Playlist #19: The Domino Effect

Brit-pop was an important time for the UK music industry, not least because it led one man to introduce US indie to a saturated, tired scene… 

In 2003, a proto team Double Negative was spending a lot of time in Manchester. As you may know, it’s a city not without its fair share of great indie record shops, two of the best of them on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter alone. We spent a fair bit of time (and money, I suppose) in Vinyl Exchange and, in particular, Piccadilly Records.

One of the reasons was that we’d already started shopping predominantly by label and Picc Records had (and still does have) a superb label compilation section. This was how we came across Worlds of Possibility one day, with its simple – but great – ever decreasing circle design on the sleeve, and two CDs worth of Domino artists.

We would only come to realise later that Worlds of Possibility actually marked the label’s first decade and was part of a whole slew of celebratory gigs and special releases that year. Those of you good with numbers will have surmised that the label came about in 1993, a result of one man’s disdain for the predominant sound of that time: Suede, Blur, Oasis, et al. Laurence Bell established the label as a means of putting out American bands, thus offering a counterpoint to Brit-pop. The first handful of releases, many of which were drawn from Drag City and Sub Pop, established a solid base of credibility for Domino to build on.

Though already pretty familiar with the label (being a fan of Sebadoh, and more latterly, The Kills and James Yorkston), it turns out the comp was particularly well-named. It opened our ears to a plethora of bands who, while we’d heard of some of them, hadn’t given them the time it quickly became apparent they obviously deserved.

We can recall quickly falling in love with the likes of Quasi, Cass McCombs and Archie Bronson outfit, artists markedly different but related by their label and a rich vein of quality running through their work.

As with many of the best (indie) labels, it’s not simply a case of obscure, forgotten gems.The Domino roster is full of bands at once forging new paths while being capable (given just the right music media driven gust) of reaching and engaging a wider audience.

Wild Beasts and Animal Collective are perhaps the best recent-ish examples of this, blowing the socks off a UK music press eager for their next leftfield darlings, while the crossover success of Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys and Hot Chip verges on the remarkable for a label of such relatively small means. Given his previously mentioned fervour for American bands, it’s interesting (with Wild Beasts and that last trio) that Bell ended up sending a new generation of Brit bands back across the pond.

In researching (read, listening to songs) and writing this, we came to realise that Domino has informed our music taste in the past decade or so as much as any other label. It also makes for a lot of the stuff currently soundtracking life in our peculiar part of the aural world. Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Lou Barlow, James Yorkston and Lightships (to name a few) have all been subject to extended play over the last few months. Domino has proved to be the proverbial gift that keeps on giving.

Posted on 10/08/2012 by thedoublenegative