If anyone ever asks you to suggest a quintessentially indie album then Kettle by The Chesterfields is most surely the perfect example. Released during the indie heyday of NME's C-86/87 movement, Yeovil's finest pop charmers turned in an absolute blinder with their debut record.Think Housemartins without the car coats or The Smiths at 78 rpm. High on hooks but short on seconds, The Chesterfields first platter speeds by in a fun-filled twenty-six minutes, but with enough melody to fill a football stadium.
1987 was a very good year for indie bands as that NME C-86 cassette kindly opened the basement door to a tribe of Transit hopping hopefuls. Venues across the UK were suddenly reverberating with the sound of independent bands. Some good, some not so, but The Chesterfields were notable because they excelled at indie pop and made it all seem so effortless in the process.
Led by two talented young songwriters, Davey Goldsworthy bought sharp humour and a jangling guitar style whilst stoic bassist Simon Barber delivered classic pop tunes and chunky bass runs. Produced by another Yeovil notable, John Parish (later to find world-beating success with PJ Harvey) brought his studio nous and a strictly hands-off approach that set the scene for a debut to remember. Released on de rigueur indie label The Subway Organisation by Martin Whitehead (The Flatmates), Kettle leapt out of the racks in the summer of 1987 courtesy of its great tunes and fantastic pop art sleeve (take another bow Mr. Simon Barber).
Kicking off with the urgent Nose Out Of Joint, the guitars buzz like busy summer bees whilst the singer falls out of love with the songs romantic lead. Drums pound and harmonies soar and straight from the start you know you're in for an old-fashioned West country treat. Nose is followed by the bands biggest indie single Ask Johnny Dee, with bassist Simon Barber delivering perhaps the indie anthem from that golden summer of 1987. Well it was the indie anthem in my bedroom, that's for sure. Remember, this was the year that both The Smiths and Madness broke up. But The Chesterfields rose to the challenge of replacing both for me. Ask Johnny Dee sums up a special place in time and is still fondly remembered by the Chesterfield faithful as the song laments more lost love and is topped off by sparkling guitars and a hopeful 'Ba Ba Ba Ba' vocal hook. Two Girls And A Treehouse is a great song title that takes about as long to type as it does to listen to the whole darned track. Lyrically, it includes the great put-down 'and you laugh about it with your friends or so-called friends' whilst also including the pun-tastic 'I put on the kettle but know that it doesn't fit me' which was/is totally my brand of musical humour. I remember being very impressed when I first heard this lyric. Thirty-five-or-so years later, it's still one of the albums greatest tracks. Shame About The Rain is next to arrive and would have made a great third single from the album. Think Happy Hour but prettier and sadder. But this was 1987 and indie bands just didn't release that many singles from an album. Not when they could nip back into the studio and knock out an EP's of new material between long-players. Everything A Boy Could Ever Need remains a great track that you wouldn't want to include in your DJ set (check out that tricky false ending) whilst side one finishes with the skidding Kiss Me Stupid, yet another Golden Graham in this cereal bowl of highlights.
Side Two revs up with the punk-alicious Thumb, A.K.A. basically the best song The Buzzcocks never wrote, whilst Storm Nelson resembles Haircut 100 arm wrestling indie stalwarts The Loft. Which is odd when you consider that Andy Strickland from The Loft is now a fully paid up member of the new-look Chesterfields. Frenetic of pace and choc full of melody, such forward motion on Kettle keeps the band way out front in this particular caretaker race. Vic Goddard's joyous Holiday Hymn dons a knotted hankie and keeps us all smiling midway through side two before Oh Mr. Wilson! plots a course towards the end of this perfect pop album with some deftly tuned percussion courtesy of Scott Tracey, credited on the album as a guest musician and obviously on loan from his day job of flying Thunderbird 2 for a living. Or put another way, producer John Parish showing off some of his many diverse talents. The Boy Who Sold His Suitcase see's Davey dropping his guard and delivering one of the albums more poignant moments before Completely And Utterly arrives just in time to close the album in impressive style with 2:06 of the most sublime indie pop you're ever likely to hear. Honest guv, it's a belter. 'Here come the saviours they've got electric guitars in their hearts'. Oh yes, indeed!
Of course, like anything great it's all over far too quickly but hey, you can always put the Kettle on again, can't you? Sorry, I couldn't resist.
You know, one last thing here. It just struck me that after all these years of loving this record I'm so proud that I've been a part of bringing it back to vinyl existence. I never saw that one coming!
In memory of Davey Goldsworthy who left us far too soon, I'd like to say a huge thank you to Chesterfield main man Simon Barber for all his help and enthusiasm in bringing this project to fruition.
Long may you rock with The Chesterfields.
Simon Parker is a musician and co-founder of NAKED Record Club
Click here for Simon's C-86/97-inspired playlist featuring The Chesterfields and many others!