Manchester Evening News, 2nd October 1987, "Various Artists: Head Over Ears"
VARIOUS ARTISTS : Head Over Ears (Debris)
IT was Radio Lancashire's Steve Barker who accidentally demonstrated one example of the diversity to be found on the Debris compilation album, Head Over Ears, last Sunday. Having introduced the album's opening cut, Filthy Quality, from our own Tot, he mistakenly placed the needle before the opening act on side two, Dead Billy from Big Black. Hence, as we prepared to be seduced by Tot's manic female urban funk, we were surprised to be thrown into the full-blooded rock fire of the sadly defunct American band.
It's a great album. It spans pretty much the expanse of taste you can find on Steve Barker's show and, consequently exists as a "state of the art" reference to North West listening habits in 1987. Look at this roster. Tot, The Fall, The Railway Children, A House, Prince Cool, Big Black, Twang, Biting Tongues, Kit, King Of The Slums and Swivel Hips. Certainly there's a touch of Debris eccentricity amongst that lot but, as indicated in a rave review in Cut last week, the tracks complement each other with rare suss.
I met the album's compiler, Dave Haslam, and asked him how he approached the task of piecing together the disc, and, in particular, how he avoided the unattractive trappings of many, if not all, previous similar projects. Speaking in his Debris office, a bright corner room decorated with records, posters, books and tired typewriters, he held an air of anticipatory glee.
"I wanted an album where there wasn't one track where you just knew that everyone would skip it. On a lot of compilations there's always one or two tracks you don't want so you never play the record. I didn't want to do another compilation album, I wanted to do it because it is a magazine, a nice sleeve, a good record . A complete package.
"A lot of people who read Debris aren't necessarily music lovers, as we have a lot of non-music coverage and they don't really know what the bands who I write about sound like. So I wanted an album that in some way encapsulated the Debris ideals about music.
The good thing about Manchester at the moment is the diversity of the music that people are into. It's not just local bands; people are picking up on music from New York or Chicago or Soweto or wherever, and I think that is better now than it's ever been. When I DJ at The Hacienda I get through an amazing amount of records, from The Fall to L L Cool J to Mantronix to Sonic Youth and 1,000 people a night are listening to these records. You don't find that in London. At the moment it is a peculiarly Mancunian thing - so maybe the LP reflects that."
Indeed. Head Over Ears is waiting at your city centre record store to enlighten and subvert you.