Various Artists
Decade: Ten Years Of Fierce Panda

Fierce Panda

K... last time I reviewed a record label compilation I did it track by track and some idiot got in a hissy fit on his blog. Well, don’t call it a comeback, but... indie-but-not-as-indie-as-Shifty-Disco-but-with-less-Americans record label Fierce Panda have just hit the big 10. 10 years of putting out geetars, with occasional forays into electronica and Welsh rap. And here, their finest efforts. So... if you want to call me an idiot, let’s get dirty:

1. Ash “Punkboy”
Anyone who knows me will know that Ash are my least favourite band of all time. Yep, even worse than Catatonia, Bis, and Thousand Clowns. This tracks comes from before Timothy’s oh-so-witty “The Beatles Suck” tee-shirt and Andre the Giant taking over on lead guitar duties, and, as such, isn’t technically the worst song ever made. It sounds surprisingly like a power-pop act putting out a single on an indie record label. Whatever happened to The Parkinsons?

2. Supergrass “Caught By The Fuzz”
In 2004, it’s really hard to understand that in the four weeks prior to the Blur/Oasis chart skirmish, Supergrass were probably the UK’s biggest band. There was even talk of some kind of Monkees-style sitcom to launch them in the States. Nowadays… well, their last three top 40 singles were “Mary”, “Grace”, and “Seen The Light”. If you can tell me what any of those sound like, you win a prize. Actually, this track is a prize on its own. Great scuzz-vocals and learn guitar in ten lessons riffing. One of Britpop’s finest three minutes, and indie-disco-a-licious. Whatever happened to Electrasy?

3. The Bluetones “Bluetonic”
Oh God… Britpop’s self-inflicted gunshot wound. Kept off number one by Babylon Zoo as well. Indie musicians actually used to sing like this, you know? Bog-standard Jo Whiley fare, chuggy melodic guitars, backing vocals provided by the vocallist’s equally scrawny band members, and… well, they’re not as bad as I remember, OK? Whatever happened to Jas Mann being friends with Paolo Maldini?

4. Placebo “Bruise Pristine”
Sigh… for around six months of my life, in 1998, Placebo were actually my favourite band. I had a fucking poster of Brian Molko being a complete fag on my wall. I even wore nail varnish. How my father got through this period of time without beating some sense into my, I don’t know. But… the self title debut is a great album, close to perfection before the ego of Molko and the uselessness of the rest of the band destroyed that whole T-Rex filtered through Sonic Youth in a daisy chain schitck that made them so essential. They’re so subtly powerful those tracks, full of braggadocio, yet still creeping up on you, and just dominating. Kieron Fallon knows the feeling. And “Bruise Pristine” is great. The album version was more “polished”, sure, but “polish” was what lead to “Sleeping With Ghosts”. Whatever happened to King Adora?

5. Kenickie “Come Out 2Nite”
If I point out that Kenickie were really overrated, the second album is as bad as everyone says it is, Emmy-Kate Montrose looked like a man, and that Lauren Laverne is basically a less attractive more credibile version of Jayne Middlemiss, Stylus’ UK indie contingent are gonna lynch me. So I’m not going to talk about this. Whatever happened to Rosita?

6. 3 Colours Red “Hollywood”
Another, “No, honest, they were kinda popular” act. Probably the biggest “rock” act the UK threw up in the 90s. Nowadays we have Funeral For A Friend. The 90s wins. 3CR were a lot better, mainly because this sounds like Bad Religion. I forget what the rest of their output sounded like, but if it was like this, reminisce over them like TROY. Whatever happened to The Parkinsons? Oh, we’ve done that one already.

7. Embrace “All You Good Good People”
Nick Southall has really shitty taste in music.

8. Lo Fidelity Allstars “Diamonds Are Forever”
Starts off with speechboard vocals, Stevie Boy Hawkings with a cold. Lo Fidelity Allstars were one of the dregs of the late 90s music scene, a YTS Utah Saints, Audio Bullys with repeated facial lacerations, except worse than both of those sound put together. This is a cover. It really must be the worst song in the history of record music, and I now hate all men as a result of it. My god it’s bad. No, it’s a cover of “Diamonds Are Forever”, with some sort of GRITTY electro jiggery-pokery. Hideous.

9. Idlewild “Chandelier”
I was gonna say “they can only disappoint us”, but then I remembered that was Mansun. Idlewild used to be vaguely great. Possibly hugely passable. Whatever, on tracks like this and the, let’s be honest here, classic “I See Shapes When I Argue”, they were moshtastic grubby little oiks, rocking it Buzzcocks style, wave-your-fringe-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care Scotrockers. Then Roddy realised that he wouldn’t get any indie chick poon unless he swallowed a thesaurus, and they turned into Feeder if they’d have kept Jon Lee’s corpse on drums. Well done all involved.

10. Seafood “Porchlight”
“One of these does not belong”. They must be the labelmaster’s favourite band, or perhaps one of them is having hot buttsex with him. Whichever, Seafood sound like and are perennial support-act for a band that have just cracked the top 40, and “Porchlight” is a perfect demonstration of why. It’d be because they’re crap.

11. Coldplay “Brothers and Sisters”
Before Gwynnie and politics and “Clocks” as the soundtrack to every TV show ever… they weren’t famous. Didn’t deserve to be either. Chris Martin’s voice is strangely normal on this one, I doubt Pharrell would be too keen. He hits the histrionics every now and then, but not the cat strangling we’ve all come to know and “love” with regards to Coldplay. This would have been recorded while he was still a virgin, if my Coldplay chronology is correct. Abstinence rocks.

12. Hundred Reasons “Cerebra”
Do you reckon people who know us read this kinda stuff? Like, acquaintances? Yo know, they check up on Stylus to see what we’re writing behind our backs. I reckon they do. So, if my hunch is correct: Sophie Dixon you fucking suck, have a shitty personality, and an even worse music taste than Nick Southall. You do have a cute ass, though.

13. Bright Eyes “Arienette”
Does this look like fucking Pitchfork? Twingy-twongy plonky crap as sung by a man eating a metric tonne of cotton wool.

14. Easyworld “Hundredweight”
Yeah, I always get them confused with Clearlake as well. No need, as this is a transparent Mansun, except better, and with a nice stop-start trick on the verses, and a nice chorus, and then it all goes to shit 2/3s of the way in. Had a top 30 single this year. Was rubbish.

15. The Music- “Take The Long Road And Walk It”
Seemingly Steve Lamacq’s final curse on the British music scene. An absolute mess of a track, sung by an absolute mess of a band. No, not “charmingly shambolic”, “shit” is the term you want.

16. Polyphonic Spree- “Soldier Girl”
Oh, how they let us down. Back in the summer of 2002 this seemed like an intravenous drip of serotonin. It could have been Fierce Panda’s first top 40 single, but then they decided to deliberately make ineligible for the top 40. Yeah, indiechievement. But it’s a perfect track, a cathedral sound of shimminess, it must be what “Good Vibrations” sounded like back in 66… Of course, the Polyphonic Spree left us at the alter, decided to become the court jesters of the nu-rock revolution, and then got dropped by their label. lol

17. Winnebago Deal- “Manhunt”
Think maybe Winnebago Deal are being lined up for big things? All very energetic, all very Detroit in 68, all very… it’s quite disappointing when the vocals to come in to discover that the frontman’s a woman, because it sort of sounded like The Donnas before they went completely rubbish. He shouts “son of a bitch” repeatedly, for SHOCK VALUE. CONTEMPORARY GUITAR MUSIC THINKS LITTLE OF YOUR SOCIAL “MORES” AND “VALUES”. I have little doubt they’ll achieve the same level of critical and popular success as The D4s.

18. Six By Seven- “Bochum”
I think someone on Stylus really likes Six By Seven. They’re stupid.

19. Death Cab For Cutie- “Tiny Vessels”
I forever remain in hope that one of the living members of the Bonzo Dog Band will sue DCFC into oblivion for using one of their song titles to name such a shitty band. This sounds strangely European, like the sort of alterno-tracks that you used to get on Viva Zwei.

20. Keane- “This Is The Last Time”
Oh, fuck off.

Look, Fierce Panda lasting a decade is a fucking miracle considering the fifty or so seismic changes that have occurred in the music scene over that time. They’ve survived Britpop, the Britpop purges, and all manner of IPC genre cock-ups of the past five years, and they’re still going. And they’re still putting out singles by bands that go on to actually do stuff. The guy’s got an eye for talent, and an eye for potential. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have an eye for both at the same time. Or, more likely, he doesn’t have to. If he can keep on putting out your Keanes of this world, making the cash from that, then he’s got free reign to put out whatever he wants to on the rest of his label. Check out those five-track EPs they keep shifting. They’re perfect, or at least the four-fifths of the EP that don’t go on to appear on Jonathan Ross are perfect. Sub Pop used to have major labels lease their “hot new acts” to them for EPs and single releases in order to give them some indie cred before being sprung onto the mainstream. Not that I’m saying anything, but do you really think that the same ears that noted “Caught By The Fuzz” in 95 are the same ones that nod their head appreciably at Keane in the 04? I somehow doubt it.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-03-18

Log In to Post Comments
Posted 03/18/2004 - 11:18:37 AM by camlindsay:
 Wow, you really don't know shit about music, man. Or at least, that's what this review proves.
Posted 03/19/2004 - 09:50:37 AM by DomPassantino:
 Well, you can't argue with facts, can you? Anyway, it seems when you went to your browser this morning you mistyped "pitchforkmedia" as "stylusmagazine". Easy mistake to make. Now fuck off.
Posted 03/20/2004 - 10:07:49 PM by IanMathers:
 Oi, Dom: I love you like a brother, man, but as the Stylus staffer who loves Six By Seven I'm obligated to tell you to fuck off.
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