Between the post-punk era of the Pop Group and the trip-hop generation of Massive Attack and Portishead, the Blue Aeroplanes were one of Bristol's more exciting musical exports. While the 1980s saw the emergence of several notable Bristolian bands, the Blue Aeroplanes had the edge on contemporaries like the Flatmates and the Brilliant Corners, venturing beyond jangly indie pop into more sophisticated, arty hybrids of folk and guitar rock. Arguably, the band's most creative phase coincided with their time on the Fire label in England. Warhol's 15 features recordings made during that period: material from Tolerance, Spitting out Miracles, and Friendloverplane; EP tracks; and sundry odds and ends. This release offers a comprehensive sampling of the Blue Aeroplanes' inventive, multifaceted sound, ranging from a bouncy sing-along ("Severn Beach") to a violin- and accordion-adorned waltz ("Ceiling Roses") to majestic rock ("Warhol's Fifteen"); there's even the occasional country-flavored ballad ("Cowardice and Caprice") and an experiment in turntablism ("Weird Heart"). This is a particularly useful introduction since it gives listeners a sense of the band's strengths and weaknesses alike. Their Achilles heel was always Gerard Langley's flat, sung-spoken pseudo-poetry. This element endeared the Blue Aeroplanes to a certain constituency, enhancing their arty, cult cachet. However, Langley's vocals were rarely integrated into the music and his verbose, pretentious lyrics were often a distraction from it. Consequently, the Blue Aeroplanes were most compelling when their arrangements shifted the attention away from their singer. This can be best appreciated on harder-edged rock numbers like "Ups," where the focus is on driving rhythms and Angelo Bruschini's cascading guitar (which evokes the Echoplex-laden sound pioneered by John Martyn). Minor quibbles about Langley aside, this is a decent overview of the Blue Aeroplanes' pre major-label work and one that bolsters claims that they deserved more commercial success than they achieved.
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