29 June 2008

Action Spectacular - I'm A Whore

Action Spectacular

Part of: Snakebite City Volume Eight
Label: Bluefire Records
Year of Release: 1998 (I think?!)


There were numerous independent music industry innovations on the go during the nineties which now seem to have been thrown under the bed in pop's great spare room. The "Volume" series of albums springs immediately to mind, offering a compilation album of obscure tracks, album tasters and remixes with a well-written CD booklet sized magazine. You'd think they'd be worth a fortune by now, but don't rush on to ebay, because it seems they're not.

At the opposite end of the spectrum to "Volume" in terms of presentation are the "Snakebite City" series of compilation albums, strictly no-frills minimal affairs which retailed at budget prices. Focussing largely on unsigned bands, each release still seemed to have an uncanny strike rate in predicting which bands would cause a press flurry (Bis featured on one of the earliest volumes). They never quite managed to showcase an act who went on to top ten success, but nonetheless the line-up on the albums does read like a who's who of the pub circuit at a certain time in UK musical history. The Crocketts are there, as are Drugstore, The Sweeney, Inter (weren't Inter everywhere at one point?), Posh, Tiny Too, and... erm... some ranty performance poet type called Vis the Spoon (who still regularly performs at the Rhythm Factory, in case you needed to be told).

As you might expect, there's some tremendous dross across the eleven volumes, but some sheer brilliance as well, and one of the finest pieces of work props up track three on Volume Eight - for Sheffield's Action Spectacular produce the mournful "I'm a Whore" at that moment for our pleasure. Essentially Spearmint's "Sweeping the Nation" in lyrical tone with added spittle and despair, the song is a ballad to the McJob. It starts with a screeching thrash, the lead singer screaming "I'm a whore!" then turns into a delicate ditty, outlining the tedium of a low-rung daily routine. Answering phones, washing dishes, faxes, photocopiers are given namechecks towards the end, whilst the lines "I'm a slag whose been had/ in ten years I'll be my Dad/ look at all the worthless things I do" appear within the first verse. It's so despairing it's actually very funny, but also perhaps depressingly familiar, and by the time they come to "Always dreamed I'd have a band/ but I'm working for The Man" you can only sing along in sympathy. The epic ending with spoken word rant recalls Pulp at their finest, and the track really does have "cult classic" stamped all over it. The trouble is, I've never even met anyone who has heard it, unless I shoved it on to a compilation CD for them first of course.

Unlike a good many of the bands who were given the Snakebite City treatment, Action Spectacular did go on to get signed - but by the time I heard them tweeting out of my radio alarm on XFM one morning in the year 2000, they were rather different. The comedy angst of "I'm a Whore" had been replaced by lo-fi electronica and contemplative acoustic work-outs. The NME never completely got behind them (there's a mixed review here: http://www.nme.com/reviews/action-spectacular/3064) , the records didn't sell, and to the best of my knowledge "I'm A Whore" never even came out as a flip side, never mind being given the A-side treatment it surely deserved. Still, here it is for your delight below - and if anyone does have a copy of their "From Here On It's A Riot" album, I for one would be interested.

http://sharebee.com/26864330

Anyone curious about Snakebite City might be surprised to see there's still a website active below as well:

http://bluefiremusic.tripod.com/id21.htm

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