The Record Story Pt 2: Britcore Sunday

If you’re from the UK and of a certain age, you will recall the dreaded term ‘Britcore’ with, I would imagine, disgust.  For the rest of you. let’s jump back in time to 1988, and take a look at the British Music Press.  Traditionally, there had been three ‘broadsheet’ music newspapers publishing in the UK on a weekly basis.  Right from the early 60s, you had Melody Maker, New Musical Express, and, later in the 70s, Sounds.  They had all managed to get by quite nicely by feeding schoolboys and girls their fix of teasing facts – which make of cymbals Neal Peart of Rush preferred to use – [probably Sounds], which left-wing dialectics Cabaret Voltaire preferred to discuss in dingy Sheffield pubs [New Musical Express] and which hair care products David Sylvian of Japan preferred to use [almost certainly Melody maker].  But, by the late 80s, things had changed.

Sounds had pretty much gone the way of all decaying music papers – the taint left by Oi! and the demise of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal had done for  them.  Melody Maker had changed page size, and had long since abandoned any pretence of serious music journalism, preferring instead to emulate Smash Hits and cater for the more teen-focused readership.  And the NME had ditched its round glasses and long rain coat, and embraced the music that was happening in the provinces.  It would shortly drop all of this when Acid House broke through and undergo a year-zero reinvention for the nth time.

Perfect Daze from Ipswich

But back to the story.  Via certain journalists based out of London in the sticks, the NME had become aware that kids were into a strange kind of music known as hardcore.  John Peel was playing it, and even London venues were pulsating to the sounds of bands like The Stupids.  However, instead of simply covering this genre of music, the NME did what all ‘rock’ journalists do, and tried to come up with a new box to put this strange, suburban movement into.  Ergo, Britcore.  This vile term was then used hundreds of times per issue to categorise bands as diverse as Napalm Death, Perfect Daze and in fact any band who smelled vaguely of hardcore.

In the tradition of O.C.D list makers, the paper had soon constructed an out of the box toolkit that identified social origin [generally middle class males], dress codes [checked shirt, band t-shirt, combat pants, Converse All Stars], and attitudes [anti corporate, vegetarian].  Pretty much the same as what Maximum Rock n Roll did, then.

But once the movement had lost its impact, and the ever hungry-for-a-fad journos had got bored of stagediving and moved on, what of the bands who laboured under the misnomer of ‘Britcore’?  I’m here to point a few out.  Eyes top left please!

FILLER: M.Y.H.C and ‘No Aims No Desires’ eps [1988 and 1989].

Filler was a band hailing from a village in Nottinghamshire, comprising Richard Bramley, Jonathan Barry and David Skeen.  Previously they had been involed in a band called Eyes on You, but in Filler they found their voice as  a full on DC-style hardcore band whose sound had a pleasing influence from Rites of Spring, maybe even the great Squirrel Bait with that same kind of vulnerable, pre-emo core theme to it.  I got these from Selectadisc in Nottingham and Tez Turner’s Full Circle – the ‘No Aims No Desires’ ep was issued on Pigboy records, which was in fact an imprint of Vinyl Solution from London.

The Shape of Things to Hum: V/A [4th Dimension Records, 1989]

This is a veritable compilation 7″ released on 4th Dimension records, and containing an array of bands sharing a similar sound.  Playground, featuring label guy Richo, were from Kent and proffered a vaguely USHC – influenced sound with thin production.  Moving on, we also have ‘One Thing for Sure’ by Ipswich’s Perfect Daze, which was the usual trashy mix of Hanoi Rocks, Ramones and general punk rock we had come to expect from The Daze.

I notice that the Perfect Daze section of the sleeve notes mention ‘Ripped Up Paul Dude‘ and ‘Long Gone Hud‘, which gets our namechecks in for this ‘zine and acts rather like the provenance of a Napoleonic commode at an antique auction.  Did I mention that Lorenzo Bell, now head honcho of Domino Records, was the lead singer of the Daze?  I’ll mention it again in a minute.

Furthermore, we have ‘I’m on Black & White’ by Richmond, London’s Senseless Things – a band who garnered some appreciation in the mainstream press with a mix of Stooges image and Ramones pop-punk and tuneful sensibility.  Making up the rear is a track by Exit Condition, who I always knew about, but rarely if ever bothered to listen to.  In summary, a diverse and commendable low budget split ep.

Sink: ‘Blue Noodles’ ep [1989]

Sink is next up with their ‘Blue Noodles’ ep.  Main man Ed Wenn, previously on guitar and vocal duties in The Stupids, then in DC-influenced Bad Dress Sense, had by now formed a new band.  Ironically the cover is a photo of a train, with the sign in front of it saying ‘4 Tracks’.  But in our jaded view, Sink had gone off the rails in a big way.  Bereft of most of the enjoyable urgency of Bad Dress Sense, who had in effect produced a template DC Hardcore album a couple of years previously, Sink lost it completely and began to produce a lot of countryfied, Neil Young influenced songs that just used to confuse me: their maxim seemed to be ‘if we can make a simple, effective song complicated and tortuous, then we will’.

Perhaps because of the Stupids connection, the band would often end up on the bill with bands who were either British and brutal, or from DC and dealing with emotional issues.  They would appear on stage wearing pyjamas and proceed to play a version of the blues amongst their more lively songs, leading the audience to conclude that, like jazz musicians, they were enjoying themselves far more than the crowd.  I bought two Sink eps, indeed I once had a tye-dyed t-shirt as well.   Trivia section – Lawrence Bell was singer in this band for a while, too – and Tommy Stupid played drums on a few of their recordings.

Sink

PSSST e.p. [1989]

Remember I mentioned that Lorenzo, flamboyant lead singer of Perfect Daze, has now ended up as head man at Domino, and is therefore one of the top chaps in the music biz? Well here is one of his early outings.  You may not know this but Lawrence had record label aspirations long before he started Domino.  For example, one of his earliest enterprises was Extreme Noise Terror’s initial LP, released on his ‘Head Eruption’ labelette.

He also released this ep on ‘Hoss 45′ recordings.  It is again a 4 way split, with the added novelty of having the four bands covering each others’ songs.  So what we got was Senseless Things covering ‘Break It Away’ by Perfect Daze, The Daze covering ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’ by Sink, Sink covering ‘I’m Not Listening Anymore’ by Snuff, and finally Snuff covering ‘Blue Noodles’ by Sink [Ed discusses the ep here].  A great little period piece, and of course of all these bands [to my knowledge], Snuff are the only ones still going.  Unless you tell me other wise.

And there we are, in a flash.  The ‘Britcore’ generation defined by some hoary old records of mine.  I hope you enjoy ’em.

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