An Essential Guide to Creation Records

An Essential Guide to Creation Records
No independent record label enjoyed the kind of success that Creation Records did throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Hold its discography up to any other label over that period, and it would be tough to argue that anyone did it better (with the exception of maybe 4AD, but not likely). Following in the footsteps of successful indies like Rough Trade, Cherry Red and Postcard, Creation was founded by a red-haired loudmouth named Alan McGee, along with his partners Dick Green and Joe Foster, as a home for music that didn't fit in the mainstream. And yet thanks to a 1984 single called "Upside Down" by a young Scottish band named the Jesus & Mary Chain, McGee found his label flirting with commercial success, which he would attain in full one decade later.

Nicknamed the "International Guardians of Rock and Roll," Creation was there leading the way for every major movement in rock music in its 17-year run: indie pop and C86, acid house, shoegaze, grunge and Britpop. Even when it struggled to stay relevant in its last remaining years, McGee was still able to go out on a high note in 2000 with one of his finest records, Primal Scream's XTRMNTR. Without Creation, My Bloody Valentine may never have been able to afford to make Loveless; Super Furry Animals may never have left the green grasses of Wales; Primal Scream may never have discovered ecstasy; and Noel Gallagher may never have taken over his brother's band and instead may have returned to the road with Inspiral Carpets as their guitar tech.

In his 2000 book, The Creation Records Story: My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry for The Prize, author David Cavanagh summed up the secret to McGee's success: "The reason Creation succeeded where other labels failed is not because McGee is a success and his rivals are all failures, but because he persevered when they gave up; because he took risks while they played safe and because he found Oasis just when he needed them."

Essential Albums:

10. Felt 
Forever Breathes the Lonely Word 

Arguably the most intriguing and misunderstood figure in Creation's history was Felt's mononymous leader, Lawrence. He was an absolute paradox: one of UK indie's most prolific songwriters, he released ten albums of outsider bedroom pop in seven years, along with a slew of singles, but he was also a self-defeating dreamer who savoured his inability to succeed. Despite a devoted cult following, Felt were often overshadowed by another jangly indie band with an eccentric frontman

With Felt's sixth album, Forever Breathes the Lonely Word, Lawrence released his masterpiece. Bolstered by the commanding organ of Martin Duffy (whose face graced the cover and joined Primal Scream after Felt split), more than any other Felt record, Forever showed remarkable restraint from Lawrence to keep things cohesive and focused for a change. Unlike on previous efforts, he eschewed layered instrumentals and penned eight perfectly minimal gems that were as accessible as they were insular. He even managed to spin a solemn lyric like "All the people I like are those that are dead" into a sing-along chorus. 

As McGee would later explain in The Guardian, Forever Breathes the Lonely Word was "too understated to be commercial, too art to go pop, too pop to go art," but pure "pop perfection." 

9. Adorable 
Against Perfection 

"If there's one thing I genuinely, genuinely believe it's that this band are gonna be massive. I really think we're gonna be absolutely HUGE!"

Okay, so Piotr Fijalkowski was a little off with his prediction, but when the singer/guitarist of Adorable had Alan McGee telling people his band were the next Sex Pistols, why shouldn't he think such a thing? Unfortunately for Adorable, the prediction would instead come true for another McGee signing, Oasis.

It's an absolute shame, because Adorable's debut album is a highly treasured Creation artefact. Best described as "Echo & the Bunnymen with distortion," Adorable arrived during the closing stages of shoegazing and the first phase of Britpop, falling somewhere in between the two with their crashing guitar noise and elegiac songwriting. 

Originally titled Against Creation, it never resonated with the masses, but Adorable's debut was as good as the young band said it was. Fijalkowski's songs were shrewd, poetic stingers flaunting one-liner choruses that rang with hopeless romanticism. How "Homeboy" did not set the charts afire is a mystery, but the impact the song had on its fans was monumental. Against Perfection should have been Definitely Maybe, but the stars just didn't align for Adorable the way it did for the Gallagher brothers. 

8. Sugar 
Copper Blue 

After the highly emotional and tumultuous breakup of Hüsker Dü, Bob Mould quickly bounced back with a pair of solo albums that showed he desperately needed to bare his soul. And while Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain were both enjoyable, Mould obviously felt the urge to form another band. 

Like the Dü, Sugar were another trio who preferred ear-bleeding volume, but here, Mould's hooks were sharper than ever. Though Copper Blue was loud and aggressive, it didn't offer the same breakneck speed, embracing more midtempo pacing to carry those gargantuan melodies. And boy was it effective: the album spawned four perfect singles ("A Good Idea," "Helpless," "If I Could Change Your Mind" and "Changes") that hid plenty of dark, underlying themes. Smack dab in the middle was "The Slim," a deeply felt, heavy tribute to AIDS victims that he wrote before coming out as gay not too long after. 

Copper Blue ended up becoming the biggest-selling album of Mould's career; despite all of the fanfare and importance placed on his previous band, Sugar would sell more records. To boot, the NME chose it as Album of the Year. Of course, eight months later, Sugar followed it up with the equally superb Beaster EP, comprising tracks from Copper Blue's sessions that were eventually packaged alongside the album.

7. The Boo Radleys 
Giant Steps 

Prior to their third album, the Boo Radleys weren't just one of the lesser-known shoegaze acts on Creation; they were virtual unknowns. But after the underwhelming response to 1992's Everything's Alright Forever, the band sought to completely revolutionize their sound, and boy did it ever work. 

Choosing to self-produce, the Boos took the "kitchen sink" approach, throwing dub, psychedelia, shoegaze, jazz, ambient, '60s pop and even some noise into the mix for a full-on stereophonic experience. Album standout "Lazarus" not only singlehandedly represented all of these ambitions, but it also proved to be a career highpoint for the band, settling in the annals as their best song ever. "Wish I Was Skinny" and "Barney (…and Me)" better suited the proto-Britpop phase the band were helping shape with acts like Blur and Suede, but both songs took pop into a whole new stratosphere with psychedelic codas that refused to stop until they reached full orgasm. 

Earning the honour of Select's top album of 1993 over Björk's Post, Suede's debut, PJ Harvey's Rid of Me and Nirvana's In Utero was no fluke: Giant Steps was a juggernaut of an album in Britain. 

6. Ride 

By the time their debut album was released in October 1990, Oxford's Ride were already indie pin-ups in the UK. Following a trio of well-received EPs, Nowhere basically turned shoegaze into a scene (that would go on to "celebrate itself"), pre-dating My Bloody Valentine's game-changing Loveless by a good year. 

Ride were the most pop-minded of all shoegazers, blending huge waves of reverb and distortion with slushy melodies fit for teenage ears. The slow-burning "In a Different Place" sounds like it was conceived while Andy Bell had a girl resting her head on his shoulder, and "Dreams Burn Down" describes a date in "dear diary" prose, while its commanding rhythm and crescendo of crashing noise bolster the melodrama. It was "Vapour Trail," though, that became the hit, with the 12-string guitars and orchestra coalescing into an enchanted and beautiful piece. 

Ride were always primed for, and even driven by, the prospects of pop stardom. They didn't exactly experiment like other shoegazers; they wrote songs that just could have easily been stripped down to acoustic guitars. But it was the noise they flooded those songs with that made every indie kid fall in love with them, and Nowhere definitely captured plenty of hearts, reaching No. 11 on the UK album chart and catapulting the band to moderate success in the U.S. (Originally released as an eight-song LP, their American label Sire tacked on the remaining three tracks from the band's previous Fall EP to make it more worthwhile to consumers.)

The band themselves have recognized the album's appeal and legacy, recently embarking on a Nowhere25 tour to commemorate its silver anniversary.