In mid-1986, the NME released a mail-order cassette mix of 22 samples from indie groups, several of whom (The Wedding Present, The Mighty Lemon Drops, Primal Scream, The Soup Dragons, etc.) would go on to bigger things. Last year, Cherry Red—that love-struck curator of eighties British indie—rereleased the influential C86 on CD and expanded it to include fifty additional like-minded artists.
Of course, 1986 was just one year in a lengthy and key pop era, so a fantasy follow up imagining what a C87 tape might have been is both logical and welcome. Like Cherry Red comps past, such as the expanded C86 and Scared to Get Happy, C87 shows how far beyond mere Smiths-worship late-eighties UK indie set its sites. Yes, there are a few Morrissey worshipers here, but there’s also The Sea Urchins’ sighing and swooning, The House of Love’s bluesy garage rock, The Bachelor Pad’s brain-busting Barrett psych, The Vaselines’ ear-bleeding bubblegum, The Inspiral Carpets’ lo-fi ambience, The Flatmates’ bouncing pop, I, Ludicrous’ straight-faced piss taking, etc.
All of those artists are featured on the gem of C87’s three discs. Its second disc moves in a somewhat more consistently mainstream pop direction (though it houses some truly standout tracks, such as Pop Will Eat Itself’s fierce “Sweet Sweet Pie”). Disc Three begins as an antidote to those slicker sounds with a full-wallow in dissonance and discordance. More adventurous listeners will welcome Dog Faced Hermans, Gaye Bikers on Acid, A Witness, and the rest as palette cleansers (in the same sense that lye is a palette cleanser). More melodically inclined listeners should not bale on C87, though, because beginning with 14 Iced Bears’ “Like a Dolphin”, Disc Three starts moving in more accessible territory again, and by Jesse Garon & The Desperadoes’ “I’m Up Here”, the set hits another lovely, jangly stride. Sometimes hard rocking, sometimes twee, sometimes pretty, sometimes skronky, sometimes Smithsy, C87 sums up the breadth of ’86/’87 British indie with Cherry Red’s inimitable knowledge of and sympathy for that era. You may not like it all, but you’re guaranteed to discover a lot you’ll love.