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DIY list

This is the incredible story of the UK DIY scene from 1977-1985 – one of the most febrile, unpredictable and demented periods in British pop history  – as told by scene scholar and enthusiast Jon Dale.

Below is an introduction to the movement; alternatively, click here or press your right arrow key to go straight to the list. You can also stream the selected records as a single YouTube playlist here.

Do It Yourself: within those three words, both declaration and imperative, lies both an industrial and aesthetic programme that would take the year zero scorch of punk rock and turn it into one of the more inspiring self-realisation disciplines of the late 20th century.

It’s not as though DIY, self-released music hadn’t existed before: countless free jazz and improv artists had started their own labels and seized the means of production; oddball visionaries and genuine one-offs had been releasing private press LPs for some time, feeding generations of obscurantists and fanatical record collectors; DIY can even lay claim to roots in ‘50s skiffle, or perhaps further back, to the Arts & Crafts movement.

Two things differentiate DIY music from its potential precursors, however. One is the sheer weight of releases that flooded from the countless micro-scenes that made up the DIY diaspora – and even though this article focuses on DIY from the United Kingdom, it was an international beast, albeit focused in the UK, USA, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The other thing that marks DIY out as its own beast is its intensely programmatic, self-aware nature. As DIY collector Michael Train points out, “It’s an odd feature of DIY that it was created with its first record, and intentionally – usually genres get created by critics after the fact, or at a minimum by the second in the series, since that’s the only way you can have a type. (Or by marketers and enthusiasts years later, as with Minimal Wave.) But DIY came into existence fully fledged and knowing on the first Desperate Bicycles single – graphics, sound, and slogan. There was a template, and by Bicycles’ second single, even a set of instructions.”

Indeed, if you’re going to map out a history of DIY, you need to start with the Desperate Bicycles, and perhaps further back, The Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch, which started the step sideways from standard-order punk and hinted that self-realisation was a possibility for any group, should they choose to follow the darker trail. The first two Desperate Bicycles singles, ‘Smokescreen’ and ‘The Medium Was Tedium’, were intensely meta documents, the grunting jangle of the two singles almost a literal smokescreen for smuggling in, almost by the back door, an industrial lesson in how to liberate art from conglomerates and corporations. The third point of the triangle would be Scritti Politti, the Marxist collective who’d relocated from Wales to their Carol Street squat in London, got fired up by the Desperate Bicycles’ lead, and self-released an EP, Skank Bloc Bologna, on their own St. Pancras imprint, detailing the costs and contact details for producing your own record on the sleeve.

Of course, all of this energy didn’t come out of nowhere, and it’s true enough to say that punk lit the fuse for DIY. But it was the after-effects of punk, both aesthetically and socio-economically, that really kicked things into the stratosphere. Collector, curator and writer Johan Kugelberg sets the scene: “In the short-lived anything goes phase of independent record distribution in the late ‘70s / early ‘80s following the barn-storm financial credibility of punk, one could get almost anything distributed through a handful of outlets if packaging, lettering, photos etc. screamed out a new DIY ethic. The product demand was such that records reviewed in the English music weeklies (NME, Melody Maker, Sounds) had a built in demand in the thousands, with a network of independent record shops that would order at least a couple of copies of anything perceived as belonging to the new thing, or for that matter, antithetical to the old thing. Records and tapes that basically had very little to do with the punk rock movement rode on the coat-tails and found itself trickling into the adventurous record stores of the world, copy by copy.”

There’s complexity in discerning exactly what constitutes a DIY record, though Kugelberg offers the most succinct description I’ve ever read – “Quacks like a duck” – before continuing, “self-released, home-made, created in the fevered wake of punk-driven independent record distribution, and the network giants like John Loder built.” Train continues, suggesting, “A problem with the DIY is that it’s now simultaneously an overall approach to making records and a shorthand for the graphics and sound at its origins – the black-and-white Xeroxed sleeves, rubber-stamped labels, stumbling drums, and roughly tuned guitars trading riffs with keyboards working antique melodies between 1977 and 1983, or so… Both usages are fine, of course, but I find it helpful to be clear about which we’re using.”

So to this list of 130 DIY, or DIY-related releases from the UK. Moving on from Train’s parameters, I’ve looked at the window of time between 1977 and 1985, as there are a few releases from ’84 and ’85 that scream a higher-minded DIY aesthetic, and deserve to be included in the list. There are doubtless some contentious inclusions in this list – it’s guided as much by personal aesthetic desires as it is some hard-and-fast rule of what ‘is’ DIY – and I’ve tried to make links with broader-scale punk or post-punk cultural phenomena where possible, hence the inclusion of some Wire-related projects which seem to fit the experimental and self-actualising rhetoric of DIY.

One other arm of DIY production in the UK that’s often left out, but which screamed to be included, was the Recommended Records, Rock In Opposition etc collectives – wild, free-thinking figures like Geoff Leigh and Mick Hobbs who, much like their patron saint Robert Wyatt, give every impression of being liberated by what the plucky DIY kids were doing: hence their connections with musicians from The Homosexuals and Family Fodder gangs. There are some clear precursors to the C86 and ‘jangle’ movements in here, too, mostly due to connections with other DIY players or labels, or some sense of a shared set of beliefs. One more thing: I’ve largely avoided the concurrent explosion in industrial, experimental and noise singles, LPs and cassettes, partly because it would have made the project completely unmanageable, partly because it’s similar goals for different aims, and partly because it would make another, parallel, and rather appealing list in itself.

But this is far from the end of the story, and there are plenty more records still out there to be re-discovered. Case in point: when I received interview responses from Michael Train, I discovered a clutch of groups I’d not encountered before, including the fabulous Spunky Onions, who turned up too late to be included in the master list (but you might want to check them out, from their split single with the Ghetto Berries) It can be hard to verify, clarify or even locate clear information about many of these groups – and, frustratingly, all my Messthetics, Hyped 2 Death etc. discs are currently sitting, prod and unreachable, in deep storage – so I welcome any corrections, extensions, elaborations, or even scurrilous rumour-mongering. (Not really, for the last one.)

But bring your ears and your enthusiasm, and keep on mapping the terrain, of what a bunch of excited, liberated kids did with their early years. The story is far from complete, and it’s always going to branch off on wild tangents, anyway – as Train says, “DIY was so grassroots and homemade that it’s a repudiation of a controlled narrative and is more the story of an upwelling desire channeled into common outlets – its participants had no other choice than to keep making music and no other options than to keep putting it out this way.” Amen to that.

Thanks to Johan Kugelberg, Michael Train, Chuck Warner, Stephen Pastel, Paul Gough and Simon Reynolds for their help.

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‘The Force Is Blind’
(Deptford Fun City, 1979)

Included here just as much for the socio-cultural impact of Mark Perry, the visionary leader of Alternative TV, and his Sniffin’ Glue fanzine, whose demand – “here are three chords, now start a band” – sits alongside those early 45s from The Buzzcocks, Desperate Bicycles and Scritti Politti as a key instigator for DIY operatives. If early Alternative TV was denuded, minimalist punk action – see the anti-anthemics of ‘Action Time Vision’ – by 1978 Perry was burnt out on the punk orthodoxy he’d helped foster with his publications. Heading out on tour (and eventually sharing a split live LP) with Here & Now, a travelling free-prog unit with connections to Gong, and hanging out and recording with Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge at the Industrial Studios, Perry re-calibrated Alternative TV, removing the propulsion of rock, and injecting free improvisation into the heart of their music. The end result, on singles like ‘The Force Is Blind’ and the Vibing Up The Senile Man album, is a kind of atavistic Ur-music that sprawls out of London bedsits, clutching junk electronics, toy instruments, excoriating violin, wheezing clarinets, and more. No wonder ATV would change their name to The Good Missionaries, after meeting with the approbation of the punk crowd when presenting their radically different new music.


‘Go Home Soldier’
(It’s War Boys!, 1983)

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The first in many entries from the weird world of It’s War Boys!, a label connected to the Homosexuals, perhaps the emblematic DIY group of their time. Releasing two cassettes and this 12”, Amos (aka Jim Welton), along with an ancillary cassette as Amos & Crew, hooked up with Sara (of Sara Goes Pop infamy) and took to the metaphoric road. ‘Go Home Soldier’ plots some weird concatenation of bedroom dub, Middle Eastern accordion sway, playground chants, plus babbled asides from Sara, clearly lost in the ‘studio’ haze. Like much of the music from It’s War Boys!, ‘Go Home Soldier’ is melodic, humorous and almost epiphenomenally experimental at the same time; it’s hard to make music this disconnected, yet so, well, giddy.


‘There Goes Concorde Again’
(Heater Volume, 1980)

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With one of the twee-est uses of the WASP synth in history (this is certainly no Whitehouse record), (And The) Native Hipsters’ debut single balances a knife-edge between charming and infuriating – Nanette Blatt’s recitation of the everyday surreal, espied from a council home, has a performative edge that’s an acquired taste, and John Peel, the patron saint of UK DIY, himself acknowledged that the single would become immensely annoying after weeks of radio play. But it’s also a good example of the anything-goes, deeply silly seriousness of this strain of UK DIY.


04. ARTICLE 58 
‘Event To Come’
(Rational, 1981)

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Great blast of Scottish wildness, released on Allan Campbell’s label, Rational, and co-produced by Josef K member Malcolm Ross. You can hear the influence of the Postcard crew on the thin-wire sound, the way the group let their melodies follow the threads of the guitars, the brilliantly sharp, tinny guitar tone, and the weird echoes of funk/disco in the bass during the breakdown. Article 58 toured with Josef K, and in interview, Article 58 member Douglas MacIntyre would marvel, “you felt they could explode on stage at any point”. Some of that energy doubtless rubbed off on their support act – there’s something combustible about ‘Event To Come’. (MacIntyre would go on to run excellent Scottish record label, Creeping Bent.)


‘I Never Knew’
(Choo Choo Train, 1981)

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Choo Choo Train was Andrew Brenner of 49 Americans’ label, and ‘I Never Knew’ was its only non-Americans release: produced by General Strike, i.e. David Toop and Steve Beresford, and with the latter seemingly on bass and flugelhorn, it’s clearly the work of the Alterations boys and their pals, adding another string to their bow. Cleaving to the janglier side of the DIY world, ‘I Never Knew’ is one of my favourite singles from the era – gorgeously poised, gentle and warm-hearted, with fantastically warm, chiming guitars, it slots nicely somewhere between Marine Girls, Grab Grab The Haddock, early Cannanes, and Dolly Mixture in your collection. A quiet pop monster.

‘Baby Sign Here With Me’
(Deptford Fun City, 1979)

Not entirely sure this one fits here, but, what the hell, it’s produced by Mark Perry of Alternative TV, it was released on Deptford Fun City around the same time as those ATV records, and Badowski has got that home-bound British eccentric loner vibe down pat, a la Robyn Hitchcock or Anthony Moore. Indeed, this could have been pulled from the latter’s Flying Doesn’t Help, or maybe a rough demo from Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). What pulls it into DIY territory is that flittering, chintzy Subway-Sect-‘Ambition’-style organ: learning all the best production tropes from Bernie Rhodes. The lyrics, a deadpan dissection of the marriage contract, match the Au Pairs or Delta 5 for demystification. Badowski, who had already spent time in Chelsea, The Damned, and The Good Missionaries, along with playing organ for Wreckless Eric, peaked with this indie single.


‘Girl On The Run’
(Crass, 1979)

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The amazing Honey Bane, who would eventually go on to score some minor hits in the UK, appearing on Top Of The Pops with ‘Turn Me On Turn Me Off’, before moving into acting. Bane had prior form as lead singer of The Fatal Microbes (see later in this list for more on their classic DIY side). But there’s a pretty cogent case for the traumatic four minutes of ‘Girl On The Run’ being Donna Boyle’s most nerve-shattering, off-the-rails vocal performance, backed by the Crass threshing machine – the song is so staccato and furious, it’s punching in and out of the air like 0s and 1s. All this, and “a big piss-off to the music biz”, as the cover says. The entire You Can Be You EP is great, but this is its highlight.


‘This Atmosphere’
(Diverse Records, 1979)

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Runcorn’s finest, Beyond The Implode revolved around Eddie Smith, burning through three line-ups and releasing two singles – The Last Thoughts EP, which ‘This Atmosphere’ originally appeared on, and the ’11th Avenue Breakdown’, where the group’s third line-up pushed the songs closer to a more traditional post-/punk aesthetic. But on ‘This Atmosphere’, the entire architecture of UK DIY is exposed – Beyond The Implode are recording in a hidden enclave, their guitars blunted and dusty, the voice quotidian and local, with percussion from the ticking of an alarm. Given its primitivism, there’s no wonder that this Beyond The Implode 7” is seen as one of the key texts of UK DIY.


‘Spanish Dictators’
(El Frenzy Productions, 1983)

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A second missive from the extended Homosexuals circle. Bing Selfish’s first 12” EP, Selfish Works, features an all-non-star cast including Amos, Rob Storey of The Murphy Foundation (more of which later), a stray member of Milk From Cheltenham, and others. Recorded during failed sessions for an Amos album, it’s DIY positioned close to its most folk-ish strain, with ‘Spanish Dictators’ singing out a tall tale of lost romance and deception while the group clatters along behind Bing, an electric skiffle band gone horribly right. ‘Rekjavik’, from the same 12”, is like The Incredible String Band if they’d only a few scratchy guitars and an iron drum to their name. Beautiful. Bing is still recording, making radio shows, and Selfish Works was reissued a few years back by Chuck Warner’s Hyped 2 Death imprint.


(In Phaze, 1981)

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Recently resurrected by Captured Tracks, who released the Zaragota Tapes 1981-1982 compilation last year, much of Hertfordshire gang Bona Dish’s music played along similar, jangly lines as groups like The Marine Girls – it’s no wonder they were released by Marine Girls supporter Pat Bermingham’s In Phaze cassette label, who were also responsible for early releases from Portion Control and Legendary Pink Dots. ‘Mutation’ captures the freewheeling aspect of the group’s music, with scratchy post-Raincoats violin clattering around while crackling drums and the shared vocals of Jo Bell and Julie Devine.

‘Green Avenue’
(Ambivalent Scale, 1980)

A great, unfairly overlooked duo-cum-trio from Nuneaton, the three boys from Bron Area – Chris Dunne, Martin Packwood and Steven Parker – ran with the Eyeless In Gaza ‘crowd’. Indeed, their first two releases – the One Year cassette, and Fragile Sentences 7” – were both released on Ambivalent Scale, the label run by Eyeless In Gaza themselves. You can hear some of the ‘parent’ outfit’s intensity in the vocals, but Bron Area were far more denuded, plotting away the simplest chord changes on a tinkling keyboard, while a bass throbs in the background.  They would eventually sign to Glass and release a 12” and LP – someone should get onto a reissue of their catalogue, and soon.


‘Something To Do’
(Villa21, 1984)

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A classic slice of Scottish pop, this was the first release by The Shop Assistants, who would later go on to some degree of infamy thanks to their association with the mid-eighties indie/C86 movement, though like many of their peers they were made of much tougher stuff. On ‘Something To Do’, though, the group is Keegan, Stephen Pastel and Aggi (also of The Pastels), and the result is one of the coolest blasts of post-‘60s girl pop, Keegan’s guitar roughed up with the buzzsaw vibration of The Ramones.


‘Wivenhoe Bells II’
(Man At The Off Licence, 1982)

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Where to start with Martin Newell’s long-running Cleaners From Venus? Another DIY group who’ve had their reissue campaign via Captured Tracks, Newell is one of the hidden jewels in the English pop crown, and by rights, he should sit alongside Robyn Hitchcock and XTC’s Andy Partridge (with whom he’s collaborated) as one of England’s greatest surrealist-pastoral pop songwriters. There are too many great songs from the early, self-released Cleaners From Venus cassettes to choose from, so I’m going with a personal favourite, one of Newell’s most tear-drippingly melancholic moments.


‘Rock Section’
(Monsters In Orbit, 1981)

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I think The Colours Out Of Time can lay claim to being one of the greatest groups out of Crewe, just for their ‘Rock Section’ 45. A brutally unrelenting riff pumps the blood through the song’s very veins, while another guitar extemporises, near-freely, in the left channel, and the vocalist sings out such winning lines as “We are the rock and roll dead, we didn’t wanna die, we didn’t wanna OD”. Deeply psychedelic, it’s no surprise that David Roback picked up on the single and ended up covering ‘Rock Section’, slowed to a turtle’s crawl, live with Mazzy Star. The only other people I’ve heard talking about this single are Julian Cope, The Dead C’s Bruce Russell and Siltbreeze Records’ Tom Lax. Time to join the exalted crew.


(Small Wonder, 1978)

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Were they really neo-Dadaists? On this evidence, I can get with that. Let by The Shend, this self-released single ran on idiot energy, the giddily mad sax line coursing through the song as though it’s a pup just let off its chain. Given their cheery demeanour and Beefheart-ian spew, it’s no surprise to hear they were Peel favourites, recording four sessions for the venerable DJ. Their music can be hard to really connect with – the Dadaist vibe keeps me from fully getting to grips with their collected recordings, which were released on Overground as The Cravats In The Land Of The Giants – but they’re definitely significant.

‘Zip Nolan’
(Rather, 1979)

From the first ten seconds, it’s pretty easy to figure out that The Cult Figures are The Swell Maps under another guise, bringing their pals in for a laugh and indulging in their kid’s story fantasies – Zip Nolan, of course, being “the highway patrolman… giving kids a fright”. It’s got the same antic energy to it as other great, off-the-cuff Swell Maps moments as The Phones Sportsman Band’s cover of Slade’s ‘Get Down & Get With It’, or ‘H.S. Art’ from A Trip To Marineville. But what’s that in the liner notes? “Any rumours that Marv, Joe, Barry & Howie are in fact Swell Maps are vicious and slanderous”? Yeah, right.


‘Eggs On Legs’
(Weird Noise, 1979)

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One of my favourite moments in unexpected DIY madness was watching The Quietus’ John Doran interviewing Johnny Marr, and having the latter make an unexpected reference to Danny & The Dressmakers. They might be best known (if at all) for gifting Graham Massey to the world – after spending time in post-punk funksters Biting Tongues, he’d go on to fame as a member of techno outfit 808 State – but there’s so much more to Danny & The Dressmakers, one of the finest exponents of “bad music” circling around the Weird Noise, Fuck Off Records etc. cabal. They released a batch of cassettes – this track is from their 39 Golden Grates – pitched in with various compilations, played some wild shows where their performance antics were every bit as important as the wigginess of their improvised non-songs, and generally terrorised Manchester for a couple of years: all highly admirable pursuits.


‘Teenage Head In My Refrigerator’
(Mole Embalming Records, 1981)

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There’s plenty to love about the Deep Freeze Mice, not least their arch-surrealism, in fine evidence on the title track from their second album. But it’d be a mistake, I think, to read them as any kind of New Wave of psych group – while yes, there’s definitely something psychedelic in some of their records, on sides like Teenage Head In My Refrigerator they’re mining the same seam as people like Bing Selfish, albeit with more liberal doses of humour. They lasted into the late ‘80s, releasing most of their music on Mouse Alan Jenkins’ Cordelia Records, also responsible for great sides from associated groups like Po! and Ruth’s Refrigerator, along with albums from like-minded souls R. Stevie Moore and Leven Signs (whose Hemp Is Here was recently reissued by Digitalis). The good folk at Scotland’s Night People label recently released a compilation, The Best Of Deep Freeze Mice – start there, and don’t look back.


(Groucho Marxist Record Co:Operative, 1981)

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Another blat from Scotland, this time the Paisley punk scene. There’s a good lot of rama-lama anarchy punk energy in records like the Ha! Ha! Funny Polis, the compilation on which ‘Fight’ appears, but there’s something in the slippery nature of the player – that drummer’s struggling a bit with keeping time, and the song is all the better for it. Some of these Paisley punk records were compiled on Michael Train’s brilliant Kilt By Death: The Sound Of Old Scotland (1977-1984) triple-CD set, and that’s a great place to start if you want to get a sense of what was going on in Scotland during the post-punk, DIY years. But you should try and hunt down the records on Groucho Marxist, too – they’re all beautiful shots into the void.


‘Don’t Cry Your Tears’
(Rational, 1981)

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More great music from Scotland, this time featuring one Bernice Simpson, who would eventually join The Pastels, The Delmontes were a five-piece from Edinburgh whose sound was deceptive: they could come across in the retro-psych zone, and there are elements of their songs that could have fallen off the back of a downer girl-group single, but the dark swirl of ‘Don’t Cry Your Tears’ gestures just as much toward the darker end of ‘60s psychedelia – indeed, this single seems to predate much of the American Paisley Underground, and Australian groups like Died Pretty.

‘Elephant Germs’
(Spott, 1980)

Beautifully klutzy stumble-pop from this great outfit, who released a batch of cassettes back in the day, on their Spott label. If this turned up in the racks now, it’d have a Siltbreeze or What’s Your Rupture label ident, for sure. There’s something in the slippery disconnect of music like this – playing that gestures toward the coathanger of song structure, but takes liberties with the pace, taking the verticality of song writing and making it horizontal – that reminds me, unexpectedly, of the staggered riffs and sensory confusion of Japanese psych-rock groups like Kousokuya. A shared aesthetic, perhaps, but one was grounded in Blue Cheer, the other in The Desperate Bicycles.


‘Drums Over London’
(South Circular, 1979)

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Fantastic group from Leicester whose recordings were recently resurrected by Dan Selzer’s peerless Acute Records. This is from their first phase, where they were balancing the ginchy blast of punk with an articulate take on UK weirdo pop – in short, there’s something here that makes me think of a high-octane Soft Boys, but there’s also a weird edge that’s like Wire without the art school background. Neither are comparisons I thought I’d be making. I prefer this phase of Disco Zombies to their later, slightly artier music – maybe it’s that drum machine – and there’s something ‘archetypal’ about ‘Drums over London’, such that if you want to give someone a good feel for the less self-consciously experimental end of UK DIY, I’d point ‘em right here.


‘T.V. Me’
(no label, 1980)

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West Yorkshire represent. Dropped this one into the list because it’s such a good example of what happens when a few kids grab hold of The Normal’s ‘Warm Leatherette’ and decide they can do it too. This one has a beautiful otherness to it, an ethereal edge that belies its nervous energy: it’s all in that single-note guitar pealing through the body of the song, splitting the mechanistic bass line in two. Great drums too. This one also appeared on the Hicks From The Sticks compilation, where they shared space with Clock DVA and Section 25 (and, erm, Wah! Heat). Was Steve Beresford really a member of The Distributors for a time?


‘Strange Passion’
(The Cattle Company, 1982)

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Off to Northern Ireland, where Dogmatic Element were quietly recording and performing, embracing the spaciousness of plangent bass and chiming, see-sawing guitar. This one maybe edges too close to the frosty, pre-gothic isolation of The Cure circa Seventeen Seconds, or Siouxsie & The Banshees’ Kaleidoscope, but Alison Gordon’s voice is totally arresting, corralling the Cure/Banshees damage of the music into other planes of where. Unlike a lot of UK DIY, which filled your ears with frivolity, Dogmatic Element’s music comes across as positively arctic, yet possessed of the same guileless grace as, say, The Avocadoes. This song, of course, gave the title to Cache Cache’s Strange Passion: Explorations In Irish Post Punk DIY & Electronic Music 1980-1983. A great place to start for Ireland’s early ‘80s underground.


25. DOME
‘Rolling Upon My Day’
(Dome, 1980)

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After Wire fell apart, post-154, the four members of the group headed in different directions – Colin Newman started recording for 4AD and Beggars Banquet, taking Robert Gotobed with him, while Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis jumped off the deep end, stretching their art-school experimentation in all directions. They released some great records on 4AD, too – check out the Cupol 12”, in particular – but the four self-released Dome albums are the duo at their finest. The first Dome album hovers between blank, crudely sketched noise, ticking time bombs of experimentation, and, dropped in the midst, some gorgeous, hazy pop songs, like “Rolling Upon My Day”. The production is suitably wacked, and they seem to be pulling more inspiration from what’s happening under the radar, than Wire’s grounding in Harvest Records pre-punk prog movement. For a touch of live Dome, check this out, too:

26. DOOF
‘(Treat Me Like) The Man I Am’
(Namedrop, 1981)

I first heard about this 10” when Graham Lambkin (then of The Shadow Ring) mentioned it in an interview. It took a while to find out more, but slowly the pieces fell together – sharing membership with Twelve Cubic Feet, but seemingly the project of Philip Johnson, Doof’s sole 10” is a wildly primitive, strangely folky stumble-grunt of almost transcendental oddness. Listen to this song and redraw your understanding of exactly what The Shadow Ring were up to. Unexpectedly, many years later I discovered that one of the vocalists here was one Georgina Hartman of Marine Girls, who later went on to be in Moscovite Five and Sindy Arthur with Mark Flunder (ex-Television Personalities) – can anyone help out with tapes of either group? Thanks.


(Permanent Transcience, 1979)

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Is this the theme tune for the entire movement? It should be. The Door & The Window are often held up as the ultimate DIY gang, and they certainly had mystique to burn: stories abound of the wild, protean creativity of Nag and Bendle; their connections with the London Musicians Collective and Mark Perry/Alternative TV (Perry was a member of The Door & The Window for a time); and most importantly, their ethos. which effortlessly captured that weird nexus point between post punk (as opposed to post-punk) roughness, potting-shed improvisation, and blurry, quotidian noise experiment. The liner note on their first 7”, Subculture, says it all – “Square pegs don’t fit in round holes, but open spaces are to be filled.” The Detailed Twang compilation has all you need by this wonderful and mysterious outfit.


‘Intensest Weakness’
(Pilot, 1981)

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Post-Swell Maps fall-out. While Nikki Sudden was losing himself in a sea of scarves, and Epic Soundtracks was recording melancholy piano figures with Robert Wyatt, Richard Earl settled in and recorded The Egg Store Ilk, one of the most anxiously warped albums to come out of ‘80s underground England. Some of the Swell Maps’ rawness is in there – particularly the strange, plodding bass runs, which ring out with a similar hollow zing to the instrumentals on their second album, Jane From Occupied Europe – but Earl adds so much metallic, percussive clatter that songs like ‘Intensest Weakness’ lose themselves in a hailstorm of cutlery and fractured glass. Why this hasn’t been reissued yet is beyond me.


‘Kodak Ghosts Run Amok’
(Ambivalent Scale, 1980)

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Their first single, which brought them to the attention of Cherry Red, with whom they shacked up shortly after. You can hear DIY synth damage in there, for sure, but much of what made Eyeless In Gaza so alluring is also there in early form – Martyn Bates’ passionate, wide-eyed vocals, glinting, chiming electric guitar, a pulsing, wired tension (rendered here with the one-note alarm that ticks unrelentingly throughout). Later in the decade, Eyeless In Gaza would settle in to a more folkish, melancholy lilt, but here they’re anxious and tightly wound – wonderfully so.


‘Look Out’
(Deep Cuts, 1979)

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More from Scotland, this track also appeared on the Kilt By Death set – The Fakes were from Stirling and Sauchie, and this song, from their only 7”, Production, is a great example of ambition pushing a group, in the formative days of their existence, to reach for something approximating the stars. There are all kind of great details in here, from the handclaps that slice through the song like knives, to the almost modular construction of the constituent parts, drumming that sits just the right side of unkempt, and vocals that declaim and rail with insouciant spittle. It’s such a shame that they didn’t get to do more, but after the tragic death of their drummer, Brian Kemp, in late 1979, The Fakes called it a day.

‘Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling)’
(Parole, 1979)

Okay, this one might be pushing the boat out a bit, in terms of its industrial/structural provenance – Parole was connected with Fresh Records – but it’s such a righteous blast that fits right in with the ‘go anywhere, do anything’ openness of DIY that it has to be here. For this song only, Family Fodder were basically England’s answer to The Residents – and how. Alig from Family Fodder would later go on to write some of post-punk’s most giddily hyperactive pop songs – check out ‘Savoir Faire’ and ‘Debbie Harry’, in particular – but ‘Playing Golf (With My Flesh Crawling)’ is genuinely sinister, the flick-knife behind the forced grimace. “I’m so happy with my life, there’s times I feel fungus growing on me”. Who hasn’t felt that way? Uhh…


‘Violence Grows’
(Small Wonder, 1979)

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Unsubtle yet bang-on socio-cultural commentary from Honey Bane’s first group: “While you’re getting kicked to death in a London pedestrian subway, don’t think passers-by will help, they just look the other way”. The ‘Fatal’ Microbes’ story is a weird one – two of the group’s members were the children of Vi Subversa, whose own group Poison Girls shared a 12” EP with the Microbes; one of those kids, Pete Fender, would end up in anarcho-punkers Flux Of Pink Indians., whose Derek Birkett runs One Little Indian, the label that gave the world Björk. It’d be nice to think there’s a through-line from ‘Fatal’ Microbes’ spacy, dub-inflected, slow-crawl pop threat to Björk’s wired experimentation, but I might be pushing it.


‘U-Boat Captain’
(It’s War Boys!, 1983)

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Ah yes, The Fear Merchants, yet another limb from the hydra that is the Homosexuals/It’s War Boys! scene. Some day, Emanuele at Alga Marghen will reissue Mental, The Fear Merchants’ 1983 cassette, on his War Extension sub-label, and more people will understand just why The Fear Merchants sit close to the apex of wonky, wild DIY. Another project from the minds of Amos and Sara – who is credited here as Sara Hop-Hop, with no real explanation, natch – Mental feels like one of the more naked, unreconstructed of the It’s War Boys projects, though from the way the legendary Die Or DIY? blog describes it, perhaps there’s a reason for that: “Amos plays the role of a, probably, ex-Nazi extermination camp doctor, come psychiatrist; hamming it up, like Larry Olivier in the Marathon Man on nitrous-oxide, between tracks on various themes of mental illness… Hence the title of the album”. Right, indeed. While I’m here, let’s toast the brilliant souls at Die Or DIY?, the blog that has done more than anyone to get so much of this brilliant music circulating in zeroes and ones.


‘Mill Street Law & Order’
(Groucho Marxist Record Co:Operative, 1981)

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Another kicker from the Ha! Ha! Funny Polis Paisley punk compilation. Not much information out there on The Fegs, but they’re clearly of a piece, aesthetically, with stablemates Defiant Pose, who shared at least one member. ‘Mill Street Law & Order’ hits with the kind of vibrancy you’d expect from a ‘60s garage gang – kids hepped up on pills and ready to take on the world. All the groups were from Paisley, but Sirocco Studios was in Kilmarnock – maybe being out of their environs pushed the Paisley punk team to really go for it, as the entire compilation feels like it’s running high octane. A great story from Joe Feg about distributing the record, from the Vicious Riff web site: “’I went down to London with Tommy and Wully in a car with box loads of the Ha! Ha! Funny Polis EP to Rough Trade. We got stopped and searched by the Special Branch in an underground car park, I think the IRA were busy at the time. They opened up all the boxes and I thought our tea was out, but then they let us go.”


‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’
(Small Wonder, 1977)

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Patrik Fitzgerald, the true punk poet. I’d rate this up there with the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch as far as formative DIY moments go, simply for its disarming honesty and power – Fitzgerald chipping away at three chords on an acoustic guitar while bleeding his heart out over six strings, it’s easily as brutally potent as ‘Boredom’, though it trades the Buzzcocks’ oblique dryness for direct expression. There was little more punk than getting up in front of identikit crowds and pulling out the acoustic six-string. Fitzgerald is still out there doing his thing, a lifer on the fringes, in the midst of the music industry’s eternal comings and goings.

(Pop:Aural, 1979)

Pop:Aural was the label started by Bob Last after he closed the legendary Fast Product imprint. Previously appearing on one of Fast’s Earcom collections, ‘Confessions’ was the first 7” on the new label, and was a great opening shot, a dissolute female vocalist drawling through a thicket of guitars, each chord shattering against vaguely tribal tom-toms, sometimes playing out spindly and variegated against an insistent bass pulse. Based in Edinburgh, they shared connections with The Fire Engines and another Pop:Aural group, Boots For Dancing, who really should be in this list too. (Ditto the incredible but barely known Frank Hannaway & Michael Barclay 12” EP, At Home, which seems to have disappeared from the world almost entirely. But You Ishihara of White Heaven is a fan…)


‘Black Colours’
(Modello, 1980)

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What an unexpected find. This first line-up of The Flying Brix only released this 7” single, a nine-track EP, each song a short shot – structurally, it feels like the Northern Hemisphere equivalent of the Seems Twice 7” from Australia (12 songs in under six minutes). But Flying Brix surprise with their mournfulness – “Black Colours” is a frail acoustic number, the vocalist singing out true and gentle with a slightly flat, nasal tone. In a weird way it sounds like Patrik Fitzgerald on a total downer, something that probably happened in real life quite a few times…Other songs on the EP have a more typical, skiffle-ish, primitive guitar/drums/vox feel, but the song writing of Joe Beagle – also known as Joey Parratt – shines through even at this early stage.


‘Wrong Treatment’
(Disposable, 1979)

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As with many of the records on this list, I first heard of The Four Plugs thanks to Johan Kugelberg’s Top 100 DIY singles. It placed pretty highly, at number 12, and when you listen to it you can see why: sat out on the margins, The Four Plugs have a weird, wired, wild edge, the two guitars – if they are guitars, everything’s so freakishly recorded it’s hard to tell what’s going on – parsed off into separate channels and playing the most rudimentary of riffs, while a simplified Moe Tucker thud ticks away in the background, the vocalist untying everything with a strangely declamatory vocal. There are connections between The Four Plugs and Idol Death, it seems, whose “New Lesson” ups the ante even further. Amazing.


(Small Wonder, 1979)

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Good old Frank Sumatra. The Sinatra piss-taker and his mob were, in fact, Alig from Family Fodder with friends, and this 12” EP proves what we’d all suspected, that the music of this particular subset of the UK underground was rather more grounded in Rock In Opposition than we thought. Because ‘Tedium’ is post-Eisler/Weill madness par excellence, as though it somehow slipped through the cracks when Slapp Happy & Henry Cow were assembling their Desperate Straights collaborative record. This EP also features a mindboggling cover of ‘Telstar’, which is just as bonkers as you’d expect. (Hunt it down on YouTube.)


40. THE FUN 4
‘Singing In The Showers’
(NMC, 1979)

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They’re here just as much for their historical significance as anything, though ‘Singing In The Showers’ is a great punk non-anthem. For The Fun 4 were an early group for Orange Juice’s Steven Daly, and guitarist James King and bass player Colin McNeil would go on to form James King & The Lone Wolves, who were involved with Alan Horne’s Swamplands record-label-cum-industry-conspiracy. So, a single you’ll want to own for its provenance, but don’t forget to blast it loud: what a great Glasgow thrill.

‘I Don’t Like Your Face’
(Rough Trade, 1981)

Here Rough Trade are digging deep into the DIY/RIO hinterland – Furious Pig were a short-lived collective, all voice, whose 12” for the label was fabulously wrecked, an aggressive tangle of vocal chords that took the vocal improv of legends like Phil Minton and Jaap Blonk into post-punk terrain. But I was surprised to recently find that in amongst the Furious Pig crew were future members of Lights In A Fat City and Het, two great groups whose records stumbled around in that post-RIO/weird-beard improv space: Het’s Let’s Het, on Woof Records, is particularly potent. As if that wasn’t enough, the only other Furious Pig release was a flexi-disc on the ultimate obscuro electronics label, Japan’s Vanity Records (an honour ‘tha Pig’ shared with Gilbert/Lewis and Brian Eno, among others).


‘Terminal Tokyo’
(Gymnasium, 1980)

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A good part of the charm of ‘Terminal Tokyo’ is the weirdly dry, droll delivery of the singer, who sounds like he’s been caught in the studio with a particularly bad case of hayfever. Connections here with the Happy Refugees, who Crystal Stilts have sung the praises of in the past, and I can’t help but see the song title here as a concatenation of several Pere Ubu titles – certainly, you can hear the ghosts of American punk in ‘Terminal Tokyo’’s slightly stilted moves (I mean that in a good way). This track turned up on one of those cool Cherry Red Seeds compilations, which make for a great set covering over the crossing pathways that existed between DIY, experimental, art-punk, post-punk and avant-pop in early ‘80s UK.


‘My Body’
(Canal, 1979)

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David Toop, Steve Beresford and David Cunningham in fine form here, from their first single, released several years before the classic Danger In Paradise cassette (reissued a few years back by Staubgold). It’s sad to think this single is still largely unattainable, though – what a great, dubbed-out clatter it is, an itchy-scratchy rhythm track plunged into the abyss with rib-shaker bass, gorgeous metallic melodies submerged in reverb while one of the trio flails around in falsetto. Check out the label of the record, too, for the Quartz Publications copyright – Quartz was Toop’s label of around this time, which released a bunch of stunning albums that made explicit connections between free improvisation and world music (the recordings of the Yanomani Shamans are justly legendary).


‘Jacqueline’s Admission’
(Newmarket, 1980)

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No apostrophe please! Dark and meandering, with a spoken-word delivery that’s like a blunt, dispassionate Mark E Smith, it’s no surprise that Manchester-based Gods Gift had a downcast outlook on life. ‘Jacqueline’s Admission’ is a real-life detail of one of the patients at the Prestwich Asylum, where several members of Gods Gift worked. They also had a self-destructive, aggressive streak – on their first single, ‘People’, Gods Gift replaced any lyrics with a recording of an onstage fight. Perfect. Connected with the Manchester Musicians Collective, Gods Gift eventually hooked up with Richard Boon, who released a few of their records on his New Hormones label. They’re all great, and well worth checking out, most easily on Messthetics’ Pathology compilation.


(Unnormality, 1981)

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AKA Alternative TV under another, wilder guise. ‘Attitudes’ is the B-side of their second single, the brilliantly titled ‘Deranged In Hastings’. When Alternative TV jumped off the cliff of consensual structure, they re-emerged, chrysalis-like, as The Good Missionaries, though that mythical tale – of ATV disrupting all wisdoms – is rather belied by the muscularity of ‘Attitudes’, its diamond-sharp guitars pulling at the fabric of the song. Though there’s a real fierceness to the performance, the overwhelming sensation is one of fragility, psychological near-collapse, carried most effectively in ‘Spikely B. Deranged’’s voice, which functions, much like Wire’s ‘I Am The Fly’, as a trenchant critique of late capital, this time from the armchair.

‘I’m Used Now’
(Cherry Red, 1984)

More post-Marine Girls goodness, this time from the Fox sisters, who’ve joined forces here with Lester Noel and Steve Galloway. In retrospect, Grab Grab The Haddock come across as the gateway drug between DIY and C86, though they’re far from twee – there’s a sturdy, tough spine to the songs and the delivery that makes perfect sense of stories of the Marine Girls baring their teeth when heckled. There were only two Grab Grab The Haddock singles, both on Cherry Red, both sublime: they really should have done so much more.


(Strange Orchestra, 1981)

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This lot are a bit of a mystery, much like their parent group, the Normil Hawaiians. Stumbling across them by accident, I’d discovered a weirdly dinky psych-punk outfit, who move a little like The Fall when Una Baines was on Casio keyboard – and then those chanting chorus vocals kick in, and everything gets that little bit stranger. A pretty great use of one lyric for the entire song, too – am I correct in thinking the entire lyric is “l’orange, l’orange, et tu l’orange l’orange”? What kind of genius is that? There was another Greenfield Leisure single in 1982, the Those Far Off Summers 12”, and then it appears Simon Marchant folded into the Normil Hawaiians line-up – about whom, more later…


‘Meet Our Employees’
(It’s War Boys, 1983)

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This one’s a real pinnacle of DIY. Submerged, fusty and at first blush incredibly mysterious, the warped non-songs of Color Him Coma, the only Gus Coma cassette, who, according to the Paradigm Discs website, was “Lepke B’s dwarfish cousin, who renounced showbiz to work as a Heavy Goods Vehicle driver.” That’s that sorted, then. It’s no surprise that Clive Graham of Paradigm ended up reissuing this cassette monster, as it’s right up his alley. No surprise also that it was apparently an inspiration for Steven Stapleton of Nurse With Wound. Loops, percussive clutter, farping brass, incidental noise, there’s some Burroughs on the tape somewhere… Come meet our employees!


‘Hamburger Boy’
(Gymnasium, 1984)

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Another great record saved from near-obscurity by Dan Selzer at Acute Records, Last Chance Saloon was one of the last great gasps of the DIY era. Songs like ‘Hamburger Boy’ punch out their melodies with roguish aplomb, Tim Shutt’s voice full of breath-held frustration, squeezing “please don’t die on the sidewalk, it’s so embarrassing” out of his frame with real life force. It’s worth grabbing Acute’s Return To Last Chance Saloon so you can hear their first single, ‘Warehouse Sound’, from 1982. Again, it’s no wonder Crystal Stilts are big fans – you can hear some of their nervous twists and turns in Happy Refugees’ declamatory pop songs.


Masai Sleep Walking
(Black Noise, 1983)

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Okay, this is it. Bruno of The Homosexuals, I think, in solo mode, digging deep into his psyche and delivering one of the finest one-man-in-the-studio, underground blasts of direct non-communication I’ve heard. Some of these songs bled over onto that essential Homosexuals 3CD set, Astral Glamour, but eventually you’ll want to hear them in their original context. I’m not lying when I say I’ve listened to this record more than most any other in my collection, hence why I’ve linked you to the entire album. You need this in your life.

‘In My Eyes’
(Illusion, 1982)

Sad, churchy songs from more folks associated with the Eyeless In Gaza/Ambivalent Scale camp – Parker was also a member of Bron Area, mentioned earlier in this list. This is an outtake from their only cassette, 1982’s Against The Light. This music, though its architectures can seem elliptical, works with a hushed intimacy not often encountered within the world of UK DIY. It’s also worth checking out another version of ‘In My Eyes’, where Harrison’s channelling more of Eyeless In Gaza’s Martyn Bates’ emotionally quavering vocals. He’s also singing with Linda Novak, about whom I know nothing – anyone can fill the gaps? Their songs on Illusion’s Sensationnel No. 3 & No. 4 cassettes are quite astonishing.


‘Words Of Hope’
(Five Believers, 1980)

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Or The Subterranean Hawks, aka one of the earliest appearances on vinyl for both Dave Kusworth, better known for his ongoing collaboration with the late Nikki Sudden as The Jacobites, and Steven Duffy, ‘80s pop star turned ‘90s folk singer turned ‘00s song writer for Robbie Williams. Emerging from the Birmingham scene that also gave you Duran Duran, for its various sins, The Hawks were originally known as Obviously Five Believers – someone here obviously had a serious Dylan fixation – and you can hear so much in these grooves that would find full expression in both Kusworth’s and Duffy’s future music: gentle melodicism, quiet despair, a spear through the heart. I’ve heard a rumour that the demos recorded by The Hawks, or The Subterranean Hawks as they were sometimes called, will emerge sooner or later. Can’t wait.


‘Cake Shop Girl’
(Hedonics, 1981)

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Resurrecting his contribution to the Swell Maps’ second and final album, Jane From Occupied Europe, ‘Cake Shop Girl’ is one of the many highlights of Jowe Head’s first and best solo album, Pincer Movement. Always one of the weirder, more deviant members of Swell Maps – the funny man to Epic Soundtracks’ heart-on-sleeve balladeer – Pincer Movement was recorded during the final months of the Swell Maps’ tenure, and suggests a bunch of other directions the group could have headed in, had Head helmed the gang for a while. Great songs, unexpected arrangements. Now if only he’d reconstruct Daga Daga Daga, his abandoned/unreleased collaborative album with Epic Soundtracks…


‘Soft South Africans’
(Lorelei, 1978)

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Okay, the A-side, ‘Hearts In Exile’, is The Homosexuals’ most sublime moment, full stop – a regal chant of a song placed under serious dub distress. But ‘Soft South Africans’ has also got it going on, guitars chipping away at your eardrums before an acoustic guitar stumbles into view, string-bean single-note noise buzzing in your ear while someone in another room potters away on bongos and bass. “Let the big shots howl” – well, if there are any ‘big shots’ in the world of UK DIY, then The Homosexuals are very much it; their body of work possesses so much uncommon beauty and transcendence it can sometimes be too much to get through that Astral Glamour set in one sitting. It’s a staggering body of music that equally aces and excels so much of the accepted post-punk canon. And ridiculous fun, too.


‘Hornsey At War’
(War, 1979)

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What a great, sloppy racket this is. Hornsey At War get it absolutely right: shaky, uncertain playing, fuzzy, distended guitar, drums that are about to fall off a metaphoric cliff. Johan Kugelberg gets it absolutely spot on when talking about this record, when discussing the “charming blend of hubris and [defeatism] that seems to pervade the psyches of most people involved in underground music”, something perfectly exemplified on Hornsey At War’s Dead Beat Revival EP. Hubris and defeatism? You got it.

‘People Laugh At Me (Coz I Like Weird Music)’
(Deleted, 1980)

That’s a title most readers can relate to. Instant Automatons pretty much nailed the weird allure of UK DIY on this song from their first EP, Peter Paints His Fence. What a great song to use to justify your ‘ascendancy’ from the cassette culture hordes. They were the kings of the ‘Bad Music’ movement, and quite possibly the best musical outfit to leak out from Scunthorpe and Grimsby, in South Humberside. Deleted Records, their label, self-described as ‘the world’s most unprofitable record company’ – given the current, parlous state of the music industry, hindsight seems a fabulous thing, doesn’t it?


‘Let Bygones Be Bygones’
(Vindaloo, 1980)

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Who were The Janet & Johns? One of the earliest releases on Vindaloo, the label run by Robert Lloyd of The Prefects and The Nightingales, “Let Bygones Be Bygones” is music reduced to its core – a one-note drone rumbling through the entire song, a simplistic, thudding rhythm clapped out on a few dull woodblocks (or maybe just tapping the mic itself), and a droll rant over the top. Representing South Wales, The Janet & Johns appear only to have released this single; they were loosely connected with the extended Scritti Politti family, apparently, much like Methodishca Tune. They needed to release a face-flatteningly loud 12” single to capture the full force of their strident minimalism.


(Absolute, 1979)

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The sound of young Scotland near its finest. Josef K hooked themselves to Alan Horne’s bumpy Postcard wagon after this self-released debut single on Absolute. ‘Chance Meeting’ was the A-side, but ‘Romance’ has more rough DIY kick – that guitar is fantastically warped, slack-strung notes fighting their way out of the brisk sting of feedback. Of all the groups playing around in Scotland at the time, Josef K were the most archly modernist, such that even their debut, DIY 7” has plenty of haughty poise.  It’s just a shame they never really nailed a great album. Also look out for the pre-Josef K, TV Art take on ‘Chance Meeting’, which is floating around on YouTube.


‘Calling All Teenagers’
(It’s War Boys!, 1983)

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The Just Measurers have only one album to their name, Flagellation, but what a record it is. Yet another rictus gurning, tricksily, from the It’s War Boys! multi-headed hydra, The Just Measurers had a fantastic grasp of how to make pop work in the most un-pop of scenarios. ‘Calling All Teenagers’, one of the album’s many highlights, plays like Family Fodder’s rhythm section are in one room, Alterations are in another, in some alternative reality London Musicians Collective where The Homosexuals call all the shots. A dazzingly weird, yet unashamedly pop blast from a label and gang who weren’t short on such revelations.


‘Do The Residue’
(MCCB, 1981)

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Somewhere out there, someone’s building a shrine to Geoff Leigh, who is, along with Mick Hobbs, one of the most underrated musicians from that British RIO/Recommended Records axis. While people like Leigh came at it from a different angle, you could argue that these records are as representative of the multiplicity of the DIY aesthetic as, say, Royston or Beyond The Implode. Leigh spent some time with Henry Cow, and in the mid-‘70s was in Radar Favourites with This Heat’s Charles Hayward. ‘Do The Residue’ is not a million miles removed from the vernacular surrealism of the It’s War Boys! team, it’s just played a little more straight, and has a squeaky, vertiginous sense of unease that seemingly threatens to topple the song at any time, a slave to its own structures.

‘Drain Melsh’
(Cordelia / Unlikely, 1985)

Hopefully I’m not skirting nepotism here, given that Fact’s very own Brad Rose reissued this record recently on his Digitalis Industries label. But Hemp Is Here has always sounded, to me, like one of the last great blasts from the era documented by this piece, and in some ways an almost summary moment of what could be achieved by those who believed in DIY as ethos, aesthetic, practice and experiment. Leven Signs was predominantly the work of one Peter Karkut, with vocals from Maggi Turner, and Cordelia – the label of Deep Freeze Mice, which gives you some idea of the world they inhabit – initially released Hemp Is Here. It’s a mysterious thing, with ticking percussion loops scuttling across pots’n’pans clatter, voices lost in an echoplex maze, softly blown woodwinds – the general entire kit and kaboodle of any good DIY endeavour. A classic of its genre, whatever genre you think that might be.


(Floppy Records, 1985)

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Here’s one for the Beefheart fans – of which there were quite a few in the land of post-punk and DIY. The Lo Yo Yo was a project led by Alig of Family Fodder, and Mick Hobbs of The Work and Officer! (and now a member of Half Japanese), and they released two cassettes, one a split with Look De Bouk, before their only LP, Extra Weapons, appeared in 1985. Much like the Leven Signs record just mentioned, Extra Weapons feels like a final and defining point in DIY, again rifling through the metaphoric kitchen cupboard to corral all kinds of trickling, shuffling rhythms and melodies, over which the group sing out anti-capitalist rhetoric. I’d like to think the Captain would have approved.


63. A. C. MARIAS
(Dome, 1980)

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Perhaps the highlight of the entire Dome ‘endeavour’, ‘Drop’/’So’ was the first single released by A. C. Marias, the nom de plume for Angela Conway. She’d go on to become a dancer and a music video maker, but back in the early 1980s Conway was involved with the extended Wire crew, and alongside appearing on the first Dome album, released this lovely debut single, which took the submerged, greyscale industrial aesthetic of Dome and sung an abstract round over it. It sounds as though each part of the song is looping in a world of its own, occasionally coming into alignment, occasionally falling off axis. This might be pushing things, but I’m convinced you can hear quite a bit of the sidereal aesthetic of Coil in records like this.


(In Phaze, 1981)

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Yeah, so they’re now semi-legendary thanks to the patronage of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, and Tracey Thorn’s subsequent music, both solo and in Everything But The Girl, but it’s always worth remembering that the Marine Girls came of age, quite literally, in the DIY age. ‘Tonight’ sums up their charms as well as any other song from their consistently wowing Beach Party cassette / album, originally released by their friend Pat Bermingham, and then subsequently reissued by TV Personalities’ Dan Treacy on his Whaam! imprint. That’s pretty heavy patronage, and yet the Marine Girls didn’t really even need it – at this early stage, their voices are all there. Their songs have a humility that capture the giddiness of teenage romance and the depressions of late teen life, and the songs – spindly, sometimes threadbare, but possessing an effortless pop thrill – are to die for.


‘Never Been In A Riot’
(Fast Product, 1978)

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You may know them, now, as one of the longest-serving of the alt-country brigade – though that term does great disservice to the multiplicity of voices in The Mekons – but ‘Never Been In A Riot’ tells a different story, of a group fumbling to find their way around songs, playing with clipped urgency, a drummer taking brave and almost foolhardy steps around his kit, and voices that are lifted from the everyday. If it is, as I seem to remember, a pointed critique of The Clash’s ‘White Riot’, it still does so in a fairly oblique way, but even here, and on follow-up single ‘Where Were You?’, you can find a nascent Marxist critique that finds full blossom in later songs like ‘Ghosts Of American Astronauts’.

‘Leisure Time’
(Eustone, 1980)

You really can tell, much more so than with The Janet & Johns, that Methodishca Tune were a chip off Scritti Politti’s block – it’s there in the dub-inflected rhythms, the clanging, complex guitar riffs and strums, the fluty male vocals, and in lyrics like “Questioning your every day, keeps it on the run”, which feel like a sixth-grade take on Scritti’s trenchant Gramscian commentary. Let’s face it, Methodischa Tune etched “gramsci is a geezer’ into the run-out groove of “Leisure Time” itself! But there’s real charm in the fragility of Methodishca Tune’s music, its subtle, sinuous movements catching you unawares once you’ve got past the initial, “I can’t believe it’s not Scritti” stage of (p)recognition.


‘You’re A Rebel’
(PAK, 1979)

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“Give us an A!” Metropak were one of Edinburgh’s finest, though they’re regularly overlooked in histories of post-punk Scotland. They capture much of what was so thrilling about Scottish DIY music – a particular nervous energy that reminds a little of those early Feelies records, guitars that chime and bristle, simple, naked rhythms, and vocals that oscillate between sung and declaimed. All three of their singles are great, but ‘You’re A Rebel’ has, perhaps, the most immediate punch. A compilation of their singles was released on Close Up a few years ago, but the label appears to have shut up shop – any clues as to how to score copies of the set would be greatly appreciated. You can see some blurry live footage of Metropak here, too.


‘Cold Rebellion’
(Neo London, 1979)

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Ah, the great Steev Burgess, helped on this first Metrophase single by Nikki Sudden (aka Maps) and Epic Soundtracks. All of which makes this a bit of a Swell Maps-related oddity, but Metrophase doesn’t deserve to be relegated to such secondary status. ‘Cold Rebellion’ has a kind of lo-rent psychedelia to it that reminds one, just a little, of some of the things coming out of Liverpool at the time, but without the aspirations to grandeur. In fact, if anything, this one feels like it has kinship with Germany’s 39 Clocks – it’s the combination of a patiently clicking drum machine, droning ‘60s organ, and gnarly, post-Velvets guitar scrawl. The second single, ‘New Age’, is a good one, but the In Black EP, which ‘Cold Rebellion’ is taken from, remains the premiere statement.


‘Passport To Happiness’
(It’s War Boys!, 1983)

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Milk From Cheltenham was another project of Lepke Buchwalter aka Gus Coma, now part of Die Trip Computer Die. It’s also, maybe, the best record he’s ever been involved with, a wild conflagration of post-Faust tape fuckery, bedroom concrete, and strange chants like ‘Passport To Happiness’, which sounds like the drummer’s been locked into the same groove for so long he can barely think anymore, while Lepke sighs and rants over the edge. They’re playing out in an echo chamber – maybe it’s somewhere underneath the Cold Storage Studios? – and the whole thing’s as unpredictably other as you’d hope from the It’s War Boys! team. In some parallel universe, It’s War Boys! were bigger than The Residents. Not really, but I can dream.


‘Buildings Of The ‘70s’
(Groucho Marxist Record Co-Operative, 1979)

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Earlier in the list, we featured a few songs from the Ha! Ha! Funny Polis compilation 7” on Groucho Marxist. Here’s a track from another of their comps, Spectacular Commodity. The Mod Cons were originally known as Anka Svenson, but by the time the Groucho Marxist crew bumped Mod Cons – along with Sneex, Poems, XS Discharge and Mentol Errors – into Glasgow’s East End, they’d found their new name, grabbed hold of another in the seemingly endless supply of tinny amps that were as much the foundation of the DIY aesthetic as any ‘consumer as producer’ rhetoric, and written ‘Buildings Of The ‘70s’, whose charming, lop-legged skank is only undercut by a vocalist who’s trying that bit too hard to be clear. For more on The Sound Of Alternative Paisley, check out Mike Clarke’s fabulous article on the Shit-Fi website.

(In Phaze, 1982)

Okay, a confession – this is the only song I’ve heard from Moscovite Five. Attempts to turn up their music have amounted to almost nada. So I’m hoping and praying that the sudden appearance of one song on YouTube will lead to more, maybe the catalogue being uncovered – Captured Tracks, are you listening? – and then we can all hear what is rumoured to be some of the finest, subliminal pop-non-pop from this whole crew. Moscovite Five were one of Georgina Hartman’s post-Marine Girls projects, with Mark Flunder of Television Personalities: in Moscovite Five they were joined by Andy Wilson of The Passage; subsequently, they’d lose Wilson and record as Sindy Arthur, releasing a cassette on Bi-Joopiter, the label that, more than any, feels like the torch-holder for the UK DIY aesthetic. I’ve tried to contact Hartman about this music, but to no avail. Any leads?


‘National Interest’
(Defensive, 1980)

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Mud Hutters released a few 7”s, and an album, Factory Farming, but some of their best songs were squirreled away on a four-band LP, Four Ways Out, where they sat alongside Dislocation Dance, Rire: To Laugh and Vision On. It’s a cool compilation, but the Mud Hutters songs are the stand-outs – urgent, buzzing, with Seeds-y organ stabs repeatedly speared with electric jolts of guitar, while the rhythm section get their heads down and push the song somewhere close to the brittle physicality of Joy Division, a name I’d never usually invoke when it comes to this music. They were a good wee band, this lot, who eventually shared a member with the Diagram Brothers – this song, and Factory Farming, are pre-Diagram, though.


‘The Fed-Up Skank’
(London Madras, 1981)

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“Why am I such a misery? I’m just getting over this vast depression.” If reggae is read as righteous ire, The Murphy Federation’s ‘Fed-Up Skank’ feels like a particularly British response – don’t bother shouting down Babylon, just pull the covers over your head and avoid all discussion of the world outside. Here, Bing Selfish (see earlier in the list) and Robert Storey, the majordomo behind the Murphy operation, connect with an arm of Milk From Cheltenham and make a surprisingly coherent, slippery dubbed-out skank. Many of these groups had their dalliance with reggae – The Homosexuals gave it a few tries, too – this is probably the best of the bunch, outside of The Slits, of course.


‘Uranium Geranium’
(Naffi Productions, 1980)

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…which leads quite nicely into Naffi Sandwich, and the Naffi / Naafi collective, who are perhaps best known now for gifting the world with the genius of Brenda Ray. You should check out her ‘Starlight’ single as an example of breathlessly beautiful, ghostly dub-pop, but also stick around for her involvement in the Naffi collective, who released some singles and tapes, many of which have recently been compiled by Japanese nutters EM Records on a series of CD reissues. ‘Uranium Geranium’ is a pretty good indicator of what you’ll find on their early cassettes – pattering beats skipping through a dub chamber, while dislocated voices, and brass and wind from the Don Cherry organic music society wind through an echoplex Escher tessellation.


‘Falling Hole Into’
(It’s War Boys!, 1981)

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You might disagree, but the sole Narky Brillans tape, Goes Into Orbo…, is one of the lasting moments of genius of the whole DIY caper, the kind of record that reveals new surprises at every left turn, that continually shocks while it charms the pants off you with its wit and wiliness. Sadly, there’s no representation on YouTube of some of my absolute favourite songs on the tape, but ‘Falling Hole Into’ is as representative as you’re going to get – worth it just to hear Jim Welton aka Amos aka L Voag warbling into the mic like he’s channelling tongues. Goes Into Orbo… was reissued a few years back by Alga Marghen, though by then he’s lost a y, added another i, become Narki Brillans, and messed with the tape a bit; you still need (at least downloads of) both. Not that I’d encourage you to break the law. No way.

‘British Warm’
(Illuminated, 1982)

I was going to include Normil Hawaiians’ debut single, ‘The Beat Goes On’ here, because it’s more archetypal and was released on Dining Out in 1981, the label that gave you Disco Zombies, etc. etc. But to be honest, it’s not very good: Normil Hawaiians took some time to find their way, but they really nailed it on their two albums for Illuminated Records, What’s Going On? and More Wealth Than Money. On these albums – particularly the latter, an expansive double album – they’d started to experiment, discovered the space they needed to do what they really set out to do, and the result is a weird, agrarian kind of post-punk art song, which at times almost reminds of groups like Savage Republic. I’m surprised one of these Brooklyn hipster labels hasn’t lost their shit over the Hawaiians and reissued their back catalogue. Surely it’s only a matter of time.


‘East Sheen’
(Psycho, 1978)

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Ed Ball, who would eventually end up as one of the cheerleaders and recording stars on Creation Records, started out alongside Television Personalities trying to square punk’s ethos with mod’s style. ‘East Sheen’ has the same uncertain playing and pure conviction as the Television Personalities’ first single, ‘Part-Time Punks’, though it feels like it cribs more moves from Subway Sect’s ‘Ambition’. Which is a pretty cool thing to do, when you think about it. Listening to this plucky teenage ramble, it’s sometimes hard to think that Ball would end up a pioneer of British acid house with Love Corporation, while making MBV knock-offs in his resurrected Teenage Filmstars guise in the ‘90s.


(Ayaa, 1984)

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The ongoing project of Mick Hobbs, perhaps best known as one of the names behind The Work. With Officer!, Hobbs made true on the weirdo pastoral vibe that was always implicit with the RIO groups he was loosely connected with. Maybe it’s the bassoons. ‘Anagrams’ comes from the first Officer! album, Ossification, and is a classic example of what Hobbs does best – songs that spark off at different angles, drums that are about to play their way out of the room, strangely folkish, chanted vocals, all coated with the languorously delicious sigh of Judy Carter. Quite a line-up on this album, actually, with free vocalist Catherine Jauniaux, Georgie Born of Henry Cow, and Zeena Parkins (then of News From Babel, since Björk’s harpist of choice) all joining in the gleeful madness. Ossification was reissued by Megaphone earlier this year, and a previously unreleased ‘90s album, Dead Unique, came out recently on Blackest Ever Black. Maybe the time has finally come for Officer!.


‘Falling & Laughing’
(Postcard, 1980)

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Wasn’t entirely convinced this should appear here, but let’s face it, ‘Falling & Laughing’ was the spark for so much Scottish underground / DIY musical endeavour, it would seem churlish to keep it out of the running. Plus it’s such a great song – even at this early stage, Orange Juice seem fully formed, somehow divining the similarities between the Velvets, Chic, and lingala, with Edwyn Collins’ winded, campy voice giving one of the most joyously fruity vocal performances of its times. If some DIY and post-punk falls prey to its own seriousness, Orange Juice injected a whole heap of joy into the equation, a most necessary corrective.


‘Hiding In The Forest’
(Noise Method, 1983)

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From the peerless 12 Minutes At The Hot Club Murphy 12”, reissued a few years back on 7” by the good folks at Messthetics (Chuck Warner) and Milk & Alcohol (Stewart Anderson aka Steward aka that legend from Boyracer). Yet again, Robert Storey is at the controls here, but unlike the dub wildness of The Murphy Federation’s ‘The Fed-Up Skank’, here Storey and co. crawl, slink and slide unexpectedly across the floor, oozing from the four-track tape (or across the studio floor) like a particularly British take on The Residents circa their contributions to Subterranean Modern. By this stage, Orchestre Murphy was a loose conglomeration of Homosexuals, Milk From Cheltenham, Mick Hobbs, and Janey Haggar (aka Nancy Sesay, more of which soon), making Orchestre Murphy a kind of DIY super-group, of sorts. Very particular sorts.

‘Fallen Tyrant’
(Pig Productions, 1981)

Okay, let’s get this out of the way – The Performing Ferrets might have a few Fall records in their collections. But on their self-titled debut album (back in 1981 they were the Performing Ferret Band), they were doing so much more as well – chiming, downward strums that disrupted the clipped, drawling, almost reel-like trebly guitar lines that creep through their songs; a single-minded rhythm section who are fully intent on getting you there, by the only means necessary – repetition in the music, and they’re never gonna lose it. God bless Chuck Warner and Hyped 2 Death for compiling their music onto the 2008 compilation CD, No One Told Us: get hold of this CD at all costs, do it now!


‘Open Season’
(Optional Goods, 1981)

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Straight out of Dublin, the peridots – the lowercase spelling is intentional – released only one single, ‘Open Season’, the lead song of which is an odd little thing, where becalmed acoustic guitar, swimming out of a bucolic Syd Barrett session, meets the most intimate of downer vocals (“Sometimes it seems like open season on my life” – you poor dear), before the whole thing is sucked under by a farty synth. Members of the peridots had prior form with Modernaires and The Blades, the former of which are doubtless one of many groups who had to share the stage with the nascent U2. You gotta feel for them. Stan Erraught of the peridots ended up in Stars Of Heaven, one of the more ignored of the ‘80s Rough Trade groups – I haven’t heard many people mention them lately, but their albums are gorgeous, abstract folk-pop things, well worth your attention. You can hear this interest starting to develop on ‘Open Season’.


(Bla-Bla-Bla, 1980)

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Writing this article alphabetically has meant that, in many ways, everything’s been a long lead up to The Petticoats’ “Normal” 7”. A justly legendary record in a list that’s not exactly short of ‘em, ‘Normal’ was the only record released by The Petticoats, the concept of one Stef Petticoat, a weirdo visionary who also spent time in Amy & The Angels, and released a collaborative 7” on legendary German label ZickZack with Robert Crash, whose lasting legacy might well be being a member of Psychotic Tanks, one of the earliest 4AD groups. None of which tells you much about ‘Normal’, which sounds like it’s been recorded in one of those street-side photo booths and is all the better for it. Stef has one of the greatest punk voices, totally natural and exploding with joy, along the same lines as Lora Logic or Poly Styrene. There’s something insanely seductive about this record, a compulsive blurt that you can’t help but listen to over and over again; hard to really pinpoint, but maybe it’s all in the forced laugh and then the deadpan “probably not” at the end of the third chorus. Or the spine-chilling scream Stef lets rip, from somewhere close to nowhere, near the end. Perfect.


‘Get Down & Get With It’
(Rather, 1980)

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Another 7” slab that fell off the back of the Swell Maps’ lorry. This one’s pretty obviously the boys letting Phones Sportsman go for it, destroying Slade’s ‘Get Down & Get With It’ with typical bravado. There was something so great about the way the Swell Maps made loose with a dual heritage of Krautrock and glam, forcing the two together in all kinds of weird ways. This, obviously, leans heavily toward the latter, but with a dose of Beano humour.


‘Posters On The Wall’
(Groucho Marxist Record Co-Operative, 1979)

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Another gem from the Groucho Marxist Spectacular Commodity EP, though I’d really loved to have included the ‘Achieving Unity’ single, which is positively eerie – as Stephen Pastel observed in recent correspondence, is “kind of primitive and murky but still almost on the verge of revealing itself” – but until someone uploads it to YouTube, this will have to do. Still, ‘Posters On The Wall’ captures their aesthetic pretty clearly – an ultra-primitive take on song, with minimal Moe Tucker drums pounding out the simplest of beats behind a crunchy, noise-ridden guitar. Two members of The Poems, Drew and Rose McDowall, would go on to be part of England’s Hidden Reverse, connecting with Coil and Current 93, amongst others; Rose would also have her moment as a pop star in Strawberry Switchblade. Here’s where it all started. (Rose wasn’t on this track, though – here, the drums are by one Gary Waters.)

(Spec, 1978)

For some reason, pragVec have always felt like one of the emblematic groups of the weirder end of post-punk, something songs like ‘Existential’, with their dispassionate French lyrics, Beefheart-ian guitar scrunch, and roiling drums, will do nothing to dispel. The group released three singles, the final one a co-release on George Castro & Jean Karakos’ Celluloid imprint (Karakos was one of the inspired minds behind the BYG/Actuel free jazz series of albums which flew out of Paris in the early 1970s). Members of pragVec would also land in The Lines and The Atoms, and they’d count among their collaborators one Jim Thirlwell, who turned up alongside a few pragVeccers on the No-Cowboys ‘compilation’ on Spec, bubbling away on a Wasp synthesizer in Vince Quince & His Rialto Ballroom Detectives. The cats behind Wasp synthesizers must have done a roaring trade in the early 1980s.


‘Disco Pope’
(Rough Trade, 1980)

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There is no way this list could be complete without The Prats. A bunch of high-school kids from Edinburgh who got the punk bug early, way before they could play their instruments fluently, the kids from The Prats have always felt like the ur-DIY group, high on energy and possibility, brash with attitude, but also – and never forget this – possessed with a knack for tossed-off catchiness. Songs like ‘Disco Pope’ will get lodged firmly in your head, its childlike melodies patterned across each other with insouciance. ‘Disco Pope’ stuck out like a sore thumb even amongst the sore thumbs on that Post-Punk compilation the Rough Trade shops released a while ago. Genius. (There are family connections between The Prats and The Scars, btw.)


‘Going Through The Motions’
(Vindaloo / Rough Trade, 1979)

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A gang from Birmingham, The Prefects centered around the great Robert Lloyd, who would also run the Vindaloo label, and eventually form The Nightingales. ‘Going Through The Motions’ is meta-commentary – the song moves at a sluggish, sludgy pace, almost slothful, with Lloyd’s voice shaky yet strident. You can hear that they’d started as a punk group, but by the time they reached this single, all kinds of weird things were going on in their songs, from the jerky, breathless sax to the graduate from the Moe Tucker school of simplicity behind the drum kit. Post-punk/DIY archivist Dan Selzer released a great Prefects compilation, Amateur Wankers, on his Acute label. Make sure you get hold of it.


‘Capitalist Kid’
(MCCB, 1978)

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Another of Geoff Leigh’s groups, Red Balune justified their existence with this one song alone, an incredibly feverish blast, where guitar and electronics slime out of the cracks between those wild, almost free-improv drums lik ectoplasm across a corpse’s face. At this point, Red Balune were splitting their time between the UK and the Netherlands, and from the looks of it, MCCB was based in the latter, but this is such an archetypal blast of RIO DIY, it belong in this list. It still sends chills up the spine on the hundredth listen, such is its air of blasted malevolence. It’s available as a free download from Geoff Leigh’s Bandcamp page, along with all of his releases from this era.


(Thursdays, 1981)

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One of the most disarmingly personal records from the DIY era, Paul Reekie’s ‘Lovers’ is simple beyond belief – a one-finger piano refrain, a pattering drum machine, a tom and tambourine, all framing Reekie’s resigned narrative about the complexities and frailties of human love, the dejected mood only broken by Reekie’s double-tracked chant of “joy, joy, love’s rebellious joy”. Reekie also turns up in Thursdays, alongside Michael Barclay, and he was a member of ATV offshoot The Good Missionaries. But ‘Lovers’ is his masterpiece.

(Cherry Red, 1981)

Another of Mark Perry’s side projects, The Reflections had him playing alongside Karl Blake of Lemon Kittens, Nag of The Door & The Window, and ATV collaborator Dennis Burns. ‘Zigzagging’ is exemplary of their Slugs & Toads album, a deceptively sprightly pop song framed by lyrics that write male romantic uncertainty into the narrative: “I still zigzag between opti- and pessimism”. There’s a great Roky Erickson cover on this album, which kind of hints at the direction Perry & co were heading, and it’s a right laugh to see the legends at the Die Or DIY blog referring to this in the same breath as Blind Faith: The Reflections as a “DIY supergroup”, indeed.


‘Saying Goodbye’
(Z Block, 1980)

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Released on Z Block Records, the label run by Spike, who would later join Alison Statton of Young Marble Giants in Francophile pop gang Weekend, Reptile Ranch sit pretty neatly alongside that post-Seeds, post-Nuggets pop-psych arm of UK DIY. A ratty organ and jangly guitars limn a lovely, understated song which still, somehow, bristles with the do it now! energy of its times. Their entire first EP, Animal Noises, is full of such gems, and throughout they play with a confidence that feels well beyond their years. To be honest, sometimes this one makes me wonder whether Z Block might well have been an outpost of Flying Nun – something in the stringy fragility of the sound recalls the Dunedin Double EP.


(Cassette Gazette, 1980s)

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As they were associated with the Bi-Joopiter label, Rig Veeda, if they’re thought of at all, often get lumped in with peers like The McTells. But it’s worth remembering that they appeared on compilations with groups like Severed Heads, Instant Automatons and Naffi Sandwich, compilations such as Cassette Gazette, from which this untitled song is culled. Rig Veeda have a spaciousness that betrays their grounding in experimental music, even as songs like this pivot on the simplest of chord changes – it’s no surprise that they covered The Velvet Underground’s ‘Sunday Morning’ on their first cassette. Not sure of the provenance of this compilation, by the way – I’m guessing it’s not part of the series started by Jim Haynes in the ‘70s, and the only intriguing reference I can find connects the compilation with the Tham Tham label from the Netherlands, who were connected with Ding Dong crew (see the Van Kaye & Ignit 5LP anthology on Vinyl-On-Demand for more) and Mekanik Kommando. Can anyone help out?


‘Gerald’s Eyes’
(Tuzmadoner, 1979)

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From the Shish 7” EP, where Royston and The Different Eyes share one side each of an archetypal DIY single (with, apparently, the “worst record sleeve ever”, according to no less an expert than John Peel, though I’m sure he saw much worse through the ‘80s). Both bands are great but I’m handing the award to ‘Gerald’s Eyes’, at least in part due to the hilarious bluntness of the vocal delivery, dressing down a sociopath in the most unprepossessing way. Thanks to Johan Kugelberg’s DIY list, we now know that Simon Gilham, the contact on the record sleeve, ended up in Colin Newman’s group. Interesting how such an arch, art-school gang as Wire had so many connections in the DIY netherworld.


‘Arab O’Habab Of Arabia’
(It’s War Boys!, 1982)

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So you’re getting sick of It’s War Boys! cropping up here, regular as clockwork. But when you’re making records as deliriously warped as this, which somehow manage to keep one foot firmly within the known reality of the pop song, you’ve pretty much hit the DIY motherlode. All eight songs on the Sara Goes Pop double 7” are great, but ‘Arab O’Habab Of Arabia’ ties down what makes the record so appealing: a strangely denuded non-production, Sara’s strained, warbly voice, the re-appearance of Amos on meandering bass.

(Fast Product, 1979)

Back to Scotland for this one. The Scars would later release an overlooked album, Author! Author!, on PRE, but they never bettered their debut single, ‘Adult/ery / Horrorshow’, which seemed to take off from where the Gang Of Four might have gone after their excellent debut single, without the Marxist dialectic, but with truckloads more pop smarts. Thanks to their connections with Bob Last, The Scars ended up touring with labelmates The Human League, which would have been one hell of a cognitively dissonant line-up. Sampled by Lemon Jelly, as if that matters to anyone.


‘I Wish I Hadn’t Shaved My Pubic Hair Off’
(Dubious, 1978)

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If you want to get to grips with the social ineptitude of some of the DIY crew, lyrics like “I’m lonely and horny” are pretty much bang on the money. The Scissor Fits released two great singles, the songs on which give them the dubious honour of the best song titles in DIY – a mantle they share with Danny & The Dressmakers. This song is from their Taut? Tense? Angular? & Other British Rail Sandwiches EP; make sure you hunt down their classic anti-work rant “I Don’t Want To Work For British Airways”, which, if I remember rightly, also turns up on the great Labels Unlimited compilation Cherry Red released in the late 1970s. (Which reminds me, how did I miss I Jog & The Tracksuits?)


‘Helicopter Honeymoon’
(One Tone, 1980)

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Tayside represent! From their only single, Revelation, though 2009 saw the release, finally, of a great retrospective LP, Auchmithie Forever, on Dulc-I-Tone. (There’s a cassette from 1979, Auchmithie Calling, as well.) One of the quintessential Scottish DIY bands, The Scrotum Poles laid waste to Dundee with their most excellent, crackly, energised take on post-mod/punk DIY pop – many mention the Television Personalities, which kind of makes sense (particularly given the group themselves yell “DIY! We love the Television Personalities!” on the record sleeve), though they’re actually a good deal more ‘together’ than, say, the TVPs’ ’14th Floor’. And just as great.


‘The New Faeces’
(It’s War Boys!, 1983)

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My God, this tape! Jim Welton of The Homosexuals let loose in Chris Gray’s studio and the result is one of the strangest, most unsettling of the post-Homosexuals projects (and there are a few of those). ‘The New Faeces’ wins out for having, perhaps, the best title on the cassette (though ‘Yes, Psychoanalysis’ comes a close second); it’s also one of the lovelier moments on Rok-Y-Roll, a gentle clatter for distant percussion, and rattling guitar, which again, seems somehow to bring together folk reels and the trebly sting of lingala. Nice denouement for warped cassettes and proto-electro drum machine, too.


‘C’est Fab’
(It’s War Boys!, 1982)

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Give it up for Nancy Sesay, aka Janey Haggar, part-responsible for one of the highpoints of UK DIY endeavour. With executive production by ‘The Dandy Horses’ (right), ‘C’est Fab’ somehow manages to move through so many moods in its four-and-a-half minutes: the aerated, giddy confusion of the introductory minute;  the descent into madness that leads us into the chant of “c’est fab” – watch out for that blast of noise that sends your ears out somewhere close to Merzbow’s barnyard, where he’s working on his Hello Kitty collection; and moments of music hall strangeness…There are few collectives who’ve covered quite so much territory, in such an offhanded way, as The Homosexuals crew. And we’re not done with them yet, either…

‘Alone On Penguin Island’
(Dome, 1981)

Released by Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis’ Dome label, and soon to join Colin Newman’s group, Desmond Simmons was Wire-by-proxy, almost. There are some great warped songs on this album, almost in a prog Eno / Anthony More Flying Doesn’t Help style, but I keep coming back to the weird instrumental interlude of ‘Alone On Penguin Island’, which sums up many beautiful things about the beguiling oddness of post-Wire enterprise – a thumping electronic heartbeat grounding a three-note banjo refrain, whining Augustus Pablo melodica, and subliminal breaths and laughter building the tension toward the end. In its own, confused way, it feels somehow consummate.


‘In Search Of The Perfect Baby’
(Black Noise, 1980)

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Bruno Wizard gives you more with ‘In Search Of The Perfect Baby’, one of the handful of indisputable heartbreaker classics from the extended Homosexuals cabal. The unbearable melancholy of Bruno’s guitar and voice quickly slips into more cognitively warped terrain, as though the song is straining at its contours, trying to find ways to violate logic. You wish you could write songs like that, but you can’t. Only Bruno Wizard can do it (and maybe, at a pinch, Robyn Hitchcock circa The Soft Boys). Music rarely collapses so elegantly as it does on ‘In Search Of The Perfect Baby’. Don’t sniff at the wonderful B-side, ‘Nursery Chymes’, either. This one just inches out that Ici La Bas 12”, though ‘Total Drop’, from that record, ain’t no slouch.


(Six Minute War, 1980)

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Sloppy, blunt and beautiful, here Six Minute War decide that the nuclear cloud isn’t a particularly cool one to be living under, and proceed accordingly, pulling Communism, capitalism’s accelerationist drive, and fallout shelters together under the cover of a guitar that sounds so metallic and sharp you’d expect it to lacerate your skin without your knowing. Another group who shot for short songs – their first, self-titled EP features 11 tracks (one less than Seems Twice, who are the yardstick for this kind of business, but many more than most) – they’ve got that oddly oikish chant down pat, and the drums put the rude in rudimentary. But there’s something quite exhilarating about Six Minute War’s music; they’re playing at the very limits of their belief and enthusiasm.


(Groovy, 1980)

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Ah, Hangahar, the best of the small yet perfectly formed Groovy Records catalogue. Run by Pete Shelley of The Buzzcocks, Groovy was the home for his weird-out, Krautrock-obsessed side – check out the hissing electronics of Shelley’s solo Sky Yen, too, or the potting-shed clatter of The Free Agents’ £3.33 for more gems. But Hangahar is the one, not least because that’s a young, wild Sally Timms, later to achieve no small amount of infamy as a member of The Mekons, and solo artist par excellence, channelling her inner Yoko / Dagmar / Patty Waters, under which members of the Groovy collective make loose with conventional structure and tonality. A beautiful, long-form wrap. A few years ago, Drag City broke from their recent form (turning young men into old hippies) to release a Groovy box set, The Total Groovy. You need it.


105. SNEEX
(Groucho Marxist Record Co-Operative, 1979)

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More sound of alternative Paisley – and yes, I am a little obsessed with the Paisley Punk crew. But Sneex’s ‘Radiomania’ is a real gem, with the same driven energy as the Swell Maps, if not their raunchy, post-T Rex glimmer. They’ve got some of their references spot-on (“John Peel, he’s the real deal”), some are retrospectively unfortunate (“Jimmy Saville, he will fix it” – no, he won’t), but the primitive garage thud of ‘Radiomania’ pushes all the right buttons. Thanks to Mike Clarke’s piece on the Paisley Punk scene, we know Graham Thompson of Sneex appeared in Gregory’s Girl with Altered Image’s Claire Grogan.

‘Seventies Romance’
(Object Music, 1979)

From Manchester, Spherical Objects were an incredibly productive outfit, releasing two singles and four albums between 1978 and 1979. ‘Seventies Romance’ is as good an example of what they were up to as you could find – a slightly clumping, leaden-footed song, with Steve Solamar’s unique vocal delivery (theatrical, somehow, even within the humble confines of the relatively DIY production), it shares with those early Fall records a dinky keyboard sound (close your eyes and that could be Una Baines plugging away at her Casio) and a seeming disconnect with much of the fashion that surrounds it. Solamar also ran Object Music, which released records by Tirez Tirez and The Passage, and documented the Manchester Musicians Collective on 1979’s A Manchester Collection compilation. Look out, too, for the Noyes Brothers double album, Sheep From Goats, a 1980 collaboration between Solamar and Steve Miro.


‘Alice In Sunderland’
(Eustone, 1979)

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Blurry, mumbled, hissy, bipolar non-pop, released on Eustone, the label that also gifted us with Methodishca Tune. Stepping Talk were another arm of the extended Scritti Politti collection, and probably the best of the lot. You’ve got to hand it to Stepping Talk, too, for ‘John’s Turtles’, their tribute to John Fahey, which they recorded while Jim O’Rourke was still in short pants. The great Jay Hinman sums this one up perfectly, at his Detailed Twang blog, when he describes it thusly: “Low-key and aimless to a fault, it illustrates perfectly that special rainy, damp, cold leftist/labour DIY sound that encapsulates barely-pre-Thatcher Britain in 1979.” This one’s somehow slipped between many of the cracks: make sure you help bring it back into the realm of the living. What a great single.


‘Seaside’ / ‘Spanish Song’ / ‘Trees & Flowers’
(unreleased, 1982)

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I’m cheating a little here, because by the time they were releasing records, Strawberry Switchblade had gone relatively pro: even if you grab hold of their debut single on Ninety-Two Happy Customers, they’re being produced by Balfe and Drummond, with Kate St John on oboe, and Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame on extra guitar. So instead, turn your attention to this wonderful demo from 1982, where things are still formative, and Strawberry Switchblade are actually a band proper, rather than the duo vision of Rose McDowall and Jill Bryson. Word has it that The Pastels’ Geographic Music imprint is working on a collection of these early Strawberry Switchblade recordings, which has me pleased as punch.


‘Read About Seymour’
(Rather, 1977)

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The key to the Swell Maps: they wrote great pop songs, and then buried them under all kinds of post-Krautrock avant tactics. But on ‘Read About Seymour’ they seemed to summarise much of their subsequent career in 90 seconds, from the squalling, churning guitar tone, to the oddball lyrics and street chant delivery, through to the twenty-second freak-out that ends the song almost before it’s even had a chance to begin. Not too many groups managed to pack this much excitement into one-and-a-half minutes.


110. TAKE IT 
‘Man-Made World’
(Fresh Hold, 1979)

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One of the few records on this list that fully deserves invocation of that most dreaded of critical tropes: angular. But ‘Man-Made World’ makes the grade through the weird illogic that courses through the song – a grounding four-note keyboard riff churning through the guts of the song, while guitar and keys stab at the vocalist, who’s off somewhere else, seemingly perfecting his hollow-cheek croon. And why does that drummer turn up half-way through? Everything was going so well.

’14th Floor’
(no label, 1978)

They were actually called Teen ’78 for this self-released 45, which is too perfect a name for a group like this – Dan Treacy and his friends, singing out in the most colloquial, everyday of voices, which guitar, drums and bass potter alongside, chomping quietly at the bit. Listening back to ’14th Floor’, it can be hard, at first, to think that this is the same group, more-or-less, that made the austere, melancholic Painted Word album in the mid 1980s. But some of the greatest stories of the punk/post-punk/DIY are of groups starting out with small ambitions, and growing to take in the broader view over time – and, anyway, there’s something in the Londoner sadness of ’14th Floor’ that hints that, one day, Treacy would write his masterpiece. ’14th Floor’ is the first pass in one of modern pop’s most compelling and heartbreaking stories.


‘Hernando’s Hideaway (The Pajama Game)’
(Y, 1982)

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DIY goes tango! On Dick O’Dell’s Y label, this is here at least in part due to the characters involved – Amos re-appears here, as does his co-conspirator Sara, but they’re joined by quite the mostly crew – studio owner Chris Gray is here, as is Richard Dudanski (Basement 5, PIL, The Raincoats), Lance of Milk From Cheltenham and The Hostiapaths (who also featured Amos and Bing Selfish), and comedian Keith Allen, whose faux gay reggae single, under the name Dread Boots Sex, is a complete classic. ‘Hernando’s Hideaway (The Pajama Game)’ is fantastically awkward, one of the best singles of its era, endlessly addictive. Also check out the warp factor playfulness of the b-side, ‘Break The Ice At Parties’.


‘Girl On The Bus’
(Lowther Street Runner, 1980)

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The opening of ‘Girl On The Bus’ still catches me looking, as it’s the closest anyone else has come to the bittersweet pop of Mike Newell’s Cleaners From Venus. One of the purest pop blasts from the DIY age, the Thin Yoghurts, aka Smoz, Kenney, Duck and Davy, have got it entirely right here, and I can but echo the words of the great folks at Die Or DIY?: “the sublime ordinariness of the poetry contained within these grooves! Naive charm materialised in a seven inch plastic disc, with a superb “first thought, best thought” designed in one minute stream of consciousness picture sleeve, printed on the cheapest paper imaginable.” You got it, man. There was a follow-up cassette, Valium Luguvalium, and Lowther Street Runner reappeared, it seems, in 1983 with a single by Them Philistines – any clues about this single would be greatly appreciated.


(Fast Product, 1979)

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A great slug from the Earcom 2: Contradiction compilation, which also featured Basczax and Joy Division. It’s best to ignore their other contribution, a lamentable cover of Otis Redding’s ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’, but ‘Perfection’ does what many Scottish post-punk/DIY groups of the time did, and rather well: crunching, dislocated guitar, threshing away like they’d locked the Swell Maps in the basement, and a strangely hectoring/urgent vocal delivery that comes across like Paul Haig on too many uppers. In other words, it has some of the artiness of Josef K, but far more overtly punk energy. It’s a world away from Paul Reekie’s ‘Lovers’ – he’s a member of Thursdays, along with Michael Barclay, who also did time in Boots For Dancing (alongside Jo Callis of The Human League).


‘Big Noise From The Jungle’
(New Hormones, 1980)

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Another one of Pete Shelley’s side projects, here he teams up with Francis Cookson (one of the Groovy Records cabal) Eric Random for a thrumbling, grunting drone/raunch monster – heavy in all the right ways, this one starts at 200kph and doesn’t let go. Again, you can hear Shelley’s grounding in Krautrock here, but instead of DIY Kosmische, here he’s grabbing hold of the endless metronomic of NEU! and riding it out with twisting, wired guitars, winding together like tagliatelle on a fork. It would have been great to have seen them live – their first gig has gone down in semi-legend as a support slot for Joy Division at the Factory Club on 9 June 1978, the very gig for with the FAC 1 poster was designed.

“TV On In Bed”
(Alien, 1981)

‘Shark Fucks’ might be the classic single, but Love Backed By Force is a sublime album, and’“TV On In Bed’ is here for personal reasons, as much as any – the first time I heard of Tronics was when I heard Television Personalities cover this perfect pop song on their Don’t Worry Baby, It’s Only A Movie album. All mythology aside – Sic Alps recently released a Tronics covers EP, and Ziro Baby’s songs feel custom designed for reinterpretation, the better to build the mythos – Tronics wrote and then performed, incredibly simply, some of the best songs of their era. They’ve done well by reissue culture, with Love Backed By Force available again via What’s Your Rupture?, and two recent collections, What’s The Hubub Bub and Say What Is This? out via M’Ladys, a perfect label fit if ever there was one.


‘Taste Your Own Medicine’
(Rather, 1978)

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Those Swell Maps, they got around. Steve Treatment was another Maps family member, crossing paths with Nikki Sudden and the boys thanks to their shared love of Marc Bolan. You can certainly hear the boys’ collective Bolan kick on this EP, which grabs hold of the eternal ‘complex simplicity’ of the greatest T Rex singles – Bolan was rock’n’roll’s La Monte Young, I’m telling you, even more so than the Velvets – and churns it through several layers of dislocating reverb and double-tracking. There’s a compilation of his singles and unreleased asides on Hyped 2 Death. Fun facts: Treatment and Sudden got The Damned their gig on Bolan’s TV show; Treatment also hooked up with Derek Jarman, helping him cast for Jubilee.


‘Invisible Boyfriend’
(Chew, 1982)

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The duo of Mark and Melanie Litten, Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike hit the same targets as Marine Girls, Grab Grab The Haddock, and maybe even The Petticoats – pre-‘indie pop’ that often gets mis-cast as ‘twee’ by people who can’t grasp that sometimes the softest sounds hit the hardest. For it takes great bravery and individualism to make a music this seemingly fragile, even more so to send it out into the world from the Isle Of Wight via DIY 45s. Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike have charm to burn – it’s no wonder their website lists gushing fan-boy responses from Alan McGee, Dan Treacy, John Peel and Jim Reid of Jesus & Mary Chain. There’s a fantastic compilation of their singles and extra guff, All Day Long In Bliss, available via their Bandcamp. It’s worth looking out for those Sarah Goes Shopping singles too, Mark Litten’s group with Sarah Brown of Peel favourites Twa Toots.


‘Hello Howard’
(Namedrop, 1982)

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From the same label that brought you Philip Johnson’s Doof, Twelve Cubic Feet were an early group for Dave Evans, who I believe would end up part of the Creation Records cult, joining Biff Bang Pow! and Jesus & Mary Chain for a time. Twelve Cubic Feet released one 10”, Straight Out Of The Fridge, and seemed to effortlessly capture the gentle jangle that underpinned plenty of DIY endeavour, from the softness of Marine Girls to the more attenuated crackle of Television Personalities. They shared membership with Doof – via one Paul Platypus – and certainly an aesthetic bent with the formative Creation gang. Records like this point toward C86, however beleaguered that term/non-genre may be these days.


‘Follow The Bouncing Ball’
(Up Murphy Street, 1986)

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Breaking my ‘nothing after 1985’ for this one, but please forgive me – Up Murphy Street’s sole, self-titled album is such a welcome continuation of early Murphy / Robert Storey form that it may as well be preserved in aspic, dated c 1982. Except that there’s something even more gentle about songs like ‘Follow The Bouncing Ball’ which points toward other surrealist solo janglers like Pip Proud or the eminence grise of the field, Mr Syd Barrett. Spending time with Up Murphy Street is a rare pleasure indeed.

(Shanghai, 1980)

Uber-brutal, simple guitar-and-drum thud with the dinkiest, daftest two-note guitar non-solo, giving The Buzzcocks’ ‘Boredom’ a run for its money (and surely that was the template anyway). There’s even some warbling recorder hidden away in here, fighting a losing battle with the blunt, disinterested vocal. Who is this ‘New Noise’ on guitar and vocals, anyway? Could that be Lawrence from Felt? It seems a sure bet, given that the Versatile Newts single was the second release on Shanghai, following Felt’s debut, ‘Index’ – apparently, when Gilbert expressed an interest in making a record, Lawrence told him to get off his butt and do it. Somewhere out there’s a story, possibly apocryphal, that Gilbert sent the Newts single to The Fall, who proclaimed themselves big fans, and invited the Newts to share the stage – by this time, they’d mutated (back) into Felt, and one of pop’s weirdest cult groups had truly begun.


(Rational, 1981)

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Built around the McVay brothers, the Visitors were an Edinburgh-based post-punk group who released three singles. This is the last, and probably the best. In some ways, it shares a stentorian epic-ness with The Colours Out Of Time (mentioned way back in this list) that has me thinking they could have relocated to Liverpool and found their people. But, while I’m usually leery of trusting YouTube comments, I’ve got to salute the chap who observed, quite correctly, that this is a bit like The Gordons’ ‘Future Shock’, one of the most mammoth slabs of wax released in New Zealand. And thus, the connection between Scotland and New Zealand grows ever stronger. Who was Colin Craigie? He was one hell of a guitarist.


123. L. VOAG
‘According To Freud’
(no label, 1979)

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Welcome back to the list, Amos – it’s been at least ten records. Under the name L Voag, Amos released one single, Move and an album, The Way Out, which is up there with other gems like Richard Earl’s Egg Store Ilk and the George Harrasment record when it comes to one-man-one-mind, home-baked visionary clatter/clutter epics. Drew Daniel of Matmos knows – he covered ‘Kitchen’ on The Soft Pink Truth’s Do You Want New Wave Or Do You Want The Soft Pink Truth?. “According To Freud” comes from Move, and it’s a lovely audio verite rant, hissy in all the right places, packed with character and not outstaying one second of its one-minute marathon. Try and find the reissue of The Way Out on Alcohol, if you can. It’s a riot.


‘On Our Honeymoon’
(Scan 45, 1982)

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Still going strong, three decades in, The Wake are one of Scotland’s best kept secrets. The visionary behind The Wake, Caesar, has piloted the group through involvement with some of the UK’s finest labels – Factory, Sarah, LTM – and even had the thorough decency to let Bobby Gillespie join the group for a time. “On Our Honeymoon” is their debut, self-released single and its shrouded darkness makes it no surprise that they were picked up soon by the Factory Benelux imprint – The Wake have always had a particularly cosmopolitan, European aesthetic, something that really shines through even nowadays: check out their most recent album, the beautiful A Light Far Out, for further proof. Captured Tracks and LTM have been doing a great job of keeping The Wake’s flame alive recently.


(Bogaten, 1983)

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Here’s one for the delectable Brogues at the Not Unloved blog, who, from all accounts, is a firm believer in the jangly magic of The Wee Cherubs. Every time I hear this record, I’m still surprised by the tight delay on those drums – whose kind of good production idea was that? But this is a lovely pop song that sits quite nicely alongside the janglier, gentler end of Scottish DIY. Two members of The Wee Cherubs, Graham Adam and Martin Cotter, would end up in C86 reprobates The Bachelor Pad, which is some sort of outcome, for sure.

‘Breast Stroke’
(Flaming Tunes, 1985)

If there’s such a thing as a perfect album, Gareth Williams & Marie Curie’s Flaming Tunes might be it. The late, great Williams was a member of This Heat, and after that combustible trio flew apart for the last time, he hooked up with Curie and recorded this beautiful cassette, which effortlessly takes This Heat’s penchant for studio experimentation and wired intensity and lands it in a more bucolic, agrarian space. There’s a similar melancholy on Flaming Tunes to Robert Wyatt’s hermetic, personalised Old Rottenhat album, though there’s less of the dinky keyboard presets, and greater warmth from acoustic instruments. Reissued a few years back by Blackest Ever Black, it’s an album you’ll not tire of. So don’t miss out, buck.


‘I Hate America’
(Woof, 1981)

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Crawling from the darker recesses of the RIO crew, The Work was one of Mick Hobbs’ outfits, joined by Bill Gilonis, Tim Hodgkinson and Rick Wilson, with appearances from Catherine Jauniaux and (you better believe it) Amos. So, again, they’re pretty deeply embedded in the Henry Cow, News From Babel, Officer!, The Momes etc. nexus, but with added fire and fury – these records really take off from a point of intensity that even many of their hard-edged colleagues couldn’t reach. Self-released, too, on Woof, the excellent label run by Hodgkinson and Gilonis, the home of many of her fantastic records – check out The Lowest Note On The Organ’s sole 7”, the Gilonis/Hodgkinson collaborative 7”, and fantastic albums from The Momes, Het, The Work and Jauniaux/Hodgkinson, amongst others. A classy collection of music.


(Groucho Marxist Record Co-Operative, 1980)

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Groucho Marxist released two compilation singles, and then branched out with two single-artist 45s, one by Defiant Pose, and this one, the wonderfully titled Life’s A Wank EP (excess discharge, uh-huh). XS Discharge were the closest that the Paisley Punk community came to rama-lama pure punk rock action, but there’s still gruffness to the playing and recording that pegs this one as coming from bedrooms and backrooms, not the style shops and scene queens of London punk.

129The 012

129. THE 012
‘Asbestos Lead Asbestos’
(Flicknife, 1984)

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The 012 was the group formed by Keith Dobson aka Kif Kif Le Batter around the time of his Fuck Off Records dalliance, and before he began to break cover with World Domination Enterprises. They released one great album, Let’s Get Professional, from whence came this early version of ‘Asbestos Lead Asbestos’, World Domination Enterprises’ enduring classic. Here Dobson and crew take it at a slower clip, but the guitars still have plenty of nasty raunch, volcanic, thick lava flows of nasty, unkempt noise. The liner notes state, “The 012 would like it to be generally known that they have now sold out completely, but will be doing all they can to maintain that urban guerilla pop star image in the future”, but no-one’s going to mistake this for a Meat Beat Manifesto record in a hurry.

130 - 391

130. 391
“What’s Wrong With My Hi-Fi”
(Arts-Council Grant, 1983)

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Excellent, drooling experimentation from Mark of The Instant Automatons, with occasional appearances from Nigel Jacklin of Alien Brains (Mark and Nigel were in The English Assassins together). If the Instant Automatons were particularly emblematic of the cassette culture, Garageland end of DIY culture, 391 takes things one further, and starts to push things out into the real of industrial/experimental/noise territory. But it’s a fascinating teetering point to land at, and there are plenty of moments of non-conventional beauty buried deep inside tapes like this one, or No Way Out. How exciting it must have been to be tracing the arcs of all of these weirdo personal units, the postal service a fundamental life-line to modern cultures of refusal.


‘Stupid Boy’
(NB Records, 1980)

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…and why not end close to where we began, with The 49 Americans, one of the collectives that formed, somewhat loosely, around the LMC / Door & The Window axis. The floating membership on these records is pretty heavy – Nag & Bendle of The Door & The Window, David Toop, Steve Beresford, Terry Day, Vivien Goldman, Lol Coxhill, Peter Cusack, Viv Albertine of The Slits… Pretty much a roll-call of thet most interesting musicians floating in and out of the DIY / post-punk / improv / dub netherworlds in London at the time, and the end result was two albums and two singles of wild, short, sharp pop-non-pop songs and nerve-jangling experimentation. “He thinks he’s made a single – stupid boy.”


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