C91 - Various Artists Music Album Reviews

Various Artists - C91 Music Album Reviews
Modeled after the NME’s scene-making C86 compilation, this 59-track collection captures the sound of British alternative rock in 1991, in all its glorious chaos.

What was 1991 for alternative music? If you’re American, you may know it as the year of Nirvana’s Nevermind and R.E.M.’s Out of Time; if you’re British, it is perhaps better remembered for My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless or Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. It was, by all accounts, a particularly potent year for people with guitars. But music has a cunning way of thwarting simple linear narratives, and C91—the latest in a line of compilations from UK indie label Cherry Red styled after the NME’s scene-making C86 compilation—perfectly captures the innate weirdness of one of the most fascinating years in UK alternative music, without leaning on any of those canonical works.

I had my own indie awakening in 1991: It was the year I first read NME, went to my first proper concert, and bought the first record that made my parents wince. I find it impossible to look upon 1991 with anything approaching a disinterested view. But even far more impartial critics could agree that 1991 at the very least constituted a provocative pivot point for alternative rock, as rival (and often ideologically opposed) shades of guitar music—baggy, shoegaze, grebo, and grunge—competed for attention.

All four subgenres are accounted for here. Baggy—the largely Manchester-based blend of guitars and dance beats—is represented notably by the floppily plink-plonk piano of the Charlatans’ sublime non-album single “Over Rising,” along with London thug weirdos Flowered Up’s expansively chaotic “I’ll Be Your Dog (Introducing Barry Mooncult).” They are joined by connoisseur’s choice second-tier baggy acts like Paris Angels and World of Twist, whose cheerily experimental natures and ravers’ instincts teeter between grunge’s nihilism and shoegaze’s beautiful forlornness.

Shoegaze, then very much in the ascendant as an antidote to the excesses of baggy, is represented by early singles from the likes of Catherine Wheel (the supremely moody “Black Metallic”), Lush (the yearning and utterly charming career highlight “For Love”), Slowdive (“Morningrise”), and Chapterhouse, whose nebulous “Pearl” is sandwiched—both awkwardly and appropriately—in a perfect indie-disco trio between Liverpudlian psychedelic also-rans Top and the exemplary London pop of Saint Etienne’s “Nothing Can Stop Us.” Lush, Slowdive, et al. may be familiar to shoegaze fans internationally, but the spattering of lesser-known acts like Revolver, Bang Bang Machine, and the Steamkings, in all their fuzzy, haphazard glory, gives a fascinating sense of what a grassroots movement shoegaze was in its early years.

Grebo, a short-lived but much-loved strain of indie that vacillated between punk, dance, psychedelia, and even hip-hop, is remembered by the bafflingly successful, dual-bass-guitar Midlands band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and their crying-into-your-long-sleeve-t-shirt near hit “Until You Find Out,” an awkward and overly sincere song that reminds us why no band since has been influenced by the Neds. Grunge, still largely an American thing in 1991, finds its echo in grunge-adjacent acts like Daisy Chainsaw (essentially Babes in Toyland meets Monty Python), Drop, and Wilmington, Delaware’s Smashing Orange, the rare American band among C91’s crooked-toothed Brit parade.

The quality of the 59 songs across C91’s three CDs is gob-smackingly varied, from (relatively) well-known local classics like the Manic Street Preachers’ incendiary “Stay Beautiful” and Saint Etienne’s “Nothing Can Stop Us” to a host of songs better left forgotten. (Sorry, Horse Latitudes’ “Northern Country Lie” and Raintree County’s “Here It Comes,” both of which appear on CD3, when the album’s jig is pretty much up.) No one will love all 59 songs here, but few open-minded alternative fans will go away without discovering (or re-discovering) something to cherish. I had entirely forgotten how much I liked both the Dylans’ spunkily kaleidoscopic indie chart hit “Godlike” and the scruffy Who-lite R&B of the Stairs’ “Weed Bus (Flower Shop Demo)” until I heard them again on C91.

More than simply a nostalgic power trip, C91 is frequently fascinating, a Nuggets for the UK’s early-’90s alternative bloom that shows the fluidity of musical lines and the beautiful chaos of musical evolution. Arch shoegazers Chapterhouse’s “Pearl” has a baggy dance beat, for example, while Bleach and Moose—shoegazers both, in theory—sound suspiciously close to proto-grunge. Then there are the bands who don’t fit in anywhere. Sultans of Ping F.C.’s “Where’s Me Jumper?” is a comedy glam-punk number about mislaying a favorite sweater; Sweet Jesus lay claim to operatic shoegaze; and Kingmaker are one of the quaintest groups to enjoy UK chart success in the early ’90s, their smart-assed and vaguely folky indie pop both utterly un-groundbreaking and not really like anyone else. As if to rub in the disorder, the Cranberries turn up among the ultra-indie hordes with “Them,” a dodgy and distorted song from their debut EP, Uncertain, that gives absolutely no indication of the globe-conquering band they will become once Dolores O’Riordan masters her microphone technique.

Out of Time, Nevermind, and Screamadelica were doubtlessly among the most important alternative albums of 1991. But they were outliers, one-off works of outstanding brilliance that even their authors struggled to recreate. This—the sprawling, wildly varied trolley dash of C91—is what indie music was actually like in 1991, at least in my corner of Eastern England. That makes it catnip for music fans of a certain age and a vital document for pop historians who want to go beyond the obvious hits; it’s like digging up a humble Roman insula after Nevermind’s opulent villa urbana. Rather than the winners, C91 is musical history written by the also-rans, kind-of-weres and might-have-beens. And it proves far more interesting that way.

Share on Google Plus

About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
C91 - Various Artists Music Album Reviews C91 - Various Artists Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on February 15, 2022 Rating: 5


Post a Comment