In 1985, The Kamikaze Pilots released “Sharon Signs to Cherry Red”, a mild piss take aimed at all the aspiring artists who’ve shipped unsolicited and rather rough demo tapes to indie labels such as, well, Cherry Red. Thirty-plus years later, that very label (or at least its subsidiary RPM Records) is embracing the good-natured barb and even retroactively “signing” a multitude of artists like starry-eyed Sharon with a new compilation called Sharon Signs to Cherry Red: Independent Women 1979 – 1985. Well, Kamikazes, if all the aspiring artists who’d tried to get signed with a cheap demo were as good as the majority on this new comp even the slightest piss take would be bang out of order.
The liner notes tend to reference The Slits and The Raincoats a lot, but the styles are as diverse as can be—there’s Northern Soul, mod rock, garage rock, hard rock, psychedelia, reggae, jazz, punk, disco, folk, even big band (check out The Twinsets and The Shillelagh Sisters!)—but almost all of it sounds like it belongs on the same two discs because the synths, uniformly thick accents, and sparse arrangements brew the various tunes in the distinctively flavorful waters of early-eighties British indie pop.
The first disc is 100% filler-free, with Grab Grab the Haddock’s trippy “Nothing You Say…”, The Flatbackers’ slashing “Buzzz Going Round”, and The GTs’ deliriously catchy “Boys Have Feelings Too” all deserving to be singled out. Disc Two is less consistently spectacular, dominated by an odd split between more mainstream pop pieces that sound too polished for this collection (Tracie’s “The Boy Hairdresser” and A Craze’s cheesy bossa nova “Wearing Your Jumper”, for example) and acquired-taste experiments. Disc Two still has enough smashes— The Petticoats’ freaky “Normal”, Dee Walker’s “Jump Back” (which also found a worthy home on Cherry Red’s fabulous Millions Like Us: The Story of the Mod Revival box set), The Delmonas’ insane basher “Woa’ Now”, Eleanor Rigby’s tough power popper “I Want to Sleep with You”— to warrant multiple spins.