10 Underappreciated Songs From the U.K.
Tracey Thorn, John Martyn, Roddy Frame, Ranking Roger

Tracey Thorn, John Martyn, Roddy Frame, Ranking Roger. Photos: Getty Images

On a recent trip to the U.K., I couldn’t help myself from spending two-plus hours in the Oxford Circus HMV. So while I was looking for some new Brit band releases — stuff like the recent one from Rhys Williams — I ended up purchasing a truckload of re-packaged albums containing some less-than-essential extras. Nevertheless, it sparked some underappreciated songs from U.K. bands of yore:

“Say What You Want” by Texas (White on Blonde)
A Scottish band who kind of mixed pop and soul, mostly in the ’90s. This song was a hit in the U.K. and was used in some U.S. films, including one mediocre one with Jennifer Aniston. They even did a remix of the song with Method Man and RZA, but it still went missing in U.S. charts. It’s a simple song you can’t get out of your head.

“Sugar Finney” by Everything but the Girl (Baby the Stars Shine Bright)
So they started out as a lounge alternative pop group and evolved into an EDM band, and honestly Tracey Thorn could sing the news and I’m in. I think this song is about the Kennedy’s, but I’m just not sure.

“If She Wants Me” by Belle & Sebastian (Dear Catastrophe Waitress)
“If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy” — great lyrics and melody.

“Couldn’t Love You More” by John Martyn (One World)
Going more folky, this guy was a revered stalwart of the Brit folk scene and wrote one of my gal’s fav songs ever — a straight up, through-the-heart song of undying devotion.

“The Clock” by the View (Cheeky for a Reason)
Looping choruses and huge a hook from a newer band.

“Sleep Well Tonight” by Gene (Olympian)
Another ’90s Brit band that cribbed a bit from the Smiths and others tooling around the ’80s, with some killer guitar riffs from Steve Mason, particularly at the end of this song.

“Black Lucia” by Aztec Camera (Dreamland )
Another Scot named Roddy Frame with roots in rock and folk who had a bit of the Oasis touch before the feuding brothers began. Got familiar with this song on a repackage of his Dreamland record. It starts slow and simmers.

“You’re Not the Only One” by Love and Money (Dogs In The Traffic)
And another band steeped in rock and folk. Their leader, James Grant, could sing a mellow ballad with soul, as he does here.

“I Confess” by The English Beat (Special Beat Service)
Just three minutes of upbeat, danceable Specials-like vibes.

“Move On Up” by Curtis Mayfield (Curtis)
Yeah, he is definitely the hardcore master of American soul. I came across this once again on a Paul Weller Influences collection. It simply holds up.

“Gladly” by Rockingbirds (The Rockingbirds)
I never got how the Americana thing was a minor craze in the U.K. I loved this band when they came out, but only one record and done, and now this re-issue has this cool unreleased track.

Van Toffler is President of MTV’s Music & Logo Group. He’s a fan of sugary cereal, a good tequila and watching TV late at night, without the audio.

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