THE FESTIVE 50 OF 1989 (1 of 3)

The recent posting on Convenience by BOB made recent reference to it reaching #31 in the Peel Festive 50 of 1989. It was a year in which indie, no matter how loosely you choose to define the genre, gained a stranglehold on the rundown.

The Sundays took the #1 spot with the sublime Can’t Be Sure, but just below them were a bunch of bloke-fronted bands with multiple entries, four of whom – The Wedding Present, Pixies, Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets achieved the fairly rare outcome of having five songs in a single rundown. The other acts with multiple entries were Morrissey (3) and a couple who could deemed to be something of a surprise given the names of those acts who had just one song voted in:-

mp3 : Pale Saints – Sight Of You (#11)
mp3 : Pale Saints – She Rides The Waves (#25)
mp3 : Birdland – Hollow Heart (#28)
mp3 : Birdland – Paradise (#40)

The two Pale Saints songs were from their debut EP, Barging Into The Presence of God, released on 4AD in September 1989. They were a band that I never took that much notice of and anything I own of theirs has come via compilation LPs/CDs, but then again the whole shoegaze thing with which they were lumped in really left me cold at the time and I didn’t see things through with any of them.  But I do like these now that I’ve listened to them.

I think it’s rather obvious from what I’ve said and written about over the years on this blog that I prefer my boys (and girls) with guitars, for the most part, to make noises which were a bit more easy-going on the ear and capable of accommodating the throwing of strange shapes on the dance floor. But given that the Festive 50 of 1989 turned out to be heavily populated with that sort of stuff, it is pleasing that something so abstract and different gathered so many votes, especially as the songs had been released only a relatively short time previously and hadn’t enjoyed much exposure outside of late night radio.

Birdland were another act who you would be hard pushed to hear anywhere on your radio unless you tuned in when most folk were watching telly or trying to get some sleep. I know only of their name and have nothing by them on vinyl or CD, but looking into things I’ve learned that the entries into the Festive 50 were the band’s first two singles. It would also appear that the Manic Street Preachers owe just about everything to Birdland in terms of their initial sound and attitude, albeit they seemed to have slightly more sensible haircuts than the bleached blonde look that the boys from Birmingham relied on.

The interesting thing with both bands is that, having garnered great critical plaudits from the earliest of releases, they both suffered setbacks in 1990 with muted responses to the debut albums, neither of which incorporated the early singles/EPs.

I’m absolutely certain that there will be some of you out there who were hugely enthused by one or both bands when they emerged, perhaps even seeing them as the future of rock’n’roll as they dared to be a tad different from the norm, and I’d be very interested in hearing your views, thoughts and opinions on where and why it all went wrong for them. And if anyone wishes to send over a guest post or posts, then feel very free to drop me a line.

More from the Festive 50 of 1989 tomorrow and again on Wednesday.

JC

7 thoughts on “THE FESTIVE 50 OF 1989 (1 of 3)

  1. The first Pale Saints album, and the EPs they released either side of it, were very good indeed. At the time, anyway. Sight Of You remains a firm favourite (the version from the EP), but the album now sounds rather soft and dated.

    As for Birdland – yep, pretty much as you say. The early singles were great, but the album was a bit meh. I saw Birdland live. They were excellent, but the night didn’t end well for me so my memories of the show are somewhat tarnished. Not my proudest moment and one I shall keep to myself…

  2. Corking year for the Festive 50, JC. ‘She Rides The Waves’ is my pick of those four songs, but all terrific.

  3. I was unfamiliar with The Pale Saints (always got them confused with another very different Leeds band – Utah Saints) – these two tracks were rather enjoyable – cheers!

  4. Pale Saints were a wonderful band and the first album Comforts of Madness is a wonderful inventive record, reminds me more of the Boo Radleys masterpiece Giant Steps than any of their shoegaze contemparies.

    Birdland were more of the famous for 15 minutes ilk. I think i’ve recounted my Birdland story elsewhere on the Interweb but here goes.
    They were playing as support at the After Dark club in Reading, as they had been in NME that week myself and a couple of mates made sure to get there early enough for them.
    On arrival there are only about a dozen people scattered around the walls at the back of the venue, thinking it would soon fill up we plonked ourselves on the floor front and centre.
    5 minutes later, Birdland arrive on stage. For 5 minutes it was exciting as they jumped up and down and screamed their songs. 10 minutes it was a bit samey. 15 minutes and i was bored. I gestured to my mates, it was time for the bar but then looked behind and realised everyone else had beat me to it and we were the only 3 people left in the gig room. I’m not sure if it was fear of the reaction of the young shouty men if the final punters left or we were just embarrassed for them, but we stayed to the end and they left to polite clapping from the 3 of us.
    Still like Hollow Heart mind.

  5. As Matt says above, Pale Saints were just wonderful. They may have slotted in with Shoegaze, but there was a much more Psychedelic feel in their sound.
    Sight of You washes over you and She Rides The Waves invites you to lose yourself in happy abandon.
    Their 1990 Half-Life EP and the song Half-Life Remembered rate as some of the best music released during the decade.

  6. Got to add to the love for Pale Saints. Great band, who I saw many times in the early 90s. First 2 albums and accompanying EPs were essential and still do it for me now. Weren’t the same band after Ian Masters left; their quirky irritability had gone with him. He formed Spoonfed Hybrid afterwards and their s/t album is worth 45 mins of anyone’s time.

  7. Mainly as people above say. Pale Saints first ep was ace but my interest faded. I bought the album later and like it. Birdland were fun in small doses. Saw them live once and loved them for the time they played.

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