Barack Obama was elected US President. An enormous global stock market crash plunged the world into a huge financial recession. Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever Formula One World Champion. Karen Matthews was convicted of kidnapping her own nine year-old daughter and stuffing her into a divan for a bit. 2008 was a busy ol’ year.
There was still time for culture, entertainment and music, though. Lots of time, in fact. Especially here in Reading.
In 2008, a selfless man called Laurence Hoare (don’t laugh) put a load of time, effort and money into collating a 37-track double album of songs from up-and-coming musical acts local to RG1. You can read more about his efforts here in this BBC News article.
12 years on, after one dedicated STiR fan stumbled across a copy while clearing out her loft, let’s revisit the thing. You know, like when Blue Peter would dig up one of their time capsules from their back garden (is Blue Peter the only TV programme to have its own back garden…? If you can think of any others – do write in and tell us).
Anyway. That album. It was called ‘100% Reading’ and here are the sleeve notes:
I figured I’d review the songs. Not just me, though. I’ve enlisted some help because there’s no way I’m reviewing 37 different songs. I’m not Stuart bleedin’ Maconie. So thanks to:
- The surprisingly-well-dressed-for-an-old-hippy allotment pest Stew Harding
- Local music EXPERT and general face about town Damo Passmore
- Swineshead & Napoleon from the excellent and therapeutic I Like It! podcast
- Jimmy Young (not the Radio 2 DJ one)
- Tex Smith (who definitely still lives around here)
- Mrs. STiR (that poor woman)
Here’s the track listing. See if you recognise anyone…
Where I could find a video, I’ve embedded it. Where there’s no YouTube clip, you’ll just have to imagine what the song sounds like.
Alright, that’s more than enough preamble. Let’s have at it, eh? Here are the first 19 tracks (Part 2 to follow) – reviewed and rated for you by your much-loved STiR & Friends…
1. The Trouble with Me – Beautiful
I’ll admit it, I saw this as an opportunity to be a bit of a snide prick about some bobbins old music. I got a load of people together to help me giggle at slightly naff 12 year-old tunes. Yet when I finally came to listening to the actual music, I was surprised/slightly miffed to find that the first track on the album’s really bloody good. FFS. Melodic, catchy, well produced, this song could easily have slotted into XFM’s playlist. It’s a shame it didn’t too, only once you were on XFM’s playlist, you were never off XFM’s playlist. (Shit Things in Reading)
NB: On researching the band it looks as though both the bassist and singer have died since 2008. Which is rather upsetting. RIP lads.
Rating: 93% Reading – Great song, sad story.
2. Some Like It Hot – Here I Go
More like SUM 41 Like It Hot, amirite? This is a fairly straightforward bit of turn-of-the-century pop punk and the lyrics are awash with cliches. But it goes by very quickly and the longer you listen, the less you mind. Infectious and nostalgia inducing for the early 2000’s, even if it was recorded a few years later. (Damien Passmore)
Rating: 41% Reading – Some like it warm.
3. Junkyard Scientists – Pullin’ On My Strings
Job description inflation was alive and well in 2008. Time was when Junkyard Scientists were just called ‘those blokes that worked at the tip’. For their puppeteer’s anthem, ‘Pullin’ on my Strings’, the local outfit upcycled some funky pizzicato samples and syncopated drum beats and produced a chilled-out 3.5 minutes of passable Jay Kay/Craig David-esque nasal warballing. Is it art? Is it science? Is it junk? YOU DECIDE. (Jimmy Young)
Rating: 53% Reading – JamiroqWHY?!
4. The Skies – Lies
‘Interestingly’, The Who did a song in 1965 called ‘La La La Lies’, which I liked. The Skies, on this track, also do quite a lot of lalalaing about some lying bastards. “This world is full of liars,” they sing. Well, you can’t argue with that. It’s alright, it’s got bags of energy and a nice bashing backbeat. I can’t tell what it is exactly that’s given them the hump, though. Everything maybe. As a result they are aiming to do whatever they like and fuck everyone else. Good luck with that.
I like it, they’re having a right go about something which makes it better than sitting in a squalid bedsit sucking your fist and being all sensitive. I’d enjoy it more if I was out of my head on pills and dope. (Stewart Harding)
Rating: 79% Reading – Not half bad. No lies.
5. To the Barricades – Sunday Best
To the Barricades are not to be confused with Spandau Ballet’s final top ten hit Through the Barricades, a truly dreadful song about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Although it’s easy to mistake them, given the similarity in the names and the fact that I’ve rather confusingly added the Spandau video above. Instead, imagine a different – and slightly better – song. One called ‘Sunday Best’ that isn’t about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Imagined that? Great, you’ve got To the Barricades’ Sunday Best. (STiR)
Rating: 68% Reading – Not Sunday Best, but not Sunday Worst.
6. Monkey Militia – On the Tiles
Erm. It starts off with some porn grunting. It’s either going to be terrible or amazing…
IT’S AMAZING! It’s all about fucking your mum. Yes, specifically yours. They have demurely called the track ‘On The Tiles’, as that’s one of the many surfaces they had her on. And I tell ya’ what, good on your ol’ mum. She might be knocking on a bit now, but she’s a goer – kitchen counters, over tables, on the stairs. On and on it goes. I don’t want to spoil the ending for you, but it’s happy.
Best place to play this song? At your best friend’s Mum’s funeral while staring at him (or her) directly in the eye. #alphaAF (Tex Smith)
Rating: 28% Reading – VULGAR.
7. Hello Wembley – Rock ‘n’ Roll Spoon
This one takes you back to the nearly-forgotten era of landfill Indie. An interesting place to visit, but not one you’d particularly want to hang around in. Like Hunstanton, or Bath. That said, you can imagine yourself in your twenties, off your head on premium lager and bopping about to it on a dancefloor. So there’s that.
VERDICT: I would probably have liked it in 2008. (I Like It! podcast – listen to it here)
Rating: 58% Reading – Loses points for the Patrick Wolf reference.
8. The Charlie Parkers – Forever
Back in 2008, SEO wasn’t as important as it is today. And Spotify was barely out of cybernappies. Nowadays a band would be smart enough not to name themselves after another – much more famous – musical act. Trying to find ‘The Charlie Parkers’ on the internet isn’t easy. It doesn’t help they come from the town with the world’s most SEO-unfriendly name. As far as the internet is concerned, they might as well never have existed. And, I’m sorry to say, based on this song, I feel similar.
Watch the video above. The Brian Jonestown Massacre-looking fella in the middle starts off all cocky with his arm round the female presenter. Then, about 20 seconds in, realises it’s not a great look and quietly peels his arm away. Bless ‘im. Nowadays that sort of carry on would get you #cancelled quicker than a Beer52 subscription. (STiR)
Rating: 52% Reading – Problematic.
9. Grimaldi – Get Along
The band-name defyingly chirpy Bath Road-based supergroup Grim Aldi deliver a harmless slice of feel-good Americana here, with its Beach Boys-cum-Johnny Marr guitar jangles and tinny chorus vocals that wouldn’t feel out of place on the soundtrack to a high school teen Disney movie. Aldi’s centre aisle of shame? Centre aisle of FAME more like. (JY)
Rating: 53% Reading – Should’ve called themselves The Smiffs.
10. Jen-i – Slice
If I’m getting my dates right, I think Jen-i just about predates Apple sticking a small ‘i’ on all their products and, as such, she may well have grounds to sue the late Steve Jobs.
The song itself was a big surprise – a very different ‘slice’ of r&b-infused electronica, driven by a jungle-esque beat and an echoey, ethereal voice. But it’s nearly 7 minutes long and definitely meanders in places – I can’t help but think there’s a great 3 & 1/2 minute tune trapped in there somewhere. (DP)
Rating: 78% Reading – Serious Purple Turtle basement vibez.
11. No Connection – Already Gone
A generic fuzz guitar thrash and an angry young man being all fired up about something. Not sure what. He doesn’t like someone or something. He’s having a go at someone about something, maybe it’s his mum. I think he wants to leave home and I expect his mum probably wants him to as well. It’s alright, would be quite fun if I was all pissed up and full of amphetamines. (SH)
Rating: 63% Reading – No Connection? They must be on Talkmobile.
12. Chuck – Shakespeare’s Road
“I wanna live on Shakespeare’s Road,” the John Lydonesque singer (repeatedly) yell-sings here. Which is presumably why Chuck called this song ‘Shakespeare’s Road’. You have to imagine that he was never serious about living on Shakespeare’s road, though. Given that he lived in Reading when he (repeatedly) yell-sang that. And not Stratford-Upon-Avon where Shakespeare’s actual road would have been.
The album sleeve notes suggest that this song was recorded sometime in the early/mid-90’s and it shows. My guess is that it was recorded about five minutes after the band got back home from a Public Image Ltd. gig. (Mrs. STiR)
Rating: 40% Reading – Anger is an energy. But then so’s Lucozade.
13. Jonny Virgo – Joggin’ ‘n’ Doggin’
This is just the ticket. Combining three things we like – hip hop, exercise and dogging – Jonny Virgo manages to be funny whilst hammering out an actually-bloody-good tune. And you have to presume that name’s a nod to the co-host of Big Break, and that obviously gets bonus points.
VERDICT: I LIKE IT! (I Like It! podcast – listen to it here)
Rating: 93% Reading – Best listened to while climaxing in the back of a Citroen Zafira.
14. Jewels and The Jacuzzis – One Love
My tired old senile brain immediately went “ah, art student music”. I like girl singers so I thought I would review this according to what the music made me feel. Well it made me feel my cock. It took me right back to days watching studenty bands and wondering why I couldn’t get anywhere with nice arty student girls especially when they are advocating love for all. I’ll have some of that, yes please, hand it over, no chance. Basically I have absolutely no fucking idea what this song is all about but it has a nice bit of a reggae beat when it finally settles down. It’s okay, I always fancied girls wearing a tutu and Doc Martins.
I wonder what the eponymous “Jewels” is doing today. Perhaps she is called Julia and works in media. There was a girl called Julia who went to Kendrick who I fancied. I would have liked this song more if I was out of my brain on barley wine and weed. (SH)
Rating: 65% Reading – Not bad, but not as good as having actual jewels and a real Jacuzzi.
15. Aisle 22 – If I Can
From the moment it opens with the sound of stormy rain clouds breaking to give way to grating violin/viola (no idea), Aisle 22’s ‘If I Can’ offers up a sincerely bleak dirge with vocal timbre that puts you in mind of Elbow. Sometimes it’s hard to tell your arse from your Elbow, though.
If there’s a spill in Aisle 22, it’s the tears of anyone that listens to this song. Or the rain from those clouds. Or from a jar of Lloyd Grossman’s arrabiatta pasta sauce. (JY)
Rating: 80% Reading – Aisle admit, it’s a decent little song, this.
16. My Luminaries – A Little Declaration
I saw My Luminaries quite a lot back in the day and they were a hot tip for success. They were always good to watch with thoughtful, well-worked, confident songs. They could’ve been The Killers with the right breaks. This song is representative of their output, a wall of sound provided by guitars and drums with dynamic pauses for the singer to take over. This would go well as a festival anthem, it’s got just the right swing and heft. Fuck knows what it’s about, I’m not very good at listening to the words. I think he’s annoyed with his girlfriend and wishes he was a lumberjack.
I would have enjoyed this more if I was 25, out with my mates and full of rum and Coke. (SH)
Rating: 83% Reading – Better than most ‘big’ songs Indie 2008 plopped out.
17. The Noyze – Welcome to the Future
I remember The Noyze. They tried VERY HARD to be the ‘bad boys’ of Reading’s music scene. Sex Pistols they weren’t. Heck, Pete Doherty they weren’t. And booked twice by the same promoter they weren’t, either. This track sums all that up – an attempt at wildness hemmed in by an inability to actually be all that wild. It’s over 5 minutes long, this and feels twice that.
Also, there’s a degree of irony listening to a track called ‘Welcome To The Future’ 12 years after it was recorded (trust me guys, the future ain’t what you think it’ll be). (DP)
Rating: 39% Reading – It’s all just Noyze, really.
18. Jones Radio – Travelling Show
These guys named themselves after an obscure shop on the Oxford Road. That says a lot. And this track is a lot of fun to listen to. Haunting, echoing guitars, sparse vocals and a steady beat keeps it all interesting. Peaks, troughs, highs, lows, unexpected keyboard riffs – it truly takes you on a journey. Like the title suggests. (DP)
Rating: 90% Reading – Better than Alex Jones’ radio show.
19. Papa Alpha ft. Kirsten McIver – Cotton Clouds
Aaaaaaah yes, the band Portishead could have been if only they’d been BRAVE enough to use didgeridoos. Listening to this, I immediately felt like I’d had too many drugs/not enough drugs/what even are drugs? And I want to dance to this, all sway-y, like, at 4am in a smoke-filled room in some dodgy house we’ve all ended up at. A tiny piece of my mind thinking, ‘where am I again?’ And ‘was this a brilliant idea on a Tuesday night? The night before my best friend’s Mum’s funeral?’ But it’s too late. You’re inside the song. And there you stay until it spits you out. (Tex)
Rating: ?% Reading – When you think about it, we’re all just atoms bouncing inside around a simulation of a simulation, man. Soundwaves reflecting off each other, interconnected, as one. We’re only what we perceive ourselves to be. Fuck, I’m hungry. Where are the Pringles?
PART 2 COMING SOON…
Here’s hoping a bunch of snide robots from the future dig these reviews up in the future and shit all over them, eh? It’s the least we deserve.