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Album review Scottish albums

Spare Snare

Dundee’s Spare Snare were formed in the early 1990s, and their wonderful lo-fi, gloriously noisy indiepop recordings are things to be treasured. Not only have Jan Burnett and his merry men been recorded by Steve Albini (he doesn’t like the word ‘producer’), the first thing eagle-eyed readers may note is that they have recorded sessions for John Peel and Aled Jones, making them the only band to accomplish this feat (and with Peel’s untimely death in 2004, the only ones who have ever achieved it).

As well as the three Peel sessions, recorded between 1995- 2001, there’s also other work they recorded for Radio Scotland, 6Music and Radio 1 for DJs including Marc Riley and Vic Galloway, the latter probably Scotland’s answer to John Peel. If you’re a UK resident and you ever wonder about why you pay your licence fee (and that could be the opening of a whole lot of cans of worms), bear in mind that the BBC have given far more airtime to bands like Spare Snare than your local advertisement-ridden radio station ever has.

A heads up: while not actually setting out to play wee jokes on their listeners – the opening track ‘Wired For Sound’ isn’t the Cliff Richard song from the early ‘80s – but that same year they did in fact record the Cliff number as a limited one-off 7” release (you can find it over at their Bandcamp page). It’s the start of a brilliant debut session, where the band unleashed four brilliant songs that could all have been singles (and mostly were, to be fair) setting out their stall with intent. Also on the first disc, entirely devoted to Peel sessions, is the wonderfully titled ‘D’ye Ken that Bruce Hornsby And The Range Are On The Mogodons, Ken?’ This is more manic than ver Snare’s normal pace, in fact it brings to mind other Peel favourites Melt Banana. Certainly more entertaining to these ears than the aforementioned AOR band.

There’s some duplication on the second disc of some tracks that appear on Disc 1 in different versions, but that really doesn’t matter. There’s a live set from Glasgow’s legendary 13th Note, and radio work from Scotland that reminds those in other parts of the UK that the music scene doesn’t all revolve around London even when there’s not a bloody pandemic on.

As mentioned, they did record a session for Aled Jones on Radio 2. To be clear, this was not the standard four song set that would be normal for John Peel, but rather they participated in a year-long exercise on Jones’ Sunday morning programme, over the year 2007 where Jones featured a different version of the so popular it’s almost secular hymn ‘Amazing Grace,’ a tune that has been recorded by artists as diverse as Rod Stewart, Judy Collins and the Lemonheads, to name but three of thousands.

It’s usually the case that a compilation of Radio Sessions is seen as just for die-hard fans and not a starting point. This is actually not the case – after all, the reality is that on the radio is where many will have first heard them – so why not start here too, if you haven’t already? There’s so many great songs that deserve to be heard -‘Bugs,’ ‘We Are The Snare’ and ‘Stop Complaining’ to name but three. It is an injustice that the Snare haven’t had the same level of acknowledgement that many other acts have (the Wedding Present, Dinosaur Jr and even Sebadoh all made Top Of The Pops, back in the day), but the music business isn’t known for its sense of fair play. Take matters into your own hands. Buy this boxset, enjoy all three discs and set about spreading the word yourself.

By Ed Jupp

Edinburgh based, addicted to noise and destroying the bourgeois aesthetic.

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