the whole thing is enlightening, it explains you how we got from point A to point B and then point C, in Pop history. Everything was connected. And this huge book, this huge undertaking of St Etienne’s man, opened my eyes in many ways. It also made me think that indiepop might need a similar book, a book that recalls the whole story of indiepop, from how it started up to this day. It definitely is a difficult thing to do, for example a lot of bands’ stories are forgotten forever, we only remember the songs. But if efforts are made to scratch the surface, write a whole book on Sarah Records, why not go deeper at some point, and write the whole story of indiepop? True it is a lot of effort, and work, but how important would it be for future generations to understand how we came up to this point.
I also want to mention the Scared to Get Happy box set on Cherry Red. Though it doesn’t compare at all with the quality and the excitement of The Leamington Spa Series on Firestation, and I admit not even listening to most of the songs as they were the “same old”, it includes a little treasure, something very worthy. Guess what? It’s the booklet that is for me that has the big value of this release. Here there are a hundred of little biographies of bands from the period covered in the release. This is invaluable information, and it only reaffirms the fact that all of these sort of releases, retrospectives and such, really deserve quality liner notes. There’s no way around it. I feel sad when I see some low-budget releases for many of these great 80s bands, or 90s bands, that barely have the tracklist and nothing else. Not even credits, or photos of the band. What kind of release is that?
In the meantime, I salute all these efforts, and even if I’m a fan or not of them, all of them are contributing in having a real tangible document of the existence of indiepop, something I’ve been hoping for years now. And I thank all of the people behind them as well, because I know they are passionate fans, and they are doing a big thing for our small scene!
(EDIT – Just got to know there’s a book coming up by Simon Goddard about the Postcard label! It’s called “Och Aye the Noo Wave: The Preposterous Story of Postcard Records” and it’s being published in April. This reminds me of….
That there’s also a documentary about the Scottish scene that I forgot to mention -my bad!- called “Songs From Northern Britain – The Sound of Young Scotland” that will be privately screened in October this year and who is co-directed by Erik from Wake the President).
Today I want to introduce you to one of the scarcest and possibly obscurest indiepop records. It’s a 7″ that I know absolutely nothing as I’ve never seen one. It’s by a band called Three Dancers and included just two songs: “Seventeen” and “It Doesn’t Matter.”
Will it be a safe guess that the band name comes from Picasso’s painting of the same name? Let’s check what wikipedia has to say about this famous work of art:
The painting shows three dancers, the one on the right being barely visible. A macabre dance takes place, with the dancer on the left having her head bent at a near-impossible angle. The dancer on the right is usually interpreted as being Ramon Pichot, a friend of Picasso who died during the painting of Three Dancers. (Some critics believe it could well be Picasso’s wife Olga Khokhlova.) The one on the left is claimed to be Pichot’s wife Germaine Gargallo with the one in the centre being Gargallo’s boyfriend Carlos Casagemas, also Picasso’s friend. Casagemas shot himself after failing to shoot Gargallo, twenty-five years before Pichot’s death, and the loss of two of his best friends spurred Picasso to paint this chilling depiction of the love triangle.
There is a copy for sale now on Discogs for 265 euros. If anyone can afford it. Ships from Czech Republic of all places. Not a common place for obscure indiepop records. But who knows. The information Discogs has about the record shows that it was released in 1987 by Dilettante Disques (catalog 007). This is quite interesting as I’m not aware of any other releases in this label.
The only true fact is that the A side, “Seventeen”, is one of the finest slices of indiepop. It feels timeless and classic. It does have vocals that can remind you of Edwyn, but the music is like the one Reserve, Holyday Makers, or even Bob was doing at the time. It’s such a great record that no wonder it is sought after. I dream of one day having it of course. Anyone know anything else by them?!
Three Dancers – Seventeen