LOWER THAN UNDERGROUND fanzine and CD (Old Bad Habits / Shambotic)
Here's an exciting project - the Old Bad Habits Label of Greece and Shambotic here in the UK have come together to release this fanzine and compilation CD set. The A4 pro-printed zine has a typewritten layout inspired by the classic fanzine era, and is driven by the true fanzine ethos: DIY, promoting real underground music, and written by fans, for fans.
Interviews include Damo Suzuki on his time with, and after, Can; Kissamatic Lovebubbles on being "old school indie-punk-poppers in a changing world", their love of the 7" vinyl format, and the founding of the Old Bad Habits Label; Darren and Caroline of Squirrel Records, Next Phase: Normal Records, Pop Threat, Sissy Space Echo and the Invisible Collaborators etc on their bands and labels and their love of vintage B-movies; Jim Shepherd of the Jasmine Minks interviewing Nick Godfrey of Precious Recordings on his background as a horse racing journalist, his association with the indie pop scene since its beginning in the 1980s, and his founding of the Precious label which releases BBC radio sessions by important indie pop bands on double 7" and now 10"; Rocker from The Flatmates on the Bristol scene, the legacy of John Peel, and the indies/majors dichotomy; new Greek band Secret Postcards who I'm keen to hear for their Sarah, C86 and shoegaze influences; Tim Wells on ranting verse, subculture and authenticity; and I, Ludicrous on football and Mark E Smith.
There's a recurring theme in many of the interviews of indie pop's connection with punk, a topic that's explored in more depth in a piece by Dimitris Patsonis. He explains how independent labels are run by fans not businessmen, and they support each other rather than seeing each other as rivals. The amateurism and rejection of aspiration, machismo, and the trappings of adulthood are to be seen as a rebellion against mainstream culture, not, as often assumed by outsiders to the genre, a sign of being a wimp or a loser. The piece also gets into the mainstreaming of 'indie' and the word's use for music that has nothing to do with the real musical independence that sprang from punk, but shows that there are still labels around with the true indie ethos.
Tim Rippington writes about politics in music, and how mixing the two can be done well or otherwise fail miserably. He explores the reasons why his own band, the Charlie Tipper project, became increasingly political over time. Darren Lockwood vents some justified anger on the increasing prices of vinyl production
and its impact on small record labels, and how Record Store Day has played a part in all this. Also appearing are profiles of the bands on the accompanying CD (including a short blurb on the Jasmine Minks lifted from one of my reviews) and the stories behind their choice of tracks. This zine is a real breath of fresh air, completely in tune with the indie pop spirit and DIY ethic. Hopefully there will be further issues to follow!
The compilation CD is all cover versions and promises the involvement of "some of the people who invented indie pop". This is no exaggeration - there are appearances from bands/artists who shaped the genre from its beginning, through to the Sarah era and beyond, including The Groove Farm, The Jasmine Minks, The Jazz Butcher, Jowe Head, Boyracer, Davey Woodward (The Brilliant Corners etc) and Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits). The covers include material by important bands from the history of indie pop, including Television Personalities, Talulah Gosh, Beat Happening, and The Primitives, as well as bands who pre-dated indie pop but are widely acknowledged as influencing it, such as The Velvet Underground and The Shirelles. Six out of the 22 songs included here are exclusive to this release.
Most songs here highlight well indie pop's connections with punk, whether in sound, spirit or both. Kristallin do a clattering noisepop version of the Television Personalities' The Prettiest Girl; Milky Wimpshake cover Daniel Johnston's True Love Will Find You in the End, lo-fi bedroom pop taken from a 1993 cassette; The Frenchmen set sweet pop vocals to riotous noise with their version of Talulah Gosh's Steaming Train; and The Groove Farm give us a live recording of No Friend of Mine by 60s garage band The Sparkles. The Kitchen Cynics are best known these days as an experimental psych-folk band, but in the beginning, the band sprang out of the indie pop tape label scene and had a poppier sound inspired by bands such as the Television Personalities. The track here, which originally appeared on 1992 cassette Seagull Girls, is a version of Slaughter Joe's She's So Out of Touch, combining DIY pop with swirling psychedelia.
The Manhattan Love Suicides cover Roky Erickson's Nothing in Return in a fuzzy pop style that reminds me of The Flatmates. Jowe Head appears with a track called Hurdy Gurdy Man; it's not the Donovan song but a version of Franz Schubert's Der Leiermann, translated into English and set to an impressive experimental folk arrangement. The Yellow Melodies provide some sunny 60s pop with their cover of Margo Guryan's Love Songs. I've often thought Boyracer would be the perfect band to be on Old Bad Habits; their kind of noisepop would sound completely at home on this label. Finally they appear on the label with a cover of The Primitives' Really Stupid, done in that fast, squalling noise style they do best. Crabber do a great punky noisepop version of Ed Ball's Controversial Girlfriend, which previously appeared on their Old Bad Habits EP Greek Wine. Davey Woodward provides a raw minimal version of The Shirelles' Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?, recorded in his garage. Duglas T Stewart and Company, comprising members of BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub, do an excellent version of Carlene Carter's Unbreakable Heart, with some inventive use of harmonium alongside chiming guitar and vocal harmonies.
These are just a few of the songs on this 22-track compilation, the DIY spirit of which takes me back to my time in the tape label community back in the day. Get the zine and CD at oldbadhabitslabel.bandcamp.com; UK orders will be sent from Shambotic.
BACK TO AQUAMARINE