As a founding member of The La's and co-conspirator in arguably Liverpool's very best label, Viper Records, Mike Badger is a man with an impressive CV.
But he should also be remembered as the prime mover in Merseyside's absurdly under-rated outfit THE ONSET. And rightly so, for this group - who also featured the like-minded talents of musicians like Paul Hemmings and Danny Dean - were stars that should have been in the immediate pre-Britpop years.
The Onset only made the one official album (1990's Probe Plus -helmed "The Pool Of Life"), but ironically this killer 12-track album of unreleased studio tracks from 1989 - 1995 probably eclipses it. Indeed, coming to many of these tunes now, you wonder how the likes of Ocean Colour Scene could have been clasped to the commercial bosom while Badger and co slipped through the cracks.
"The Pool Of Life" drew copiously on folk, bluegrass, rockabilly and country, and in places the songs here retain this rich earthiness. "Walking Tall", for example, is tale of modern-day fear and vulnerabiity ("I spend my life in the safety of a wooden box, I keep the door tightly shut, should somebody knock") with traces of 16 Horsepower's fiery, Baptismal folk, drifting harmonica and the meanest banjos this side of "Deliverance." The celebratory "The Mystery Of Life", too, recalls the likes of previous Onset classics like "The Cowboy And His Wife" with a rattly, skiffly feel and bourbon-soaked fiddles. Lovely.
Predominantly, though, "The Onset"s hidden (Brit)pop gems run together to create an album as strong as the long-dormant "Waterpistol" by Shack. Opener "First I Feel You" is plaintive, anthemic jangle-pop of the highest order with a great sunburst of an arrangement, dead-on harmonies and throaty vocals from Badger. Excellent, as are the tough'n'gutsy likes of "I Do What I Can" and the propulsive, ecologically-sound likes of "Set For Destruction".
Elsewhere, The Onset prove they were equally effective when they slowed it down a little. "Sun And Moon", for instance, is cool, midnight blue pop, smoky and descriptive with harmonies the Head brothers would surely love. "Rhapsody", meanwhile, employs what sounds like a recorder and keening violin and its' languid, jazzy feel could almost be a gritty Scouse take on Nick Drake's famed pastorality.
There's far more, too, and it would be criminal to overlook both the joyful, old-fashioned r'n'b of "The Factory" and the impassioned cut'n'thrust of "Endless Sun" with its' neo-Balalaika ending, but really you're spoilt for choice. That these songs should have bad to wait so long to see the light of day seems criminal, but regardless of its' posthumous status you can rest assured it's one of the best albums you should actively make the effort to discover for yourself this year.