When I was in high school, all I wanted to do was move to England, since it was just so much cooler than, like, suburban Ohio. This set me on a path to seek out as many weird British/U.K. bands as I could -- or as my allowance would let me/magazines would cover/radio would play. Since I'm a nerd, I never forgot all of the bands I read about in NME/Melody Maker back then -- which explains this post.
I've had these MP3 mixes in mind for several weeks now, ever since I realized how many seminal bands in the U.K. indie, Britpop and shoegaze worlds were missing from the Brit Box. (Seriously, no House of Love??) A few that need to be included aren't on the mixes below, whether due to labels (hi, Radiohead, even though "Stop Whispering," from Pablo Honey, needs to be on there) or technicalities (the best obscure group of the 1990s is Whipping Boy, an Irish group indebted to the Church and Velvet Underground).
Without further ado, here are two mixes of songs by artists that should've been on the Brit Box -- mostly because the songs are forgotten gems, sometimes because they were hits and even (in a few cases), because the bands were too popular to be ignored, even if their songs weren't totally seminal. Thanks go to Jason Toon, my insane record collection, my insomnia and blog posts at Chromewaves, Little Hits, Skatterbrain, Crash Site and Sound Bites for either inspiration or hosting MP3s.
Oh, and feel free to post YSI or sendspace links in the comments of stuff I've forgotten. I couldn't track down a S*M*A*S*H MP3, for starters...
1. The Housemartins, "Happy Hour." *The peppy rock-soul band of Norman Cook, a.k.a. the future Fatboy Slim.
2. Gene Loves Jezebel, "Desire (Come and Get It)" *Sorta-goofy slick-goth-rockers founded by twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston; later in their career, the pair fought bitterly over rights to the band name, CCR-style. Cheesy, but irresistible.
3. The House of Love, "Shine On" *I can't say enough good things about this sorta-shoegaze, very-dreampop, heavenly pop-rock band. Beautiful melancholic music, longing and lovelorn. All of its albums are seminal, and always found in the used bin. Cheap.
4. The Flatmates, "Shimmer" *Super-indie band that never released a full-length. Gloriously noisy co-ed rock.
5. The Field Mice, "Emma's House" *A staple on Sarah Records, a seminal UK label known for releasing music by hushed, chiming dream-pop bands; hints of shoegazing, drone-rock and etheral-rock also abounded. Co-founder Bobby Wratten later was in Trembling Blue Stars, an excellent band with a big Cure influence.
6. The Darling Buds, "Let's Go Round There" *Female-fronted band indebted to girl-groups/Wall of Sound/spunky-punk. Became more ethereal and less rock-oriented as it evolved; big American hit was "Long Day in the Universe." RIYL if you like the Sundays, Transvision Vamp, Primitives.
7. The Farm, "All Together Now" *Another sorta-cheesy group with ties to the Madchester baggy-dance scene popularized by the Happy Mondays/Stone Roses ("Madchester" referring to "mad Manchester," the British town). Was an official song of the 2006 World Cup. Biggest hits in the U.S. were this and the intolerable "Groovy Train." Fun fact: You can totally sing "Puff the Magic Dragon" over most of this song.
8. Northside, "Take 5" (twelve-inch mix) *Also a Madchester-influenced baggy-dance group. Its only record has one of the worst titles ever -- Chicken Rhythms -- even though it came out on Factory Records.
9. Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, "Surfin' USM" *Sample-happy (before Girl Talk made it hip) pop/electro/rock band that was inexplicably hugely popular in about 1992-3. Wait for the "Suffragette City" bit later in that song. Today, probably best to file under Jesus Jones/EMF.
10. The Levellers, "One Way" *Sort of presaged Stereophonics (who should also be on this mix/the Brit Box) as rockers fond of fusing folk, rock and punk to form anthemic, pub-ready tunes.
11. The Lightning Seeds, "Sense" *Lead 'Seed Ian Broudie came up in the late-'70s Liverpool scene that spawned Echo & the Bunnymen (Broudie even worked with them) and played in Big in Japan. But the Lightning Seeds were way poppier and much more effervescent. RIYL Electronic. "Change" is on the Clueless soundtrack, and fantastic.
12. Candyskins, "Wembley" *Bizarrely, this sunny jangle-pop band received a ton of airplay in Cleveland, for this song, a boring cover of "For What It's Worth" and a few others.
13. Paul Weller, "Sunflower" *The lead singer of the Jam was reborn as a trad-rock godfather in the 1990s, drawing on distinguished soul, R&B and classic rock for a smattering of solo discs. This song is a true gem.
14. Secret Shine, "Temporal" *One of the forgotten shoegaze bands, which recorded some on Sarah Records. Still together and touring and recording today.
15. Slowdive, "Alison" *One of the big shoegaze bands, this woozy, lazy song is a true classic, fragile and beautiful. Slowdive eventually morphed into Mojave 3 when some band members left; main singers Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell also have released decent solo records.
1. The Auteurs, "Lenny Valentino" *Heavily, heavily indebted to Suede's 'tude-laden glam-rock. But this single is a classic. Leader Luke Haines still makes music; in fact, he's on the tribute to Go-Between Grant McLennan.
2. Shampoo, "Shiny Black Taxi Cab" *Long before Spice Girls or T.A.T.U., Shampoo was the premiere pre-fab girl-pop group in the U.K. "Trouble" was the bratty single we all knew here, but this one isn't bad. Little Hits says the group is the project of Lawrence Hayward of Felt -- who is on the Brit Box. Go figure.
3. Edwyn Collins, "A Girl Like You" *Originally the figurehead of influential Scot-pop band Orange Juice, Edwyn hit pay dirt when "A Girl Like You" was on the Empire Records soundtrack. Very swinging-'60s soul. Collins had a stroke a few years ago, but is miraculously back creating music again. His MySpace page was a way for him to rehabilitate and learn how to write, read and express himself again; the blog entries from that time are heartbreaking.
4. Portishead, "Sour Times" *Such a huge hit, and very much in the vein of the '60s-revival/trip-hop trend taking place in certain segments of British music. So seminal, so seductive.
5. Terry Hall featuring Salad, "Dream a Little Dream" *Found on the Help! Benefit CD for OxFam, a much-ballyhooed release that has members of the Beatles, a pre-OK Computer version of "Lucky" by Radiohead, Johnny Depp, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, and much more. Terry Hall is of the Specials/Fun Boy Three; Salad is a little-remembered, female-fronted pop band in the vein of Sleeper.
*5a. Black Grape, "In the Name of the Father" *Shaun Ryder's post-Happy Mondays group. A bit manic, a bit psychedelic, a bit over-the-top, a bit grandiose, a whole lot dated. But still a ton of danceable fun.
6. Bis, "School Disco" *Manic, spastic, bratty femme-electro-punk. Has held up astoundingly well. Sadly broken up, but all of Bis' records are totally worth tracking down.
7. Skunk Anansie, "Weak" *More out of nostalgia than anything, as this song hasn't exactly aged well. Watered-down grunge, even though lead singer Skin would probably kick my ass for saying this. But Skunk Anansie was huge.
8. Shed Seven, "Chasing Rainbows" *I tried to find "Speakeasy," Shed Seven's big, towering, uber-Britpop hit, but this'll do. The band is back together and embarking on a huge, sold-out greatest-hits tour. Very Supergrass-like, this band.
9. Sneaker Pimps, "6 Underground (Nellee Hooper mix)" *See the entry for Portishead. If the Brit Box can include Spiritualized, surely it can include this.
10. Seahorses, "Blinded by the Sun" *Post-Stone Roses band for guitarist John Squire. Super-underrated debut record; the band's oft-rumored second album never saw the light of day, although demos are floating around on the Internet. This is an appropriately epic, churning guitar anthem.
11. Monaco, "What Do You Want From Me?" *Side project of New Order bassist Peter Hook. Listen to that bass line! Classique! Melancholic guitar-piano-rock in the vein of NO's "Regret" or "True Faith."
12. Finley Quaye, "Sunday Shining" *Won a BRIT award in 1997 or so, and is the son of a jazz musician. This quirky song earned some decent radio play in the States.
13. Idlewild, "When I Argue I See Shapes" *From their debut, Hope is Important. Later albums solidified the band's Smiths-Husker Du-REM hybrids, but the raw energy of their debut (and this song) is charming.
14. Shack, "Pull Together" *In another lifetime, Shack was ethereal chime-rockers Pale Fountains, who also should be on the Brit Box. This song is from Shack's 1999 disc H.M.S. Fable, which can be found in nearly every used bin in every record store. Go rescue it. I want to do it every time I see it. Melancholic, well-constructed music.
15. Geneva, "Museum Mile" *For the life of me, I couldn't find anything off of the band's debut, Further. (Even though I know I bought the album a few years ago. Which means it could be anywhere.) Super-lush rock that ended up being the peers of Coldplay, Travis and the like.