Various: C87

Three-CD box set of late-80s indie rock.

Various Artists C87 album cover

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C87 is the follow-up of sorts to the equally loved and lampooned C86 cassette that was given away free with the NME in 1986 that summed up a whole era, and ethos, of jangling/shambling indie guitar music. In 2014, Cherry Red issued an expanded three-CD version of that original indie mixtape, curated by Neil Taylor, original champion of this music at the NME. C87 finds Taylor once again at the helm, only this time imagining what a follow-up compilation from 1987 might have comprised.

It offers a narrow view of that year: there’s no hip hop or anything remotely experimental from exotic climes. No, its 74 tracks offer a resolutely Brit-centric, scruffily guitary view of the period’s music scene, heavy on the ba-ba-ba’s, forlorn vocals and winsome melodies, all bedsit angst and dour scenarios (opening line of The Waltones’ Downhill: ‘Wipe this gravy off my jumper’), mostly performed at breakneck speeds that suggest a ramshackle train about to derail.

Many of the names will be familiar to indie lovers, from the Darling Buds and The Flatmates’ dizzy blonde hurtles (respectively, Spin and I Could Be In Heaven) to The Wonder Stuff’s two-chord romp It’s Not True and Inspiral Carpets’ organ drone Now You’re Gone. Before their 90s techno makeover, the Shamen are unrecognisable here, peddling psych on Young ’Till Yesterday. Others (the Smiths-ish Great Leap Forward anyone?) are long forgotten. A fascinating, albeit restricted, version of alternative UK music.

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.