4AD head Ivo Watts-Russell has later said that he was going to shut down 4AD after ten years, but he didn’t because he felt an obligation to the bands. So instead 1990 turned into one of the busiest years ever, with 17 releases, and some of the biggest commercial successes in 4AD’s history.
Dead Can Dance released Aion, a release that I think converted anybody sceptical about them into fans. Pixies released Bossanova, which was very popular and the first release on 4AD I didn’t like since 1984. But Kim Deal from Pixies joined up with Tanya Donnelly from Throwing Muses and Josephine Wiggs and went into the studio with “producer” Steve Albini and came up with the Pod album, which I think is better than everything Pixies did ever combined.
And we got the first album from His Name Is Alive, which did much to ensure people sceptical of the other newcomers that 4AD was still spiffy.
And then there’s Cocteau Twins. Heaven or Las Vegas was their most commercial release ever, and sold a buttload of copies, and was also well-liked by old fans. Imagine that. But: During interviews Robin Guthrie had been saying increasingly dismissive things about Ivo, and he finally got fed up and released them from their contract out of the blue.
As was part of the pattern, after leaving 4AD they didn’t really do anything much worthwhile. People are still coming clean about whether they tolerated Four-Calendar Cafe or not.
Watts-Russell would start withdrawing from day-to-day running of the label (and the artists) after this. He had been very hands-on, from doing the A&R thing to signing bands to visiting them in the studio to overseeing the manufacturing, and that ended around this time. Perceived cohesion would start to dissolve over the next few years as other people at 4AD would start bringing in bands. The “4AD fan” thing would start to become a thing of the past. Which is perhaps a good thing? Or kinda melancholic. Take your pick.
Pale Saints — The Comforts Of Madness
Way The World Is, You Tear The World In Two, Sea Of Sound, True Coming Dream, Little Hammer, Insubstantial, A Deep Sleep For Steven, Language Of Flowers, Fell From The Sun, Sight Of You (remix), Time Thief
Lush — Mad Love
De-Luxe, Leaves Me Cold, Downer, Thoughtforms (remix)
Ultra Vivid Scene — Staring At The Sun
Staring At The Sun, Three Stars (*** version), Crash (remix), Something Better
Ultra Vivid Scene — Joy 1967-1990
It Happens Every Time, Staring At The Sun, Three Stars (remix), Special One, Grey Turns White, Poison, Guilty Pleasure, Extra Ordinary, Beauty #2, The Kindest Cut, Praise The Low, Lightning
The Breeders — Pod
Glorious, Doe, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Oh!, Hellbound, When I Was A Painter, Fortunately Gone, Iris, Opened, Only In 3’s, Lime House, Metal Man
Dead Can Dance — Aion
The Arrival And The Reunion, Saltarello, Mephisto, The Song Of The Sybil, Fortune Presents Gifts Not According To The Book, As The Bell Rings The Maypole Spins, The End Of Words, Black Sun, Wilderness, The Promised Womb, The Garden Of Zephirus, Radharc
His Name Is Alive — Livonia
As We Could Ever, e-nicolle, If July, Some and I, fossil, E-Nicolle, Caroline’s Supposed Demon, Fossil, reincarnation, You And I Have Seizures, How Ghosts Affect Relationships, Darkest Dreams
Pixies — Velouria
Velouria, I’ve Been Waiting For You, Make Believe, The Thing (The Happening)
Pixies — Bossanova
Cecilia Ann, Rock Music, Velouria, Allison, Is She Weird, Ana, All Over The World, Dig For Fire, Down To The Well (remix), The Happening, Blown Away, Hang Wire, Stormy Weather, Havalina
Cocteau Twins — Iceblink Luck
Iceblink Luck, Mizake The Mizan, Watchlar
Cocteau Twins — Heaven Or Las Vegas
Cherry-Coloured Funk, Pitch The Baby, Iceblink Luck, Fifty-Fifty Clown, Heaven Or Las Vegas, I Wear Your Ring, Fotzepolitic, Wolf In The Breast, Road River And Rail, Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires
Lush — Sweetness And Light
Sweetness And Light, Breeze, Sunbathing
Pixies — Dig For Fire
Dig For Fire (single), Winterlong, Velvety Instrumental Version, Santo
Pale Saints — Half-Life
Half-Life Remembered, Babymaker, Two Sick Sisters, A Revelation, The Colour Of The Sky
Ultra Vivid Scene — Special One
Special One, Lightning (72 b.p.m / 4 a.m.), Kind Of A Drag, A Smile And A Death Wish
Lush — Gala
Baby Talk, Thoughtforms, Scarlet, Bitter, Second Sight, Etheriel, De-Luxe, Leaves Me Cold, Downer, Thoughtforms (remix), Sweetness And Light, Breeze, Sunbathing, Hey Hey Helen, Scarlet (version two)
This post is part of the chronological look at all 4AD releases, year by year.
*) Missing from Spotify.