Electronic, Industrial (Play It Again Sam 1989)
I’ve chosen to write about ‘L’Eau Rouge’ for #IsolationVinyl as it’s a good signifier of a time and place in my life. I’m not a massive audiophile (under-stairs space houses all my records, but there’s no dedicated room or outbuilding!) but I do have a knack bordering on the autistic of remembering where I made pretty much every purchase in my collection. This one particular example was of course from Camberley’s Premier Music Outlet and also has a significant companion in the carrier bag that day. That was ‘Bleach’ by Nirvana.
‘Bleach’ actually makes a lot more sense as a purchase, as I had followed a line from Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr to Mudhoney, who I adore to this day (‘Touch Me I’m Sick/Halloween’ Sonic Youth/Mudhoney split EP bought in Basingstoke Our Price, fact fans!). The Sub Pop label link brought me to Nirvana and the first track I heard from them was ‘Paper Cuts’ via John Peel, which was very much in tune with my ‘no girls or melodies’ adolescent attitude to music at the time. I actually thought the rest of ‘Bleach’ sounded quite trad when I eventually heard it.
But apart from a grudging radio session in 1988, Peel wasn’t a Young Gods fan, even going out of his way to protest their ‘European arthouse’ style on one occasion. So apart from rave reviews in the music press, particularly from writers like David Stubbs in the Melody Maker, there’s every chance that I bought L’Eau Rouge without ever having heard the band play a single note.
They certainly weren’t played in the common room by the upper-6th formers who I would occasionally catch a mixtape from, which pretty much obliterates all the audio channels available in the second half of 1989.
This is why ‘L’Eau Rouge’ feels like such a personal and important purchase. It was the first thing I had bought with next-to no external influence, at least from any of my peers – and to a 17 year old starting to experience independence for the first time (weekend job down the A30 at Blackbushe Market supplying the disposable income), it was a pretty big deal.
And the excitement didn’t end on a purely symbolic level; the record itself has a fantastic molten-effect, fiery red sleeve. It’s on a BELGIAN record label! Even the fact I didn’t have anything else in my collection beginning with a Y gave it a kind of otherworldly status (a situation soon to be rectified by the purchase of ‘President Yo La Tengo’ from Westbourne Park Rough Trade).
It’s hard to go into a description of the music itself (sorry, #IsolationVinyl). Firstly, as the famous quote loosely attributed to Frank Zappa goes; ‘writing about music is like dancing about architecture’. Secondly, you can all just hop onto Spotify and listen for yourselves. But suffice to say, as we drank cider together through the last evenings of the 1980s, as the Eastern Bloc fell and terrorist convictions were overturned, I would bore my friends senseless with the fact that on this record that I now owned there were NO GUITARS. With the air of a sonic infant terrible that only an adolescent Wedding Present fan can muster, I held court like a true astronaut of distant frontiers amongst my cohorts, themselves inventing equally overblown discoveries in return.
I haven’t really changed that much. I still jokingly sneer at Radiohead and take delight in tossing curve balls to those who think they’ve got my musical tastes sussed out. You can’t really get through life like that though. Relationships, families and all that other stuff get in the way. As I approach my fifties I sometimes encounter things in my collection that I half-terrifiedly fling onto the turntable lest I get to the end of my days having never played it again. Social media, blogs, listening parties etc. really help keep the enthusiasm alive. But what sitting down and writing about ‘L’Eau Rouge’ brought back were the days when music really was all you could have time for.
Merci mille fois, Franz, Cesare and Ruse. See you on the anniversary tour.
Thanks to Chris for sending over his #IsolationVinyl. If you fancy getting in on the action, send your choice(s) over to firstname.lastname@example.org.