Lande Hekt rose to fame as the singer with excellent indie/punk band Muncie Girls, a band whose 90s-centric sounds evoked the past like no other. Lande released an excellent solo EP in 2019 and her debut full length appeared in February 2021.
Back in the 90s, a series of compilation albums called ‘Indie Top 20’ provided exciting listening for a generation of NME readers. The series of cassettes (and latterly CDs) brought together 20 indie hits and underground bangers of the day, providing what would become an important time capsule for future generations.
The compilers were unafraid to pitch the era’s heavyweights Pop Will Eat Itself and Carter USM against the then up and coming Sleeper and Salad; it also gave a huge platform to bands that now seem too often forgotten, like Tiny Monroe and 18 Wheeler. Whatever appeared, fans absorbed like sponges. Those compilations were often responsible for creating cast iron favourites.
The 1991 Yes album ‘Union’ is one that very much splits opinion. Rick Wakeman famously nicknamed it ‘Onion’ as it made him cry whenever he heard it, and even from a fan perspective, it never really connected with a strong audience. Those who liked the poppier route Yes had taken in the 80s found musical kinship in the more commercial tracks – like the lead single ‘Lift Me Up’ and Billy Sherwood’s excellent ‘The More We Live – Let Go’ – but didn’t really like the proggier aspects, while the proggy fans welcomed the return of Steve Howe and a few more adventurous bits but still had no time for the pop aspects still present. It was a case of “too many cooks” – the album took in too much variation and enlisted five different producers – and in an attempt to please everyone, almost ended up pleasing no-one.
Back in 2018, multi-instrumentalist, producer and one-time member of The Cure launched a new project, Astral Drive. The “band” acted as an outlet for Thornalley to revisit the kind of 70s AM radio pop he’d always loved. The album marked itself out as an instant classic, often inviting comparisons to the best works by Todd Rundgren and Jeff Lynne; the kind of record that would keep fans of classic retro pop entertained for years.
The album was then represented in stripped back arrangements on a digital release (self-titled, referred to as “The Green Album”), but it didn’t seem as if the world would see brand new music from Astral Drive again for some time…or possibly ever. The original LP almost sounded like a flash in the pan for retro cool; a perfect statement of the past, recreated for the present. To follow it up with anything as perfect would be a tall order after all.
By the time Judas Priest entered the 1980s – their second decade as recording artists – the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was in full flow. As has been written many times before, their sixth studio album ‘British Steel’ is a genuine metal classic, more than able of standing proudly alongside Iron Maiden’s self titled debut and Saxon’s ‘Wheels of Steel’ as one of the greatest heavy albums of that year. No matter how much great music Priest had up their collective sleeve, that would always be a hard act to follow.
In 1981, Priest had high hopes of repeating ‘British Steel’s’ commercial success with another timeless set. Being the first time the band had actually re-entered the studio with the same line-up, in theory, they should have been a stronger unit than ever. However, the resulting album, ‘Point of Entry’ (released in February ’81) initially sounds weaker than Priest’s previous couple of albums and although parts of it seem very formulaic on the surface, in reality, their seventh LP features a couple of musical experiments that show a band attempting to branch out. Regardless of some interesting material, though, it’s no match for its immediate predecessors (‘British Steel’ and ‘Killing Machine’); that said, it’s far from the bad album its sometimes suggested to be.