4AD 1988

Listen to 4AD 1988 on Spotify.

And here my problems really start with the “let people listen to 4AD as if they were around at the time” approach starts fraying.

Over the next few years, 4AD would start getting in to the 12″ remix business, and it starts here with The Wolfgang Press’ King of Soul single. It has three different versions of that song… and, as I pretty much expected, none of those versions exist on Spotify. Only the album version does.

As we get into the 90s, expect more lacunae.

After the very exciting 1987, 1988 comes off as a breathing space. Basically all the bands keep on doing what they do, and what they do is very good indeed. Vaughan Oliver is still art-directing his hands off on these releases, with some very striking result (like the Ultra Vivid Scene cover which looks like nothing else, especially in the original vinyl version). It’s all very tasteful.

And then there’s the cover of Bird Wood Cage, which is an old toilet sat on a lawn, courtesy the funsters of The Wolfgang Press, who allegedly insisted on that design just to piss Oliver off.

Ultra Vivid Scene was the only new band of the year, and only ten things were released, which I think is the least ever in 4AD’s history. But two of the releases were huge sellers, I think: Cocteau Twins’ Blue Bell Knoll, which signalled that they were going in a more commercial, bright direction. And then there’s The Serpent’s Egg by Dead Can Dance that signalled that they definitely weren’t.

Perhaps 4AD was treading the water a bit, but it’s pretty good water to be treading. Still, some fresh young energy was needed to spice things up, and that’d come next year.

My favourite release of the year is House Tornado by Throwing Muses. It’s Peak Quirkiness: Every song is just downright weird. And fabulous. My go-to song to sing to myself when my brain is otherwise blank is still Juno, after all these years.

If they were pretty
It’d be OK to say
But that day only
When she wore dresses she felt born

*sings along in his head*

Oh, and, bragging time:

I got a CADX703 this week!!!! After lusting after it for 30 years!

This has nothing to do with Bernard Valentin posting a picture of his two copies, which didn’t make me jealous at all, not in the least. Nothing to do with that!

Now I’m going to remain giddily happy for the rest of my life!

Oooh, nice print:

Anyway, bragging time’s over; here’s 1988:


Bulgarian Voices — Volume 2: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Kaval Sviri, Stani Mi, Maytcho, Di-Li-Do, More Zajeni Se Ghiouro, Tche Da TiKupim Bela Seitsa, Ovdoviala Lissitchkata, Messetchinko Lio, Ei Mori Roujke, Dragana J Slavei, Atmadja Duma Strachilu, Dve Tourlaski Pesen, Trenke Todorke, Besrodna Nevesta, Jzpoved, Ghiore Dos, Spis Li, Milke Le

Throwing Muses — House Tornado

Colder, Mexican Women, The River, Juno, Marriage Tree, Run Letter, Saving Grace, Drive, Downtown, Giant, Walking In The Dark

Pixies — Surfer Rosa

Bone Machine, Break My Body, Something Against You, Broken Face, Gigantic, River Euphrates, Where Is My Mind?, Cactus, Tony’s Theme, Oh My Golly!, Vamos, I’m Amazed, Brick Is Red, Caribou

The Wolfgang Press — King Of Soul

King Of Soul*, King Of Soul*, King Of Soul*

Pixies — Gigantic

Gigantic, River Euphrates, Vamos, In Heaven (Lady In Radiator Song)

Ultra Vivid Scene — She Screamed

She Screamed, Walkin’ After Midnight, Not In Love (Hit By A Truck)

Cocteau Twins — Blue Bell Knoll

Blue Bell Knoll, Athol-Brose, Carolyn’s Fingers, For Phoebe Still A Baby, The Itchy Glowbo Blow, Cico Buff, Suckling The Mender, Spooning Good Singing Gum, A Kissed Out Red Floatboat, Ella Megalast Burls Forever

Dead Can Dance — The Serpent’s Egg

The Host Of Seraphim, Orbis de Ignis, Ulysses, The Writing Of My Father’s Hand, Song Of Sophia, In The Kingdom Of The Blind The One-Eyed Are Kings, Chant Of The Paladin, Echolalia, Mother Tongue, Severance

Ultra Vivid Scene — Ultra Vivid Scene

She Screamed, Crash, You Didn’t Say Please, Lynn-Marie #2, Nausea, Mercy Seat, A Dream Of Love, Lynn-Marie #1, This isn’t Real, The Whore Of God, Bloodline, A Kiss And A Slap, How Did It Feel, Hail Mary

The Wolfgang Press — Bird Wood Cage

King Of Soul, Raintime, Bottom Drawer, Kansas, Swing Like A Baby, See My Wife, The Holey Man, Hang On Me (For Papa), Shut That Door

This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.

*) Missing from Spotify.

October 1946: My Darling Clementine

As westerns go, it doesn’t get more western than a movie directed by John Ford starring Henry Fonda (!) as Wyatt Earp (!!) in Tombstone (!!!).

Shirley, I must have seen this movie before, but I really can’t remember anything about it…

This Criterion restoration of the film is almost … too much? The blacks are #000 and the greys are very dramatic and beautiful, but in some of the scenes things definitely are too dark. And has it been de-grained? Perhaps not; Ford used beautiful film stock for most his movies…

It’s (unsurprisingly) very good. The plot twists and turns in ways I didn’t expect, and while some of the performances are a bit hokey (Cathy Downs, for instance), it really works.

The bluray has two versions of the movie: Zanuck took the movie over and cut a whole bunch of footage (and added some new bits). A nitrate that contains many of these scenes was discovered at a university in the 90s, so we get that one too, as well as a comparison between the two versions.

My Darling Clementine. John Ford. 1946.

Popular movies in October 1946 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
17032 7.8 My Darling Clementine
1250 7.4 The Jolson Story
621 7.4 Margie
2157 7.3 Deception
817 7.1 Dangerous Money
2795 7.1 The Dark Mirror
267 7.1 The Crimson Ghost
1013 6.6 Blue Skies
1084 6.6 The Strange Woman
418 6.4 So Dark the Night

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

September 1946: La belle et la bête

Huh! It’s an opera? Sounds very modern? I didn’t know that Jean Cocteau did operas? How odd.


Philip Glass composed an opera perfectly synchronized to the film. The original soundtrack was eliminated, and he composed the opera to be performed along with the film projected behind the orchestra and voice talent. The compact disc recording of Glass’ “La Belle et la Bête” can be played alongside the film with a very similar effect. Note: the opera is recorded on two compact discs; hence it will be necessary to pause the film once while changing discs. In the US, the second DVD release of this film by the Criterion Collection gives the viewer the option of hearing the original soundtrack or the Glass opera version, which, in a sense, gives you two movies for the price of one.

So there’s two audio tracks to this… Uhm… I think I’ll keep watching the Glass version.

It works really well. The movie is so over-the-top that it seems made for the opera treatment. It’s dreamy and stylised.

It’s wonderful.

La belle et la bête. Jean Cocteau. 1946.

Popular movies in September 1946 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
581 7.9 Panique
678 7.2 Sister Kenny
334 7.1 Monsieur Beaucaire
1829 6.9 Angel on My Shoulder
1134 6.8 Decoy
297 6.8 The Overlanders
1752 6.6 Cloak and Dagger
813 6.6 Crack-Up
251 6.6 Three Wise Fools

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

August 1946: Black Angel

What’s this then?

I wasn’t prepared for the segue into film noir was going to be this abrupt. Of the films after the war ended, virtually all the movies have been noir.

This is another one, and it’s weird. I did see the twist coming a mile away, but there’s just so much strange little details here all over the place, like when June Vincent goes to spy on slash seduce Peter Lorre…

And all those weird little cinematographic ticks.

It’s really quite something.

Black Angel. Roy William Neill. 1946.

Popular movies in August 1946 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
76181 8.0 Notorious
65991 8.0 The Big Sleep
2343 7.9 The Time of Their Lives
14566 7.9 The Killers
1875 7.0 Black Angel
358 6.6 Spook Busters
217 6.4 Step by Step
306 6.1 Holiday in Mexico

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

July 1946: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

I love the title!

And… wow! This is absolutely brilliant! I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s condensed, over-the-top melodrama; every scene, every camera angle pitch perfect.

Lizabeth Scott is wonderful here. I’m not familiar with her work, but she’s like every 40s dame distilled. And Kirk Douglas is perfect as the milk-toast weaselly D. A. (which probably didn’t take much acting).

OK, my enthusiasm here is perhaps a bit er enthusiastic (I’ve got a way with words): Some of the scenes don’t really work. But the ones that do are fabulous.

“Let it burn, Sam.”

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Lewis Milestone. 1946.

Popular movies in July 1946 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
5941 7.5 The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
967 7.1 I See a Dark Stranger
1346 7.0 Canyon Passage
576 6.9 A Scandal in Paris
229 6.9 Bowery Bombshell
767 6.8 Till the End of Time
209 6.7 Centennial Summer
368 6.6 My Pal Trigger
282 6.5 Two Guys from Milwaukee
426 6.4 Of Human Bondage

This blog post is part of the Decade series.