First things first I’m looking at the artwork wondering what on earth it is and then after about a week I see the eggbox. It’s been like one of those early 90’s deep-sea pictures you have to stare at, or at least that’s what I felt like. Right onto ‘Un Scene’ and it’s important to document of 78-82 timeframe in England’s second city and how it was developing following the youf explosion of 76-77.
I guess considering Birmingham or the wider area of the middle part of England has generally been ignored or rather overlooked compared to the contribution to youth/pop culture of the 20th Century. the North West gave the world Merseybeat and Beatlemania then post-punk we had that jangly guitar of Icicle Works, Teardrop explodes, Pete Burns, The Bunnymen, and a whole load of other post-punk bands. Madchester (Still in the northwest) followed that with the whole Hacienda scene and Stone Roses. The East Midlands gave the world Two-Tone but what about Birmingham? Sure Slade was west midlands and the Duranies hailed from Brum in the wake of punk but once you scratch the surface there was a whole underground world of creative forces and this wonderful little time capsule offers up a small dark corner of Birmingham and shines a light on in with a very nice booklet documenting the featured bands with some fantastic pictures, live shots, band images, posters and magazine covers of the main protagonists of this featured record/CD.
Laid out over nineteen tracks this snapshot doesn’t always reach the dizzy quality of your modern recordings but often that’s the charm. No doubt these bands worked and played hard to scrape together the dosh to record these songs and it’s important that records like this exist. Maybe there’s a good reason why none of these bands achieved the same adoration some of the other midlands genres achieved but bands like Swell Maps, the Nightingales, Nikki Sudden and TV Eye had a modicum of success and remained firmly placed as underground heroes and icons.
Some of the live recordings are sort of tape deck quality and proper old school whereas other more notable inclusions such as Stephen Tin Tin Duffy’s The Hawkes have ‘Big Store’ included and Comedian Stewart Lees wonderful doc about The Nightingales sees them included with their new wave-like ‘Idiot Strength’. I guess it wouldn’t be complete without Swell Maps who see ‘Vertical Slum’ included. My personal favourite is obviously the inclusion of Nikki Sudden with ‘Channel Steamer’. But what really is the crowning glory is the booklet giving all the meat on the bone from Dave Twists’ own collection, with all the cuttings it’s a fascinating insight into a whole world that is captured in this wonderful time capsule (Besides Twist plays drums on a lot so as long as his memory is half decent his stories must be amazing). Stewart Lee says it perfectly as Birmingham in the UKs motor City and seeing as the likes of Dave Kusworth and John Taylors inclusion also here (Duranies take note), sudden and his brother are no longer with us and the recent passing of Dave Kusworth this is a wonderful artifact that serious fans need to absorb and marvel at what the cold concrete of England’s second city had going on beneath the city lights I implore you to hear and read this most excellent offering. buy it!
Author: Dom Daley