[sic] Magazine

The Potting Sheds – Leaving By The Back Door

What were you doing back in 1992, back when sheds in general – potting or otherwise – were still resolutely uncool and unadorned by the likes of Farrow & Ball? Over in an obscure corner of Lowestoft, The Potting Sheds were calling time on a brief but brilliant career as a result of replacement frontman Phil McClarnon leaving during the demo stage of their second 12-inch EP (the follow-up to The Goldfish Memory EP) to perform with other local outfits, the remainder of the band going on in time to form Halftime Oranges.

Championed, of course, by John Peel on a number of occasions, The Potting Sheds burned brightly prior to McClarnon’s departure, having first survived former frontman Paul Fox’s earlier exit. Now picked up by a 20-track retrospective to recognise the 25 years it’s been since we last heard of the band, Leaving By The Back Door is part of indie-pop label Cloudberry Records’ on-going archival series and includes every song released during The Potting Sheds’ three-year career as well as several previously unreleased cuts, plus four backing tracks fleshed out with vocals only earlier this year.

With the focus here on quantity rather than quality, Leaving By The Back Door is still surprisingly good value for money with very few lesser statements diluting The Potting Sheds’ hidden legacy. Straddling the tail-end of the 80s with shuffling early-90s indie, the results are mixed, however, in terms of sound, the band coming off best to these ears when embracing either the pure indie-pop jangles of the period or more serious, darker guitar influences, getting on less well in later years when welcoming keyboard-driven, proto-Britpop smarm into the fold. Sure, all these incarnations are dated, but the former in particular are far from unlistenably so (proper pop from the same time has fared far worse) and, for those of a certain age, Leaving By The Back Door will be hugely nostalgic whether or not the band are new to them now.

Best of all, strewn amidst the completist running order, there are some real gems. Chief of these is the unbelievably cool “Too Far”, New Wave/Gothic guitars swooping and preening over chugging indie riffs and keys, a disinterested vocal sparring with razor-sharp post-punk guitars. It’s truly a lost classic crying out for rediscovery and to be played on every discerning, 80s-leaning dancefloor. More typical of the collection, though, are a series of tumbling, grey-smeared melodies and glistening choruses not dissimilar from a band like, say, R.E.M., the “Unsaid” flexi-single a smart, two-minute pop opus deeply in this vein, for example.

Will Taylor and David Miles’ guitars are excellent throughout, wonderfully atmospheric in a track like “Down The Line” and so heavily borrowed by today’s indie/dream-pop bands such as Real Estate and Horsebeach. On the title track from The Goldfish Memory EP, the band even find their fuzz and feedback casting a much-needed shadow over their latter-period effervescence – let’s just gloss over the few songs that’d make My Life Story blush. Finally, of the “new” tracks, the pick is “Dream On”; full of kohl-lined licks and an impassioned vocal calling out to anyone that’ll listen … and if it doesn’t implore you to give The Potting Sheds a go then nothing will.

Best track: “Too Far”

~Leaving By The Back Door is out now on Cloudberry Records with liner notes by the band.~