FadeAwayRadiate released our annual compilation last month titled Reverse Play: C86 Re(dis)covered and since we’re music reviewers at heart here at this blog, it only makes sense for us to write about this compilation too. In case you’re unfamiliar with C86: it was originally a cassette compilation released by British music weekly NME in 1986. Since then, the songs collected on that tape, have been enshrined in legend for capturing the spirit of that first wave of indie pop. The songs and the people behind them defied many of the popular music norms of the day, and subverted what critics thought of as cool. They took the punk aesthetic and filtered it though The Byrds and 60s girl groups and created something innocent and pure but still edgy in its own way. It was also one of first places you could hear women in rock without them comforting to traditional male rock stereotypes. As a result C86 almost became a genre unto itself and influenced bands for years to come from early My Bloody Valentine records to Belle & Sebastian up to The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Alvvays.
Perhaps the most iconic C86 track was Primal Scream‘s “Velocity Girl“. On Reverse Play, Ed Ling reinterprets the bouncy jangle of the original into a gentle ballad with finger picked chords, sparse piano and sighing vocals just above a whisper. The Arctic Flow tackles the Field Mice classic “If You Need Someone” by taking it in a more dream pop direction and emphasising lush synths and guitar soaked in chorus effects.
Whimsical recapture the euphoric rush of The Primitives’ “Crash“. Singer Krissy Vanderwoude‘s voice is nearly a perfect match to the Primitives‘ Tracy Cattell and a sweet counterpoint to the music’s punk undertones. Softer Still are a band that always wore their ’80s influences proudly and here they take on Brighter‘s “I Don’t Think it Matters“. Pairing boy/girl vocal harmonies to their instantly recognisable brand of dreampop, the end result brilliantly plays with the ’80s themes while still sounding unmistakably modern. Some of the most exciting covers come from bands who reinterpret a song and make it their own, as Pia Fraus do with The Pastels‘s “Nothing to Be Done”. Deep bending chords and a militant snare drum introduce us to this shoegazed out version of The Pastels. The song’s bouncy sing-a-long verses remain under layers of dreamy synth pads and tremolo laced guitar. Another Pastels cover comes via Lancaster who gently assault you with dissonant squalls of feedback in between minimalist drums and guitar strums. By the end of the song it almost sounds like a crescendo of horns and violins lifting up an otherwise tranquil rendition of “Unfair Kinda Fame“. Finally, the founder of FadeAwayRadiate takes a turn behind the microphone on Nah…’s cover of Friends‘ “As Years Go By“. While Nah… largely stays faithful to the original, the duo’s boy/girl vocal harmonies create a soaring chorus that exceeds the original all the while bathed in a warm glow of reverb that ventures into dream pop territory. (Dane Di Piero)
Opener “Emma’s House” was put first for a good reason: This Field Mice debut track always has been, and will remain, a top twee favourite. In fact, it is so iconic that quite a nice record label in Mexico has been named after it: quite a lot “to live up to” (“and to live down”), but The Catherines totally kill it! In a good way… that is. They just added a lot of “gravy to the mash”: not drowning it, but enhancing the flavour of the exquisite melodies, by adding layers of luscious harmonies and zesty details. After savouring it, you will be singing “where you aaaaare”, and going back for a refill.
One of the most surprising tracks on the compilation is Dayflower‘s rendition of The Sea Urchins’ immaculate jangle classic “Pristine Christine”. Dayflower’s bassplayer David Conrad Dhonau : “we wanted to take Pristine Christine somewhere different – almost going back to the approach of our early bedroom recordings. We figured you can’t ‘out-jangle’ a C86 masterpiece, and that gave us the freedom to get quite layered and sonically nuanced. So there you have it: Pristine Christine as a woozy, industrial motorik lullaby . . .“
Another band that decided to do something quite different with their cover of McCarthy‘s “Kill Kill Kill Kill” are FAR favourites The Death of Pop. I was quite curious as to what they would make of it, since “Kill Kill Kill Kill” is already quite close to their own signature sound and both parties are master-janglers. The result was a mix of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash doing a cover of Blue Oyster Cult‘s (“Don’t Fear”) “The Reaper”. I know, it sounds like an impossible recipe, but they actually dish it out, golden, rich and smooth, just like honey…
Enough of the food imagery. The last thing I expected on this compilation was a song that was strongly inspired by none other than Prince! Least of all in conjunction with a song from Another Sunny Day. But Sun Kin, from sunny California, decided to make this one soulful and seductive. Frontman Kabir Kumar gladly admitted: “Prince is definitely a huge influence on me in general and that guitar/synth hook before each verse is ripped out of “When You Were Mine” which I love and also covered before”. There are some really awesome guitar solo’s at the end of this cover, which makes me wonder who played them, since Kabir was assisted by his friend the mighty Miguel Gallego from Miserable Chillers and Your Dreamcoat.
Relative newcomers on the jangle scene, Okama Flannel Boy from Mexico City, covered one of the few bands of the original C86 line-up that are still going strong: the legendary BMX Bandits. Okama Flannel Boy is Fernando Torres, who’s “been writing and recording jangly guitar driven songs inspired in 60’s bubblegum pop, soul and “the sound of young Scotland” since the beginning of 2017″, and recently signed to Cloudberry Records. Fernando choose “Groovy Good Luck Friend”, a song that according the frontman Duglas Stewart was written about Frances McKee of the Vaselines, for a group called The Pretty Flowers that featured Frances McKee, Norman Blake, Sean Dickson and Mr. Stewart himself. The separate members of this proto-historic supergroup later went on to form The Soup Dragons, The Vaselines, BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub.
The Fisherman & His Soul, pop project of multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Voss,(also the other half of twee outfit Nah…, and bass player of the above-mentioned Lancaster), found a challenge in The Wedding Present’s “Dalliance”, and turned it into an infectious, baggy track a la Charlatans, showing off his impressive rhythm sensibilities.
“Hello Rain”, originally by The Softies who were part of the later wave of jangle or tweepop from the US, becomes a dreamy, melancholy lament drowned in echoes at the hands of The Skating Party (Gregory Harrigan), who conveys this ballad-of-goodbyes with a more austere, less naive voice this time: “I have nothing left to gain so goodbye, wishing you well and hello rain”.
And last but not least, our very own Dane Di Piero‘s band, The Distant Creatures‘ interpretation of The House of Love‘s “Destroy The Heart” has put the C86 spirit straight into this otherwise quite uneventful jangle-track. The metamorphosis is a whimsical, refractory version with a punky kick-ass attitude, lo-fi surround-sound and sparkly jangle. The boy/girl voices of Mina Karimie and Chris Matthews alternate between dissonance and harmony and give the whole thing suspense and a sprinkle of insanity.
All in all, we think it’s a pretty good comp! Agreed? (Estella Rosa)