The Shoebox of Delights – #2
The Radio Dept. – Pet Grief

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Here is a story, I wasn’t going to tell but I think we are all friends now – so are we sitting comfortably??

A long time ago near where I grew up, they built an out-of-town shopping centre. The big attraction was a brand new Marks and Spencer.  A friend of mine, whose name is Graham, got a job there.  He was working in the menswear section on Wednesday evenings and at weekends.  He was 17 at the time.

Graham was alright really, he liked the right sort of music that was popular at the time, Carter, Ride, The Wedding Present, that sort of thing. He kind of just got into anything that he peer group were listening to really, like most of us.  Anyway, during his time at Marks and Spencer, Graham got a new friend – Ian – who introduced him to loads of new music, the likes of Therapy?, Sheep on Drugs, and other similar bands.  Gradually Ian started coming along to our nights out, I didn’t really chat to him that much not because I didn’t like him, but because I just had different people to chat to.  Ok I hated him, he had stupid hair, always wore a black and red stripe Dennis the Menace Jumper and had a really nasal voice.

Now usually our nights out consisted of sitting in a big field with a cassette deck listening to our favourite music whilst getting slowly wrecked on cider or if we were lucky a bit of dope that someone had managed to get hold off – not that anyone of us could skin up properly.  Anyway, one night a girl, Catherine, had brought along a tape of what she was listening to at the time. It was largely Ride, the long forgotten about Ultra Vivid Scene, Moose, Chapterhouse, The Cure and the Jesus and Mary Chain. She was the girlfriend of another one of the group, Richard and she was best mates with Our Price Girl – who of course, I was with at time. So we sat, we talked, we drank, we mocked each other’s shoes that sort of thing.

Ian didn’t like shoegaze, he announced this to everyone, in fact he said ‘Oh God its fucking Ride, someone shoot me’.  He then took the tape out threw in a hedge and put his own tape on. The first track was by Nitzer Ebb.  A row ensued. I got involved, I think I slagged off most of the bands that he was in to – At one point Our Price Girl laughed at Ian when he said that a Sheep on Drugs song ‘Motorbike’ was the most important record of the last thirty years – I mean obviously that was ‘Rich and Strange’ by Cud – he then called her a stupid slag. I stood up – now I’m not aggressive in any way, I’m a bit of a weed to be honest, thin and particularly unmuscular but I wasn’t having that.

Sensing a fight, Richard, stood up and decided it was time to leave. We left.  It was only about two hours later when we had all calmed down that Richard realised that he’d left the cassette player behind.  So he and I went back up to get it. It was daft really, one of the others would have looked after it.  Most of the group had left, Ian was still there and they were still using the tape deck.  Richard went up to it and said he needed it back, another guy Jay said he would drop round to his house tomorrow, but Richard insisted, and to be honest they were playing Guns and Roses and I think Skid Row, and it was soiling the machine.

Ian stood up and some more swearing ensued. Then there was a bit of shoving and then Ian threw a punch. I stood there not really knowing what to do – if I went over I would get my head kicked in, if I didn’t then Richard almost certainly would.  So I took a deep breath and went over. I’d like to say I kicked his head in, I’d like to say that he sat dribbling on the floor and apologising for being such a cock, but I’d be lying. He was bigger and stronger and waaaay angrier than me, of course he sent me flying with the second of two massive punches.

It hurt like hell.  A boot to the ribs is never nice and nose bleeds caused by an angry punk are probably the worst kind (although I have had a nose bleed caused by a biscuit tin that was pretty bad).  Then, I hear voices, it was a couple of brothers I knew, Indian chaps, older, tougher, wonderful guys.  Sensing trouble Our Price Girl had phoned them and sent them after Richard and I.  The blows stopped, the shouting stopped.  I’m not bigging myself up here obviously, but these guys were connected and you didn’t mess with them.  They also lived next door to my Dad and that helped massively.

Richard was fairly hurt he needed to go to hospital, he took the brunt of the assault from Ian and a couple of the other lads who had turned up.  Several stitches later he was fine.  Me, I needed a stiff drink and a hug.

I went home and the Indian brothers mum made me the finest Balti I have ever eaten. Then one of the brothers said out of the blue, ‘What’s shoegaze?’ I nipped home and picked up ‘Nowhere’ by Ride and stuck it on their stereo. ‘Shit, man’ he said, ‘No wonder he thumped you’. His favourite act of all time, Maxi Priest. I’ve never told him what I think of Maxi Priest.

Anyway, that brings us nicely to The Radio Dept.

The Radio Dept. are according to Wikipedia a dream pop band from Lund in Sweden. Reviews that I have read compare them to The Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine and Pet Shop Boys. Dream pop is the right way to describe them.  Shoegaze would be another.

This album ‘Pet Grief’ has a track on it called ‘The Worst Taste in Music’. I thought of that night when I first played it. It was the single ‘Wide World’ by Maxi Priest that it reminded me. It’s a tenuous link, I’ll grant you but I was thinking about that night when I picked it up.

mp3 : The Radio Dept. – The Worst Taste In Music

There is something about Swedish music that comes across as clinical or striving for perfection. It’s not difficult to understand why – remember this is the country that produced ‘Dancing Queen’, the perfect engineering of the Saab 900 (though of course, someone out there will say, I had a Saab 900 and it was shit…), the wonderful precision of Bjorn Borg’s backhand and the brilliance that is Zlatan Ibrahamovic.

A few years before ‘Pet Grief’ was released, the Radio Dept. released ‘Lesser Matters’ and I adored it – a beautiful shimmering album of dreamy pop which hawked back to an age of shoegaze and sonic cathedrals and vocals that barely register above whisper. It is a wonderful album and one that still to this day sits firmly in my Top 50 of all time – whenever I get to compile that list that it. I heartily recommend it to everyone.

‘Every Time’ is Pet Grief’s catchiest song, – it is as well the closest anyone has come to capturing the drenched distortion of My Bloody Valentine’s guitars and the half whispered vocal are matched with this melody that is both compulsive and fragile at the same time. Its wonderful and instantly pleasing and is as good as anything on ‘Lesser Matters’.

Here are some of the other tracks from it. Considering this was released in 2006, it sounds very much like it was recorded in 1993.

mp3 : The Radio Dept. – Tell
mp3 : The Radio Dept. – Gibraltar
mp3 : The Radio Dept. – Every Time

Enjoy.

JC adds……

So that you can begin to get get an idea of how much of a dick this bloke Ian was/still is, have a listen to what he thought was the most important record in a thirty-year span:-

mp3 : Sheep On Drugs – Motorbike

The prosecution rests its case.