British A&R men’s favourite label rounds up the hits
1994 was an odd year. Grown men bought Riot Grrrl records, hoping no one could see the boner they were getting for the cute one out of Heavens To Betsy. Meanwhile grunge, which had seemed so transcendently exciting just a year or two earlier, turned into a bunch of grimacing twats in beanie hats and work-boots cocking on about heroin. Whatever anyone tells you, Nirvana really were on the slide before Kurt Cobain succumbed to the sadness that had threatened to engulf him for so long and blew his brains out in a lonely room above a garage. England, meanwhile, was crying out for something fun, something it could get drunk to that didn’t involve inane sexual-politics or ugly plaid. Cue Britpop. And cue Fierce Panda.
As a chronicler of the scene, FP was peerless. It was they who put Supergrass, Ash, Bluetones, Embrace right under the tastefully powdered noses of the UK’s A&R departments. It was they who were canny enough to chart with a spoken-word Oasis record. It was, to be fair, they who wasted perfectly good vinyl on losers like Bellatrix, Llama Farmers and Copperpot Journals too, but, hey, you can’t win ’em all.
From the Britpop years, Ash’s cover of Helen Love’s ‘Punkboy’ is reedy and enthusiastic but should really be stamped [I]Fans Only[/I], Supergrass’ ‘Caught By The Fuzz’ still seethes with a righteous teenage ire, but The Bluetones sound even more lame now than they did ten years ago. Placebo never bettered ‘Bruise Pristine’, while Embrace had an impressive string-section but were saddled with rubbish tunes and a barking seal on vocals. As for Kenickie, Idlewild, Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Seafood – really, who cares?
More recently, FP have been unearthed Hundred Reasons, Easy World, Keane and The Music, but they’ve done their best to apologise with brilliant debut releases from Coldplay, Six By Seven and Polyphonic Spree, so don’t hate on ’em too much. What’s more, just last year, they put out an excellent record by Death Cab For Cutie. They’re from Seattle: the former home-of-grunge Seattle. Which means Fierce Panda have won. Again. Happy Birthday.