Monday, July 28, 2014

The Pooh Sticks - The Pure Styx EP

The Pooh Sticks – The Pure Styx EP
Sympathy for the Record Industry, 1989
Acquired: End of an Ear, Used, 2008
Price: $3
The legacy of the Pooh Sticks brands the Welsh group as indie rock tricksters. The group itself was the brainchild of producer/record label runner/songwriter Steve Gregory implemented by frontman Hue Williams and their MO was to subvert pop music while making some brain-meltingly catchy, jangly, sing-a-long pop music along the way. The cover of the group’s most famous album—1991’s The Great White Wonder—depicted the band an Archies-esque pop group while stealing melodies, song titles, and lyrics at will from various American musicians (Lou Reed, James Taylor, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, the list goes on and on). While “Teenage High,” the first track from The Pure Styx EP, could easily be confused with one of the more upbeat Sarah Records singles of the era (the band recruited twee-pop queen Amelia Fletcher on vocals a year later) the tracks are as much as a play on twee as they are pure pop bliss. After all, the b-side features a GG Allin cover, so how twee can this be? Regardless, I love this seven-inch so much I own two copies (one in opaque pink, one in translucent blue). The power pop embracing b-side “Soft Beds Hard Battles” features Williams on vocals and a couple of short, wailing guitar solos all buoyed by a propulsive rhythm section all crammed into a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it running time (it can’t be more than a minute long). The running time of this “EP” is probably just over five minutes and I could pretty much listen to it forever, evidenced by the fact that I just listened to it 8 times while writing this short review.

"Teenage High"


  1. Some info: the main "Teenage High" features lead vocals by 'Stephanie' (real name Katie), who appears on the cover of the "Hard On Love" flexi. Nice girl. Bass and guitars were played by 'Paul' (real name, er, Paul). Drums were from a recording I'd made recently (in my kitchen) of a different band doing some other song entirely. All of this was put together one morning when Katie and Paul were staying at my house all before Hue woke up (Hue was also staying over that night). That same day, Paul & Katie recorded versions of The Byrds' "He Was A Friend Of Mine" and The Sea Urchins' "Please Rain Fall". The structure of "Teenage High", ending on the solo, was supposed to be kinda like Primal Scream's "Velocity Girl".

    The GG Allin cover: this was originally intended to be a version of "Expose Yourself To Kids", but decorum prevailed at the last minute.

    "Soft Beds Hard Battles" was kinda-about a gent called Mike Powles, living local-legend and owner of the studio where I used to rehearse with my previous band. Mike was a gifted guitarist who had recently sliced the top off one of his fingers in the heavy studio door so wasn't being his usual ebullient self for a couple of weeks. As well as being the title of a Peter Sellers film, "Soft Beds Hard Battles" was also apparently the name of one of Mike's songs. Mike was particularly beloved in Pooh Sticks land for his response to being asked by his wife if he loved her: "Of course I loves you, I fucks you and buys you chips, don't I?".

    I thought it was very odd when Long Gone John wanted this for Sympathy. He came to Swansea and hung out with us and Fierce Recordings star Saucerman. One night, the Manic Street Preachers were playing in town, so we all took some mushrooms and went to see them... except John. He stayed at home, cos he wanted to watch more MTV. His favourite was New Kids On The Block, I shit you not, which is why they're mentioned in "Radio Ready" on the "Formula One Generation" album.

    I didn't just throw all this stuff together, you know!

    (borrowing Trudi's account - she's playing with the cats)

  2. Ha! Thanks for all the lovely info Steve! I was unable to find much info about this release (I spent ten minutes googling trying to find out who sang "Teenage High" to no avail) so this is fantastic!