UNDER THE BRIDGE

With age comes beauty. This beauty was well worth the wait.

To state that the influence of Sarah Records continues to resonate would be somewhat of an understatement. Only the foolhardy, or terminally biased, would argue otherwise.

Throughout a particularly respectable life span in pop’s spotlight, Sarah Records (1987 – 1995) was loved and derided – probably in equal measure – as it ploughed its own path; ignoring the naysayers. It’s legacy, much like Postcard Records before it, sees copies of rare releases change hands for hundreds of pounds to fans keen to indulge themselves in the authentic sound of the twee revolution.

In celebration of the attitude and music released by Sarah Records, Skep Wax release the fourteen track LP, Under The Bridge. I like to think that the LP title suggests that a lot of water has passed ‘Under The Bridge’ since these, once label mates, came back together to create this remarkable tribute. You could be forgiven for thinking that the bands involved have been inactive throughout the intervening years, however many have continued to release under their original names, some have morphed into new bands and others continue to play live.

Lovingly cuddled by Luxembourg Signal’s dream pop grandeur to The Wake’s dream pop raggedness, these 14 tracks tell an updated, unfolding story of a disparate music scene from bygone days; its naivety, its defiance and its enduring influence that cast a net far beyond the indifferent, suffocating term of ridicule, ‘twee’.

Under The Bridge waves a warm welcoming hello to fans past and to fans present, for they are legion. It offers an engaging smile to the curious and to those unfamiliar. It sticks a forceful two fingers in the face of historical detractors, cemented in their self-imposed limitations.

Make no mistake. Under The Bridge is an exemplary exercise in genre defiance.

Imagine, if you will, placing this gorgeous vinyl on your turntable only to be immersed in: hazy psychedelic pictures painted by Miles Davis; authentic 60s pop in the vein of Francoise Hardy; the sound of Television and Magazine in a post-match punk / new wave fisticuffs showdown – non-innocent bystanders include the Fire Engines; bristling fuzz-jangle that makes you yearn for The Shop Assistants and Strawberry Story; a suave, 80s pop-nod that wouldn’t sound out of place nestled within The Pet Shop Boys’ cosmopolitan playbook; the brutal noise and blissful echoes of Swervedriver, Slowdive and 14 Iced Bears; the caustic and oft-times riff-induced, Stiff Little Fingers; reverb-drenched vocal harmonies that lift you skywards ever hopeful and reminiscent of Lush; a wigged-out, space-drone that pulses with nostalgia – akin to Loop and Spacemen 3; an acoustic, Smiths-like, instrumental trip that drips like vegan honey – sophisticated in its charm and twisted Girl Group sounds that ooze the incandescent joy of a twenty-first century Shangri-Las.

We think we can dispense with the dismissive and lazy “Twee? C86? It all sounds the same” nonsense. Can’t we? Many of the bands, once disgruntled with the Twee / C86 definition, have come to embrace the term, reclaim it in much the same way as many fans did in the midst of time with their Tweecore call to arms of Twee As Fuck. Whatever the Twee / C86 movement or scene was, it was never one sound. If anyone was to listen to a collection of songs from this scene and claim they all sounded the same we’ll counter-claim that they hadn’t actually listened. With so many bands involved, and so many personalities and egos in those bands, it could never be one sound. Not ever.

We had heard only a few tracks from the album when Ian Key at Louder Than War noted in his review of the LP

“Under The Bridge is a pop gem. Some are punk rock, some are indiepop, others are dreamy swirls of fuzz. Some are gentle, some are full of rage, but all of them are defiantly sensitive, literate and full of DIY spirit.”

Having now heard the LP in its entirety, we’d be fools to disagree.

Sarah Records and Skep Wax artists and bands would, we imagine, acknowledge at least some of the above influences on their own musical journeys and will, we hope, agree that in turn they have influenced such movements as: Riot Grrrl, Shoegaze, Grunge, Britpop and Indiepop. Certainly, bands from all of the above scenes have, at one time, cited Sarah bands as influences.

The scene, whatever you want to call that scene, had and continues to have its feet firmly planted in a punk DIY spirit. Under the Bridge is a welcome addition to that hallowed, defiant tradition.

It’s a wonderful collection of pop music for those discerning enough to listen.

It’s available on 12” vinyl (including 16-page booklet) and CD, or it can be downloaded directly, all fromSkep Wax at:

https://ndrthebridge.bandcamp.com/releases

The 12” vinyl and CD can also be purchased from your local record shop.

The Three Masketeers

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