Almost from its inception Creation Records was just a bit different to other independent labels.
There as an ambition at its core, a desire to impact on and interact with the mainstream; in the figure of label boss Alan McGee, they had a motormouth whose aim was to well and truly shake things up.
For two decades Creation became a by-word in crucial guitar music, releasing countless seminal albums in the process.
With new biopic Creation Stories on our screens now, a few Clash writers got together and picked 10 crucial albums from the Creation catalogue.
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Super Furry Animals – 'Radiator'
After listening to the Super Furry Animals debut album at school one lunchtime I commented to a friend: “They’ll never top this!” How wrong I was.
15 months after ‘Fuzzy Logic’ was released its follow-up was unleashed. Despite being release at the height of Britpop ‘Radiator’ feels more grown-up than a lot of stuff released at the time. The passion and angst are still there but the band have matured and want to experiment a bit more.
From the opening chords of ‘Furryvision’ you are just pulled into a world of wonky synths, massive melodies, spikey guitars and through provoking lyrics “'Cause I know that you know that we know they don't know what's going on”. The standout track is the morose ‘Download’. Is it a cautionary tale about the music industry? A reflection on a past relationship? Who knows? It just works.
The icing on the cake is the singles ‘Herman Loves Pauline’, ‘The International Language Of Screaming’, ‘Play It Cool’ and ‘Demons’. Was there ever a stronger run of singles from an album? Probably not. (Nick Roseblade)
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The Boo Radleys – 'C’mon Kids!'
What do you do after you’ve had a hit single and a #1 album? Push yourself, and your fanbase, and go somewhere new. That’s exactly what Martin Carr and the Boo Radleys did with ‘C’mon Kids’.
‘C’mon Kids’ feels like the hangover to the poppy psych of ‘Wake Up!’. Take the opening track for example. The catchy guitars, and choruses, are still there but they are hidden under layers of feedback and maelstroms of sound. It says “We aren’t the same band you saw on Top of the Pops. We’re trying something new. Stick with us. You’ll enjoy where we go”. Rumour has it Radiohead scrapped the direction for ‘OK Computer’ after hearing it.
There are still signs of that previous band, though; ‘New Brighton Promenade’ feels like classic a Boos track, but there are still some biting lyrics and harsh guitar tones. It’s like Carr couldn’t allow himself to go back to their previous sound. And good for him. ‘C’mon Kids’ was a confusing album but one I was glad I persevered with as it’s a writhing, twitching thing of beauty. (Nick Roseblade)
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The House Of Love – 'The House Of Love'
One of Creation's greatest tricks was to enforce a gravitational pull on London's wayward spirits. Outsiders seemed to flock to the label, and one of the most formative was Guy Chadwick. Lead singer of The House Of Love, he previously worked in a more synth pop guise until a fateful encounter with whirlwind guitarist Terry Bickers.
Debut album 'The House Of Love' was a testament to their creative partnership – songs poured forth, while the effects Bickers layered across those melody lines would presage shoegaze by a good couple of years.
'Christine' is heavenly, 'Hope' soars, while 'Fisherman's Tale' is Chadwick at his most literate. The riff that swirls around 'Shine On' still surges – arguably their high water mark, it earned them an ill-fated major label deal. (Robin Murray)
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Teenage Fanclub – 'Bandwagonesque'
There is something understated about Teenage Fanclub and their de-facto leader Norman Blake. When I was coming up with my favourite Creation releases for this list, off the top of my head, I’d totally forgotten about the Blake and co. When I’d realised my error, I wanted to include all their albums, but decided that picking one was probably the best.
‘Bandwagonesque’ might not be my favourite Teenage Fanclub album, that’s ‘The King’, but it probably their best album. At the time I wasn’t that into ‘Bandwagonesque’, it didn’t have the swagger or bite I wanted as a teenager. The music was too upbeat and poppy. However, as time went on, I was drawn to it more and more. It’s all there. Crunching guitars. Dreamy harmonies. Killer melodies and those pathos heavy lyrics.
The album ends with ‘Is this Music?’. It is the darkest track on the album. The guitars pierce the gloomy rhythm section like the sun on a cloudy day. So, is this music? Yes. Possibly some of the finest I’ve ever heard. (Nick Roseblade)
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Medicine – 'Shot Forth Self Living'
For me, Creation Records’ legacy is summed up best with the compound noun “shoegaze”. Ride, Slowdive, MBV, Swervedriver, Pale Saints; their roster from around 1990 to 1993 wasn’t just a platform for this genre; it was the genre.
Concurrently though, something similar was happening Stateside; Swirlies and Black Tambourine were putting out records to rival the Scene That Celebrates Itself, whilst LA’s Medicine were fusing harsher noise with dream-pop’s delicate melodies in a concoction that might be the least West Coast kind of music ever.
'Shot Forth Self Living' is the debut album by Medicine, the first American band to sign for Creation, and it’s up there with the best and most unique shoegaze records. Opener ‘One More’ squalls for nine minutes, beginning with a single megalithic drone that spans three minutes of runtime alone, whilst ‘Sweet Explosion’ sees Beth Thompson’s vocals shimmying amongst plentiful reverb and tremolo.
Cataclysmic ‘Christmas Song’ is lucsious and bristling with beautiful textures, whilst ‘Miss Drugstore’ is a bite of golden delicious college rock. Shot Forth Self Living is one of the great underrated records of the era, and no conversation about Creation Records’ back catalogue is complete without it. (Cal Cashin)
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My Bloody Valentine – 'Loveless'
From one of the most uncompromising bands of the late 1980s and early 1990s, noise-rock quartet My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ is as timeless as it gets, and the band’s influence on subsequent guitar music is unmatched.
Masterminded by Kevin Shields, few groups from that era have remained hotly tipped, but the Dublin band are untouchable, and it can be argued that they are surrounded by greater curiosity today. Following a recording period of two years, where an overarching focus on detail remained consistent, the record finally came out in November 1991.
Labels such as “ethereal” and “indirect” are often used to describe their sound, but the music is far more tangible. The extent to which the term reverb is applied seems equally inaccurate as the technique is rarely used. Matching the melodic sensation of many 1960s records, the arresting pop quality of ‘Loveless’ makes it outstanding, representing a distinct moment in music history. (Susan Hansen)
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Primal Scream – 'XTRMNTR'
Raw and empowering Primal Scream are not only an enduring force, they help to tell the tale of British rock and roll. Finishing on a high ‘XTRMNTR’ was the final release on Creation Records, a consistently hot topic of discussion, the Scottish band put out their sixth studio album in January 2000. Having kept a more subtle political profile on previous albums, this record remains the most substantial statement from the group.
Themes tackled on the record include everything from global capitalism, fascism, conservative politicians, the class system to the royal family. Musically and lyrically, a critical, dystopian voice is depicted through songs such as ‘Kill All Hippies’, ‘Accelerator’, ‘Swastika Eyes’ and more.
With influences reaching as far as MC5, Suicide, The Stooges through to krautrock, it makes use of wider electronic styles, and ‘XTRMNTR’ represents an unmatched, political vision from Primal Scream, creating a landmark album in the process. (Susan Hansen)
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The Jesus & Mary Chain – 'Munki'
1998’s ‘Munki’ was the one and only album that The Jesus And Mary Chain recorded for Creation, a label that got its start thanks to the profits that the band’s first manager, Alan McGee, made when they signed to Warner Brothers.
It was a bittersweet homecoming, recorded while Jim and William Reid couldn’t stand the sight of each other. So much so that the songs weren’t even recorded together – William would go into the studio to record his songs with bassist Ben Lurie and drummer Nick Sanderson, then Jim would follow him in to record his own songs with the same group. Despite the tensions, ‘Munki’ was a surprisingly even album that wore its punk colours on its sleeve.
Songs like ‘Cracking Up’ and ‘Stardust Remedy’ nodded noisily in the direction of The Velvets, displaying the same spiky guitar urgency and droning, atonal fuzziness. The album was bookended by Jim’s euphoric ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and William’s ‘I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll’, the songs' opposing sentiments a s clear a sign as any that the links in the Chain had broken.
In hindsight, ‘Munki’s divisions made the album as important a break – up record as ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’ or Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours'. (Mat Smith)
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Ride – 'Nowhere'
Oxford four-piece Ride emerged with a string of vital EPs across 1989 and 1990, with each song – each show, even – seeming to amplify their shaggy-haired, effects pedal strewn charm. Posterboys for shoegaze, the band entered the studio with something to prove on their debut album, and somehow distilled the immortal sound of precocious youth down into a dreamy, endlessly evocative song cycle.
The highs are almost too many to mention; from the feedback drenched bass spasm that launches 'Seagull' to the delicate, almost Baroque guitar line on 'Dreams Burn Down' it remains a truly gorgeous listen.
A first-time masterpiece, it found Ride looking out to the horizon across the endless expanse of water which framed the cover art. (Robin Murray)
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Felt – 'Forever Breathes The Lonely Word'
Ah, the majesty of Lawrence. Arguably one of the brightest talents of the indie pop era, his mind was simply too sharp for those times – luxurious in its ambitions, hugely personal in its approach, his ideas were bold, frank, and often limited by their context.
'Forever Breathes The Lonely Word' is undoubtedly a masterpiece, though, no matter how you chalk it up. Placing Lawrence's lyrical flair to the forefront, the gorgeous arrangements – often led by future Primal Scream keys player Martin Duffy – lean on classic pop lore which matching the wit of the lead singer.
'Down But Not Yet Out' is practically a mission statement for Felt, while Lawrence is at his most supremely affecting on 'Hours of Darkness Have Changed My Mind'. Exquisite in its simplicity, 'Forever Breathes The Lonely Word' stands as one of the finest albums Creation ever put out. (Robin Murray)
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Creation Stories is out now.
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