As Jezbionic observes at the great A History of Dubious Taste blog, there are a lot fewer pop songs related to Easter than to Christmas. Well, that set me thinking, which as you’ll have noticed is rarely a good move, and I have come up with a couple. Though one’s a bit of a stretch. And “I Am The Resurrection” is far too obvious, so I’m not doing that.
The trio initially named The Archers were formed in Bradford in the late 80s, but when they signed to EMI in 1990, it was decided that the focus should be on singer Tasmin Archer, and so it was that after quite a bit of development and recording with various producers, it was under her name alone that debut single “Sleeping Satellite” appeared two years later, with keyboard player John Beck and guitarist John Hughes relegated to the background.
“Sleeping Satellite” is a remarkable record: hit songs, especially number one hits, just don’t discuss the philosophical implications of shackling the dream of space exploration to the one-upmanship of the Cold War. This was a record about something, and it was a hit not despite but because it had a point of view on an interesting subject. What’s more, it was followed with a debut album, Great Expectations, which while it contained nothing else quite as special as “Sleeping Satellite”, was solid enough to ensure that Tasmin Archer was feted as the next big thing and got nominations for every award going. In a year so starved of major new talent that Undercover were shortlisted for the BRITs Best Newcomer award, Archer was a shoo-in. (She later claimed that she used her award as a hammer for tenderising steak!)
The great expectations never quite came to be, though. There were diminishing returns from subsequent singles and when her second album Bloom appeared in 1996, it was to almost complete indifference. A third album, On, appeared in 2006, and apparently Archer and Hughes are still writing together (Beck left the project way back in 1993), so we may hear from them again in the future.
Today’s tracks come from the third single, the number 26 smash “Lords Of The New Church”, which is a more upbeat rock-pop number than its predecessors. According to Archer (as quoted on Wikipedia) “it’s about the modern breed of politicians and it was written in the very early 1990s even before things became as bad as they are now.” It certainly brings a certain Republican golf fanatic to mind…
I’m offering all the tracks from the two CDs here. It didn’t really justify the 2-CD treatment; the only new song is “Strings Of Desire”, while “Hero” and “Sleeping Satellite” are lifted straight from the album.
Tasmin Archer – Lords Of The New Church (UK CD1+2, 1993)
Link: Tasmin Archer – Lords Of The New Church
Link: Tasmin Archer – Hero
Link: Tasmin Archer – Lords Of The New Church (Remix)
Link: Tasmin Archer – Sleeping Satellite
Link: Tasmin Archer – Strings Of Desire
Link: Tasmin Archer – The Higher You Climb (Remix)
If you had to name an act that created its own unique sound, Cocteau Twins would surely be one of the first to spring to mind – they didn’t sound like anything else at the time, and even after thirty years or so of influencing other bands, you couldn’t really mistake them for any of the acts that followed in their wake. A major reason for this is of course Elizabeth Fraser’s voice. If you’re reading this, the chances are that you already know perfectly well what I’m talking about – and if you don’t, well… it’s hard to put it into words, and that’s sort of the point. Take a listen to the tracks below and you’ll understand.Reliably popular with the indie crowd, they would occasionally nudge the grown-up top 40 as well. This single, EP, whatever you want to call it, was their first and biggest Top 40 entry, reaching a vertiginous peak of number 29 in April 1984. The hit archives have it down as “Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops”, as an edit of that song was the lead on the 7″, but the cognoscenti know it as The Spangle Maker, that being the A-side on the 12″ (and completely absent from the 7″).
Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker (UK 12″ single, 1984)
Link: Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker
Link: Cocteau Twins – Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops (full length)
Link: Cocteau Twins – Pepper-Tree
The name Espiritu has, inevitably, been attached to quite a few different acts from quite a few different countries over the years, but the only one represented in my collection is the one which formed in the nice enough but not-quite-tropical coastal resort of Brighton, East Sussex, in the early 1990s.
This Espiritu’s career splits into two phases: the first, when the act consisted of Vanessa Quiñones and ex-Frazier Chorus member Chris Taplin, was as an alternative dance-pop act heavily influenced by the sounds of South America. The second, when it was Quiñones solo, shifted toward drum’n’bass, with the occasional nod toward the French pop music she grew up with – the latter to be explored further with her subsequent band Vanessa & The O’s.
From 1993, “Los Americanos” was the duo’s third single, and was supposed to be the one to launch their debut album. I know I saw reviews of the LP (then titled Manifesto) in the music press, but Heavenly ran into distribution problems at just that moment, with the result that it never came out – at least in Britain. Somewhat flukily, one of its tracks, a cover of the Bacharach & David song “Always Something There To Remind Me” (best known to us Brits in its Sandie Shaw rendition) became a big hit in Japan, and the album did eventually appear there under the title Always. A remix of “Always Something There To Remind Me”, credited to Tin Tin Out featuring Espiritu, made the top 20 in the UK, but didn’t appear to generate much interest in anything else they did. It was at this point that Taplin left the act, and Quiñones left Heavenly. She later signed to Deconstruction, and the second and final Espiritu album, Another Life, got a full release – it didn’t do much commercially, but at least it was actually available to buy!
Back to “Los Americanos”, here are the tracks from the UK CD single. Mark “Spike” Stent provides a radio mix in vocal and instrumental versions, while Mother turn in a remix not a million miles away from their own club hit “All Funked Up”. I’m not complaining! There’s also a sweet little B-side, “Manifesto #1”. As a bonus I’m also including the album versions of both songs, which lean more toward the latin influence than the pop one.
Espiritu – Los Americanos (UK CD single, 1993)
Link: Espiritu – Los Americanos
Link: Espiritu – Manifesto #1
Link: Espiritu – Los Americanos (instrumental)
Link: Espiritu – Los Americanos (Mother mix)
…I believe I have just the piece to satisfy your musical whim.
I always liked Kenickie. A lot of people didn’t: the hatred they attracted in the letters pages of the music press and Planet Sound was bewildering in both its volume and intensity. Seriously, for a year or so Kenickie were the favoured target for the vitriol of the indie kids. I think a lot of it stemmed from their calling-card single “Punka”, a glorious blast of guitar pop which sent up the very notion of “indie cred” – it seems some people missed the point and thought Kenickie were claiming indie cred for themselves (having just signed to EMI via Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs‘ Emidisc label), or got the point but interpreted it as an insult to the fans who had supported them when they’d been a struggling indie band themselves. Indie cred is Serious Business for some people.
Not for me, though. I just thought Kenickie had some cracking songs. Frontwoman Lauren Laverne in particular emerged as a rather nifty songwriter, initially in collaboration with guitarist and co-vocalist Marie du Santiago, and later with her (i.e. Laverne’s) brother, drummer and producer Pete Gofton. Completing the foursome was bassist Emmy-Kate Montrose, who also took up the trumpet on occasion.
Here from the days when they still had indie cred (as if it mattered) are the four tracks from the Skillex EP issued on Fierce Panda in 1996, just before they signed to Emidisc. It’s a bit rough and ready, but a good showcase overall. The slightly famous song here is “Come Out 2Nite” which was number one on John Peel‘s Festive Fifty, although for me the best track is “Acetone”, with Lauren on cello (you didn’t know she could play the cello, did you?), featuring in a superior version to the one which later closed their debut album At The Club.