The Flatmates ‘Potpourri – Hits, Mixes & Demo’s’ – album review

The Flatmates ‘Potpourri – Hits, Mixes & Demo’s’ (Cherry Red)
CD/DL
Released 16th July

Another very welcome re-release from Cherry Red; they first put out this 23 track compilation back in 2005, which not surprisingly sold out in rapid time; inexplicably, it has taken this long to make the album available again which has fuelled huge prices on eBay for the release, and even greater sums being paid for the bands original issue vinyl.

The Flatmates were the Bristol based contingent of the now legendary C86 scene, which was arguably a colourful counter reaction to the dark and deeply serious goth and political scenes who viewed pop music with suspicion – the C86 moniker was attributed to the (then hip) NME compiling a cassette; the C in yes you’ve guessed it 1986! Other protagonists being The Soup Dragons, The Shop Assistants, Pastels and the wonderful Tallulah Gosh, however it needs to be noted that C86 merely reflected an existing scene that was already being documented by The Subway Organisation (which was actually owned by The Flatmates).

The Flatmates first single ‘ Could Be In Heaven’ was released by Subway in September 1986 and declared “No musicians used on this record!” which was in response to the Queen’s first album which proudly boasted “No synthesizers used on this record!” and The Human League’s first album which responded with “No guitars used on this record!” – the declaration, whilst accurate in that no classically trained musicians were used sells the band well short;  ‘I Could Be In Heaven’ is two and a half minutes of glorious lo-fi spikey pure pop, with a solid drum beat, jangly guitars and layers of harmonious vocals courtesy of Sarah Feltcher; the single was an indie chart hit and resulted in the band playing gigs across the UK, and gaining supports with bands like Pop Will Eat Itself.

Four further singles followed all released by Subway, the first of which ‘Happy All The Time’ featured an anarchic cover of The Ramones ‘I Don’t Care’ on the B-side and in the run out grooves (ask ya Dad) the legend “This is the sound of happiness”. The single again took The Flatmates to the top of the indie charts; by the time the bands third single ‘You’re Gonna Cry’ was released in October 1987 original member Rocker had departed though this didn’t seem to impact on the bands buzz saw sound nor their increasing popularity as they rapidly recorded two sessions for BBC Radio, and ventured into Europe.
Whilst the band were tagged with a twee moniker, it’s fair to say that they themselves were developing a more menacing sound, certainly drawing upon their love of the Velvet Underground, which was evidenced on the Shimmer EP, though it’s not that easy to follow their progress from ‘Potpourri’ as the tracks are not in any chronological order.

The Flatmates represented all that was good and proper with indie music during the mid to late’80s; their music brilliantly filled the gap between the confrontational feedback drenched noise of The Jesus & Mary Chain and the shambling (anyone recall that short-lived genre?) naïveté of bands like The Vaseline’s. Their music was like a sugar induced head rush, a kaleidoscope of primitive ideas hammered out with zeal and youthful enthusiasm that resulted in some of the times most infectious 7” slices.

This release gathers together just about everything the band ever committed to tape; the singles, the album and everything in-between.

A truly essential artefact of its time.

Tracklist

1. Don’t Say It
2. On My Mind
3. Trust Me
4. My Empty Head
5. Shimmer
6. Tell Me Why
7. You’re Gonna Cry (Demo)
8. I Don’t Care
9. I Could Be In Heaven
10. Nothing Kills
11. When I’m With You
12. Bad
13. Heaven Is Blue
14. If Not For You
15. Heaven Knows (Tranquiliser Mix)
16. Love Cuts
17. Out Of Love
18. Happy All The Time
19. Life Of Crime (Demo)
20. You’re Gonna Get Hurt
21. Sportscar Girl
22. Turning You Blue (Campfire Mix)

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Peel used to play this lot, I remember. I had loads of their tunes taped from his show. Should have bought the vinyl, I know, but it was the 80s and I was skint. Delightful stuff and listening to ‘I Could Be In Heaven’ brought a big fat smile to my wrinkly old face!

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