Various Artists

Pillows & Prayers: The DVD

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Cherry Red's Pillows and Prayers sampler, released at the end of 1982, was extremely popular for an early-'80s British indie rock compilation (in part because of its cheap price), selling more than 100,000 copies. In 1984, director Christopher Collins made a film of the same name that essentially strung together six videos of songs by Cherry Red artists. Note, however, that despite sharing the same title, this is not a video of the album. Just three of the six artists on the video (Everything But the Girl, Marine Girls, and Eyeless in Gaza) were on the Pillows and Prayers album, and just one of the six songs, Everything But the Girl's "On My Mind," was on the album (the other three acts are Kevin Hewick, Fantastic Something, and the Monochrome Set). At any rate, Pillows and Prayers -- The DVD is above-average for mid-'80s rock video, the clips showing the artists in peculiar, sometimes surrealistic settings that seem halfway between the British suburbs and the British countryside, although the Monochrome Set's "Jet Set Junta" is a more conventional performance-on-soundstage looking bit. The clips are linked together, on a more surrealistic note, by '50s British TV advertisements, as well as a bored-looking young woman switching a TV channel to mark the start of many of the different sections. The music, in keeping with the Cherry Red aesthetic, is diverse and poppy in an uncommercial way, combining new wave with some suave jazziness and quirky humility. This film forms the core of this DVD release, but there's a lot more material, starting with three "bonus tracks." These are a trio of more standard videos from the era of Medium Medium's "Hungry So Angry" (one of the few Cherry Red recordings from the time that might be familiar to Americans), Eyeless in Gaza's "Veil Like Calm," and Monochrome Set's "Jacobs Ladder," the last of which deviates from the usual lip-synced performance for goofier images. Finally, much of the DVD's devoted to a lengthy interview with Cherry Red founder Iain McNay and label A&R man Mike Alway, both of whom were vital in getting the Cherry Red company off the ground. Filmed simply in a continuous talking-headshot, this is an interesting and straightforward look back at the label's contributions to British alternative rock in the late '70s and early '80s, with numerous names of artists flying back and forth that will be unrecognizable to all but truly devoted collectors. Some names that are recognizable are Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn of Everything But the Girl, and McNay and Alway summon some neat stories of Cherry Red's work with the duo when they were all but unknown. While Pillows and Prayers -- The DVD itself is pretty short, this is a pretty good value for those with an intense interest in Cherry Red and/or early- to mid-'80s British indie rock, running 83 minutes in all.

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