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Sunday, 31 July 2011

~Kitten Wine~#29: Golden Days At The Icerink

When we first started this Blog, over a year ago, the blurb at the side saying what we all contributed used to be a little different, especially my section. It used to say, amongst other things, that I would be writing about record labels like Sarah, Sha-La-La, Subway and Icerink. I later removed this because I thought it was a bit esoteric, especially as virtually nobody I know seemed to have any knowledge about Icerink Records. And, as I never seemed to get round to writing about Icerink, it seemed totally redundant.
But let's change that now.
Let's look back at a special, and tragically ignored record label that put out some very high quality releases.
Icerink Records were the brainchild of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs who were, along with vocalist Sarah Cracknell, St Etienne; one of the finest British bands of modern times and who I hope to cover in a full Blog at a later date.
Pete and Bob not only ran Icerink, but wrote, produced and arranged some of the tracks that appeared on their label. The label ran from 1992 to 1994, with most of it's more interesting releases emerging in that first year.
As always, let's do a bit of contextualising first and look back at the era the records were released in, and why some of them came to mean so much to me.....

1992 was an odd year for me.
It was the first full year I had to suffer with the tattoo of the black dog's bite upon me. The first crash of depression had struck me in October of 1991, and like all first bouts of depression it had completely floored me. It had also destroyed the relationship I was in at the time, and had taken a fair chunk of 'the old me' with it. There's a rather splendid book called 'Sunbathing In The Rain' by Gwyneth Lewis which tells of an everyday 'normal' person's battle with depression, and I swear that it is so unnervingly accurate that at times I felt I could have written it myself. It seems that everyone who is ever stricken by depression finds that first time the worse, and almost everyone experiences the same traumas and self-questioning in uniform.
1992 was also a time that music was changing. My friends who had been so 'rockist' through the 1980s were now attending raves and pretending to like Dance Music. It was more down to their newly acquired taste for MDMA rather than any populist move.
Dance records were odd things in the early 1990s. There were some really blissed out attempts at Dance/Rap (which begat the later Trip Hop) like Digable Planets and PM Dawn that had a pleasant feel to them, but I was still too stuck in my Indie cul-de-sac to claim to like them. But there was always St Etienne who, even as an Indie Saddo, I couldn't fail to love. And it was while browsing for one of their records in Sleeves Record Shop in Falkirk that I stumbled upon one of the most important records I would ever own. I handed the 12" record over to the scruffy, laconic figure behind the desk (Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap, fact fans!) who, as usual, sneered at the purchase and then handed it back in the once iconic 'Sleeves' bag.
The record was 'Anglo-American/Don't Destroy Me' by Golden.
And it literally saved my life.
Getting through 1992 unscathed was a difficult process. The strain of depression that I suffered (and indeed still suffer from) was linked to both OCD and Intrusive Thought Obsession, so a great deal of time was spent trying to clear my mind of any negative shit, and to try move my line of vision and focus away from any troubling thoughts.
I had taken to playing 'Super Mario Brothers 3' on the Nintendo. I am not much of a Games fan, and this is really the only time I ever took to playing any kind of computer game with any kind of enthusiasm. I would often get in from work and, for the next five or six hours solid, I would play this ridiculous and increasingly difficult computer game. By the end I must have had reflexes like an over exuberant kestrel, and thumbs blistered into whole new shapes. I also soundtracked the whole playing procedure with laid back, purely electronic music including Momus's career changing album 'Voyager', and the aforementioned single by Golden.
'Anglo-American' and it's accompanying remix(which I preferred and have included below) filled the air with gentle, soulful beats and the childlike femininity of the three voices of Lucy, Canny and Celina. But it was the B-side, 'Don't Destroy Me' that cut deeper into me, filling me with an inner contentedness and harder resolve, ironic for a song so light and fresh. The song seemed to surround me like a protective shroud, a gossamer thin vapour reminding me of the beauty of life. There was something about the refrain "Don't destroy me...don't destroy me" that connected, and I realised later that this was becoming like a prayer or a mantra that I was sending out into the dying of the light. It was like I was accepting that I was merely ill and not forever changed, and that if I conquered this illness I'd get 'the old me' back again.
And that is why I an forever indebted to Golden, to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, and to this beautiful record....

Over the next couple of years Icerink would release some other fabulous recordings, almost uniformly of a very high standard, but almost all ignored by the public, and even many of the Indie kids.
A further release by Golden, a superb cover of Pulp's 'Wishful Thinking', backed up my belief that Golden were about to become the next St Etienne and 'my new favourite band', but sadly that was really about it for them....very little followed...a great pity!

There were releases from bands like Oval, Supermarket and Sensurround, who all got coverage in the inky music papers but just couldn't make the breakthrough.
The wondrous Melody Dog (again who I hope to follow with a full Blog in the near future) released a cover of Brian Wilson's magnificent 'Don't Worry Baby', but again Icerink seemed to prove to be the kiss of death for this band, for they released precious little after this too.

And then there was Shampoo!
Like my beloved Huggy Bear, I just LOVE it when I admit full on devotion to a band that my friends absolutely LOATHE! I should point out that when I say 'friends' I don't mean Griff and Ray, I mean people who maybe weren't even really friends, just drinking partners. Guys who bought in totally to the 'boys-own' world of piss poor guitar rock, and even more disparate nose-bleed banging techno! They HATED Shampoo both on a musical and sexist level....but, of course I cherished them dearly.
Unfortunately, these days Shampoo are remembered for their rather lacklustre One Hit Wonder 'Trouble', but early releases like 'Blisters And Bruises' and 'Bouffant Headbutt' saw them adopt the whole Riot Grrrl schtick before Riot Grrrl even happened. Perhaps had that rather diverting Hit Single never occurred, Shampoo might have been awarded a bit more cool kudos; but Carrie and Jaqui....we, the ~Streetlamp~, salute you!

One of the best songs ever released on Icerink, and indeed one of the best songs ever released....period! was 'Year Of the V-Neck' by Elizabeth City State. This song is absolutely FANTASTIC and yet, bizarrely and annoyingly, it was the one and only song they ever released.
The video which accompanies the song below is also very interesting, for it features scenes from the extraordinary 1970 Czechoslovakian movie 'Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders', which stars the unspeakably beautiful Jaroslava Schallerová.
The film is shot like a hazy, dreamy fairytale but deals with the sexual awakening of the titular goddess, and if you've never seen the film before then for pity's sake seek it out pronto! Hopefully the scenes included in the video below will give you some idea of the film and all accompanied by what will hopefully be your new favourite song.

When Icerink wrapped it up in 1994 they left us with a catch all compilation called 'We Are Icerink' which also featured the heavenly Jaroslava Schallerová on the cover. I cannot recommend this fine compilation enough and you can download the whole shebang here.

So that was it!
Icerink may not be spoken of as reverentially as Sarah Records, and it may never have had the sales figures of Creation or Rough Trade, but for a couple of years in the early 1990s, they really made life worth living. And maybe now Griff and Ray will get off my case and stop berating me for saying that everything released in the 1990s was shite.
Of course it wasn' just had to get your skates on to find the good stuff!


You can download Golden's 'Wishful Thinking' EP here


  1. Great post. Lots of more Icerink-y goodness here and here!

  2. Awesome Post ! you could say "I was born yesterday", So I haven't been around long enough to even know some of this music existed. It's a good thing that you've taken the time to write about these artist, and such great songs that would have gone unnoticed. Thank you ! this post is well appreciated and will now be shared with many others.

  3. For the Icerink completists among you, click:

    Here to listen to 1992 releases.
    Here to listen to 1993 releases.
    Here to listen to 1994 releases.