I remember reading album reviews and constantly seeing mention of something called "C86." For a long time, it was a complete mystery to me and I just kind of glossed over it like many of the names haphazardly dropped in music criticism. Eventually I came to my senses, hopped on that site, uhhh, Google, and discovered an amazing time in British indie rock.
C86 was a legendary cassette compilation put out by British magazine NME in, get this, 1986. It collected all of the up and coming bands on the scene during that time, some of which would prove to be highly influential. Their sound was characterized by jangly guitars and power-pop melodies, and what legendary radio DJ John Peel referred to as "shambly."
An interesting piece of history: C86 came out at a very volatile time for NME. There was a serious debate raging within the magazine's offices and their readers' homes, and it can be summed up in two words: hip hop. At the time, NME was pretty much solely a guitar band magazine, but after mounting pressure from their readers and certain editors, the magazine finally decided to cover all kinds of new music. C86 was kind of the last hurrah of a purely rock band centered magazine and as such, seems almost, elegiac (although not purposely I don't think).
Anyway, the bands on C86 were and still are pretty influential in rock music. Fortunately these examples were pretty easy to pick, as they were already collected on a compilation, so, enjoy! If you are digging them, go out and buy some albums. Rough Trade released a vinyl re-issue of the C86 cassette which you still might be able to find in some places.
Primal Scream: Velocity Girl
The first track on the compilation and also one of the most influential of the bands, Primal Scream were a mid '80s heavyweight on the British Isles. This track perfectly exemplifies the aesthetic of C86, a short, minute and a half, jangly, fuzzy pop gem.
Shop Assistants: It's Up To You
One of the slower numbers on the cassette, Shop Assistants were one of the better fuzzy, power pop bands during their time. This song is warm and sweet, with Alex Taylor's vocals drifting longingly above the gentle waves of guitar.
The Wedding Present: This Boy Can Wait
One of my favorite bands from this time period, The Wedding Present's jangle can not be matched. Literally the definition of fast trebly guitars, the boys in Present didn't mess with much fuzz. Instead, you get layers of rythmic, staccato guitars under singer David Gedge's very unique vocal delivery. Highly recommended!
The Pastels: Breaking Lines
The Pastels are one of the most beloved bands of the era, and after hearing this track, that's not surprising. Quintessentially cute, naive, and 'shambly,' this track is another great representation of this era... If not THE representation.