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Album Review

The Flatmates are usually lumped in with the C-86 scene, which was made up of groups that played straight-ahead guitar pop with an indie attitude and an often alarming lack of skill and songcraft. One listen to Potpourri serves as a reminder that the band was head and shoulders above most of the bands from that loose-knit movement. From Deb Haynes' assured and tough vocals to the powerful guitar assault to the pounding beats and hooky tunes, no one in his right mind could ever accuse the group of being shambling or twee. At its best, the band was an exhilarating marriage of the Ramones, the Shangri-Las, and what one hoped the Primitives might become. The 23 tracks collected here provide ample proof of what a great little pop band the Flatmates were. The track list has 12 A- and B-sides taken from various singles, seven compilation tracks, and three unreleased songs. Best among the batch are the A-sides like the aching power ballad "Shimmer," the charmingly peppy "I Could Be in Heaven," and the love struck and almost giddy "Happy All the Time," though the B-sides represent no real drop-off and the tracks they doled out to compilations are among some of their best work, especially the Motown-influenced rocker "Trust Me" and the chiming ballad "When I'm With You." It is too bad that not all of the group's A-sides are included in their original form, as "You're Gonna Cry" is here as a demo version and "Heaven Knows" is a remixed and more acoustic version used on a free single given away with Sound Affects magazine. Both these versions are really nice to have, but including the original would have made the disc a more complete document. Despite that reservation, this is a near perfect collection of top-notch indie pop that brings on nostalgia for a long-gone era but also sounds up to date and relevant. A double-disc Complete Works of the Flatmates would have been a pipe dream — this is the next best thing.


Formed: 1985 in Bristol, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s

Bristol, England indie pop icons the Flatmates were formed in mid-1985 by singer/guitarist Martin Whitehead -- also the founder of the famed Subway Organization label -- and drummer Rocker, whose roommate Kath Beach soon signed on to play bass. With the addition of another roommate, singer Deb Haynes, Whitehead relinquished vocal chores, and the group set about recording its first demos, comprised primarily of covers of favorites by the Ramones, the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground. Asked by a...
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Potpourri: Hits, Mixes and Demos '85-'74, The Flatmates
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