Despite fine cuts from its vast catalogue, this isn’t the definitive Creation document.
Mike Diver 2011
Anyone who’s ever worked in said section of the music industry will tell you that there’s little difference between blind luck and prophetic ability in A&R. Pick up an act you’ve loved for ages, chances are they’ll tank. Sign a band four days after seeing just one gig, bingo: they’re the biggest group in the land. But Upside Down doesn’t lay this lucky-dip scenario out for the listener; instead, it largely presents the impression that co-founder Alan McGee’s magic touch was infallible.
Our story begins with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut single of 1984, which passes its title to the 2010 documentary this double-CD compilation supports. The Glasgow band’s thunderous sound rumbled through several Creation-signed bands – think Ride, Slowdive, Swervedriver. But like so many acts here, two contributions from them consumes disc space which might have been better used to shine a light on relative missteps in the catalogue – the outsiders who didn’t fit the public-perceived Creation template. Amongst these one can count The Legend!, aka BBC Music contributor Everett True, whose ’73 in ’83 single was the label’s first-ever release.
A few more of these stylistic diversions would certainly have shaken up a consistent but singular-paced collection (guitars come only two ways: distorted and loud or clean and jangled). Yes, the Mishka album was awful, but McGee’s faith in the Bermudan reggae artist was unwavering in the late 1990s. Ride’s Andy Bell wasn’t in limbo until Oasis requested his guitar services – Hurricane #1 took up two albums of his time between 1996 and 1999, and both came out through Creation. They weren’t great, but to not represent the group at all seems wrong. Given that most labels are defined as much by their gaffs as their glories, Upside Down’s prioritising of the critically celebrated rather rankles; that, and the keep-it-in-the-family inclusions of Revolving Paint Dream and Slaughter Joe (one song each, sure; but two?) over chasing down better songs from absent friends. There’s no My Bloody Valentine number here (nor a mention of them in label co-founder Joe Foster’s liner notes). Obtaining a track might have been difficult, but without them no Creation story is complete.
Ultimately, Upside Down feels uncomfortably like propaganda, deleting select scenes from the tale in question to leave the audience more impressed than they should be. It’s a skewed perspective on an influential stable which, despite essentials from the evergreen Super Furry Animals, the totemic Teenage Fanclub and the brilliant Boo Radleys, isn’t the definitive document it aims to be.