Bad Dancing, Bad Haircuts and Bad Timing

You remember those little blue disabled cars that used to be everywhere in the 1980’s? Three wheels, shaped like a movable portaloo, did roughly the speed of an asthmatic dog on crutches – that people was a Thundersley Invacar, and that is the name of a rather marvellous track by Collapsed Lung which is todays first ‘Lost Classic’. If that is not the best segue you read this year I don’t know what is.

There has been a lot of talk recently about first gigs. I won’t bore you with mine as it was Neds Atomic Dustbin. I will however bore you with a tale of my first gig at University and one of the main reasons why I now no longer dance. My first gig as a student at University was Collapsed Lung on a Sunday night in October. At the time I was just becoming aware of Collapsed Lung, my good friend Martin (who is in the band Thee Faction, you should check them out, they are great) had lent me a cassette with some of their music on it. I never gave him that tape back – it also had Mambo Taxi, Echobelly and Dub War on it. It was a good tape.

Collapsed Lung formed in Harlow in 1992 and were one of a few bands around at the time who blended hip hop with rock (hello Senser and Asian Dub Foundation) and even counted Radio One DJ and minor Z List Reality TV star Nihal as a member. The lead man was Ant Chapman who was also a bit of a DJ and I think involved in a band called Bogshed, who I never ever listened to but was intrigued by because of their name.

Thundersley Invacar should have been more famous than Collapsed Lung’s best known single and only hit Eat My Goal  (A Top 20 smash in 1996, thanks to the football tournament going on which played it every 15 minutes). ‘Thundersley…’ was on the aforementioned tape and got played an awful lot by me on my stereo. At that concert in the Students Union, when they played this, I went mental (I was young, well 19 and didn’t know any better). I threw myself around, jumped up and down and generally lost myself in the music. When it stopped, I was the only one dancing; in fact I think most people were looking at me and not Collapsed Lung. My friend John, who was standing next to me, said, rather brilliantly, that watching me dance, was like watching Kermit the Frog in a blender – messy and that it was not to be encouraged. I’ve rarely danced since. I mean I want to dance – but I’m terrible at it. I love this track though and with the risk of repeating myself, it should have been a hit.

mp3 : Collapsed Lung – Thundersley Invacar

Fast forward three years and we come to Tiger and their track Race.

Tiger were a band who were more famous for their mullets, metal T-shirts and crap jumpers than they were for their tunes, which is a shame, because debut album We are the Puppets is something of a lost masterpiece. The thing about Tiger for me was that they had two keyboardists (at least one was a Moog, which is always cool) and a multitude of members who played various things, the sound was fuzzy, inventive and at times brilliant. Once they reminded me of the B-52s at their greatest (a sentence I rarely type that) but mostly it evokes the spirit of Stereolab if they were fronted by Mark E Smith.

Debut single Shining in the Wood  showed much promise, but it was Race and following single My Puppet Pal that underlined their potential. By this time Tiger had an image and that was that they were amazingly uncool and they knew it which almost made them cool – not that I understand anything about being cool – I had a pony tail until I was 35 (I know please don’t hate me). At a time when music was fast becoming solely about Oasis and Britpop, Tiger at least offered an alternative. Debut album ‘We Are The Puppets’ was well received and Tiger went on tour as part of the NME Awards shindig and for a while it looked like they were destined for great things (also on that tour Three Colours Red and Geneva, they pick ‘em, the NME), sadly fame and fortune never materialised. ‘Race’ for me sums up this band, it is a happy energetic little song, that despite radio play and positive press coverage peaked at Number 37 in the UK Chart. They gave up shortly after album number 2 Rosaria bombed.

mp3 : Tiger – Race

Finally for today, we travel back to 1991 and we have some shoegaze.

After Slowdive, Ride and Moose, came Chapterhouse. Five good looking, well groomed, middle class lads from Berkshire with floppy fringes and a habit of whispering their lyrics whilst feedback and swirling guitars do their best to drown them out. They were seen as the next big act to emerge from the so called ‘Scene that Celebrates Itself’ and to earmark that boast they released the jawdroppingly amazing Pearl.

You will have heard ‘Pearl’ I’m sure. Its gorgeous, it has Rachel from Slowdive on backing vocals it has dreamy lyrics and sleepy guitars, and as you listen to it and drown in it wonderfulness – your shoes will have never had some much attention, what is not to love about it? If you look at an online dictionary and search on Shoegaze you should get a video of ‘Pearl’. After ‘Pearl’ you wondered how can they top that? – the truth was that they couldn’t. They peaked way too early. Debut album Whirlpool reached the higher reaches of the Top 25 but it was just too dreamy, almost too shoe gazey for its own shoes (although listening to it again 20 years later, its actually very good).

But then came the Reading Festival of 1991 (incidentally the first Reading Festival I went to) Chapterhouse played the Friday afternoon slot hitting the stage at around 5pm, I saw them, they played for 45 minutes, a haze of smoke machines, feedback, whispering and staring, they weren’t that bad. The problem is, precisely one hour before them, Nirvana arrived and pretty much nothing else mattered after that, because nothing on Earth was going to top that performance. Chapterhouse had the misfortune of following Nirvana who had just arrived punched everyone in the face with Smells Like Teen Spirit, gave a performance that was utterly utterly brilliant and left everyone open mouthed and pretty much speechless. They couldn’t follow that and from that point onwards Chapterhouse were doomed.

mp3 : Chapterhouse – Pearl

Hope you enjoy the music. Oh and if you haven’t already done it by now you should be thinking about downloading the new Eagulls album. The best 37 minutes of the year so far.