Tag Archive | "Hefner"

Darren Hayman  – Thankful Villages Volume 2

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Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages Volume 2

Posted on 12 June 2017 by Joe

Darren Hayman ’s love letter to English rural life continues with a second volume of his Thankful Villages series.

As a reminder, a thankful village is one where all residents those who went off to fight in the First World War incredibly came back alive. There are around 50 UK wide and former Hefner man Darren Hayman has set himself the task of visiting and dedicating a track to them all.

Darren Hayman - Thankful Villages Vol 2

Some are spoken word, with the villagers themselves telling tales of war and village life. Some are instrumentals, some with a full band feel. There’s electronica, folk, pop and sometimes just the sound of creaking trees, gates bashing in the wind and birds singing.

While the first volume stuck more rigidly to the original theme of war through a focus on village churches, this second outing takes on themes of rivers, ageing and death, meaning events other than the Great War take precedence. This includes the tragedy of a 1974 factory explosion, that killed all the workers inside but miraculously no one in the local village of Flixborough. The first hand account of survivors Derek and his son is extremely powerful.

There’s also an interview with a grave recorder in Maplebeck, who has a lovely exchange with Darren Hayman where they both struggle to decipher one particularly eroded gravestone to ensure whoever lies beneath is not forgotten.

There’s a bloke doing something eccentric with vegetables on Colwinston and the shifting importance of the river to those living in Cromwell seems like a vital oral history tale demanding to be preserved.

Combined the tracks have a radio documentary feel to it rather than an album, but there’s still some decent pop here too, most notably the Ray Davies inspired ode to village life, Woodend. In addition Fairport Convention’s Judy Dyble drops by to sing on Upper Slaughter.

As a village dweller and in particular one in Somerset, which appears to be the most thankful county judging by its presence across the two volumes, this latest volume offers, in the main a faithful depiction of our life.

The keen sense of environment, of community, of religion and the changing economy over time, is all there, nestled among the churchyards and fields.

However, it can feel a little too picture postcard-like in places and comes across exclusively as a history project rather than its intended focus of using rural settings to inspire Hayman in music and other art forms.

This is particularly the case on this volume, which with a focus on ageing is understandably dominated by the voices of the elderly and discussion of the past.

Prior to an update and intervention from Darren Hayman, this review had lamented the lack of young voices so far in this Arts Council funded series.

Turns out this is all in hand with volume three set for release in 2018 and with a focus on village schools and the young.


by Joe Lepper

For more information about Darren Hayman  – Thankful Villages Volume 2 click here.

UPDATE: This review has been updated to ensure we clarify that this volume is themed around death, ageing and rivers and that the young get their turn on volume three. Happy to clarify that.


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Pete Astor – Spilt Milk

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Pete Astor – Spilt Milk

Posted on 06 January 2016 by Joe

It says something about the quality of Pete Astor and his 1980s band The Weather Prophets that their track Worm in my Brain emerged as one of the best on the recent 76 track commemorative box -set reissue of the NME’s C86 tape. Up against the likes of Primal Scream and The Wedding Present this track with its wonderful guitar arrangement and Astor’s honest vocals stands up remarkably well 30 years on.


Once of Creation band The Loft and still managed by Creation boss Alan McGee while in The Weather Prophets, Astor went solo in 1990. But a familiar story in music unfolded – critical success greeted Astor, while success continued to elude him.

He took a break for a few years, some more solo projects eventually followed, Astor briefly reformed The Loft and healso took on a new career, as a university lecturer on the music industry.

Now signed to Fortuna Pop he starts 2016 with this his eighth solo album. On this evidence Fortuna Pop, where he joins a recent roster of young up and coming bands as well as veteran indie troopers such as Darren Hayman, is a good fit.

The guitar and vocal delivery from Worm in my Brain is still there thankfully on this release, which has an unshowy production that allows the songs and lyrics to shine. The sparse use of a talented backing band, that includes former Hefner man Jack Hayter on pedal steel, helps as well. This means that when they do appear it has more impact.

As a disciple of the “sing what you know about” school of songwriting, so advocated by XTC’s Andy Partridge among others, Astor’s lyrics are unmistakably that of a middle aged man, full of wistful nods to the past and a wry look at the present and future. As he puts it in accompanying press release, time passes, shit happens; some losses, some gains. Don’t cry – but I did.” This is a good way to sum up this album’s feel.

My Right Hand about friendship and the country sounding Good Enough are among the best but for me Sleeping Tiger emerges as the stand out track. It’s got the melody, the full band feel and a great guitar hook driving it throughout. Very Good Lock is another good introspective piece that offers hope to the downtrodden.

As an advert to a new audience this album will hopefully do its job, with Darren Hayman’s recent solo work and the meloncholic melodies of Co-Pilgrim good points of reference for the uninitiated.


by Joe Lepper


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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Dorian

This week sees the much-anticipated release of the latest instalment in the world’s most popular space opera series, Star Wars: The Force awakens. It is impossible to avoid such a big release and media saturation is reaching fever pitch as the premier approaches.

When we see a bandwagon of this magnitude the only realistic option is to jump aboard. Luckily space is just as rich a source of inspiration for songs as it is for films. So here, for your listening pleasure, is the top 10 songs about space.

10. The Byrds – Mr.Spaceman

Early Byrds records were dominated by Gene Clark songs and cover versions, until Clark quit after two albums. This left Jim/Roger McGuinn to write the bulk of the songs, including this novelty from their 3rd album in 1966.

9. Pere Ubu – I Hear They Smoke The Barbecue

For a short period in the early 90s Pere Ubu decided to try to be a pop band, with mixed results. This track, about aliens among us, is one of their more successful attempts at being radio friendly.

8. Ash – Angel Interceptor

Ash’s first album, 1977, is very appropriate here as it is named after the year when Star wars first hit cinema screens in the US. ‘Angel Interceptor’ is named after the aircraft in the TV show Captain Scarlet. ‘Girl From Mars’ may have been a more appropriate choice for this list, but this is a better song.

7. Rotifer – The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew

This track is taken from the Vostok 5 EP that was part of an art show about people and animals in space. I could have picked any of the tracks from that EP (they are all pretty great) but this contribution from Robert Rotifer is a wonderful reflection on the Soviet space programme.

6. Sun Kil Moon – Space Travel Is Boring

I’m not a huge fan of Sun Kil Moon, whereas I’ve always loved the work of Modest Mouse. This cover of ‘Space Travel Is Boring’ is great though, and eclipses the original.

5. Robert Pollard – Love Your Spaceman

Superman Was A Rocker was one of Pollard’s least successful solo releases, an overtly lo-fi collection of forgotten songs that should have mostly remained unreleased. However, this is a Robert Pollard album, dig in the dirt and you’ll normally find a diamond. “When Fred says Rock ‘n’ Roll!” indeed.

4. The Beastie Boys – Intergalactic

When the Beastie Boys first hit the scene in the mid-80s it seemed unlikely that they would be releasing critically acclaimed chart topping albums 15 years later, but they were and this track is one of their best.

3. The Star Wars Rap

15 years ago I had no idea what a viral video was, or what a meme was or even what social media was, but I did know that this video was funny. Luke’s whiny delivery, and the slightly odd gin and tonic reference, have stuck with me that whole time. Classic.

2. Hefner – Alan Bean

This was the lead single from Hefner’s “difficult” final album and is one of the band’s most evocative tracks. It tells the story of the 4th man on the moon, who devoted his post-astronaut years to painting pictures of the lunar landscape.

1. Neon Neon – I Told Her On Alderaan

Super Furry Animal Gruf Rhys and Boom Bip collaborating on a song named after Princess Leia’s home planet, on a concept album about the inventor of the DeLorean. Near perfect pop.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers


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Ralegh Long, John Howard and Darren Hayman – Servant Jazz Quarters, London (Nov 27, 2013)

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Ralegh Long, John Howard and Darren Hayman – Servant Jazz Quarters, London (Nov 27, 2013)

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Joe

Deepest Dalston – where hipsters lurk behind every chip shop/tattoo parlour.  I’m always a bit wary of gigs around there, worried I’ll be overwhelmed by a bearded and brogued buttoned-up brigade of the cooler than cool and the trendier than the trend you haven’t heard of yet.

However, last night my fears were completely unfounded and I was instead treated to a beautiful evening at the Servant Jazz Quarters, organised by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Ralegh Long and Gare Du Nord, the label he founded this year with Rotifer frontman Robert Rotifer and Ian Button, who releases under the name Papernut Cambridge.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman

It was one of the loveliest events I’ve attended in a long time, the tiny but thoroughly charming venue playing host to three generations of musicians who are all connected via good intentions and have an obvious mutual admiration for each other – Darren Hayman, John Howard, and Long himself.  It was an unpretentious, genuine, joyful night of music.

Not knowing much of any of them previously, I went along as Neon Filler’s representative, as the site is a champion of all three acts and played a small part in connecting Long and Howard via email, something Howard acknowledged on the night.

Darren Hayman, formerly of 1990s indie band Hefner and now a prolific solo artist, opened with his thoughtful, articulate, funny and sincere songs, which reminded me a bit of an English Neil Young, but quirkier. Just him and his guitar, he played impeccably, his lyrics sweet and honest. Highlights included I Know I Fucked Up, from his 2012 January Songs album and originally recorded with vocals from Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris. Another was I Taught You How To Dance, from 2011’s The Ship’s Piano. I’ll definitely be looking up more of his solo work, as I think there’s a lot more for me to learn here.

John Howard

John Howard

And then there was John Howard, and all I could think was ‘THIS is how it’s done’. I swiftly realised we were in the presence of an old-school master. Once touted as the next big thing  his is a story of the almost made it, a tale of the machinations of the music industry, dropped in the 1970s, only to experience a resurrection since the early 2000s, that has included influencing emerging artists like Long.

His are piano-driven pop ballads that I would liken to early Elton John with a bit of Bowie. The songs have a slight glam, show-tunes touch, but they don’t feel dated or twee – instead, it’s mood-enhancing music with a story to tell, songs that you feel you’ve known your whole life. And he’s also just such a nice man. He played from classic album Kid in a Big World, and tunes from new album Storeys, telling tales from a block of flats. He also covered Bowie’s The Bewlay Brothers so perfectly, to my utter delight. That was the highlight of a set, that also featured Rotifer, Button and Acid Jazz man Andy Lewis as his backing band.

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

Howard’s influence is evident in Ralegh Long’s work,  during a set that was packed full of melodic, sweeping songs, that were lifted with the help of his great band that included pedal steel played by another ex-Hefner man Jack Hayter. But it’s the piano that takes centre stage again, beautifully done, stirring stuff.

With indie music too often guitar focused, it was really refreshing to have the piano front and centre for an evening.  Long more than lived up to the ‘one to watch for 2013’ tag were thrust upon him earlier this year as he played from his most recent EP The Gift and his soon-to-be-released debut album.

In all, a great night of wonderful music by a collection of musicians in the great spirit of influencing each other and helping each other. Feel good factor 50.

By Patricia Turk


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Darren Hayman – Old Man, Don’t Waste Your Time

Posted on 07 April 2013 by Dorian

Darren Hayman is releasing a new single ‘Old Man, Don’t Waste Your Time as part of wiaiwya-7777777 2013 (that’s seven 7″ singles, released on each day of the week, on the 7th of the month throughout 2013). His song, with The Long Parliament, harks back to the guitar pop of Hefner and comes with this excellent video recorded in Sidcup Working Men’s Club.

Old Man, Don’t Waste Your Time – Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament from Darren Hayman on Vimeo.


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Introducing… Jack Hayter

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Introducing… Jack Hayter

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Dorian

Our Introducing section is usually reserved for new acts, but on this occasion we are devoting the space to someone who, from their time in Hefner, we have known for many years. However, after a nine year musical hiatus (between 2002 and 2011) he is back actively releasing new records. So consider this a reintroduction to Jack Hayter, in his own words.

Where is he from? “I assume the question relates to me not the songs. Originally from Devon via Liverpool. I have lived in that tiny part of London called Hither Green…more specifically that part called ‘Further Green’ for a long time now. Hither Green is famous for not much but train disasters and a very large crematorium. Also the place where, like me,  Spike Milligan learned to play the steel guitar. If the question was about the songs then I could tell you but its complicated.”

Who is he? “I am Jack Hayter. I write songs and play things with strings and old music software. I found myself by accident in a band called Hefner a long time ago and I have have been in two other good bands Spongefinger and Dollboy; mostly playing pedal steel guitar and other things with strings on. I put an album out called “Practical Wireless” on Absolutely Kosher records about 10 years ago, then got on with other things. I have been a motorcycle courier, a gardener a science teacher, a freelance computer network engineer and latterly a lucky person who trains the children of Thamesmead to edit video and create sounds. A couple of years ago I had a nasty heart attack and, shortly after that, Jamie Halliday of the Audio Antihero label contacted me and frogmarched me with prejudice into releasing an EP called Sucky Tart. I have not made him richer.”

Jack Hayter

What does he sound like? “Ramshackle folk songs with bits. I’m not very good at assigning labels to music. I guess what makes a folk-song is not the instrumentation or the sound..more that it evokes a time and a place and tells a story. Thats what I try to do anyway. It doesn’t always work but I hope that the songs don’t sound mumford (with a small ‘m’ of course). In truth I really can’t sing. I have always had a bit of a complex about that since I was chucked out of the Okehampton School choir at the inaugural rehearsal when I was twelve. My pitching is so bad that even autotune can’t cope (well of course I tried it wouldn’t you!). So until someone comes along who wants to sing these you’ll have to put up with me doing it.”

What has he got to say for himself? “I have always found that way of posing that particular question semantically intriguing. If I say something “for myself” that implies that it is for my ears and not for others’ ears. I can think of quite a few home truths I might say to myself..some of them thoroughly disagreeable. Some sort of neural feedback loop might result in a rock’nroll exploding head so its best that I keep my own counsel from myself.”

What releases should you look out for? “Every month for a year from this April there will be a digital release on the Audio Antihero label. The series is called “The Sisters Of St Anthony”. He is the patron saint of lost things (or the Lost). The first in the series is “The Shackleton” which is about a phantom teenage pregnancy during the latter stages of the Cold War. The Avro-Shackleton was plane that was used to search for Russian submarines. It made a most distinctive sound. The other songs in the series will be mostly about lost people or lost possessions.”

To find out more go to www.jackhayter.com and to listen to (or subscribe to) The Sisters Of St. Anthony visit http://audioantihero.bandcamp.com/album/the-sisters-of-st-anthony-subscription-series.


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Tigercats – Isle of Dogs

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Tigercats – Isle of Dogs

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Joe

Have a quick scroll down to the bottom of this review and you’ll see something that rarely graces this site. That’s right, it’s a top score of 10/10. For those who are new to us we are not the kind of site that offers these out willy-nilly. In four years of reviewing I’ve only previously given out top marks to two albums, the recent reissues  of The Clash’s London Calling and REM’s Lifes Rich Pageant. This is the first time I’ve ever given a 10/10 to a new album.

So what makes Isle of Dogs, the debut album by London band Tigercats, so deserving of our praise? Well, for a start, as an indie-pop album goes this is as good as it gets. It’s teaming with radio friendly, infectious hooks, especially on Full Moon Reggae Party, Easter Island and Banned at the Troxy. It also has a sense of completeness  as the band take you on an indiepop road tour across the east end of London.

The album starts with “a declaration of independence” on Coffin For The Isle of Dogs, for the “kids in their prams” and “commuters in their commuter trains” to  take control of “this island that has gone to the dogs.”

They then take us across Hackney Downs, for a dream like swim in Regents Canal “with the turtles and prehistoric fishes”, a trip to an indie record shop, bars in Dalston full of people with “ridiculous haircuts” before ending the day with a drunken stumble out of a nightclub, a spot of night swimming and a tale of love.

But it’s not all about catchy hooks and road trips around the capital, on an album that was largely recorded live at Soup Studios, Limehouse.  The thoughtful Kim and Thurston, with its simple but effective guitar arrangement is among the highlights. Is it directly about Mr and Mrs Sonic Youth, the coolest couple in indie rock whose relationship was ultimately doomed, a fictional couple, or a real life relationship of lead singer and song writer Duncan Barrett?  Kim and Thurston sounds like it’s a bit of all three. While their songwriting is direct it leaves just enough ambiguity to let the listener put their own take on the tracks.

There’s a humour to the songs as well.  I particularly liked the references to the one hit wonders of new wave on Vapours. And as an expression of teen angst and insecurity goes the Konny Huck line about smoking “so you won’t see me clear” is among the best around.

Across all of this there’s a uniqueness to their sound that blends Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and  intricate (what NME hilariously describe as “afro beat-tinged twee-core”) guitar arrangements, with the energy of The Wedding Present’s George Best, the irony of Pete Shelley and the intelligence of Hefner.

It is perhaps Hefner that they are perhaps most similar to in the way they capture city life so well in music. I’m sure this is a comparison that Barrett will not mind, seeing as he is a collaborator of former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman on last year’s Vostok 5 art and music project about space exploration. Fans of Hefner will also be amazed how much Barrett sounds like Hayman.

Putting all these elements together gives Isle of Dogs one of the freshest sounds I’ve heard for some time from a UK act. Plus, as we said when we touted them as one to watch this year, they are an indie pop band you can dance to. That’s actually rarer than you’d think.


by Joe Lepper


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Jack Hayter Announces Singles Series – The Sisters of St. Anthony

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Jack Hayter Announces Singles Series – The Sisters of St. Anthony

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Dorian

Jack Hayter is probably best known to our readers for his time in Hefner alongside Neon Filler favourite Darren Hayman. He has also been a member of Dollboy, Spongfinger and The Organ as well as maintaining a critically acclaimed solo career. His blend of folk, indie and lo-fi electronica, mixed with a unique and natural singing voice, make for fascinating listening.

His latest project is the release of a 12 song single series, The Sisters of St. Anthony, released over a 12 month period.

Jack Hayter - Sisters

Each of the twelve singles will be available individually or as part of a low priced subscription series with exclusive subscription only material.

Cover art will come from guest artists like Benjamin Shaw and fellow Hefner member Antony Harding along with fan submission competition entrants.

The series will be launched on April 4th at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch.

You can pre-order and stream the singles here: http://audioantihero.bandcamp.com/album/the-sisters-of-st-anthony-subscription-series

By Dorian Rogers



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Hefner – Dead Media

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Hefner – Dead Media

Posted on 07 July 2011 by Dorian

When Hefner released Dead media in 2001 it wasn’t well received by critics or fans and sales were poor compared to the previous release We Love The City. I was one of those disappointed fans, I’d loved the single ‘Alan Bean’ but found the overall starkness of the album difficult and wanted more straight forward pop loveliness like ‘Good Fruit’ or bedroom anthems like ‘The Hymn for the Cigarettes’ from their previous albums..

Dead Media

Dead Media

Dead Media has received the same double disc deluxe treatment as the previous Hefner albums and it is the perfect time to reevaluate the collection that sent Darren Hayman’s career into a tailspin (his words not  mine). The first and clearest point to make is that listening to the album now I can’t see what my own fuss was about. The use of analogue synths and sounds is less pervasive than I remember, some songs are very traditional Hefner in terms of arrangements. Equally, some of the songs where the synths are used most heavily are the best tracks on the collection and fit the Hefner themes perfectly. ‘When The Angels Play Their Drum Machines’ is a perfect example of this and one of the best tracks on the album.

‘China Crisis’, a duet with Amelia Fletcher, would have fit perfectly on any Hefner record from The Fidelity Wars onwards and is as good as any song they released in their career. The aforementioned ‘Alan Bean’ is another highlight and uses a less-remembered figure from history to explore some universal themes, as well as introducing us to Hayman’s interest in space exploration.

The record is far from perfect though, the scattered instrumentals seem unnecessary and the breadth of mood can seem jarring. Listening to ‘Trouble Kid’ now (a song I liked most at the time of the original release) I’m left wondering at what point Hayman woke up and decided it would be a good idea for the band to sound like an Essex Devo. These criticisms aside it is a strong album that deserves a better place in the band’s history and the fact that the album starts with the downbeat sparseness of ‘Dead Media’ and finishes with the bouncy folk of ‘Home’ is testament to musical ambition that deserves our appreciation.

This deluxe release features a bumper crop of b-sides, session tracks, remixes (including one by Mute records main-man Daniel Miller) and the whole of the Hefner Brain EP. Listening to the Hefner Brain tracks in particular I’m left wondering whether it would have been the smarter move to substitute some of the excellent synth tracks on the EP with some of the more traditional tracks used on the album and dive in with more commitment to the new sound. Also featured on the second disc is ‘Gabriel In The Airport’ one of the excellent tracks that would turn up on the album Hayman released with Hefner bassist John Morrison as The French after Hefner ceased to be.

All in all this is an excellent package and a great opportunity for new listeners to hear an underrated part of the Hefner back catalogue and, for those that rejected the album at the time, to give it a second chance.


By Dorian Rogers

The album can be purchased in physical form from the Hefner shop or downloaded from Hayman’s Bandcamp page. You can also buy it in the shops from Monday 11th July.


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Top 100 Albums (70 – 61)

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Top 100 Albums (70 – 61)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Dorian

Everyone has their own Top 100 Albums list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. There are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this fourth instalment. Here’s our previous instalments (80 – 7190 -81 , 100-91).  See you next week for 60-51.

Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

70. Smog – Knock Knock

Smog - Knock Knock

Bill Callahan, AKA Smog, has been releasing melancholic dead pan songs since 1992.  Knock Knock, his seventh album, added instrumental texture and a new sense of optimism to the Smog palette, it even included a bona fide pop single in the shape of ‘Cold Blooded Old Times’. The move towards more uptempo numbers is only part of the story, the quite introspective side is still in evidence, and the children’s choir on ‘Hit The Ground Running’ is a surprising touch. Knock Knock sits pretty much smack in the middle of the Smog discography and is the best place to start.

69. Billy Bragg – Talking With The Tax Man About Poetry

The cover bares the self deprecating message about this being Bragg’s  “difficult third album.” The reality is that it may just be his best. Expanding the musicianship markedly compared to earlier work the songs retain Bragg’s passionate, political and emotional lyrics but musically this is a far broader album. From standout single ‘Levi Stubbs Tears’, to the folk blues influenced ‘Train Train’, the jaunty ‘Greetings to the New Brunette’, the gorgeous horn section on ‘The Marriage’ to the traditional ‘There Is A Power in a Union’, this 1986 album  is packed with fine tracks from one of the UK’s most accomplished folk artists.

68. Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup


Stereolab’s take on art-pop, synth-pop and 60s lounge music made them popular with other bands and critics alike, but never lead to a mainstream breakthrough. Their music can seem cold and clinical, their experimental side often overshadowing the quality of the songs. Emperor Tomato Ketchup is the album where all their elements came together perfectly. Opening number ‘Metronomic Underground’ exemplifies why this album works so well, the bleeps, squelches and monotonous repetition offset my smooth organic sounding bass, guitar and organ. This is followed by ‘Cybele’s Reverie’ Anglo-French art pop softened with Sean O’Hagan’s lush string arrangements and mid-way through the album they drop ‘The Noise of Carpet’, a perfect fuzzy guitar pop single. Their most varied and satisfying release.

67. Portishead – Dummy

Portishead - Dummy

Back in 1994 this debut by Bristol band Portishead was just about everywhere. Massive in the US, massive in the UK, its mix of trip hop, experimental rock and jazz made it a staple album of rich, poor, young and old alike.  Through its standouts such as ‘Sour Times’ and ‘Numb’ it perfectly encapsulates a sense of doom within the UK at the time. It was a time when the economy was still reeling from Black Wednesday and the greyest PM of all time John Major was in charge.  We can’t listen to this without thinking of an ’80s rich stock broker contemplating the millions he’s lost from his balcony in 1994 and dreading the nightmare to come.  This was rightly seen as a critical success as well at the time, winning the 1995 Mercury Music Prize. Their self titled follow up failed to replicate this stunning debut and it was not until 2008 with the release of Third that they would reach such dizzy heights of industrial melancholy again.

66. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen

Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen

Paddy McAloon is a songwriter on a par with anyone that came out of the 1980s and Steve McQueen (renamed Two Wheels Good for its US release) is as good as any romantic pop record to come out of the era. ‘When Love Breaks Down’ gave the band their first big hit, and it is a special record, but it is just one of many classic pop gems on the album. ‘Faron Young’, ‘Appetite’, ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Goodbye Lucille #1’ and pretty much anything from the record could be picked for a “Best of the 80s” compilation. It is a sophisticated record, McAloon was aiming to be Cole Porter as much as Paul McCartney, but it is an accessible and fun record as well. Thomas Dolby’s excellent production does firmly date it in the mid 1980s, but that is no bad thing, it stands as a pretty perfect artifact of that era.

65. The Wedding Present – Bizarro

The Wedding Present - Bizarro

When The Wedding Present signed to RCA in 1989, two years after their stunning debut George Best, there were accusations in the music press that they had sold out. What was ignored by some critics was that their contract ensured they retained control over single releases and producer. Their RCA debut, a mini-album in Ukranian, and this, their second album proper, prove their major label owners were true to their word, allowing the band’s independent zeal and credibility to grow. While retaining George Best’s trademark fast paced guitars and the melancholy lyrics of frontman David Gedge the tracks on Bizarro are somehow bolder and bigger, with singles like ‘Brassneck’ signaling a career peak for a band that continue to produce fine music to this day.

64. Hefner – We Love The City

Hefner - We Love The City

Darren Hayman is a firm favourite here at Neon Filler and our love for his songs started in the late 19990s when he was the front man of Hefner. Hefner wisely called it a day after just four albums, not because they weren’t still producing good music, but because it means that they stand as a rare example of an act that never released a bad album. We Love The City just about shades the top spot thanks to having the usual range of witty, soul searching melodic tracks and having two classic singles in the mix as well. ‘Good Fruit’ and ‘The Greedy Ugly People’ are as good as anything that came out of British indie pop in the era, genuinely stirring and touching. The whole album has a great feel to it and the instrumentation feels fuller and clearer than on their earlier albums. The expanded 2009 edition added b-sides, alternate versions and session tracks and is well worth seeking out.

63.  Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts Of The Great Highway

Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts Of The Great Highway

This 2003 debut  features some of former Red House Painter Mark Kozelek’s best work under the Sun Kil Moon name.  Here Kozelek uses the music as much as lyrics to tell the stories of a variety of tragic characters, most notably boxers . The Neil Young-esque guitar on ‘ Salvador Sanchez’ perfectly matches the story of boxer Sanchez, who died in a car accident aged just 25. Another of boxing’s great tragic figures ‘Duk-Koo Kim’, who died following a fight, gets a whopping 14 minute track to himself. The time floats by though. Other highlights include the beautifully layered guitar instrumental ‘Si, paloma’.

62. They Might Be Giants – Lincoln

They Might Be Giants - Lincoln

New York performance art pop duo They Might Be Giants will probably always be known in this country as a novelty act due to the hit success of ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’. Anyone prepared to delve deeper will find much to love on any of their first three albums released between 1986 and 1990. Lincoln, the second LP, is the best of all finding the perfect balance between their quirkier side and their ability to write great catchy pop records. Read more on this excellent album in our Classic Albums section here.

61. Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

Martin Hannett, who produced 1979’s Unknown Pleasure, was the fifth member of Joy division in all but name. On this debut by the Salford band he stripped back the energy of their live shows to create space and atmosphere. It was a risky move that left bassist Peter Hook gobsmacked at the time. But it was a risk worth taking with tracks such as ‘Shadowplay’ and’ She’s Lost Control’ transformed through Hannett’s cleaner, stripped back sound.  One of the best debut albums of all time with even Hook  now conceding that Hannett “did a good job on it.”

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Top 100 (80 – 71), Top 100 (90-81)Top 100 (100-91)


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