Teenage Picks: Andy Close
In another in our Teenage Picks series, our Northern reviewer extraordinaire Andy Close picks the ten records from his formative years in the glorious 90s… step forward Britpop and TOTP!
My teenage years spanned quite a varied time in the music scene, starting in the years when grunge ruled all across the Atlantic, while the British guitar-based music scene was split between the dying embers of the Madchester scene, shoegazing and grebo/fraggle (the scene I latched on to around the time). By the time it ended, Britpop had burned itself out and the empty blustery bombast of bands like Radiohead, the Verve and Spiritualized was the “in” thing. Not to mention the fact that the hated “nu-metal” scene was just around the corner.
However, the years in between were kind of my building blocks to a lot of the music I still listen to today. Through scuzzed-up indie punk, the sadly short-lived New Wave of New Wave, the golden years of Britrock and of course Britpop (a movement often sneered at now, but responsible for a lot of great nights out in my sixth form years), there was some pretty cool stuff from that era.
Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine – “1992: The Love Album” (1992)
Yes, 101 Damnations is probably their best album, but that was a couple of years before my time. I just remember buying this album on cassette in the wake of The Only Living Boy In New Cross hitting the Top 10 and it being on repeat play on my cheapo Argos walkman for months afterwards. Even now, hearing the sheer venom in songs like Do Re Me So Far So Good and Suppose You Gave A Funeral And Nobody Came it stood out like a sore thumb among all the Take That/2 Unlimited crap that was clogging up the charts at the time, and I think it’s safe to say that Jim Bob and Fruitbat definitely had a very big influence in shaping my music taste.
The Senseless Things – “Taking Care Of Business” (1995)
Seeing The Senseless Things play Easy To Smile on Top of The Pops as a 13-year-old was pretty much a pivotal moment for me – the sheer energy of the song was like hardly anything else I’d heard before, and they’d go on to pretty much be my favourite band for the next three years until they split up. While their major label debut The First Of Too Many was a blistering 900mph pop-punk assault, and its follow-up Empire Of The Senseless was an attempt to ride the grunge wave, it was on their final effort, 1995’s Taking Care Of Business that they really nailed it. Mixing an ’80s alt-rock influence with the punk energy that characterised their best work, it’s a real all killer no filler album.
The Wonder Stuff – “Construction For The Modern Idiot” (1993)
An album that most Wonder Stuff fans hate and the band swiftly disowned… so of course, it’s inevitably the one that’s gone on this list (well, that plus the fact that their first three were all pre-my teenage years). I think any teenager is drawn to music with an angsty undercurrent and Construction… was very much a band break-up album (the group would split a few months after its release) with Miles Hunt venting all of his frustration at the group’s situation on the likes of On The Ropes, Sing The Absurd and I Wish Them All Dead. People always talk about albums to listen to after you’ve suffered a relationship breakup, and I’ve always seen Construction… as a distant cousin of that – an album which you listen to after a band you’re in has broken up. Something which, I’ll admit, has happened to me quite a few times down the years.
Therapy? – “Infernal Love” (1995)
Infernal Love was the soundtrack to a million and one unrequited crushes during my teenage years (well okay, probably not that many, but it always feels like that when you’re that age doesn’t it?), and even now seems to be the Therapy? album I always come back to first. Jude The Obscene and Misery were pure punk anger, while the sinister A Moment Of Clarity and Me Vs You showed how they were moving forward. Therapy? have had their ups and downs over the years, but to me this just about shades it as their best moment.
The Wildhearts – “Phuq” (1995)
Again, not the obvious choice, but bear with me here. I bought this on the same day as I bought its predecessor Earth Vs The Wildhearts, ie the one most people go for as their best. While Earth Vs is a fairly straight-up rock album (albeit one with some of the catchiest tunes you ever will hear), Phuq was where Ginger started to introduce those little “thinking outside the box” tricks that have been a staple of his work ever since. Just listen to Be My Drug, Jonesing For Jones or Woah Shit, You Got Through – the tunes are still there, but there’s a weird undercurrent of stuff bubbling underneath which won’t let you go. Even hearing it as a 16-year-old, I twigged that these guys knew something I didn’t.
Terrorvision – “How To Make Friends And Influence People” (1994)
As someone who grew up in Bradford, this lot just had to be in here really. I must’ve seen Terrorvision live more times down the years than any other band, and they’ve never disappointed me. In a world dominated by miserable second division grunge no-hopers like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the Screaming Trees, hearing the likes of Pretend Best Friend, Stop The Bus and Alice, What’s The Matter? just felt like such a breath of fresh air in 1994. Regular Urban Survivors and Shaving Peaches were both good efforts as well, and even though Good To Go and Super Delux were a bit more patchy, they’ve both still got some damn good moments. Quite simply, I’ll continue to roll with this band forever.
These Animal Men – “Accident And Emergency” (1997)
The group who spearheaded the sadly short-lived New Wave of New Wave scene, These Animal Men burst on to the scene in 1994 with the sheer energy of their (Come On, Join) The High Society album which, unfortunately, was largely ignored. They disappeared for a while afterwards, but then returned with one of the biggest curveballs in ’90s music. Accident And Emergency is an album which swings from ’70s glam to goth to punk to new wave and tons more besides – give the likes of Life Support Machine, Going Native and April 7th a listen to see just how varied this bugger is. Inevitably, it was a glorious failure and the band split up soon afterwards but bluddyell, what a legacy to leave behind. This was on my stereo for pretty much the whole of the second half of 1997 because it was one of those albums that you inevitably found new stuff to notice every time you listened to it.
Kenickie – “At The Club” (1997)
This is an album written by a band who were about a year older than me at the time, and therefore seemed like one of the most genuine albums about teenage life because, quite simply, it was written by teenagers. Kenickie (at the beginning at least) were pretty much the female version of Ash, and At The Club is 35 glorious minutes of pop-punk bliss with the freewheeling likes of Come Out 2Nite, In Your Car and Classy being balanced out by the more downbeat morning-after laments of How I Was Made and Acetone. They were an amazing live band as well – great stage presence, great tunes and razor-sharp wit when it came to shutting down hecklers.
Silver Sun – “Silver Sun” (1997)
Take four South London geeks with a Kiss and Cheap Trick fixation, give ’em some of the catchiest hooks and choruses that messrs Nielsen and Stanley never wrote, and you’ve got Silver Sun. For about five minutes in 1996-7, they really did look like being the next big thing, and the sheer energy of songs like Last Day, Service and Bad Haircut, plus a great live show, made them real standouts. Frontman James Broad is still pressing on with the band all these years later with some success, but the fact that this band have been largely forgotten over time is absolutely criminal if you ask me.
China Drum – “Self Made Maniac” (1998)
The other great Geordie rock band to come out of the ’90s, China Drum started out as a furiously fast pop-punk band on their few releases, even nabbing the support slot for Green Day when they were touring the Dookie album. However, like fellow north-easterners The Wildhearts did on Phuq, Self-Made Maniac was the one where they really started to branch out a bit, getting ever so slightly heavier, but keeping the killer tunes intact on the likes of Fiction Of Life, Guilty Deafness and Another Toy, while the acoustic-led Somewhere Else and the slow-fast 60 Seconds showed that they could vary things up as well. They promptly blew it with an under-par third album Diskin, but for two or three years they were a band I saw live many times and they always delivered.