From Aquamarine fanzine.
A couple of issues ago I reviewed the Sarah tribute EP on Matinée; any label that releases something like this (particularly as it included a Sea Urchins song) is well worth getting to know more about, so I got in touch with Matinée about their other releases and I’m so glad I did – they’ve released so much great stuff! The first 7″ was by Sweet William, and the insert notes by Jimmy who runs the label are so enthusiastic about his reasons for starting the label. He’s really into 80s indiepop and said that if Another Sunny Day, Remember Fun, Razorcuts, The Siddeleys, Brighter, The Field Mice, early Primal Scream, The Sea Urchins and The Windmills (amongst others) were still around today he’d ask them to be on his label. He’s actually achieved getting some of these – either the original bands or new bands featuring people from those bands – on Matinée, but more about this later. The Sweet William 7″ itself, Dutch Mother, has 3 tracks of early Field Mice-like indiepop, and is definitely my favourite of all the Sweet William releases I’ve heard. Sweet William also have another 7″ on Matinée, Lovely Norman EP, which also shows a strong Field Mice influence, along with Blueboy perhaps? The third track is the one that stands out the most on this 7″.
Ego have a 3 song 7″, The Question Mark EP, and despite the band’s name, this isn’t big ego music but 80s-ish janglepop that’s cute but in the best sense (on the a-side) and on the b-side the guitars are less jangly and there’s violin and piano and I think there’s a cello there too, so it’s not really a cutie thing, but it’s still quite an 80s kind of indiepop.
Bella Vista have four janglepop songs on their 7″, which come across sort of like a mixture of the Fat Tulips, The Haywains and Talulah Gosh. The band have been compared to The Carousel; the “ba-ba” bit in Was The Last, and the bit right at the end of this song are reminiscent of them but don’t expect them to sound overall like The Carousel. The Carousel/Talulah Gosh connection continues with Sportique, but personnel-wise rather than sound-wise. Sportique are probably the band on Matinée that people in this country are likely to be most familiar with, but for those who don’t already know about them, they are Gregory Webster (Razorcuts, Carousel, Saturn V, Forever People), Rob Pursey (Heavenly, Talulah Gosh, Marine Research) and Mark Flunder (Television Personalities, McTells). Their Love & Remains 7″ is like a cross between all Gregory Webster’s bands except for The Carousel, and the best bits of the McTells and TVPs. They also have the same kind of 60s organ sound that Mighty Mighty, and the (early) Sea Urchins had (this is the only similarity Sportique have with thse two bands though).
I was very keen to hear The Fairways’ Darling, Don’t You Think? 7″ as the title track was compared to The Sea Urchins and early Primal Scream. The latter comparison is promising enough, but I’m such a Sea Urchins fan that I’ve just gotta hear anything that’s meant to sound like them! Listening to this 7″, I dunno how much they actually sound like The Sea Urchins – they have the same kind of jangly guitar sound but they’re more obviously pop than The Sea Urchins ever were. Although they don’t sound as much like The Sea Urchins as I thought they might, I’m definitely not disappointed with this single! Another band The Fairways have been compared to is Blueboy, and This Is Farewell is rather Blueboy-ish. Nowhere To Go has a more folky, late 60s feel. I can highly recommend all three of these songs – really catchy stuff.
Monterey mix old style janglepop with violin and electronic elements, but despite this last bit this is no way an indie-dance thing. I’m occasionally reminded of The Busy Signals but Monterey don’t have the hip-hop influence The Busy Signals have. Although part of Monterey’s sound is old style janglepop, overall they have a more modern sound than most bands on Matinée. Lovejoy are a band with Blueboy connections and their lineup also includes ex-Spinning Wheels (remember them? They had a pretty good 7″ on Tea Time called A Million Years). The fact that they’re a Blueboy offshoot band is not at all surprising, as Getting Away With It All and Winter LD are in a similar vein to the best Blueboy stuff. Merry Go Round is more like The Spinning Wheels but not as jangly – another excellent song.
Harper Lee are Keris Howard (ex-Brighter/Hal) and Laura Bridge who was apparently something to do with Hood and Boyracer. I may be wrong but I seem to have a vague memory of her writing for Brain Child fanzine which I believe people from Hood were involved with. Harper Lee sound nothing like Hood or Boyracer though – basically these are Brighter songs, if I didn’t know this was Harper Lee I’d say it was Brighter. Brighter fans – you need this single! Two minimal indiepop songs with harsh, resentful lyrics which are a total contrast to the music itself.
The Windmills released one 7″ in the 80s and were never heard of since, which explains why Jimmy thought they were no longer around. Turns out they were still going and so Jimmy does get to release something by them on his label! This is a CD album called Edge Of August. I never heard their original 7″ but I’d be surprised if their sound has changed much since then, as this CD contains some very late 80s style indiepop. A pretty good collection of retro janglepop; particularly worth a listen are Tired And Emotional, Three Sixty Degrees, Bad Luck Charm, Edge Of August and Not My Fault, which are superb. Roy Thirlwall, singer/guitarist with The Windmills is also in Melodie Group, who have a CD out on Matinée called Seven Songs. This is also 80s sounding indiepop that Windmills fans are sure to like. Wildest Dream is also reminiscent of The Spanish Amanda.
The Visitors had a flexi out on Sha-la-la, the flexi label that Matt (Sarah/Shinkansen) ran before Sarah, but this was all they ever released. Some of the band formed Hope in the early 90s, releasing a flexi on Bewildered and a 7″ on A Turntable Friend before splitting up. Matinée have now released Miss by The Visitors, a CD which brings together the flexi track Goldmining and 10 unreleased Visitors tracks. The music is, as you may expect, a very mid 80s kind of janglepop – 80s indiepop fans will no doubt find something for them on here. My particular faves at the moment are Alice Aisgill, Housewife’s Choice and Age Old. The sleeve notes of this CD are worth a look; the writer points out that in the 90s, guitar music tended to be rock and mainstream pop, as opposed to “independent or not-so-popular pop” – this is very true. Although the sort of pop played by The Visitors could still be heard in the early part of the decade, this kind of music was only made by a very small amount of people during most of the 90s. Looks as though it’s making a comeback in the new millennium though, and this is very good to see.
So to sum up, Matinée is a label with a good ear for the best kind of indiepop, just like small labels were back in 1991 and before. The music policy is essentially nice pop (except for when Keris gets all sweary and resentful on Dry Land) but the music on this label shows that pleasant pop songs needn’t be bland or excessively/embarrassingly twee – they do this in pretty much the same way that Sarah did. Basically Matinée is everything Shinkansen should be and isn’t. The music on Matinée is often Sarah sounding, particularly early Sarah, which was to many (me included) the best period of the label. Although I liked the noisy stuff Sarah were releasing towards the end (eg Boyracer, Secret Shine, Ivy), I never thought of it as being a “Sarah” thing, and much of the quieter music they released around this time was nowhere near the standard of the records that came out previously, and I found myself losing faith in Sarah after a while. As for Shinkansen, much of what I’ve heard has failed to move me. Shinkansen is just another label, but Matinée has the greatness and consistency of prime-period Sarah. Anyone with fond memories of Sarah and similar music circa 1986-1993 will adore Matinée.