The Minders: Cul-De-Sacs And Dead Ends (1999)
Cul-De-Sacs collects a bunch of singles and b-sides released from '96-'98 (their 1998 full-length debut Hooray for Tuesday is also terrific). It's pretty lo-fi, free of the studio fussiness and experimentation of, say, OTC, and thus has a ragged immediacy that keeps things light and fun.
My favorite tune here is the opener, "Build," an impossibly infectious ditty with a buoyant bassline serving as counterpoint to the Beatlesque guitar riff, a fuzzy garage pop winner with shades of Revolver, loaded up with some sweet harmonies in the chorus. (It's produced by the Apples' Robert Schneider, so a bit of a ringer here.) "Almost Arms" is simple and stripped down yet still catchy, like something ripped from an XTC demo tape; "Better Things" is a perfect slab of bubblegum, an earwig you'll be humming all day; "Hand Me Downs" is a cool British Invasion throwback; "Rocket 58" is psychedelic garage band buzz, like Guided by Voices circa 1967.
While the album is dominated by singer/guitarist Martyn Leaper, drummer Rebecca Cole offers some sweet backing vocals, and occasionally grabs the mic ("Step Right Up").
Plenty here to love, and a great introduction to a fine and oft-overlooked indie pop band.
Here's an audio rip of "Build":