Back in the early the late 80′ and early 90’s the American indie scene, though somewhat established by early labels like SST, Dischord, Twin Tone, Touch & Go and Homestead was, compared to today, really only in it’s adolescence. Around this time, a lot of new indie lables were just getting started and releasing singles and albums. Labels like Simple Machines and Teenbeat in Washington, DC, Merge in Chapel Hill, Matador in New York, K in Olympia, and Sub Pop in Seattle all got started in the late 80’s and early 90’s, though some of them had existed as far back as ’84, like K releasing cassettes. One label that caught my attention with its very first release was SpinArt. It was a compilation entitled One Last Kiss, featuring 19 bands that were mostly new to me. Most of them were American, and all of them looked to the UK for their influences and sound, with the c-86 scene a major influence as well as early Creation Records.
There were a couple things that made this compilation a signpost for the American Indie scene. The first thing that was the sheer quality of the music. Every song was catchy, with not a runt in the litter. The bands seemed to be mining a similar vein for sound, yet each was doing it’s own thing in it’s own town, pretty much benignly ignorant of what was going across the country. The fact that this compilation spanned the country and it wasn’t localized to a single city made it seem even more important. The second thing I took notice of was the fact that it wasn’t just a bunch of guy bands. A majority of the bands featured girls in prominent roles like guitar and singing, but there were also bands with girls playing drums or bass. It was like the rules were no longer the rules and all of a sudden the likes of Velocity Girl with Sara Shannon fronting the band, Swirlies with Seana Carmody playing guitar and singing, Small Factory with Phoebe Summersquash playing drums, or Suddenly Tammy! with Beth Sorrentino playing piano and singing were the norm. This compilation illustrated a larger trend where for the first time in American Indie music where the girls were on equal footing with the guys. Girls were everywhere in this new indie scene. There was also Jenney Toomey and Kristin Thompson running Simple Machines and fronting Tsunami, Laura Ballance of Superchunk and running Merge, and Gail O’Hara and Pam Berry starting up Chickfactor. Hell, some bands were trying to sound like they had a girl for a singer, like Washington, DC’s Lorelie, and even Stephen Merrit was giving over vocal duties to Susan Anway on 100,000 Fireflies. The third thing that hit me was the fact 90% of these band were from the US (with the exception of Swirl who are from Australia, White Town and Jane Pow from the UK). Me being the devout Anglophile at the time, had no idea there were so many kindred spirits lurking in the indie underground.
I even still remember where I bought it, it was at Eide’s in Pittsburgh, on my way back to Ohio from college in Morgantown. I probably bought it because it had Velocity Girl’s Forgotten Favorite and the Lily’s Any Several Sundays. I still remember popping the cd in and immediately falling in love with the Swirlies, then Suddenly, Tammy! and then Lorelei, and then…well you get the picture.
That UK centric scene in the US kind of died away in late 90’s and throughout most of 00’s, but it seems that the aesthetic put forward by the One Last Kiss compilation and a few others like Brilliant Records‘ Something Pretty Beautiful that came out a year later, has made sort of a comeback. In fact it seems there has been an explosion in the last few years of unknown indie bands self releasing cd’s, singles or just putting up a MySpace page with some songs. I remember in the mid 90’s SpinArt released another compilation called Lemon and Lime that was meant to recapture that feeling of awe at how many great new bands were out there like the One Last Kiss compilation did. It didn’t quite go over as well as they hoped. It had some good stuff, but unfortunately fell short of the lofty expectations of OLK. Well if they had waited until 2008, they could have put together another amazing compilation. Over the next few weeks I’m planning to go through the One Last Kiss compilation, song for song and try to recreate it, 2008 style. For each track, I’ll post the One Last Kiss track and then a song from a new band that could be the present day equivalent. So at the end of this whole thing, you will have a brand new compilation, I’m calling it After the Last Kiss. So get ready. What else do you have to do this summer, but go to the beach and wait for the next installment of After the Last Kiss? Tune in tomorrow for track number one, the Swirlies and ????