Various Artists: C90 (Cherry Red)


C90,  Cherry Red’s latest installment in the highly enjoyable compilation series inspired by the legendary C86 sampler takes a look at the year 1990. It was a very good year indeed. Indie Dance, led in part by the Madchester and Baggy fads, was in full bloom. So too was a generation of guitar-based musicians not afraid to wear their hearts on their anoraks. Even the slightly more noxious grebo—with roots in dance and hip-hop—felt fresh and revolutionary.

British indie kids soon felt the cold and blissful blast of dream pop and shoegaze. Many notables are here, from the heavenly heavy hitters such as Lush, The Sundays, Slowdive and Pale Saints to the more rock-minded bands Spiritualized, Chapterhouse, Manic Street Preachers, and The Boo Radleys. While several of those groups proved short-lived, a number are still going strong, their influence still remains three decades on.

Sarah Records shone brightly in 1990, and they’re the star of C90. Represented here by no less than six tracks, these choices put paid to the complaint Sarah had one distinct sound. There’s the sensitive college boy indie-pop of Brighter, contrasting nicely with the sunny and bright Heavenly. Eternal’s “Sleep” is heavy and brooding, while Gentle Despite’s “Darkest Blue” is equally broody, but with an acoustic touch. The Sweetest Ache’s “If I Could Shine” sparkles with its jangly guitars, while Action Painting! offer up fine bedroom punk with “These Things Happen.” A singular Sarah Records sound? More like the foundations of an interesting and diverse record label had they decided to keep going.

As with other such comps, it’s the more obscure names that offer up a thrill and value for dollar. C90 offers dozens of names long forgotten, so the listener is spoiled for choice in terms of lost treasures. We found delight in Jane Pow’s ramshackle but charming “Good Morning”. We dug the gentle and patient groove of Paris Angel’s “Perfume,” and we wondered why we’re just now hearing The Seers. Other delights are to be had in Jane From Occupied Europe, All Over The Place, and The Poppinjays.

Two Cherry Red acts show that C90’s host label knew a good thing when they heard it. Horse Latitude’s “What Is More Than Life” is catchy, sophisticated pop that reminds of both The Smiths but also American roots-rockers The Hooters and The BoDeans. “Potboiler” by Penelope’s Web also makes a case for a band worthy of rediscovery,  and not just because the song has a very familiar intro that would become an international hit two years later. (Seriously, this is the second time Robert Smith has seemingly borrowed a melody from a Cherry Red for a timeless hit single.)

A sea change was coming, though. Nirvana, “grunge,” and the Seattle sound would soon dominate the music world. Indie Dance would soon give way to techno and electronica; rave culture would soon become mainstream. Foundational label Factory Records was about to go belly-up. Furthermore, one can hear the rumblings of Britpop in the distance. With its fabulous music and superb liner notes, C90 fabulously captures UK Independent music in all its facets, a nice memento of a heady year.

Purchase C90: Cherry Red / Amazon


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