Pete and the Pirates.
Plan B publisher Everett True is baaaaaaaack. Last week, he recalled knowing who the Pipettes were way before you. This week, he reminds you once again that he was there and you weren’t. Oh yeah, he once wrote a book called Nirvana: The Biography (da Capo Press), which is useful to know before reading this column. E-mail Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hugs and Kisses
The Outbursts of Everett True
This Week: Stolen Recordings
No one’s ever headhunted me to be an A&R person.
This is unusual, least where I come from. Once you attain a certain level of success — or, at least, notoriety — as a music journalist, record companies are usually queuing up to be clued in. Jeez, man: didn’t they know I was the man who helped bring Sub Pop (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Screaming Trees) Records to global recognition, released the first record on Creation (Oasis, Jesus And Mary Chain, Primal Scream) Records, was drinking buddies with… No, wait. They were right. Aside from running two abortive labels, one in the Eighties (Dog-Faced Hermans), the other in the Nineties (Comet Gain) and an approach from a 4AD-style record company around 1991 (which I may well have put the kibosh on by stating I didn’t like any of the bands they’d signed), no one ever had a sniff round me. And, as I say, they were correct not to come near me.
One of the questions I’m most frequently asked about Nirvana — aside from “Are you still in contact with Courtney Love?” NO, I’M FUCKING NOT! — is, “When did you first know that Nirvana were going to be massive?” Like sales is somehow relevant to enjoyment, like the reason a band first touches me is because I think a million other saps are going to be playing them as background music to their misbegotten existences. Let me state this here and now, bluntly, so everyone gets it: I NEVER KNEW NIRVANA WERE GOING TO BE MASSIVE. To me, they were just another great rock band among a thousand great rock bands that I’ve been privileged enough to see play live.
Overwhelmingly, the other 99 per cent of those bands never went on to press about 500 copies of their one record, and sell more than about half of that number. When I first reviewed Nirvana, I made ‘Love Buzz’ single of the week in Melody Maker in the company of The U-Men and Some Velvet Sidewalk, two other great ass-kicking bands from the Pacific Northwest. I didn’t feel one was particularly better than the next (although pushed, I’d have gone for The U-Men), I just felt all were amazing. The U-Men and Some Velvet… who? Precisely.
It has long been accepted among my more professional peers (ie: the ones who actually make money for doing what they love) that if Everett True likes a band, it’s the commercial kiss of death. It works in reverse, as well — I used to pride myself on recognizing commercial shit way before anybody else, and sticking the boot in way before the herd: Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Stereophonics, Radiohead, David Gray, Cranberries… I was there, man, manning the barricades.
So it is with heavy heart that I announce my latest pop idols, the mavericks and trembling lo-fi romantics that populate Britain’s wonderfully homespun Stolen Recordings — Pete And The Pirates, Matthew Sawyer And The Ghosts, Tap Tap, Blanket, Serafina, Pet Politics, et al… Several of these bands are affiliated only through low-cost compilation albums, but they share a common passion, a similar enthusiasm and regard for what they consider classic pop music, in this case the mid-Eighties to early Nineties output of the bands that sprung up round the tiny, rain-swept New Zealand college town of Dunedin and Flying Nun Records (The Chills, The Bats, Straitjacket Fits, The Clean, Look Blue Go Purple, Snapper, Chris Knox, and so on).
I say they, but I mainly mean Stolen Recording’s flagship band, Pete and the Pirates. The Pirates share a similar attention to detail, to the dueling guitars and twin vocal leads of venerable bands like Television and the Chills. And far from being revivalist fare, Pete and the Pirates, its spin-off band Tap Tap and the gang, bring lashings of youthful fervour and ardour to the proceedings — alongside those incredible harmonies and riffs — that way overcomes accusations of retro, whatever the hell retro means these days, anyway. Matthew Sawyer, meanwhile, taps straight into the melancholy wellspring of Dan Treacy’s erratic and genius Television Personalities… so there’s someone else destined for fame, clearly.
It doesn’t matter. It never does. What matters is the feeling the music engenders in your heart while you’re listening to it — and man, are these bands able to transcend their surroundings. I saw Pete And The Pirates and Matthew Sawyer play to an entirely deserted Brighton pub a few weeks back, having travelled down through floods and train cancellations — and it was like being at the front of a cavernous Rome stadium again, taking photos of the Spice Girls.
And you can’t buy that feeling.
HUGS AND KISSES, TOP 5
1. PJ HARVEY, “The Piano” (from the forthcoming Island album White Chalk)
“Oh God, I miss you,” she repeats over and over again on the most recognisably PJ Harvey song from her new, piano-saturated album, and you gasp once more at the starkness of her pain.
2. JOHNNY OSBOURNE, “Warrior” (from the Light In The Attic album Summer Records Anthology 1974-1988)
One of many highlights from an incredible collection of Canadian reggae centred round the Toronto basement studio of producer Jerry Brown.
3. CHRISTY & EMILY, “Ocean” (from the Social Registry album Queen’s Head)
One half is a classically-trained pianist: the other grew up playing heavy metal on guitar. The result is bewitching.
4. GRAND PRIX, “I See Her Pretty Face” (from the Numero Group album Eccentric Soul: The Big Mack Label)
Gorgeous, saturated doo wop from excellent anthology of long-forgotten Sixties Detroit soul label.
5. SPINMASTER PLANTPOT, “Girlfriend In A Coma”
My main man — alone, a cappella, let loose, unstoppable, inspirational and absolutely incomprehensible.