I wouldn’t even have heard of Nikka Costa if not for the inclusion of the song Everybody Got Their Something on the Radio Sunnydale album (reviewed elsewhere on this blog)…it kind of blew me away! It reminded me of pint-sized yowler Anastacia but far more mature and accomplished. Having obtained a copy of the album, it’s fairly obvious that Nikka can do everything Anastacia can and then some.

    I just love this album. The first song, Like A Feather, is like Prince at his funkiest and feistiest; well, if he hadn’t already done all his best work in the 80s, y’know. Brilliant. Check it out on Youtube. Similarly, Hope It Felt Good is funky as hell but more reminiscent of an older visceral furrow that was ploughed to such great effect in the 70s by Sly Stone. Elsewhere we find Tug Of War, a song that throws the listener several curveballs; just when you think you’re got the measure of it, the song veers off in an unexpected direction. I’m surprised that Joss Whedon (or whoever chose the music for Buffy) didn’t choose to include the song Nothing, what with its aching strings and lip-wobbling heartbreak; it would have been perfect for a particularly gut-wrenching episode of Buffy!

    Vocally and musically there doesn’t seem to be much Nikka can’t do…soul, funk, bluesy rock, ballads that can move you to tears (well, nearly) all with a modern twist and produced by Mark Ronson. I can’t believe she’s not huge. Maybe she is in the States. Let me know, American readers!

    Basically this is a near-perfect album and I’ll be tracking down the others that came after it very soon.

  • YEAH YEAH YEAHS - Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2002)

    When I think about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs I get the same kind of ambivalent feelings that you might have towards a cheating yet endlessly alluring ex-lover. I kind of feel betrayed and warm inside at the same time. Maybe I should explain a bit.

    I had the incredible good fortune to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform in 2002 in a tiny club in London. I think it might even have been their first gig in London. Little did I suspect I was about to witness one of the best gigs I had seen in too many years. The drummer, Brian Chase, had a serious and studious look that was at the same time slightly ridiculous, kind of like a Ghostbuster. Meanwhile the guitarist, Nick Zinner, was skeletally thin, pale and entirely wrapped in black, with a vertical shock of black back-combed hair straight from the Eighties. I sipped my pint and watched the pair set up their instruments. Suddenly the atmosphere changed entirely, becoming instantly charged with rock n roll excitement. Singer Karen O had just taken to the stage. Dressed in intriguing tatters and carrying several beer bottles in one hand like maracas, Karen yelped, squealed and threw herself around the tiny stage, hypnotising the audience all at once. She had the rare gift of making you feel like the gig was all for you, directed at you personally, while at the same time not even appearing to take it that seriously. It was like a brilliant joke that you were in on. The music was somewhere between the best bits of The Cramps, The Pixies, The Stooges, and The Birthday Party. I was really excited by all this, and for a while the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were my new favourite band, and I duly went to see them several more times.

    Not long after that, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs EP appeared. (Actually untitled, the EP tends to be referred to as the Master EP, after the word on the necklace around Karen O’s neck on the sleeve.) This blistering 5-track EP was and is one of my favourite recordings of the Noughties, crackling as it does with the kind of energy that a listener might expect from a live radio session. I absolutely urge you to go and find yourself a copy of this recording, even if you don’t bother with anything else on this blog. It’s worth a fiver of anyone’s money. Bang is perhaps the best song, sounding as it does like P J Harvey in her classic Dry and Rid Of Me days, but all are perfect. And if anyone reading this has a copy on vinyl, I’ll buy it off you. (email me at

    Yet by the first album, Fever To Tell (2003), the apparently mighty Yeah Yeah Yeahs sounded to my ears to be faltering already. Somehow the songs which had sounded so amazing live didn’t seem to work quite so well as recordings. Something was definitely missing, although the song Maps rightly gained the band a lot of attention from the media. Hmm, I thought. Oh well, I’m sure it will all work itself out for the next album.

    Three years would elapse before the band’s second album, Show Your Bones. I can honestly say that I have never been so disappointed by an album. I expected so much, and what I got was a bunch of half-baked, samey, watery and unconvincing old tosh, most of which sounded like several different bands. There was not a single song I liked. Slowly, painfully, the truth became clear to me – whatever the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had, they had just lost it completely.

    In the half-decade since then, one further EP and a third album have emerged, the latter even including (of all the jarringly inappropriate things) some electronic dance elements.

    So that’s the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The first EP is great, the first album is OK, the rest of it is just crap (regardless of what NME might try to tell you).

    Yet still I love them...!

  • NOT ACCEPTED ANYWHERE - The Automatic (2006)

    This one might prove a bit controversial, in terms of obscurity. After all, less than five years ago Monster was a big hit and The Automatic were well in favour with the likes of NME and Radio 1. Since then, however, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the band have begun a steeply angled dive into obscurity. Having been dropped by their major label backers the band have released two more albums, sadly to increasing indifference. It's a damned shame, when the names of talent-lite underachievers are being shouted from the rafters. Particularly when Not Accepted Anywhere was arguably one of the best debut albums of the Noughties.

    Monster is of course the catchiest song, but throughout we discover a fine selection of smartly barbed indie pop tunes with a sly sense of humour. Also, I actually liked Alex Pennie's atonal screeching underpinning the lead vocals of Robin Hawkins, although not everyone felt the same. (In any case, Pennie was gone by the second album.) And what's not to like about a band that gives you a comic on the cd inlay instead of boring crap like lyrics and sleeve notes??

    In summary - The Automatic are as surely destined for the "successful first album and critical acclaim followed by utter obscurity" route that Mansun pursued in the Nineties. But their obscurity is every bit as unjust and ill-deserved as the other bands on this blog.

    Do yourself a favour and pick yourself up a copy of Not Accepted Anywhere. You won't regret it. My copy cost £1 because it was ex-library stock, but had I known it was going to be brilliant I would happily have paid more. Sorry about that, lads!!

  • STRANGELOVE - Strangelove (1997)

    I saw Strangelove live at the Cockpit in Leeds in 1997, and it remains one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Strangelove’s charismatic singer Patrick Duff was described in the press as “eye-poppingly intense” in a live situation, which turned out to be something of an understatement. Duff glared, ranted, stage-dived, even ripped out some of his own hair during the song Sea Of Black, all the while with a knowing wink to the audience – he was clearly taking the piss. Wasn’t he? Well…probably.

    Strangelove was the band’s third album, but really this recommendation could be for any of the three studio albums they recorded (the first being Time For The Rest Of Your Life, the second Love And Other Demons). Strangelove's songwriting was consistently excellent, including the b-sides – a posthumous b-sides compilation surfaced in 2008. An early review of one of the band’s performances described Duff as “Morrisey if tutored by Scott Walker”, which is not such a bad description for the songs themselves. Time For The Rest Of Your Life remains my favourite single, including as it does a drily amusing cover of Bob Dylan’s Motorpsycho Nitemare, although I also still love the song Freak - the lines I hear my mummy crying in her sleep/he’s a freak amuse me to this day.

    Sadly this album proved to be the last huzzah for the band, as they were to split up the following year. Patrick Duff has since started a solo career, while guitarist Alex Lee has aided and abetted Placebo and Goldfrapp in recent years.

    If you’re lucky, you might find a Strangelove album or single languishing in a charity shop or car boot sale near you – if so, I would suggest that you snap it up immediately! Good Lord, he’s a freak…


    Babes In Toyland were a late 80s/early 90s three-piece female grunge band fronted by the fiery Kat Bjelland on vocals and guitar. Bjelland boasted an extraordinary voice that could out-yowl any female rock vocalist before or since, and this trio (for my money, anyway) were far better at what they did than the more successful L7 or Hole. “Sweet 69” is possibly the Babes’ best tune, and still one my favourite songs by anyone ever, although “He’s My Thing” is a close second.

    Consistent albums were not exactly this band’s strong suit, which is why I’ve recommended this retrospective compilation.

    God bless em.

  • PUBIC FRUIT - Curve (1992)

    Curve’s one-word band name and early Nineties gestation was enough for some of the music press to lump them in with the likes of Ride, but far from being scruffy indie shoegazers Curve were in fact carving out new territory for themselves by marrying the spirit of Goth to a dirty and danceable edge. (It would not be long before Goth unexpectedly began to embrace it's former mortal enemy - dance music - once and for all.) Those of you who recall the rather more successful late Nineties band Garbage probably know that their loudmouth singer Shirley Manson rated Curve as their biggest influence. (Garbage's self-titled debut is well worth a listen, by the way.) Curve have also since been credited with influencing Marilyn Manson, among others - so they cast a pretty long shadow over the Nineties without getting much of the glory themselves. A double "best of" album, The Way Of Curve, emerged in 2004, shortly before the band split (presumably for good) in 2005. I would recommend that you check it out.

    Pubic Fruit isn't an album as such, this is a compilation of three early EPs, which was put together for the American market. For many fans, this early collection showcases the band at their best. It's certainly rougher around the edges than the more polished Doppelganger album. Personally I could listen to the song Ten Little Girls all day.

    The band were, to be fair, something of a one trick pony, but it was a damn good trick. The Way Of Curve is gonna be in my car stereo for some time yet...

  • SELF DESTRUCTION BLUES – Hanoi Rocks (1982)

    Somehow, I have never been able to shake my fascination with Hanoi Rocks. Musically the Finnish band's strange hybrid of 70s-era Rolling Stones, the Clash, The Stooges, New York Dolls, and a myriad of varying glam and punk influences remains pretty much unique to this day, although I suspect that the band simply saw themselves as “flying the flag for rock n roll”. As for the image, their Bambi-eyed blond frontman Michael Monroe and the band's apparent penchant for self-destruction ensured that their legacy would live on for many years after they originally split in 1984 following the death of their drummer Razzle [look it up – I can’t be bothered to relate the story here].

    According to Mike Monroe, Axl Rose once told him that Guns N Roses would never have achieved the position of dominance that they did if Hanoi Rocks had still been together. I doubt if Hanoi's continued existence would have prevented the unstoppable rise of Guns N Roses, but this interesting piece of hearsay says a lot about how influential the band were. Rumour has it that Guns N Roses recorded a version of the elegantly titled Beer And A Cigarette for their album of punky covers The Spaghetti Incident – shame it didn’t make the final cut...

    Self Destruction Blues has always been my favourite Hanoi album despite being a grab-bag of b-sides and early singles. This album effectively showcases what I always considered to be their greatest strength – the raw and bruised emotionality that most of their work is steeped in. Well, the early stuff anyway. Self Destruction Blues pinballs between raucous punkish numbers such as Problem Child and lip-wobbling tales of heartache like Love’s An Injection and Whispers In The Dark, stopping along the way for epic proto-sleaze like Taxi Driver.

    Hanoi Rocks reformed in the Noughties and knocked out several new albums before going their separate ways once again. And still I’ve never ever seen them live! Maybe I'll catch Mike Monroe on a solo tour some day, who knows...

  • ATTACK OF THE GREY LANTERN - Mansun (1997)

    Mansun was an unfortunate choice of name, considering that this was at a time when Marilyn Manson was at the height of his worldwide notoriety. In any case, Mansun, led by charismatic weed Paul Draper (2nd from the right, above) were complete misfits in the world of Britpop; too sensitive for Oasis fans yet too Northern laddish for Placebo fans, and too downright weird for pretty much everyone else. I mean, who writes songs with titles like Egg Shaped Fred and Stripper Vicar?

    Personally I think they were one of the most underrated bands of the Britpop era (and many fell by the wayside), and Attack of the Grey Lantern is little short of a masterpiece. Yes, really! Although Wide Open Space is perhaps the only song that a casual listener (over the age of 20) might just possibly remember or recognise, the album is stuffed full of similar gems that all glint with the kind of assured polish that one might reasonably expect from a band on their fourth album rather than their debut. Inexplicably omitted is a song called The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which appeared on the She Makes My Nose Bleed cd single - one of my favourite Nineties indie songs without a doubt. Like Strangelove, Mansun's b-sides were frequently as good as their album tracks.

    Mansun pretty much dropped off the radar after their early success, remembered (if at all) as the terminally uncool nerds of the Britpop class. A terrible shame, because this is a brilliant album.

  • FILTH HOUNDS OF HADES - Tank (1982)

    Tank were a New Wave of British Heavy Metal band operating in the early Eighties. NWOBHM, as it is still affectionately known, was the catch-all term given to the defiant resurgence in heavy metal music that happened almost as soon as the original punk movement had (perhaps somewhat prematurely) been declared dead, let's say 1979/1980-ish. Tank were, to be fair, unashamed Motorhead wannabes but their thrashy double-time drumming set them slightly ahead of Metallica's 1983 debut album Kill Em All, which in my book should secure this pimply band of British drunkards their place in Thrash history (or pre-history anyway) as well as NWOBHM history. They were genuinely funny too - Tank successfully injected humour into the proceedings at any given opportunity (one song is titled I Fell In Love With A Stormtrooper) in a way that only Motorhead seemed prepared to do, and for that I love them even more. Metallica's James Hetfield has spoken up for Tank more than once, and I would certainly add my (considerably less influential) voice to praise them as well. Their debut Filth Hounds Of Hades is a top album (with a title that would be the envy of Spinal Tap), but a word of warning - Tank's other albums tend to suck mightily...

  • SPIDERLAND - Slint (1991)

    Certainly one of the strangest bands in my collection, Slint were keen on creating a sense of creeping dread punctuated by moments of crashingly dramatic instrumentation, all strung together by unsettling spoken-word narratives.

    Best of all is Good Morning, Captain, which apparently tells the tale of a shipwrecked captain waking up in an unfamiliar setting. The story (such as it is) is pretty much impossible to make any sense of, yet somehow moments such as the barely audible whisper I'm sorry sounds in context like a line from a particularly disturbing old horror film. Brilliant, brilliant band. There is one other album prior to this one, intriguingly titled Tweez, which to my shame I still haven't bought. In recent years Slint have occasionally reformed, sometimes performing Spiderland in it's entirety to audiences of lucky lucky bastards. Check 'em out!

  • BLISTERS (EP) - Sugarcoma (2002)

    Sugarcoma, if remembered at all, might be written off as bratty teenage nu-metal also-rans who covered Britney Spears' Crazy in an amusing metal style. Well...all the above is pretty much true, but I would certainly recommend checking out their stonking 2002 EP Blisters. Jess Mayers' vocals effortlessly switch from defiant yet vulnerable to an almost death metallish snarl, the guitar riffs are basic but brutally effective, the drums are...a bit crap, actually, but when the whole comes together as well as this you should be prepared to overlook the odd failing. Blisters, particularly, is an excellent song that should have been an early Noughties metal anthem, or at least it should have secured Sugarcoma a spot playing in The Bronze in an episode of Buffy.

  • HEAVENS END - Loop (1987)


    This bizarre droning masterpiece came out back in 1987, before doom metal or stoner rock the time Loop were lumped in with the likes of Spacemen 3 by the press, but in truth were rather more influenced by bands like Can and the Stooges (and avant garde composer Steve Reich, supposedly). Wherever the inspiration came from, Heavens End was like a sacred indie rock text at my school. We would sit listening to it in the sixth form common room having either inhaled Tippex thinner (a popular glue substitute in those days) or drunk water with ground nutmeg (because we had read in some William Burroughs book that the effects were "vaguely similar to marijuana"). Anyway...

    It's hard to describe this band if you've never heard them...the riffs repeat and shimmer endlessly in a perfect electric hum while the solos spider off in all directions...Straight To Your Heart is a brilliant example of Loop's trippy work. I can't believe it's taken this long for the album to be reissued. Spacemen 3 and the even more turgid and tedious Spiritualized can just bugger off, frankly.

    Oh yeah...if you like this one, check out their second album Fade Out as well.

    "I honestly think you should sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over..."

  • THE BLUE GARDEN - Masters Of Reality (1988)

    Oooohh, what a legendary f**king album! Taking its cues from classic Seventies rock yet at the same time bursting at the seams with apparently effortless inventiveness, this is a brilliant piece of work. You will search in vain for any filler, my friend…there just isn’t any!

    Chris Goss’ crooning vocals might not be to everyone’s taste, but come on…with riffs like this, who can complain? There’s nothing but pure gold to be found from start to finish. At the time, the band enjoyed comparisons with rock demigods like Led Zep and The Doors, and although that might be overstating the case somewhat you can hear why. And strangely it sounds as though Goss had his tongue firmly in his cheek for a lot of it, as if the whole exercise wasn’t even designed to be taken that seriously (check out The Candy Song). Who knows? Whatever, it’s a great album that is rare as hens teeth, by the way, because it's been deleted for years…I had one copy on cassette which has since disappeared under very suspicious circumstances, and I’ve seen it a grand total of twice on cd (the second time I had money to buy it, fortunately). This album tends to change hands on Ebay for 20 quid and upwards, on the rare occasions that it appears on there at all; on Amazon you can expect to pay the best part of 40 quid!

    Masterfully produced by Rick Rubin, this album has dated remarkably well...probably because it sounded nothing like what most bands were doing in 1988. Listening to it today it's very difficult to associate it with any particular era. There's a kind of almost magical "rightness" about it all that is rare to find and impossible to fake or replicate.

    You could quite reasonably have expected Masters Of Reality to be huge back in those pre-grunge days. Except, they toured only to discover that they hated each other. The band dissolved quickly afterwards. This was far from the end of the story, however, as Goss has continued MOR on and off with various line-ups ever since. When he wasn’t producing Kyuss, later to (partially) become Queens of the Stone Age, that is...

  • DISSENT - Linoleum (1997)

    Linoleum were a short-lived UK band that briefly enjoyed the patronage of Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley on Radio 1, managing one more album after this one (the second album was Race From The Burning Building, which featured a fairly predictable cover of The Passions' classic single I'm In Love With A German Film Star) before splitting up and evaporating into utter obscurity. This oddball band actually used to distribute albums with sleeves made from linoleum, apparently because one of the band worked as a linoleum cutter. Anyway, onto the album...;)

    Dissent is something of a lost gem, definitely one of my favourite indie albums of the 90s. The music is spikey and dramatic, yet unexpectedly tender in places...their signature tune On A Tuesday is a good place to start if you want to dip your toe, so to speak. Caroline Finch's weirdly atonal vocals are a bit marmite - you'll either love em or hate em. On this album it all gels perfectly though.

    "Funny how you never call me on Tuesday..."


    I'm not sure if this really qualifies as obscure, since Spirit are probably no strangers to readers of Mojo or Classic Rock. I'm guessing however, since I wouldn't touch either of those publications with a long bargepole. F**k it, let's include Spirit anyway.

    This is kind of like the more psychedelic side of Steppenwolf filtered through a fierce Zappa-like intelligence, blessed with the hippy sensitivity of Tim Buckley...well, kind of! Spirit seamlessly blend rock, folk, jazz, everything really, and somehow it all works beautifully...this is a mellow masterpiece that rocks hard when it wants to. Probably best to listen to it in the Spring or Summer if you can...enjoy...:D

  • NUMBER ONE - Pist.on (1996)

    Shortly before the plague that was Nu Metal established a (mercifully brief) stranglehold on the wild world of Metal, the late Nineties were a fertile breeding ground for misfits and oddities like Pist.on. The band specialised in a kind of angsty indie metal, heavier than Type O Negative yet quite at home covering The Smiths...

    Their debut album, Number One, is absolutely stuffed with forgotten anthems. Henry Font was a great songwriter, and ample evidence abounds here. Perhaps best of all is the oddly-named Grey Flap, which I would heartily recommend downloading as a taster for the rest of the album. Elsewhere we have other instant classics like Down And Out, Parole and Turbulent. Bloody marvellous it is!

    Also armed with a scary girl bassist and seemingly close links with the likes of Type O and Marilyn Manson, Pist.On looked all set to be the next big thing in metal. Yet just one album later, (the bitterly titled Sell Out), the band spilt up for good, utterly disillusioned with the music business. Damned shame.

  • PRIDE & GLORY - Pride & Glory (1994)

    My word! A friend tipped me off about this one and I am eternally grateful. Before Zakk Wylde ever thought of forming Black Label Society, he produced this solid gold nugget of enduring brilliance way back in 1994.

    This album is...well, faultless really. Wylde originally wanted to call his three piece band Lynyrd Skynhead, and you can hear why. This is unashamed deep-fried Southern rock par excellence. If that sounds as heavenly to you as it does to me, then this album should definitely be on your wish list (along with an accompanying bottle of JD, of course).

    What surprised me is just how much better this is than anything he has since recorded with Black Label Society...this leaves BLS in the dust, effortlessly. Why he didn't stick with Pride and Glory will be one of rock's saddest mysteries.

    It only remains to say...Yeeeehaaaah!

  • FANTANICITY - Nut (1996)

    I heard the song Scream by Nut on Radio 1 at the time (1996-ish), where it was played briefly by Nicky Campbell before disappearing into the unplumbed depths of obscurity. I thought it was amazing, though, and went straight out and bought it. Since then I've managed to find copies of Nut's other singles and her only album (as far as I'm aware), Fantanicity.

    The obscurity of this melancholy masterpiece is an enduring mystery to me...I've only ever met one person who's even heard of Nut, but don't let that put you off. In terms of sound I guess Tanya Donnelly in her Belly days might be the nearest comparison, but that doesn't get close to describing the brilliance of this album. It's a very self-assured piece of work, more a third album than a first...lovely lovely stuff.

    Good luck finding a copy, which you absolutely should do. Right now!

    P.S. - As Tom pointed out in his comment below, Nut is now known as Kata and her website is here:

  • RADIO SUNNYDALE (UK version) - Various Artists (2003)

    As an unashamed member of The Cult of Buffy (1996 - present), I have of course tracked down a copy of "Radio Sunnydale" (finally).

    I am ecstatic to report that this album is a glittering treasure trove of obscure US indie artists. The only band I have ever heard of is The Dandy Warhols (not that they're obscure, but they're the only ones on the album who aren't, in the UK at least). This is an album to give your full undivided attention to - stick it on your ipod and listen to a few songs at a time, would be my recommendation. I have no idea who Devics are or were, or indeed Dashboard Prophets, Lunatic Calm, or Nikka Costa, but I would certainly like to find out more about all of them.

    In terms of musical genres the album varies, but it's fair to say that it all pretty much has that bittersweet "life would be so beautiful if we weren't all completely f**ked up and doomed" kind of vibe that runs through the tv show from start to finish. Which is wonderful, in my book. I love this album. When eventually I have sucked out every drop of goodness from it, I'll move on to buying up albums by the individual artists. Mwahahaha!

    p.s Incidentally, the only song I actually remembered hearing from an episode was "Sugar Water" by Cibo Matto, which is the background music to Buffy giving Xander a bit of a sexy dance in Season 2 (I think).

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