RECORD TURNOVER 80s HITS #172
Never did I imagine that I would be writing about The Pooh Sticks on here. But it was actually with mild satisfaction that I noticed Optic Nerve’s retrospective compilation Straight Up: Noise Pollution that came and went almost in the blink of an eye. Luckily I found a distro in Denmark still carrying it. The small Preston label have been known to reissue almost anything from underground 80s bands of questionable rarity.
But this 14-track compilation is the first time we get a definitive picture of this forgotten Welsh group. In the 80s they were kind of the in-joke of the scene spearheaded by Creation, Rough Trade and their ilk. With self-referential lyrics, drum machines and powerpop masquerading as shambolic lo-fi, The Pooh Sticks even released their first ‘album’ as a box set of five single-sided 45s.
This weird artefact was reissued by Optic Nerve in 2019 and most of those tracks also appear on here (except the unreleased bonus tracks from that reissue). We also get some of the best tracks from their first proper album Formula One Generation (1990). The band’s discography is a bit bewildering: The same year that The Pooh Sticks came out on Fierce, Stephen Pastel’s label 53rd & 3rd released Orgasm with a very similar tracklist. These versions however, were recorded live in a basement.
Then a real live album came out the next year. Two years on, in 1991, Fierce ‘reissued’ the original 53rd & 3rd LP with an extra 10 tracks recorded around the same time in 1988 but not released. As you know, any LP with 19 tracks on it can’t sound great. Luckily a few of those tracks also made it unto the new compilation, released on blue vinyl at the end of July.
The group’s and lead singer Hue Williams’ fascination with the 60s shines through in references to The Beach Boys, The Eyes, Lenny Kaye, The Monkees and covers of Tommy James and 1910 Fruitgum Co. songs. So the indie connection feels a bit weird at times, but I guess The Sea Urchins also wanted to be The Eyes (can’t blame them). Still, Pooh Sticks might have been the first group to use the word “indiepop” in a song title.
In a way, The Pooh Sticks share a lot with The Vaselines, whose image was similarly tongue-in-cheek. The vinyl version comes with a copy of a gig poster from London, with The Pooh Sticks and The Vaselines supporting The Pastels. Probably a gig you should have been at.