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Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Here's Where The Story Ends

I’m a bit surprised at how much discussion the release of Rhino’s Brit Box box set has been stirring up. When it was originally announced, I gave the track list a quick once over, decided that everything I’d likely be interested in hearing from it I mostly already had and was far more interested in the packaging – an old-school English phone box festooned with band stickers and complete with flickering light.

But a number of outlets have used the occasion of the set’s release to do more than just review the collection, but to revisit the era that it aspires to document – namely, the British “indie” scene from 1984 through 1999. AllMusic.com’s blog, in particular, has gone a bit batshit using the set as a jumping-off point for a number of posts – examining the track list, citing notable omissions, remembering American shoegazers, celebrating the glory of Luke Haines, rounding up fancy box set packaging and Bez. That’s a lot of mileage out of a single box.

The Riverfront Times uses the set as an excuse to get in touch with some of the artists who’ve since fallen off the radar of popular music and gets quotes from Lush’s Miki Berenyi (mostly covering the same ground as here) as well as a word from Mark Gardener of Ride about the likelihood of a reunion in that camp (that is sound of me not holding my breath). The Village Voice takes a less rose-coloured look at the era in question and PopMatters weighs in with a fairly massive disc-by-disc review, complete with video clip aids.

For my part, I already did this from my own personal point of view a couple years ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Oasis/Blur fued and there’s not really much need to cover that terrain again. But I will say that as time munches on, I find myself looking a bit more fondly upon some of the bands I’d disowned from that era. I guess I’m no longer worried about being judged if someone finds a Sleeper or Echobelly record in my collection. Hey, they had some good tunes. Wonder if there are compilations out there? Still not missing my Shed Seven records, though.

While the box set divvies its contents into four parts – the forebears, the shoegazers, the Britpoppers and the end days – I see three distinctions. The stuff that I discovered after the fact, the stuff I lived through and the stuff that drove me away from the UK (musically speaking) for some years. Just scanning the track listing again brings back all sorts of memories. As pretty much every review has stated, the song selection seems pretty random – some obvious singles, some questionable non-singles, some conspicuous absences, some perplexing inclusions – but if you consider that in its scattershotedness it actually offers a pretty good sample of the content over fifteen years of NME and Select, there may be more of a plan behind it than it may appear at first. Or maybe it is just a dog’s breakfast. Only the Rhino knows. But one thing is for certain – this set should be a boon for aspiring Britpop DJs. Pop all four discs into a carousel, hit shuffle and go hit on some drunk frosh.

And hey, maybe that aspiring Britpop DJ can be you! Courtesy of Rhino and vLES, I’ve got a Brit Box to give away to one lucky Anglophile. To enter, peruse the track listing and tell me in the comments who is missing from the set and should be represented in lieu of, say, Gay Dad. No one’s going to go to bat for Gay Dad. Feel free to nominate a song as well. Acts whose don’t naturally fit in with the Britpop/Brit-indie theme are exempt and I will be the sole arbiter of who falls under that particular brolly. Also try to steer it to overlooked acts rather than those whose absence is so obvious that it’s got to be a case of not being able to secure the rights to a song – hello Radiohead, Polly Jean Harvey. Be sure to include an accurate, if spam-proofed email when leaving the comment as well. Contest open to residents of North America only, please, everyone everywhere and it will close at midnight November 30.

vLES has been trumpeting a week of Brit Box-related content including interviews with Brett Anderson and streaming concerts but I’ll be damned if I can find any actual content on their site. Maybe you’ll have better luck. I should also note that the artwork that accompanies this post comes from the comic series Phonogram, which I’ve enthused about before and which is quite relevant to this discussion as it deals with Britpop retro-fetishism though I suspect protagonist David Kohl wouldn’t approve of Kula Shaker being given props in any way, shape or form.

Finally, a smattering of videos from some of the bands I’ve been reminded that I like as well as my nomination for most notable omission from the collection – The House Of Love. They deserve the recognition and I vote to kick out both Gay Dad AND Hurricane #1 to make room.

Stream: The Brit Box Disc 1
MP3: The House Of Love – “Shine On”
Video: The Sundays – “Here’s Where The Story Ends” (YouTube)
Video: Chapterhouse – “Pearl” (YouTube)
Video: The Boo Radleys – “Lazarus” (YouTube)
Video: Echobelly – “Insomniac” (YouTube)
Video: Sleeper – “Sale Of The Century” (YouTube)

Bradley’s Almanac is offering up audio of Spiritualized’s show in Boston this past Monday, the final North American date of their Acoustic Mainlines tour.

British Sea Power released their Krankenhaus? EP in physical form this week, though it’s been available digitally since October. In addition to the five tracks, there’s two videos on the CD version of the release, one of which you can watch below via Pitchfork. The band’s next full length, Do You Like Rock Music? is out February 12.

MP3: British Sea Power – “Atom”
Video: British Sea Power – “Water Tower”

LiveDaily talks to Emma Pollock.

NME reports that Billy Bragg is set to release his first album of new material in six years. Mr Love & Justice will be out on March 3 in the UK.

By : Frank Yang at 8:29 am
Category: Uncategorized
RSS Feed for this post76 Responses.
  1. Matt says:

    Mekons are a big omission. I’d choose "Big Zombie" from Edge of the World, or if you want something a bit later, "Memphis Egypt" from Rock ‘N Roll.

  2. Kevin says:

    KITCHENS OF DISTINCTION:
    Drive That Fast.
    cannot have a shoegaze disc without it!

  3. bill p says:

    "Lazarus" is on the Brit Box, but it’s the shortened version from the album.

  4. Uncle Grambo says:

    If the LastFM charts are indicative of anything, I think I’m just about the only person in the world who still listens to theaudience (the band that launched the career of one Sophie Ellis-Bextor). I’ve always been a huge fan of their single, "A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed", an underrated gem that peaked at #25 on the British charts in the spring of `98.

  5. classyandfancy says:

    My vote is for Swervedriver’s "Blowin’ Cool". I will never tire of that track.

  6. Jeff says:

    I’d say anything by David Gedge (Wedding Present, Cinerama) is what’s missing. "Brassneck"? "Your Time Starts Now"? C’mon…

  7. TimmyG says:

    I’d say I have to agree with a bunch of others regarding Slowdive, Stereophinics, Adorable et el… but I will go to bat for Gay Dad… who cares if they had bad press and so on… The song "Oh Jim" is not the best song to put on here and if you heard their second record-it’s pretty damn good. Hurricane #1 can bite it! I’d rather see Menswe@r or Shed Seven on here than H#1. But I think the LIGHTNING SEEDS is a must, The Farm (though am I the only who dislikes "All Together Now?"), PWEI, Starsailor, The Music, REVOLVER, Siouxsie, Love & Rockets, Kitchens of Distinction, and hello…. The Wonder Stuff! So, it is hard to say who should be on here, since it is a broad range of Brit artists and not 1-specific time period.

  8. onebrownjeff says:

    I’ve read an awful lot of really great suggestions. I like quite a few of them, bigger artists, and smaller artists alike. It is awfully hard to add more to the list actually at this point. I’m a bit partial to the first Big Audio Dynamite album, so maybe "The Bottom Line" might be a nice addition. I use to laugh out loud at Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but really, would "Love Missle F-111" actuall add or subtract from this… probably subtract actually. The Stone roses have been mentioned, but I think "Fool’s Gold" is a better pick than "She Bangs A Drum", but that is probably a matter of personal choice. I use to love Kinky Machine’s "Supernatural Giver", and their follow up band, Rialto’s "Summer’s Over", but I’m not sure how many people remember either band… so there… those are mu suggestions I guess.

  9. Jason Altman says:

    Kudos to all for tossing in Adorable, Slowdive, and the Chameleons, etc. Man, I have such fond memories of tracking down import records by such luminaries as New fast Automatic Daffodils, Northside, The High, Paris Angels, and the Field Mice. Wow.
    But I’m gonna throw out a record (and a song) by a band I break out every once in a while — The Mock Turtles and their "Turtle Soup" record. In a very tough call I’m gonna go with baggy fave "Can you dig it?"

  10. bigfoot says:

    I agree with those who wanted to hear The Chameleons "Swamp Thing" on here. Another overlooked single is Space’s "The Ballad of Tom Jones" featuring Cerys from Catatonia, which is a much better song than "Mulder and Scully."

    Kitchens of Distinction, man I wish they’d reform.

    Cinerama’s "Maniac" would have been wonderful as well.

    I think the biggest problem with this set is that those who would be the most interested in it already own 90% of its content. That said, the light up box is wonderful. This will be cheap on ebay and amazon after the holidays, mark my word. Just like Sire’s set from a few years back was.

  11. James McNally says:

    Despite your warning, I’d have to say PJ Harvey is the biggest omission. I bought her first CD (on Too Pure records, no less) for $30 on import because I never thought it would come out domestically. I miss the old axe-wielding, boot-wearing Polly.

    That being said, it was nice to be reminded of Adorable. How about something from The Woodentops?

  12. c mailman says:

    Belle & sebastian – the boy with the arab strap

  13. Tyler says:

    Here’s a few songs I haven’t seen mentioned yet…

    Spacehog – In the Meantime
    White Town – Your Woman
    60 ft. Dolls – Stay

  14. Chris says:

    Wow – how Slowdive were overlooked is beyond me. I would probably say that Allison would be the song of choice here, but they have plenty that they could have put on (When The Sun Hits, Here She Comes, 40 Days)…Hey -I am going to go listen to Souvlaki right now in fact! Thanks Brit Box!

  15. thomaus says:

    Frankie Says: Since this compilation starts in 1984, I’m surprised they skipped Frankie Goes to Hollywood. If the BBC hadn’t banned Relax and caused the huge popularity, they would probably still have indie credibility. I really wanted one of those T-Shirts at the time…

  16. Jayalt says:

    I gotta do it — New Fast Automatic Daffodils’ "Get Better". Always loved’em . . . and they were the very first band I ever saw in a club!

  17. Ken says:

    I’d say that the biggest (non-obvious) omission is Jesus Jones. "Right Here, Right Now" actually got some airplay on the more progressive pop stations in NY. I would also have liked to see some Inspiral Carpets. (According to Wikipedia, Noel Gallagher was one of their roadies, and was rejected in an audition for main vocalist.) :-)

    Also miss House of Love, Darling Buds & the Soup Dragons.

  18. Dhaveed says:

    I don’t see how this collection can be complete without Robyn Hitchcock. The box starts a bit too late to include The Soft Boys’ "I Wanna Destroy You", but I think that "So You Think You’re in Love" from 1991’s "Perspex Island" would be a terrific inclusion.

  19. Michele Chusroskie says:

    Um EMF Unbelievable, thank god its not on there cause its total shite, but it was a big track. Wouldnt have minded Space’s Female of the Species though.

  20. JJ says:

    Ummm…yes, this looks good to me. I want it. :)

  21. Jim says:

    Not a lot of space to comment, but WEDDING PRESENT definitely needs to be in here, so does Lilac Time, and Adorable–"Homeboy" is pure perfection. I notice the absence of THE BELOVED, too–"Your Love Take Me Higher" was a f@#king awesome track that should have been included.

    jadigioia(AT)mac(DOT)com

  22. Jerad says:

    I know it’s already been commented to death here, but how can you have a shoegaze disc without anything from Slowdive? The obvious picks would be "Alison" or "Some Velvet Morning," but most anything off of Souvlaki would do.

  23. Will Marshall says:

    I would pick either Felt w/ "Mexican Bandits" or Pop Will Eat Itself w/ "Th Black Country Chainsaw Massacre".

    Thanks – Will

  24. Alicia says:

    Absolutely Robyn Hitchcock. "Heaven"!

  25. Derek says:

    I’m getting in by the skin of my teeth @ 10:30pm and nominating ‘Gomez – 78 Stone Wobble’. C’mon, they won the Mercury Prize!

  26. Abdy VP says:

    Theres a new interview with Miki Berenyi

    here

    http://vonpipmusicalexpress