❉ Forget Stranger Things, this is the 1980s you thought you remembered but you didn’t want to see.
“This isn’t dystopia, this is your life and all you have is a big red book of memories you desperately hope will fade away like that Polaroid of you and your Dad’s mate who’s not allowed to come around anymore. Is this how you remember it? You’re not sure. You thought it was better then.”
E.T., his complexion like white dog-poo rolled in talc, laying dying in the river. School buses with ashtrays. The Cyclops from Krull’s sacrifice. That Christmas your Dad left to make a new life with Julie. Top of the Pops with Gary Glitter. Your friend getting hit by a car. Tabby got put down. Three day weeks. Rubbish rotting on your doorstep. A fresh BCG jab punched by an overly developed thirteen year old called John. A woollen hat your aunt made that gave you scabies. Your mum, on her way home from her second job, buying you a polystyrene birthday cake by mistake. Mobile classrooms with condensation dripping down the walls. That P.E. teacher you didn’t feel comfortable around. Your nan’s dead and you’re too young to go to the funeral, so you’re left with a neighbour who tells you what happens when you rot away in a cardboard box. A primary school teacher wheeling in the AV unit to press play on When The Wind Blows. Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Scarred For Life.
This isn’t dystopia, this is your life and all you have is a big red book of memories you desperately hope will fade away like that Polaroid of you and your Dad’s mate who’s not allowed to come around anymore. Is this how you remember it? You’re not sure. You thought it was better then.
Castles in Space stick another flag in the new frontier, claiming the territory of ‘most interesting label’ around with the highly anticipated release of Scarred For Life 2 on the 4th December, 2020. The follow up to 2019’s sold out Scarred For Life Volume One sees the team reassembled with significant new additions to the line up. A listen assumes that they’ve spent their 2020 lockdown encased in some kind of Primal Scream therapy bunker and now emerge, mole-eyed and determined to force us to re-experience our own, possibly imagined, pain.
This collection of themes for TV shows that probably never happened open a locked door of forgotten thematic devices that, like the smell of your grandad’s tool shed, displace your nostalgias and plonk them naked, fresh out of the bath in front of you, urging you to re-evaluate their existence, and your perception of them.
Like being hypnotised to half remember your older sister flicking through the four channels of summer holiday TV whilst you sit on the floor and fiddle about with a He-Man doll/action figure (choose your preference), a foreboding sense of familiarity floats about within the grooves of this LP. A hauntological flight over what could have been, a southwesterly nuclear wind gushing through your hair, The Halcyon Clock (by The Pocket Pavilions) gives a sense of travelling somewhere unseen and unknowable. By the track’s end you’re transported, trapped; theirs to play with. The Brain Children (The Twelve Hour Foundation – Jez Butler & Polly Hulse) suggests you’ve landed in Knightmare, the Augmented Reality child-friendly killmachine from the late 1980’s, its remotely familiar refrain giving a false sense of security that Recall (Correlations – Neil Hale) is double quick to shake off. Dread. Dread. Double dread.
Lightening the load, but not the suspense, What’s in the Box (Handspan – Rob Colling) invites you into a haunted doll’s house, decorated with a never ending hall of mirrors. Forgotten memories of the Magic Roundabout’s slasher episode and Concretism’s Dick & Stewart Official Soundtrack mix with Blur’s The Debt Collector, you see yourself, but not the you that you want to share.
Don’t worry, though. Alice is still in Wonderland, and this is her house, she’ll look after you. On her jukebox is a mock-Tudor soundscape that she plays endlessly as she cries, desperate to return to what she images her life was like on the other side of the rabbit hole. In The Tall Grass (The British Stereo Collective – Phil Heeks) captures her alternative dimension prison.
A School at War (The Soulless Party – Kev Thomas Oyston) has you taken, Ghost of Christmas Past-like, by the hand over chimney tops and school playgrounds before whooshing into music rooms where ill-tuned syncopated pianos mix with voices of those forgotten in Happy Borders (Quimper). Intermission (Listening Center – David K Mason) comes at precisely the right moment, allowing you to gather pace in an ill-fated escape, giving a sense of momentum and hope where none lies.
You Cannot Win a Nuclear War (The Heartwood Institute – Jonathan Sharp), a dreamt, half-remembered reimagining of Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Be Televised acts as a stark reminder of the threat that kept sensitive parents and their truth seeking children awake at night during the ‘period’ in which this collection is set, highlighting the theme of the overarching anxiety of a generation and probably the key track on this collection. Funk is on the mind and the mind is on the funk by the time The Time Menders Return (Vic Mars – Matt Davies) rolls into view, offering some swing and light relief before the big punchline is revealed in Through The Arched Window (The Central Office Of Information – Alex Cargill). Ah, it was all a dream, of course it was….but something’s changed, and you can’t tell what.
As the blurb on the release informs us, ‘you have in your hands an LP of top TV themes…played with verve and panache by some of the most pre-eminent performers working in television soundtracks today.’ I’m not going to argue with that, so I won’t. Though, it isn’t real. I don’t think.
Forget the Stranger Things Official Soundtrack, and the show’s revisionist retelling of your 1980’s, this is the one you thought you remembered but you didn’t want to see. This is your nan’s funeral, and here is your invite. Speaking of nan, lest we forget – all profits from this record will go to support the work of The Alzheimer’s Society. Worthy, awful, sometimes physical. Scarred For Life 2 is out on the 4th December.
❉ Various Artists: ‘Scarred For Life Volume 2’ released By: Castles in Space (CiS072), 4 December 2020. Distributed By: Forte Distribution. Format: Double Splatter Vinyl LP & Digital Download. Profits from this record will go to support the work of The Alzheimer’s Society. Visit the Bandcamp page to stream, download and buy.
❉ A regular contributor to Far Out Magazine, We Are Cult Magazine, The View magazine, Velvet magazine, the Teatles Book and more, Jamie Osborne writes a variety of fiction, non-fiction, comedy and features. Jamie loves to write about music, the Beatles, ’50s & ’60s culture and art, TV, film, comedy and football. You can find some examples on his blog page.