Forget London, Manchester, Glasgow or Oxford; Leeds has arguably been responsible for the UK's most vibrant, innovative and creative music scene in recent years. Not that it all started with Dance To The Radio, the Kaiser Chiefs getting signed or the Brudenell Social Club opening its doors to live bands. A flick through the back pages of independent music's past 35 years will throw up a host of names ranging from the polemic post-punk of the Au Pairs and Gang Of Four, gothic new wave orchestrated by The Sisters Of Mercy and numerous bands that followed in their wake like Rose Of Avalanche and The March Violets, through to the vibrant C86-inspired indiepop delivered so charismatically by The Wedding Present and so on.
Indeed, the late Eighties was a pivotal era for the British independent music scene, largely inspired by happenings over the other said of the Pennines. However, West Yorkshire was going through a bit of an upheaval itself. Although mainly considered a home counties phenomenon, the Pale Saints were putting a Leeds slant on the then-to-be-christened shoegaze genre, while spin-off outfit The Edsel Auctioneer gave J Mascis and Thurston Moore an (albeit brief) run for their money in the slacker stakes. Then there was the melancholic chamber pop of The Parachute Men, The Bridewell Taxis' awkward post-rave punk-funk, not to mention the acid house scene dominated by artists like LFO and many others around the same time. And then there was Cud. Thrown in with the student indie crowd, largely due to having met while studying fine art at Leeds Polytechnic in 1984, but difficult to categorise musically. Influenced by anyone and everyone from punk to new wave to disco and even Monty Python, they remain one of the most unique bands to have emerged from the buoyant indie scene of the day.
Despite undergoing several line-up changes in the early days, the classic four-piece of Carl Puttnam (vocals), William Potter (bass), Mike Dunphy (guitars) and Steve Goodwin (drums) remained intact for the majority of Cud's recording career. Having put out their first EP Mind The Gap on Reception Records - the label initially set up by The Wedding Present - in September 1987, they went on to release a further 15 singles and four studio albums before eventually calling it a day in the early part of 1995, seemingly swept away by the rising tide of Britpop. Building up a fanbase mainly through word of mouth via their impressive, and often memorable live performances, the band found themselves signing to a major label (A&M) in the summer of 1991, culminating in a couple of top 30 singles over the next twelve months. Even towards the end of their lifespan they'd apparently demoed a total of 80 songs for what would have been the fifth studio album - all of which were rejected by A&M. However, it's their appearances on radio shows commissioned by the likes of John Peel, Mark Goodier and Mark Radcliffe that many devotees outside of their hometown will best remember them for. Not least due to that being the first time many will have heard the delectable tones of Puttnam and co.
It's perhaps fitting then that this mammoth 69-song compilation spread across four CDs focuses wholly on their recordings at the BBC. From the band's very first Peel Session, recorded in the summer of 1987, through to their greatest hits set - encore and all - taken from their show at Sheffield's Hallam University in April 1993 as part of Radio One's Sound City festival, its a must-have collection that almost doubles up as an anthology for one of the UK's most overlooked bands. First long player When In Rome, Kill Me, released in June 1989 to an unsuspecting, flares and floppy hat wearing public is ably represented throughout. Breakthrough single 'Only (A Prawn In Whitby)' pops up three times, from its initial airing on John Peel's show in 1989 through to the Gideon Coe session recorded in 2006 to coincide with the band's first reformation. Quirky, eccentric and instantly adorable, its place as Cud's signature tune is still assured today. Likewise the incendiary post-punk, krautrock inspired 'Vocally Speaking' and laconic lament 'I've Had It With Blondes', Puttnam's classic opening line "I was a teenage stamp collector, I'd lay on my back and you'd stamp on my face" still raising a wry smile after all these years.
They weren't averse to recording the odd 'ironic' cover version; no fewer than six unlikely remakes appear here, including a 60-second charge through the Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band's '(I'm The) Urban Spaceman' and an acoustic reworking of Madonna's 'Like A Virgin'. It's in a live setting though where Cud really do come into their own, and aside from the Sheffield show the six live tracks recorded for BBC Leeds 'On The Rocks' show in July 1987 showcase what a fine outfit they could be. In fact there's little here that isn't worth the admission price, from the 1991 Mark Goodier session recording of 'Purple Love Balloon', a bonafide chart smash that reached the dizzy heights of number 27 in August 1992, to their final session for Collins and Maconie in 1994, where a poignant reading of 'One Giant Love' possibly pre-empted their demise.
Of course The Complete BBC Sessions doesn't tell the whole story of Cud; we'd recommend picking up a copy of the aforementioned When In Rome... along with 1992's critically acclaimed third long player Asquarius to fill in the gaps; but as an introduction to one of the most unique bands to grace these shores since punk's self-implosion, it's an essential purchase.
9Dom Gourlay's Score