Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Woodentops ‎– Giant (1986)

Style: Indie Rock
Format: CD, Vinyl, Cass.
Label: Rough Trade

01.   Get It On
02.   Good Thing
03.   Give It Time
04.   Love Train
05.   Hear Me James
06.   Love Affair With Everyday Livin'
07.   So Good Today
08.   Shout
09.   History
10.   Travelling Man
11.   Last Time
12.   I Want Your Love
13.   Everything Breaks

Accordion – Jack Emblow
Bass – Frank De Freitas
Double Bass – Chucho Merchan
Drums – Benny Staples
Guitar – Simon Mawby
Keyboards – Alice Thompson
Marimba – Bob Sargeant
Strings – Danny Shogger
Trumpet – Steve Sidwell
Voice – Alice Thompson, Benny Staples, Frank De Freitas, Rolo McGinty, Simon Mawby
Producer – Bob Sargeant
Engineer – John Gallen

During the two weeks I spent working on my “1987: 20th Year Reunion” piece, I ended up digging up some music from the previous year that I used to listen to. By far my most revelatory rediscovery was The Woodentops’ Giant. I remember having the tape and playing it to death. Eventually the tape was lost, and I never found the CD, until last week, when I ordered it from Deepdiscount. Cherry Red reissued it in 2001 with four bonus tracks. Why they didn’t include all the singles is beyond me, as there isn’t a single Woodentops song from that era not worth hearing. 
Lead by Rolo McGinty, The Woodentops took bits of Suicide, The Talking Heads, XTC , Echo & the Bunnymen and especially the frenetic rhythms of The Feelies, all treated with acoustic folk, twisted with other instrumentation like marimbas, accordian and trumpet. While The Feelies also tackled acoustic guitars on their second album, The Good Earth, The Woodentops still sounded quite different. Their songs had a perfect balance of diverse experimentalism and pop hooks. Morrissey constantly talked them up at the time, which was a brave gesture, considering the strong possibility that Giant more consistently great than The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead. If it weren’t for Morrissey’s clever lyrics and two untouchable singles from that album, I’d even say Giant crushed it. So why didn’t they become huge? Probably because their magic only lasted through their debut album. They were on Rough Trade, an indie label unable to push a band without help from a string of hit singles like The Smiths had. Columbia did release the album in the U.S., but it didn’t catch on. The 1988 followup, Wooden Foot Cops On The Highway, while actually very good, wasn’t able to measure up to Giant. Thus, Giant slipped through the cracks of canonization and became a lost classic. 
I uploaded the MP3 of the first track, “Get It On,” which gives a sense of the propulsive energy of much of the album, along with “Love Train,” Hear Me James,” “Shout,” and “Travelling Man.” “Good Thing” is wonderfully original love ballad that made it onto several high school era mix tapes. The album gets better and better, peaking with “Last Time” and “Everything Breaks,” two of their most distinct songs. I desperately don’t want it to end, and the four bonus cuts collected from the Well Well Well EP provides some relief. I also downloaded the out of print singles collection (“Steady Steady” is a heavy dirge about terminal cancer, and one of their most atypical, but powerful songs) and their 1987 live album, Hypno Beat Live (where they play three times as fast! Who needs Slayer?) to extend my buzz. Amazingly, they popped up last year announcing a reunion and a tour. We should be so lucky that they come to the U.S.
A.S. Van Dorston / fastndbulbous 

Sudden Sway ‎– 76 Kids Forever (1988)

Style: Indie Rock, Avantgarde, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Rough Trade

A1.   The Phoenix Family Protection Plan
A2.   Solo - Store Detective Man
A3.   Barmy Army
A4.   So, You're Alright Then?
A5.   I've Got A Tinnitron Amusement Centre
A6.   Only A Grebo
A7.   Reverend Peter, Bio-Teacher
B1.   Once In Every Weekend
B2.   Trisha Listen
B3.   Ballad Of Brancaster
B4.   Never In Netherton
B5.   76 Kids Forever
B6.   Hush Puppy Yummy

The band was formed in 1980 by Mike McGuire (vocals) and Steve Rolls (Guitar) after disbanding 1st generation punk band The Now. They recruited Pete Jostins (Bass), Shaun Foreman (Guitar & Keyboards) and Colin Meech (Drums), with various others contributing in their early days.[1] They were initially influenced by bands such as A Certain Ratio and Shriekback.[1] Their first releases were two self-financed singles, "Jane's Third Party" and the To You, With Regard EP, in 1980 and 1981 respectively. The latter was sufficiently successful to attract major-label interest from CBS and Virgin Records, but after a further single (Traffic Tax Scheme) on their own 'Chant' label, and with guitarist Simon Childs added as a permanent member, they signed a deal with Warners subsidiary Blanco y Negro, debuting on the label in 1986 with eight versions of the single "Sing Song".[1] After releasing the Spacemate package - a double LP, book, poster, set of cards and instruction manual, packaged together in a soap box container and designed by Jon Wozencroft, the band moved on to indie label Rough Trade Records, where they would stay for the rest of their career. Their fondness for short songs was evident on their first Rough Trade release, a 7-inch EP featuring eight, 1 minute songs and titled "Autumn Cut Back Job Lot Offer", released in early 1987. The following year, they released their second album, '76 Kids Forever, which they described as a "soap opera musical". The band continued for one final effort, 1990's Ko-Opera album, before splitting up with an unreleased album (minus Simon Childs) in the can. 
The band recorded two sessions for John Peel's BBC Radio 1 programme, in 1983 (Let's Evolve, Relationships) and 1984 (A Walk in the Park, Problem-Solving Broadcasts 1-3, T Minus Tranquility), the first released as an EP in 1986.[2] They also made an appearance on Whistle Test, performing "Packet of Vacuum" , "Father I Do" and one other track , plus an appearance on C4 "Night Network" playing "Solo Store Detective Man".