Various Artists: C86 The Deluxe Edition – album review

Various Artists: C86 The Deluxe Edition (Cherry Red)
3 CD Box Set
Due out June 9th

The NME’s classic indie compilation is reissued as a box set, featuring the original 22 songs plus an extra 50, with an extensive booklet, proving that the 80s wasn’t all crap.

It’s hard to tell how many people who read this will already be familiar with what C86 is all about. For those who know about the original NME compilation, pardon me for stating the bleedin’ obvious. All you need to know is that here it is again, padded out with extras and a fabulous book. You probably won’t need to read the rest of this.

For everyone else, a quick history lesson: the C86 compilation was originally released to showcase the wealth of underground talent that was running as an alternative to the mainstream, and as a healthy music scene of its own. Here you will find the original line-up of Primal Scream as you never heard them before, 5 years before Screamadelica broke them out into mega stardom.

Around the time of its release, the word “indie” was used in the true sense: the abbreviation for the word “independent”, (as in record label). It was music for an underground audience, driven by a DIY punk spirit that made it rough around the edges and all the better for it. A decade later, Britpop bastardised the word and transformed it into meaning the exact opposite: glossy commercial pop music, daytime radio, mega-bucks and mass media hype. End of history lesson.


C86 has always had its cynics. Perhaps they bought a few of the records, or maybe they played a part in the scene, but it’s just too obvious now, and they’re way too clever and grown up to admit its relevance. And in the light of Bob Stanley’s 2 disc 20th anniversary edition, CD86, and the superbly put together Scared To Get Happy box set released last year (also on Cherry Red, covering the whole decade rather than its mid-period and reviewed by Louder Than War here), some may well be thinking “why do it again?” Well, most of the music still sounds fucking great. Plenty of bands have been inspired by it, and continue to do so. Veronica Falls owe everything to Talulah Gosh, The Shop Assistants and The Primitives. And given the fact that most of the records here never got a wide enough audience in the first place, repeated remakes such as this make perfect sense. Wasn’t there enough fuss made of Britpop 20 years ago? Do we really need to go through it all over again? Well no, but it’s still being rammed down people’s throats way more than compilations such as this. And this box set is also a big FUCK YOU to those who report on Britpop, claiming that apparently “Nothing good was going on in the 80s”. It’s for those who think that we were all bored shitless until Oasis came along with their Status Quo impressions, or The Verve wowed us with their Bon Jovi ballads.


OK, on with the music. The 22 tracks of the original album are on disc one, and the set opens with Primal Scream’s Byrds-meets-Velvets ode to Warhol’s Edie Sedgwick, Velocity Girl, the b-side of their second single, Crystal Crescent (which got a lot more attention than the a-side) Fellow Scots, The Pastels are here too, with the beautiful and dark Breaking Lines. Something that’s often overlooked is the fact that the bands featured on C86 cover a lot of ground in terms of style. Although there are repetitions of similar themes here and there, there is also a lot of diversity to be found in that period. Stump and The Servants are worlds apart, but they share the same disc space for no other reason other than the fact that they were both on independent labels. Ditto Half Man Half Biscuit and The Age of Chance, and so on and so forth.


Then there are 50 bonus tracks on discs 2 and 3, too many to mention. The Jesus And Mary Chain make the cut on this edition with Inside Me, as do early Creation classics such as Biff Bang Pow’s Love’s Going Out of Fashion, The Weather Prophets’ mournful Worm In My Brain and The Jasmine Minks’ cracking World’s No Place. Talulah Gosh had a retrospective released recently, and the song from them (not an obvious choice) is I Told You So. Check also That Petrol Emotion’s Mine, a lazy groove that glides beautifully, in contrast with their more rocking songs.

And so the C86 legacy lives on. We live in times when it’s practically compulsory for music magazines to put together compilations, and yet here is one from almost 30 years ago, that’s become not only a classic album, but also a reference point for a music scene that’s lived on since, through newer bands that have been embracing its styles and attitude.


Cherry Red Records’ website is here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter

The C86 Compilation is also on Facebook

All words by Arash Torabi – Louder Than War archive here


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