Every minute of every day, there is an amazing unknown band playing in a garage or practice space somewhere. They know the disappointment in performing to an un-appreciative audience and they know the joy of being the local opener for one of their favourite groups. Most never make it to the airwaves or magazines. Between 1986 and 1989, the Siddeleys almost crossed over and they have the Peel Sessions (both of which are included on the Slum Clearance compilation) to prove it. Musically, the London band shares billing with indie-pop notables Tallulah Gosh and early Primal Scream, but their misery-loves-melody philosophy recalls the Smiths, albeit with a substantially smaller recording budget. Like the Great White Mope, Siddeleys chanteuse Johnny Johnson crams a lot of syllables into one breath. And song titles such as Are You Still Evil When You're Sleeping? and You Get What You Deserve give a clear indication of the sentiments contained in the lyrical body. Feel-good-no-brainers these are not, though upbeat tempos, cutie-pie female harmonies, and a digestible amount of la-la's and ba-ba's sit pretty in self-aware contrast. It's perfectly natural to approach reissues of obscure bands with suspicion and doubt; for each lost gem there are hundreds of records better off forgotten. Slum Clearance, which gathers nearly all of the Siddeleys output, reveals its exceptional status from the first hair raising jangles. --Philadelphia Weekly
Late '80s forgotten should-have-been-stars The Siddeleys made just a couple of singles in their time that were beloved of fey indie-popsters and that's maybe why I sold mine for too much money back in the times when records were less vital than food, regardless of the fact that really I thought songs like 'What Went Wrong This Time', 'Are You Still Evil When You're Sleeping' and 'Sunshine Thuggery' were really rather masterful slices of Pop exuberance with a glinting silver edge. They still sound so today, and the wonderful sleeve notes by singer Johnny Johnson which talk of outsiders, nail varnish, the importance of hairdressers and tailors and strange glamour-rockers Raymonde make the point that really The Siddeleys were way beyond the dreary dress-senseless middle-classes who seemed for a long time to epitomise the kinds of UK 'indie-kids' who bought their records first time around, and were in fact out somewhere else, inhabiting their own world, orbiting somewhere just out of reach. Which is probably why they got forgotten at the time. --Careless Talk Costs Lives
Dapper! As Johnny Johnson’s wryly nostalgic booklet memoir confirms, the bony borassic Siddeleys, brandishing bon mots, kept the barbers busy. Their frantic smithing is a real pleasure to rediscover now, long after the indie battle is lost. Peter Handorf, historian-designate of ‘80s indie pop, has landed a handsome fish with this early cast for his Clarendon label. Let’s hope his future trawlings don’t scrape up too much sediment from the ocean floor of rock. --Chickfactor
One of the best reissues (if that's the correct word) that Matinée have embarked on (though Peter at Clarendon also deserves some credit) is this collection of the Siddeleys' work. It's mostly complete, with both singles, their compilation tracks, and two Peel Sessions included; with only the song from the "Alvin Lives At Leeds" comp lp and the single version of "My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternoon" missing (although the Peel version is present, I would've loved to have both). If you've heard, or at least heard of the Siddeleys, then you know that this is an essential release, and probably already have it. If you haven't heard them before (which is likely, since all of their releases are very elusive and expensive), then this can best be described as c86-style jangle pop with a female vocals and a considerable influence of Northern soul, and some of the most spiteful lyrics you've ever heard. Look to "Are You STILL Evil When You're Sleeping?", "You Get What You Deserve", or my favorite, "Wherever You Go" ("I want to spraypaint your name on every road, so people can walk on you wherever they go") for proof... The disc comes with a 12-page booklet, mostly composed of a history written by the band's singer, Johnny, and peppered with old photos and flyers. A very good collection for a sorely underrated group. MTQ=16/16
The Siddeleys were a great little pop group who kicked around London for a few years in the late '80s, recorded a few singles, played some gigs and eventually fell victim to the usual mishaps that cause independent bands to call it quits -- small labels running out of money, the inability to land the interest of other labels, the general inability to get shit together. It's a damn shame, because as Slum Clearance, a compilation of pretty much everything the band recorded between 1986 and 1989, amply proves, The Siddeleys were more than the equal of many better-known jangle-pop bands of the era. The Smiths are an obvious, if shortsighted comparison -- although guitarist Allan Kingdom apes the patented Marr Jangle as much as any of his contemporaries, female singer Johnny Johnson has a much more confident, steely-eyed aura to her pointed social and romantic observations than Morrissey ever did. It also seems likely that Amelia Fletcher, ex-Heavenly and current Marine Research frontwoman, has the original copies of the Siddeleys 45s in a very special place in her record collection – some Heavenly songs, such as "Snail Trail" and "Trophy Girlfriend", seem like they could be direct antecedents to the blueprint laid down by The Siddeleys. This long-overdue compilation comes highly recommended to any fan of the aforementioned bands, or to followers of the C-86 scene in general. Kudos to the labels involved for finally giving this unjustly ignored band their due. --Splendid
Boy, do I feel stupid. In the late '80s when Britpop was at it's all-time peak I somehow failed to realize how good the Siddeleys were. I guess I was too busy listening to Smiths and Wedding Present. Singer Johnny Johnson wrote the songs and plays various instruments in addition to providing her own vocal harmonies; quite a versatile gal. Johnny used a lot of reverb on her vocals, a whole lot, and the layered guitars included suitable jangle, overall a dense and pretty wall of pop sound with literate lyrics somewhere between the Smiths and Popguns. What ever happened to JJ, what a spectacular talent!? --Shredding Paper
England is mine, and it owes me more 80s reissues. Matinée has saved the day once again for a band that was likely forgotten all too easily and all too soon. They had the 'female Morrissey' and guitars and platinum blonde dos and passion. Apparently Johnny is or was some kind of angsty as a young girl living the squattor's life in swinging London until she suddenly decided to get on with it already and started a pop band. Thatcher likely turned her insides vomitous and inspired her rage against the machine which she gladly poured forth in her songs everyone was desperate to hear. And, really, thank goodness for the Iron Lady because her 'despotism' rang clear and it allowed angry Johnny to write some truly terrific songs. It's Talulah Gosh without Amelia Fletcher or the rest of them either, it is spirited, intelligent, wistful and yet still zeitgeistal (perhaps moreso now than then even). Currently Generation X is ponying up in the wallowing sweepstakes, staking out their claim to victimhood with the following skree over this new invention labeled the quarter-life crisis where kids are just so depressed because they have so many options when they leave college and some of their friends have BMWs and Imacs while they only drive Camrys and are still stuck with a PC and Dave Matthews tickets are more rare than they seem. Johnny knew this kind of pain, she forcefully rebelled against it though and wrote some anthemic and oddly cheery, given the subject matter (mostly dudes done wrong), pop songs that did borrow much from the Smiths and must have sounded awfully compelling alongside the other angst merchants of the time namely the Visitors, Shop Assistants and Flatmates. It is a bit disarming to think how together young people once were and now to see the cacophony of impecuniary wits and wank that form the deluge of popular consciousness today. Sheesh. Johnny's neat.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!! This is awesome jangly indiepop from the late 80's that is totally essential stuff! Of the same caliber as The Razorcuts, Pearly Gatecrashers, etc. Soooo good! --Tone Vendor