Various Artists

C88

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Following up their C87 box set, which was the next step after their C86 box set, Cherry Red takes yet another step in documenting the U.K. indie pop scene with the three-disc C88. It follows the fortunes of some of the bands from previous years who didn't make the jump to major labels, tracks the influx of bands who were influenced by the jangling pop sounds of C-86, and generally provides an exhaustive view of the guitar groups sneaking around the edges of the late-'80s scene. Each disc is a mix of both names that have lasted through the years and complete unknowns; the compilers take great care to make the set one that even dedicated followers of indie pop will find full of surprises. For every Stone Roses or Vaselines track, there's one by the Driscolls or the Church Grims. For every indie pop classic like the Charlottes' "Are You Happy Now?" or the Sea Urchins' unbearably lovely "Please Rain Fall," there's a total obscurity that gives them a run for their money, like the Prayers' "Sister Goodbye," or "Village Green" by the Clouds. The big labels like Creation, Sarah, Rough Trade, and the Subway Organization are all represented with a few songs each, but mostly the tracks are sourced from tiny labels whose names have been lost to time -- names like Whoosh, Bi-Joopiter, and Medium Cool don't exactly resonate with the public at large, but the bands they contribute to the collection (Holidaymakers, Remember Fun, the Corn Dollies) show that there were plenty of good bands out there and plenty of savvy label owners to release their singles. Most of the collection focuses on sunny indie pop that was noisy, sweet, and as catchy as a summer cold (as typified by the Pooh Sticks, the Flatmates, and the Darling Buds), but there are detours into Lloyd Cole-style sophisticated singer/songwriter sounds (the Caretaker Race's "Anywhere But Here"), angular post-punk drama (the Great Leap Forward's "Who Works the Weather"), jaunty instrumental pop (Apple Boutique's "The Ballad of Jet Harris"), a couple of frothy fun songs from the El Records stable ("The Camera Loves Me" by the Would-Be-Goods and "Curry Crazy" by Bad Dream Fancy Dress"), synth pop with trumpets (Pacific's New Order-on-a-shoestring-budget "Barnoon Hill"), and tough and scrappy rockers like Rote Kapelle's "Fire Escape." They even dug up a rare demo from Pale Saints, "Colours and Shapes," which shows they were a fine pop band before they discovered atmosphere. These side trips help make the journey a fairly varied one, even within the pretty tight confines of the indie pop scene of 1988. It's also a thoroughly enjoyable trip, whether you were there at the time and want to rediscover the glorious tunes of your long-ago youth, or a neophyte just getting into indie pop. Either way, there is a wealth of brilliant pop on C88 ripe for the picking, enough to keep anyone smart enough to check it out satisfied for a long time, or at least until C89 arrives.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:38
2 3:04
3 2:57
4 3:09
5 1:45
6 2:25
7 3:37
8 3:45
9 1:51
10 4:04
11 2:17
12 2:46
13 2:28
14 2:33
15 2:53
16 3:24
17 2:16
18 3:43
19 4:03
20 4:08
21 2:48
22 2:37
23 2:40
24 4:16

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:56
2 2:21
3
Bob
3:58
4
Cud
2:54
5 3:33
6 2:03
7 5:25
8 3:18
9 3:14
10 2:46
11 3:25
12 2:48
13 3:52
14 3:55
15 3:38
16 3:14
17 3:52
18 2:20
19 3:40
20 3:00
21 3:21
22 4:50
23 1:48
blue highlight denotes track pick