Active for just barely two years in the mid-'80s, Oxford, England-based indie prototypes Talulah Gosh were integral to the culture of fanzines, 7" singles, and dreamy-eyed guitar pop songs that would immediately pave the way for twee, indie pop, noise pop, and decades of future underground music. After Talulah Gosh came the Shop Assistants; a few years later Bratmobile; then even later, the Vivian Girls, not to mention the bands spawned by TG members after their breakup, like Heavenly and Tender Trap, all drawing on the melancholy melodies and reverb-soaked delivery that sound sublimely stumbled upon throughout this all-inclusive compilation. In their short lifespan, the band's recorded output comprised mostly multiple singles and compilation appearances. In the years that followed, there were several vault-scouring collections, most notably 1996's K Records retrospective Backwash, which gathered all known studio recordings, live tracks, and radio sessions for a 25-song megalith of the band's work. Was It Just a Dream? expands Backwash by just four songs with the group's earliest demo recordings made in 1986. The sheer number of tunes can be a little overwhelming when taken one after another, but any given track holds all the inventiveness and shambling energy of the C-86 scene or the homespun esthetic of the soon-to-follow K Records approach to twee and the softer side of punk idealism. Standout tracks like a spiky live version of "Pastels Badge," or either of two versions of the band's namesake song, provide the best windows into their sound, and the four demo recordings fall somewhere between the working-class punk of the Billy Childish camp and the group's own fearless, introspective songwriting, which was strongly stated even from the start. A groundbreaking and often overlooked group, Talulah Gosh quietly made it possible for everything from Riot Grrrl to the late-2000s bedroom indie scenes to take shape, whether the artists who followed knew it or not. Was It Just a Dream? is essential listening for any fan of indie pop in any of its permutations.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas