from the mid-1980s until it’s demise in 2000, Creation Records was one of the flagship British indie labels. Alongside imprints like Factory, Rough Trade, and others, Creation helped define independent music for the post-punk world, taking the torch from pioneers like Stiff and Postcard and running with it. Sure, the bands had a lot to do with the label’s success, but every one of them would likely tell you that Creation majordomo Alan McGee was just as responsible. You sure don’t hear people say that about the head of Jive or Sony.

While in the mid-90s, Creation became a different sort of indie with the international breakthrough of bands like Oasis and Primal Scream, the label’s early days tell a different, far more DIY story. This article focuses on the first 50 singles released by Creation, wherein McGee and Co. forged the imprint’s identity as “The Label Of Love,” channeling the 60s mod-psych-pop sound that laid the groundwork for later works by the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, and Teenage Fanclub—their roots can be heard in these records. There was definitely a “Creation Sound,” but you really need to hear more than just the big bands to notice. These releases tell a fascinating tale, one with highs and lows and quite a few hidden gems. But for every Jesus and Mary Chain, there was a band like Five Go Down To The Sea; for every sublime House Of Love single, there was a piece of crap like Baby Amphetamine. If you came to the game with Isn’t Anything or Screamadelica, you only know half the story.

I’ll be covering 10 singles a day for the week and reviewing each one individually. For those with the wherewithal to hunt it down, the majority of these releases were released on CD as the Creation Soup box set in 1991, later sold as five individual discs available outside of the box as well (both are now out of print, as is the vast majority of Creation’s back catalog). The rest of you are certainly encouraged to hit the internet and search the good stuff out; there are a fair number of compilation records released of these early sides, and most can be had fairly cheap. Fans of guitar-based indie music could do far worse things with their weekend than to spend it with any of the early Creation compilations. And so...

The Legend – “’73 in 83”

To hear Alan McGee tell the story, he discovered the Legend (aka Jerry Thackray) as a constant feature in the front row of his pre-Creation band, the Laughing Apple. McGee later started a club and hired Thackray as the compere, billing him as “the legendary Jerry Thackray” which was later shortened to simply “The Legend.” In mid-1984, McGee secured a £1,000 bank loan and used the money to bankroll this single, and Creation was born.

An inauspicious beginning to be sure, because this is a truly awful record. Tuneless proto-rapping, minimal (not in a good way) musical backing, and a truly annoying accent. Positive = the a-side is only 1:12. Negative = there are two b-sides, both of which are at least as bad and twice as long.

One has to assume that if it weren’t for the fact that this was the debut Creation release, it would have been forgotten altogether. As it is, it nearly has been anyway.

Revolving Paint Dream – “Flowers In The Sky”

Led by Andrew Innes, later to join the mighty Primal Scream, the rest of the Revolving Paint Dream lineup has long been shrouded in mystery, but it is safe to assume it was for no reason in particular, save the faulty memories of those likely involved. A bit more psychedelia influenced than most early Creation records, “Flowers In The Sky” looked like Revolver next to “73 in 83,” with a loose rhythm and a jangling, cyclical Byrdsian riff. That classic 60s garage sound of the early Creation singles starts here.

The b-side, “In The Afternoon” (written by McGee) is actually the better track here, a slow, minimal groover featuring an atmospheric organ track and a female vocal practically dripping with free love sex vibes. When she coos, “In the afternoon, we made love,” you can practically smell the incense burning.

Biff Bang Pow! – “50 Years Of Fun”

McGee finally got in on the act himself with his own outfit, which again betrayed his love of Nuggets-style British pop as “Biff Bang Pow!” was the also the name of a classic track by his beloved Creation after which the label itself was named (coincidental factoid: The Creation reformed in the 90s and actually recorded for the label, allowing for some nifty slogans if not exactly classic records). Led by McGee and featuring a revolving cast of Creation regulars like Dick Green and Andrew Innes, Biff Bang Pow! mined all sorts of 60s pop, specializing in jangling garage pop and later a fair bit of acoustic melancholia. On their debut 45, they steal the opening riff from the Byrds “Feel A Whole Lot Better,” but otherwise it follows very much in the vein of “Flowers In The Sky.” Not their best work to be sure, but far better than one would expect the vanity project of an indie label president’s band to be anyway. The flip, “Then When I Scream,” was no better but certainly no worse either, and features a cool little organ riff.

Jasmine Minks – “Think”

Following two straight excursions into channeling Roger McGuinn, the London-based Jasmine Minks injected a bit of punky energy to the stable, but that garage influence is still plainly evident, especially with the rollicking tambourine part and yet more jangling riffs (although this time with some well-placed power chords and a slightly funky bass part). The Minks were one of the most consistent bands of the early roster, and also one of the longest running without a true breakthrough. As such, their cult appeal is large, and the band recently reformed (hooray!)

At this point, barring the Legend! and his abysmal minimalism-cum-spoken-word junk, a “house sound” is starting to develop—the production style on the early Creation singles is fairly uniform, though the bands don’t really sound anything like each other beyond that. This is one of the key points of the Creation ethos: that immediately identifiable sound, like Phil Spector productions or songs from the Muscle Shoals studio, makes a label more than just a moneymaking venture. Clearly, McGee had something more conceptual in mind, and though he wasn’t selling boatloads of records yet, he was achieving something lasting and significant nonetheless.

The Pastels – “Something’s Going On”

One of the immediately catchiest of the early days, the Pastels’ debut for the label is an infectious pop nugget—again, produced with that Creation house sound—with Steven Pastel’s distinct nasal whine on top to differentiate it from the rest, as well as the slightly funky rhythm and noisy burst at the beginning, and especially the one note guitar tremolo that runs out the track, a clear precursor to later noise explorations of Slaughter Joe, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine. It also is a bit sloppy, as the Pastels proudly displayed their half-ineptitude and proclivity to steal the bits they liked from other records. Rampantly “unprofessional” and that much more charming for it, like all their best records. It can be argued that the Pastels made all of their best records before they learned to properly play their instruments or write music. On Planet Hutlock, this record would have hit the Top 10.

X-Men – “Do The Ghost”

Failed dance craze, anyone? The 60s vibe is further exploited with this peppy little number, led by a propulsive drum/tambourine beat, a classic 60s garage riff, and some really spot-on backing vocals (of the “ooowaaah, ooowaah!” variety). Don’t know much about the band, but the singer’s mannerisms are perhaps a bit too much for the proceedings (he seems to be over-punking things a bit) and it is still a wonder to me how they didn’t get sued by Marvel Comics. Perhaps they recognized that they wouldn’t likely get any money even if they won. In any case, with a more charismatic voice behind it, one might have seen Pan’s People doing the Ghost on Top Of The Pops, as this really was a pretty groovy little tune. B-side “Talk” leaves you wondering if these guys had a great pop album in them somewhere, or at least a longer run of singles.

Biff Bang Pow! – “There Must Be A Better Life”

McGee and cohorts do far better the second time around, as this tune is far more complex and less of a hero-worshipping exercise then their previous outing. A stomping Motown beat and some stellar interwoven guitar parts, along with one of the better lyrics McGee would ever pen and even a keen backwards guitar solo. The “ba-ba-bada” vocals over the run out would figure into quite a few later Creation singles, but this one holds up quite well for itself. B-side “Chocolate Elephant Man” is a charming little number that doesn’t do much, but at least keeps the vibe going.

Jasmine Minks – “Where The Traffic Goes”

And the Minks second outing shows nothing much changed from the first—sorta punky, sorta retro, sorta memorable. Nice textures on the electric/acoustic intro, decent volleyed vocals, and a catchy melody, but not much else of note going on here.

The Loft – “Why Does The Rain”

Peter Astor and his band only made two singles as the Loft before changing their name to the Weather Prophets, and both of them are key pieces of the early Creation puzzle. A dead simple chord progression and a world-weary lyric that questions the universe, if you had to pick one record of the first 20-odd Creation singles that summed up their sound, this might well be it. Nothing too special or flashy—just a solid tune, competently played and produced, that by-now familiar production sound, ringing guitars, and that intangible British indie feel. An understated, even elegant classic, like a really nice piece of well crafted furniture or something, though there really is nothing “special” about it. If this record doesn’t appeal to you, however, it’s a fair bet that the previous eight won’t either. Nor most of the next 20.

The Legend – “Sings The Blues”

Mercifully, his final release for the label. Just as godawful as the first one, but in a whole different way, as here Thackray moans and rants over a proto-Stooges noise track. A decent enough idea that would be executed far better by practically every other band on the label (or any other) that attempted to weld that feedback/distoriton/noise thing to a classic 60s backbeat rhythm (see: Slaughter Joe, Jesus and Mary Chain, etc.) The flipside “Arrogant Bastards” is annoying from the “1,2,3,4” count in. Jesus, what sort of compromising pictures did this guy have of McGee that he put out a second record by him?

The Pastels – “Million Tears”

Another seemingly effortless pure pop gem from the Pastels, this time of the teenage angst variety. In the sleeve notes to the Suck On The Pastels compilation, Stephen Pastel recalls the band’s early days: “Between 1983 and 1985 we went into the studio on average once a year. It would be fair to say that in between times we would not be over concerned with the group’s affairs, least of all with writing songs. A visit to the studio was a surprise and so [guitarist] Brian [Taylor] and I would have to come up with something fairly spontaneously. Predictably we’d be very influenced by what we were listening to that day—I’m truly shocked to see that Yvonne Elliman’s ��If I Can’t Have You’ crops up in ��Million Tears.’ It must have been on the radio. the studios we used were genearlly speaking not of the highest quality and the engineers unsympathetic or incompetent, and quite often both. To be truthful we couldn’t really play either.” God bless you, Stephen Pastel! You give me hope that I’ll someday write that perfect three-minute song one morning while making Pop Tarts!

Bigger thrills this time around, as this was also the first Creation 12-inch single, featuring b-sides “Surprise Me” and the droning, epic “Baby Honey.” All three tracks are winners. Creation were finally starting to get it right.

The Jesus And Mary Chain – “Upside Down”

And then came the big breakthrough. Scottish brothers Jim and William Reid emerged from their East Kilbride bedroom with a manifesto, a head full of classic Supremes/Beach Boys melodies, and a healthy dose of extreme feedback noise terror and Mo Tucker dumming. Avant bubblegum? The first true noise pop fusion? Whatever it was, Creation finally had a bona fide sensation on their hands. The press couldn’t get enough of them. They had a huge and ever growing fanbase. The buzz was even felt across the pond in the U.S. The single sold out several pressings, there were riots at gigs, Bobby Gillespie was their drummer for fuck’s sake! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, they could sign to Warner Bros. and leave after one single, creating their masterpiece Psychocandy for a bunch of ungrateful suits rather than the people’s champion McGee. In fact, the song doesn’t appear on any of the many Creation comps, until the posthumous Sony release finally let it appear alongside it’s contemporaries (Warners bought the rights, and so it is available on several JAMC comps at least.)

Regardless of the sellouts and missed opportunities, Upside Down remains one of the most thrilling pop records ever, and two decades on it still packs a potent punch. Other bands may have written better pop hooks; and others still may have crafted better noise and feedback tracks. But no one put them together like the Mary Chain. Impossibly dense, loud, rhythmic, and yet somehow still hummable. Oh, and a fantastic cover of Syd Barrett’s “Vegetable Man” on the flip that still has never appeared on CD. An utterly perfect record.

X-Men – “Spiral Girl”

And so McGee followed it up with two totally crap records. To be fair, “Spiral Girl” isn’t nearly as bad as the next piece of shit, but it isn’t anywhere near as good as it should be either. Remember what I said about them maybe having a great garage pop album in them? Scratch that. B-side “Bad Girl” features the worst cowbell intro ever, and the rest of the tune isn’t too much better. Nothing more from these blokes after this apparently. Maybe Marvel did serve them with a cease and desist order after all.

Les Zarjaz – “One Charming Night”

Though he seems to laugh at the absurdity of it, Alan McGee admits now that this is likely the worst record he ever released. I find it hard to argue with him, and given the long and varied Creation catalog, that is saying something indeed. The Chairman was quoted in a 1988 interview in Underground magazine as saying this was a “total load of crap.” Apparently hindsight really is 20-20.

A slightly Victorian-feeling voice and super-cheap keyboard track that sounds a bit like a misguided Christmas carol after ingesting some of the bad brown acid. Not nearly as interesting as I’m making it sound even, I swear. The b-side is actually even worse. Thankfully, they were never heard from again.

The Loft – “Up The Hill & Down The Slope”

Astor and Co. rock out a bit more on this one and as a result it isn’t nearly as effective as their melancholy and moving debut, but a decent enough song nonetheless. Nothing much to remember about it though, and it leaves you sort of empty inside after. The only thing that ever sticks with me is the ridiculous line at the end: “The Mayflower’s going down.” Following this, the band morphed into the Weather Prophets—look for them later in the article. Great one chord pianner riff on the flipside, “Tuesday.” Maybe they should have reversed the two.

The 12-inch adds two more tracks, the melancholy “Lonely” and the almost totally unmemorable “Time.” If there was such a thing at this point as making a Creation single by numbers, the Loft may have achieved it here.

The Bodines – “God Bless”

Not to be confused with the Americana band of the same era and similar (although differently spelled) name. A choppy staccato riff and that familiar Creation drum/tambourine combo make this a fun little record, if a bit lightweight. Nothing to write home about, but the closing line of “God bless everyone in this whole world but you” is one memorable put-down. Not bad then, but don’t look for a revival any time soon either.

Primal Scream – “All Fall Down”

For those Primal Scream fans who have never heard their pre-“Loaded” material, this will come as quite a shock, as this is one of the most fey, wispy little jangle-pop records ever committed to vinyl. Maybe the double duty that Bobby Gillespie was pulling between the Primals and the Mary Chain made him want to overcompensate my making something so totally wimpy as to establish the band’s own identity? Maybe, but here we are 20 years later, and Gillespie still hasn’t quite decided what his band wants to sound like.

Anyway, this is actually a pleasant enough record, buoyed by lead guitarist Jim Beattie’s layered acoustic and electric 12-string guitars and a chattering beat. They would do better the next time out, but suffice it to say, this is a long way from “Higher Than The Sun.” The slight b-side “It Happens” even contains a wussed-up “sha-la-la-la” bit. Yikes. Things could only get better from here.

Jasmine Minks – “What’s Happening”

Another punky pop number from the increasingly prolific and proficient Minks, this one far better than it’s predecessor. A rumbling riff and thudding beat truck along until a truly inspired chanting middle eight—“If you say I’m not the one/then I will surely die alone”—are some of the hallmarks of this deceptively complex record, which really does give one the tangible feeling of being a confused young person in love. And there’s even some sweet harmonies at the end on the calming-down line, “When I’m with you/everything seems/just right.” Their best effort to date by some margin.

Slaughter Joe – “I’ll Follow You Down”

Creation mainstay and McGee running buddy Joe Foster (he and McGee used to sit up several times a week hand-folding the sleeves for the first 20 or so Creation singles, something to keep in mind if you own any of them) in Mary Chain mode. Ironic that Foster actually produced “Upside Down,” and yet his own effort sounds totally lightweight by comparison for some reason. Sure there are layers upon layers of screaming noise, feedback and distortion ever a simple garage rock rhythm, but this somehow lacks the sheer Wall Of Sound intensity the Reid boys achieved. Strange that. Must have been something about the amps then. Nice Dylan-on-PCP harmonica solo at the end as well. B-side “Napalm Girl” is more of the same, literally, as it almost runs the same rhythm track and melody, and the 12-inch adds two more tracks: the fantastically named “Surely Some Of Joe’s Blues” which takes Dylan’s standard Bringing It All Back Home blues form and adds some feedback noises to the background, and “Fall Apart” which is sounds a lot like the A-side sped up and fed through a few more distortion pedals. But hey, you can never have enough noise pop, right? Well, at least I can’t.

Meat Whiplash – “Don’t Slip Up”

Apparently McGee agrees with me on that one, as Meat Whiplash mine similar territory. The difference here, however, is that the Mary Chain actually produced this record themselves and as such it in fact does carry that density that makes their own early tunes so effective. In fact, if you didn’t know better, between the distortion-heavy riff and squealing noise, simple 60s pop melody and chord progression, eerily Reid-esque treated vocal buried in the mix, and the simple Velvets derived tambourine and tom tom drum beat, you might totally mistake this for the rightful follow-up to “Upside Down.” Shame they never recorded anything else, because this is one fucking incredible single. There’s even a bass-and-percussion break that sounds quite a bit like several of the ones featured later on Psychocandy. Suddenly I find myself wondering if anyone ever saw both bands in the same room together. Hmmm...

Oh well, with results as dynamic as this, who cares?

Five Go Down To The Sea – “Aunt Nelly”

As much as I love these early Creation sides, I must say, there are some real dogs in the pack. And this is certainly one of them. Totally tuneless, sub-Beefheartian ramble that sounds as if the melodies were perhaps pecked out by chickens on PCP, topped with one of the worst singing voices ever committed to vinyl. And three tracks of it! The less said about this one, the better. Perhaps not as bad as Les Zarjaz or The Legend! but only because it at least isn’t trying so hard. Actually, maybe that does make it worse. Thankfully, all five of them apparently went down to the sea and never made another record.

The Pastels – “I’m Alright With You”

Hooray! Here come the Pastels, as if on cue, to wash the bad dreams of Five Go Down To The Sea right out of my brain! This is the final and probably the least remarkable of their three singles for the label, but that still puts it head and shoulders above much of the rest of the catalog. And it definitely has it’s share of manic pop thrills—my favorite is the little echoing vocal bit that Aggi does during the run out. Jesus, I used to have such a crush on her!

Anyway, with that, the Pastels returned to Rough Trade from whence they came, and I’m glad to say they are still making music of quality to this day, although far less often than they had in their youth.

The Moodists – “Justice & Money Too”

Finally, a one-off band that doesn’t totally suck. A twangy, less garage rock-influenced sound compared to much of what preceeded it, “Justice & Money Too” is an unexpected treat to be sure, if only because it is a change of pace. Not a classic, but certainly a worthy listen nonetheless. No idea whatever became of them, by the way.

Biff Bang Pow! – “Love’s Going Out Of Fashion”

For my money, “Love’s Going Out Of Fashion” totally justifies whatever boring, derivative, uninspired music Biff Bang Pow! ever made, as well as most of McGee’s crimes against music (see Les Zarjaz, The Legend!, et al) as Creation president. To me, this track is a masterpiece.

Outside of the super annoying split stereo recording that makes a headphone listen almost torturous, this is McGee’s crowning achievement. His best, most expressive vocal, best lyric (a spot-on tale of a romantic rollercoaster ride with some truly insightful lines), and best-constructed tune, laden with a simple but effective chord progression, a plaintive harmonica line and layered acoustics. When McGee sings, “Is it over or are we just testing each other now/When she looks at other men/she breaks my heart... I want you/I love you,” God, you really feel it. Rarely has the confusion of love been so potently expressed in an indie pop record, and it isn’t like that isn’t a pretty typical concept in these parts.

“Is this what love brings/nothing but humiliation?” Sometimes yes, but it also brings great records like this every now and again.

Slow ballad b-side “It Happens All The Time” is also lovely, in a sadder, plaintive way, and extra 12-inch track “Inside The Mushroom” is a decent psychedelic freakbeat sort of a thing. Top to bottom, Biff Bang Pow!’s shining moment in the sun.

Jasmine Minks – “Cold Heart”

Yes, them again, this time with an acoustic-led, call-and-response vocal number that actually works really well, and the lyrics include reference to Beatrix Potter, EST, and “the revenge of the Jasmine Mink.” How can you find fault with that? My favorite track by them by some margin, though I think it is personal sentiment that makes it that way. The Minks might not ever have achieved that perfect record, but they were more consistent than most and pretty damn prolific as well. Cheers, fellas. (Note: the band are back together after a long layoff and have issued an LP on McGee’s Poptones imprint. Good on you, lads!)

Primal Scream – “Crystal Crescent”

Not so much better this time out for the fledgling Scream Team. They added some horns to the mix, but Jesus, what an awful mix this is. It sounds as though it were mastered through an inch of mud or something. Perhaps someone could go back and perk up this lifeless master recording and discover what was clearly supposed to be an upbeat pop number and save it from it’s own overcompression? I’d love to hear it.

This is all academic, however, as the real star of this release is the brief but brilliant b-side, “Velocity Girl”—all 1:27 of it. Bobby G’s inspired portrait of a troubled scenester girl with “Vodka in her veins” is spot on from start to finish, with glistening guitar fills running in and out of the track and an energy not previously heard from the Scream. Honestly, if it were even 5 seconds longer, it wouldn’t work.

“Velocity Girl” famously figured onto the NME “C86” compilation, which launched a scene of the same name, and this track was often namechecked by those trying to sum up the sound with a single track.

Felt – “Ballad Of The Band”

There is far more to say about Felt than I have room for here, but here’s the general gist of it: led by the somewhat peculiar Lawrence Hayward, Felt were seldom the same band twice. At their outset, Lawrence pledged to make 10 albums and 10 singles in 10 years and he did just that, even having to leave Creation for the final album in order to accommodate his “decade” plan. They made minimal, gothic style records, organ led Television/Lou Reed pop albums, textured guitar albums, 20-minute all instrumental albums, and even a jazz album of mainly drums, organ, and vibes. They come with my highest personal recommendation.

Anyway, this was Felt’s first track for Creation. They had just left Cherry Red and Lawrence’s main songwriting foil, Maurice Deebank and it was essentially the story of the band to that point set to music and apparently aimed directly at Deebank (”Where were you/when I wanted to work?/you were still in bed/you’re a total jerk.”) A jaunty, cloying guitar riff, organ texture by future Primal Scream member Martin Duffy and an upbeat rhythm will have you bobbing your head despite yourself. Produced by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie to boot, so it sounds great. A winner all the way, including the apologetic b-side (perhaps also aimed at Deebank, as a “sorry” for the a-side?) “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You.”

Coincidentally, in the 1988 Underground interview, McGee names this as his favorite Creation 45. Granted, this was 1988 and prior to many of Creation’s most essential moments, but that still says something, right?

The Bodines – “Therese”

By this point in time, the “C86” movement was in full swing, and the Bodines were smack dab in the middle of it. To these ears, the vast majority of those tunes haven’t dated well—the production a bit too light, the tunes a bit uninspired and stereotypical (especially when placed side by side).

That all said, “Therese” is a lovely record, and a definite highlight of that scene. Worth seeking out for sure.

Weather Prophets – “Almost Prayed”

The return of Loft leader Peter Astor with a pounding little guitar/piano-led number that, according to legend, the band wrote on the spot in 20 minutes at a Janice Long session. According to McGee, “A brilliant rock and roll record.” I wouldn’t go that far, but it sure does stick in your head. 12-inch b-side “Frankie Lymon” is a nearly whispered, totally gorgeous acoustic love song that brings tears to my eyes at times. Not a bad way to start the second Astor era then.

The Bodines – “Heard It All”

Unfortunately, at this point, that title applies to the Bodines more than they would have liked. Still not bad, but the band were pretty clearly treading water here. Efficient enough but nothing you haven’t heard before from them, and better even. The 12-inch b-side “William Shatner” is actually a far more interesting track. Stick with the other two singles unless you just loved them so much that you have to hear more. This was their last release on Creation, so apparently someone there might have felt the same way I did about this.

The Weather Prophets – “Naked As The Day You Were Born”

Astor and mates trot out the delay pedal for this slow burner, which, following the principle behind “Frankie Lymon,” goes down a lot better than their “rockers” for the most part (“Almost Prayed” being the exception). Short on thrills though, and long on droning organs. This would make for a nice bit of texture in the middle of an album somewhere, but as a single, it just doesn’t have enough going for it. Not bad by any means though.

Felt – “Rain Of Crystal Spires”

Felt returns with a track paced by rollicking organ, rolling drums, shimmering layers of picked guitars, and choral-like backing vocals that really roars out of the speakers somehow, even though it doesn’t feature anything loud or distorted. Neat trick. Lawrence and Co. are in top Verlaine/Reed-derived form (except with lots of organ), and this would later become the opening cut on their 1986 masterpiece Forever Breathes The Lonely Word. It makes perfect sense as a leadoff cut, and hence also as a single.

The 12-inch fleshes things out to four tracks, all of which are quite brilliant, especially the similar-sounding “Gather Up Your Wings And Fly,” which also subsequently appeared on Forever; the other two tracks are short, fast, and manic, and in the same organ-led style. The picture sleeve is gorgeous. You should own their entire fucking back catalog.

Nikki Sudden – “Jangle Town”

Seeing a pattern here? Bodines, Weather Prophets, Felt. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Well, that all changed here with the arrival of Nikki Sudden, he of Keith Richards/pirate-style hair and clothes and Neil Young chord progressions, and an ex-member of both the excellent Swell Maps and the less-brilliant-but-still-good Jacobites.

“Jangle Town” is basically solo Sudden by numbers, however—all massed, plaintive strummed acoustics, forlorn lyrics, major chord changes, and Sudden’s nasal voice on top. Not his finest hour, and nowhere near his work with Swell Maps, but nice to get out of that three-band rut regardless. More importantly, with this release, you could see McGee started to expand his horizons a bit more, expanding the sound and attracting a few more established acts to the roster.

Biff Bang Pow! with JC Brouchard – “Someone Stole My Wheels”

A return to the early Creation garage form, featuring guest vocalist JC Brouchard, about whom next to nothing is known apparently. He only sings on the A-side, with McGee returning for the flip, but he is the real star here regardless. His flat, almost tuneless everyman voice totally fits the vibe of the song—a spot-on portrait of being bored with life and love and work and wondering aloud, “What if this is the end of the rainbow/and there’s not a pot of gold in sight?” Catchy tune, hummable melody, well-written lyric. A winner, if not a flat out classic. The happiest little sad sack tune you can imagine!

Slaughter Joe – “She’s Out Of Touch”

Joe Foster back in action with a gorgeous string/horn accentuated portrait of a woman on the verge. After the noise and fury of the previous Slaughter Joe release, this was totally unexpected. Lovely tune, perfectly restrained production, nice backing vocals, dead mellow. Easily one of the best ballads Creation ever released, and Foster’s shining moment as an artist. File alongside Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman.”

Phil Wilson – “Waiting For A Change”

Solo debut from the former leader of the June Brides, who enjoyed a brief bit of press hype and indie success before fading out in 1986. Sounding quite a lot like the first Lilac Time album, with twangy steel guitars, shuffling brushes, and a fiddle, this ode to restlessness carries a definite country/folk vibe and works pretty well at that, despite Wilson’s rather wimpy vocals. A lush, hoe down of a call for personal revolution. Yet another new sound for the Creation roster though, and a competently achieved one at that.

Momus – “Murderers, The Hope Of Women”

Famously pervy Nicholas Currie makes his Creation debut with this creepy acoustic three-tracker, and as is his modus operandi, he is preoccupied with death and sex and the relationship between the two. For my money, Momus was far more successful at this folk singer-songwriter thing than most gave him credit for, and as much as I love his subsequent electronic-based records, I feel this was a far more effective vehicle for his particular brand of oddity, though I think I am in the minority on that opinion.

Special marks go to the b-side “What Will Death Be Like?” as effective a take on the subject as I’ve ever heard set to music, replete with humor, grimness, a keen sense of history, and a knowing wink at Ian Curtis and a handful of philosophers. And of course, each verse starts with “Death will be unlike...” making it a neat little mirror held to our fear. And of course, just when he gets to “Death will be like...” the track slams to an end. Just like life, really. A truly thought-provoking seven-plus minutes, and a deeply hidden treasure.

Biff Bang Pow! – “Everything’s Turning Brouchard”

A 1:31 surf instrumental. Not nearly worth bothering with, honestly. The halfway-decent b-side “The Death Of England” doubles the length, but can’t save the release. Oh well. He was the boss, after all. Who was gonna tell him no?

Bill Drummond – “The King Of Joy”

Of all the “joke” records that Creation ever released (and there were a few), famous eccentric and future JAMMS/KLF founder Bill Drummond undoubtedly made the funniest one. The former Bunnymen/Teardrops manager/guru gave music a shot for the first time here, and you can already see the seeds of the massive in-joke that was to be the Kopyright Liberation Front. Those interested should really track down the whole LP, as it is honestly a hoot. Jesus, just hearing him sing is funny enough. Honestly, this is actually a fun little pop ditty, and if it weren’t Bill Drummond, it almost sounds like all the rest of the early Creation singles. And maybe that was the joke, come to think of it...

Relevant McGee quote: “Bill’s my pal, but I thought this record would be crap. He gave a cassette to me and I didn’t play it for ages. Then I put it on when I was in the bath one night and I nearly drowned; I laughed for about half an hour. It’s the work of a complete nutter.” Amen.

Nikki Sudden & Rowland Howard – “Wedding Hotel”

Sudden teamed up with the erstwhile Birthday Party guitarist for three tracks here as well as a full-length LP, 1987’s Kiss You Kidnapped Charabanc. Slow, dark, brooding and haunted, Howard really brought the harrowing vibes out of Sudden that were so sorely missing from his previous solo recordings. The simple acoustic tunes are fleshed out by some great textures by Howard, and the whole LP comes recommended if you’re into that sort of thing. You can almost see all the silk scarves, incense, candles, and drugs in the studio if you close your eyes. A career highlight to be sure.

Baby Amphetamine – “Chernobyl Baby”

Hot on the heels of Bill Drummond’s release comes what is hands down the worst joke record Creation ever released. It was quite a good joke... the record is just fucking wretched though.

The story goes: McGee has some sort of brainstorm or something and recruits three girls from the Virgin Megastore, writes a song with them, and gets a hip-hop producer to do the track (hip-hop was very much the cool new genre on the block at this point). “It was a fucking joke and it got to number four in the indie charts. I knew the NME would like it just cos it was a hip-hop record,” quoth the Chairman. Sadly, he was all too right about all of it, and his joke was perhaps a little too successful, as quite a few people—including the girls themselves—took it all a bit too seriously.

As for the record—well, it’s horribly dated mid-80s British hip-hop, with girls found at Virgin rapping on it. How do you think it sounds?

Clive Langer – “Even Though”

The shorter named half of the famed Langer and Whitstanley production team released this one-off solo single on Creation, and it is a shame he didn’t do more, as this is a gorgeous pop song. It doesn’t appear on Creation Soup for copyright reasons, and like the other notable exception (”Upside Down”) it is one of the best things Creation ever put out. Shame.

Fabulous McGee anecdote: “He was producing “Imperial” for Primal Scream. I went into the studio at about ten o’clock one night and he was sitting on the floor, on his own, crying. I went to him and I asked him what was wrong. He looked up at me and said, ��The Beatles, Alan, the Beatles. I fucking love them.’ So I just thought, ��What a brilliant guy.’ This should have been a hit, but it only sold 429 copies.”

I think that tells you just about everything you need to know. Find this record.

The House Of Love – “Shine On”

The debut release by the House Of Love, the band that would be king. In Guy Chadwick’s often brilliant way with a tune and fantastic lead guitarist Terry Bickers, HOL were hotly tipped as the next big thing in indiedom, but somehow, the sales just never came through. Which is a shame, as they made some truly great music.

“Shine On” still stands as one of their best, all layered guitars and a ringing lead riff, a simple, catchy chorus (“She, she she she Shine On”—how can you resist?) and my favorite part, a reference to the band’s name in the opening line (I love it when a band works their own name into the lyric!) They later skipped out on Creation for Fontana and had a minor hit with a re-recorded version of this song, but the original still shines a tad brighter in my eyes. Their first—but not their last—great 45.

The House Of Love – “Real Animal”

Huh? Them again? Already? Yes, afraid so, and this time they are playing a rocking rave up that just sort of sits there. It should be exciting, but somehow it just sounds flat. Not their strongest suit, not their best tune, not really worth bothering too much with. In fact, the a-side is the worst song on the three track 12-inch, eclipsed easily by the rolling “Plastic” and the atmospheric “Nothing To Me.”

Their best work was still ahead of them, however, and the self-titled LP they released for Creation in 1988 is a bonafide masterpiece; non-LP single CRE057, “Destroy The Heart” is the rocking single that this should have been and is often rated as their best track and a definitive British indie classic. So don’t hold this against them too much. Also, for those interested, Bickers and Chadwick have reformed the group and released a new LP. Best of luck to them.

Blow-Up – “Good To Me”

A backwards sitar intro? Yes, really. Unfortunately, it’s the most interesting thing about the song—from there this dissolves into a sort of pedestrian uptempo indie rocker, totally indistinguishable from most other C86 also-rans to my ears. The sitar returns for the end though. Shame about the actual song in the middle. Strangely enough, the singer’s voice sounds like Guy Chadwick’s at a few points on the A-side. That would have been funny if it were him again, wouldn’t it?

Phil Wilson – “Ten Miles”

Wilson again mines the C & W and folksy vibes, this time on an uptempo track that doesn’t work nearly as well as the wistful, “Waiting For A Change” but is pleasant enough. Wilson’s reedy voice and the mainly acoustic instrumentation just don’t work for such an aggressive tune. Nice fiddle part though. B-side “A Jingle” is just as lightweight and disposable as the title would lead you to think.

Heidi Berry – Firefly EP

This five-track debut from the Boston-born Berry made her the first American to record for Creation. She moved to London as a teen, and was at the time of this release dating Loft/Weather Prophets leader Peter Astor, who was also involved in crafting the music on this EP. Firefly is not much like her subsequent LP release for Creation (the stark, brooding Below The Waves) and bears even less resemblance to her later work on 4AD. It is however pretty damn great. Berry has a fantastic singing voice a la Sandy Denny or maybe Judy Collins, or even a female Nick Drake, and it sits comfortably on top of the perky folk-pop on display here, especially the shuffling title track, which prefigures much of what the whole Lilith Fair crowd did a few years later. Fans of her later, darker work may not like this so much, and it does seem a bit fluffy by comparison, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Collector’s note: CD versions of Below The Waves include the EP as a bonus.

Felt – “The Final Resting Of The Ark”

Felt return with a strange little number that bears no likeness to their previous releases, nor to anything they did after, but that was sort of par for the course. An odd, minimal tone poem of sorts that just sort of hangs in the air for a few minutes and disappears as mysteriously as it began, but not after a searing sax solo and a whole lot of atmosphere. A unique record, if not an entirely accessible one. Not exactly Top 40 material here, but great for what it is. The 12-inch expands things to five tracks, all of which follow the same minimal, spooked vibe, including a short Martin Duffy solo piano piece. If this were anyone but Felt, it wouldn’t make much sense, but then that is what makes them so compelling. Did I mention that you need to own their entire back catalog?

Blow-Up – “Pool Valley”

Them again, and no more interesting than they were the first time out, except now they added some incidental strings and a semi-decent harmony vocal. A marginally better tune for the added touches, but as they warble a pointless four straight times, “And you come/and you go,” the tune is simultaneously doing the exact same thing in your head. And it ain’t gonna come back either.

Emily – Irony EP

I’m not sure who Emily was or why they never made another record for Creation or even how many people were in the band or what—it might have only been one guy in fact. But I do know that this four tracker is great folky pop and I’d love to hear more. Layers and layers of earnest acoustic strums; thoughtful, forlorn lyrics; a slightly quirky male singing; and that intangible something that tells you that this could be exactly the sort of act you would like to follow for the next few years and eventually become one of your favorites. Alas, I have no idea where to find more material, if there even is any—certainly not on Creation. So help me out, Stylus readers—anyone know anything about Emily? Oh, the irony...

By: Todd Hutlock
Published on: 2005-03-07
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