Monday, 6 September 2010

Various Artists: Avon Calling 2 (Bristol Archive Records)

This raid on Heartbeat Records’ vault captures no-budget Bristol in the fertile years 1978 – 1980.

Heartbeat was the city's first proper indie label, releasing the original Avon Calling compilation in 1979. It was described by John Peel as "the compilation all others should be judged by”, (possibly the reason it's taken thirty-one years to release a sequel). Hats off to Bristol Archive Records for unearthing this loot before it was lost forever.

It's a diverse affair. Social Security's Self Confession is a minor snot classic celebrating the rock 'n' dole lifestyle. It's so debauched that it doesn't even bother to rhyme.

Sneak Preview’s offerings are out there in a truly Bristolian way. Mr Magoo meets the ghost of Andre Breton in an afterlife of freak-out organs. I Can’t Get Out confronts a predatory tranvestite before escaping into a fog of dub. Both are surprisingly catchy.

Equally fine are the two Apartment tracks - the slasher atmospherics of Broken Glass, and hurtling panic of Retrospect. Apartment share DNA with The Only Ones and early Joy Division: they're the post-punk heroes you’ve (probably) never heard of.

A smattering of generic power-pop aside, the music collected here is playful, individual and proudly uncommercial. Songs begin with tape-phase effects, and end with reverb explosions. Essential Bop’s woozily portentous Audition Room sounds like a Doors album track played at 45 RPM. Not all of it stands up today, but it's surprising how much of it does.

Avon Calling 2 is alternative history, from which the mysterious Sean Ryan emerges as the Gary Numan that never was. It comes highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the early years of the UK underground.

Blood Red Sounds rating 7/10

A shorter version of this review appeared in Venue.

For further information on Bristol's punk / indie history please visit this website. No really, do. It's a goldmine.

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