30 March 2008

Scott Walker - 'Til The Band Comes In

Scott Walker - Til The Band Comes In

Label: Phillips
Year of Issue: 1970


”Like Planet of the Apes on TV/ The second side of ‘Til the Band Comes In…/ he’s gonna let you down, my friend” ”Bad Cover Version” – Pulp

My, this album has had a bum rap over the years. Not included in Phonogram’s reissue and remasters campaign (which Scotts 1 – 4 were), left to be released again by the indie Beat Goes On records in the nineties, largely ignored, then deleted for a second time… then referenced years into the future by Jarvis Cocker on the “We Love Life” album in a disparaging manner. Even Scott himself, who produced Pulp’s final outing, has never referred to the album that kindly.

To understand why it’s been so maligned by all concerned you have to have some awareness of the market it arrived into. By this point, Scott just wasn’t selling records anymore, whatever their quality. “Scott 4” had bombed despite its brilliance, and his standing in the commercial marketplace was some way beneath what it had been a mere two years before, when he had enjoyed his own primetime TV series on British television. He had become reduced to crooning cover versions in clubs to earn a crust, the Batley Variety Club being a particularly popular choice for return appearances.

In terms of artistic integrity, Scott himself is bound to look back on this album with something of a frown. His new manager Ady Semel took him to one side before its release and advised him strongly to consider a rethink in his artistic approach. One of Semel's first acts was to apparently take a biro to the lyric sheets and “strike out words likely to offend old ladies”. He also attempted to reign in what he apparently saw as Scott’s tendencies towards self-indulgence, or, as Walker more tactfully put it: “stopped me from going overboard, which I have a tendency to do”. Semel’s name appears on the songwriting credits for all of the tracks, which strongly suggests an enormous amount of collaboration was going on, enough for the manager to take home a share of the (meager) royalties this album produced. Another act Semel managed, Esther Ofarim, even appears on lead vocals for no apparent good reason on the track “Long About Now”. This has always struck me as a senseless move – when I buy an album by a solo artist, I don’t expect there to be “guest appearances” from other more obscure artists I might possibly be interested in. One has to wonder why Semel was so confident he could put Walker’s career back on track with this attitude, or who exactly was benefiting most from the whole arrangement.

So then… whilst such demands were going on, it’s safe to say that “Til The Band Comes In” never had a hope in hell of becoming another “Scott 3” or “Scott 4”. It’s also the first album of his since “Scott 2” to see a return of some cover versions which aren’t perhaps the best choices for him and seem rather like hack-jobs. Perhaps at this point, dear reader, you are scratching your head asking yourself what the possible case for the defence could be, and for that you could be forgiven.

The truth is that whilst “Til The Band Comes In” may be patchy, it actually contains some of Walker’s finest work, and for that reason alone it shouldn’t be completely dismissed out of hand. The first ten tracks of the album actually present what appears to be a coherent concept. The echoing slams of doors and children’s shouts on “Prologue” along with the weary string arrangements paint an aural picture of a noisy housing estate, and as a lyrical introduction the absolutely fantastic “Little Things That Keep Us Together” seems to paint a universal picture, referencing the crises of other people and global tragedies as being “little things that keep us all close and warm while the war’s going on”. From then on, each track is a character portrait of a different individual, and it’s easy to picture a camera zooming around the estate from one window to the next. “Joe” sees Walker on top form lyrically, focusing his attention on an elderly man whose loneliness stems from the fact he has managed to outlive everyone he knows, telling us:

You've been beyond the boundaries,
understood it all
and thought of nothing.
The ultimate was simple to your eyes -
just watch the world make madness
as the youth cried their replies,
an old man knows far better than to try.

They say towards the end
you hardly left your shabby room
where once you loved to go
walking through the day.
Sit back and watch a spider
weave your window cross the moon,
and meals on wheels laughed kindly
when you'd say:
"There ain't no-one left alive to call me Joe
To call me Joe
No-one left alive to call me Joe".


Beyond that admittedly rather bleak observation, there were other more upbeat characters such as the young ruffian on the rather Walker Brothers-esque “Thanks for Chicago Mr James” (a track which at one point was slated to be a single, and might have stood a chance of being a hit), and the Eastern European immigrant (and stripper) on “Jean the Machine”, whose neighbours are convinced she is a spy.

Naturally, by the time the cluster of cover versions schmaltz their way into view at the end of the album, it ends on a damp squib rather than any sort of bold conclusion. If it had been issued at budget price as a mini-album and ended on the uplifting “Epilogue – The War Is Over”, it would have made a great deal more sense and would almost certainly have evaded the criticism it seems to have become dogged with over the last few decades. Perhaps we should try our hardest to ignore these failings, however, and instead focus on the positive. “Til The Band Comes In” would easily be better than anything Scott released for almost another decade, and in addition to that is probably the equal of “Scott” and “Scott 2” in terms of overall quality, two albums which have never attracted quite so much vitriol despite their periodic MOR leanings. Those two LPs, of course, are available on Amazon at reasonable prices for anyone who wants them. “Til The Band Comes In” usually sells on ebay for a small fortune. If you’d like the chance to hear it without worrying your bank accounts too much, click on the link below to download the whole thing. I can assure you that you won’t be as disappointed as you think.

(Sorry - this album has now been reissued in the UK by Cargo distribution as of July 2008, and so the download link has been removed to avoid potential "issues". I would hugely encourage you to buy it, however, and well done to Cargo for finally reissuing something which didn't deserve to be left gathering dust, even if it has caused the value of my copy to plummet...)

27 March 2008

The Second Hand Store Dip Part 2 (Beatles Atrocity Number One)

The second hand record store bargain box dip rears its ugly head again…

Band of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst


What: Band of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst: “…Plays Lennon and McCartney”

Label: Hallmark (“that’s sure to be good!” – Half Man Half Biscuit)

Year of Release: 1972

Where: Wood Street Market, Upper Walthamstow, London

Cost: One pound


Obviously I know damn bloody well that The Beatles were a very successful and appreciated band, and therefore would not qualify for an entry in this blog, and I’m not about to make any ridiculous arguments to the contrary. Who do you think I am, Lady Heather Mills? The Band of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, however (who challenge And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead in the unwieldy band name stakes) have had rather less success, despite plugging away since 1813.

In all honesty, there’s precious little I can say about this album apart from it sounds exactly how you’d imagine it to. Military music has never been a much-loved genre of mine, obsessed as it is with taut marching rhythms and precision over any sort of emotion or sense of adventure, and obviously BRMAS (if I may call them that) achieve the amazing feat of taking some wonderful, groundbreaking songs and sapping all the innovation and subtlety out of their very bones. “Penny Lane” sounds masculine, chest-beating and self-important rather than anything with any depth. Then again, so does “A Hard Day’s Night”. And “Yesterday”. And “The Fool on the Hill”. You can virtually hear the collective moustaches twitch with pride. The only real success on the album is “Day Tripper”, which is jaunty enough to sound as if it’s been snatched from the soundtrack of The Prisoner, but it still sounds like a bold declaration of intent rather than a cheerful pop song.

Of course, there have been so many absurd Beatles cover versions over the last 45 years that there are some people out there who collect pretty much nothing else. For my money, though, this is the most ridiculous, in that the clash of cultures is so overwhelming. It’s so preposterous that it almost smacks of a joke, until you realize that the budget label Hallmark were never really very big on ironic discs, especially in the early seventies. I also don’t know whether to applaud BRMAS for staying away from a lot of the more interesting covers they could have chosen (“A Day In The Life”, “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, or “Revolution”) or slap the entire battalion for the missed opportunity for humour.

Oh, and according to the sleeve credits the bloke on the cover is Major D V Fanshawe of the Grenadier Guards, and he is “mounted on Thor”. Just so you know. Don’t ask me why he’s heading into a building on the beast, though, or why in the name of blazes the title of the album has been set on the sleeve at a slightly wonky angle. It's enough to give the military a bad name.

Day Tripper: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=5D4SAG05

Penny Lane: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=L4X6RSVO

26 March 2008

Jack - Pioneer Soundtracks

Jack - Pioneer Soundtracks

Year of issue: 1996
Label: Too Pure


With the likes of Mojo and Uncut seemingly uncovering at least three “lost” sixties or seventies classics a month and sapping those particular wells quite dry, it’s probably inevitable that this blog will frequently focus more on recent decades. The mid nineties in particular was a period where so damn much was going on that a lot of excellent work managed to fall between the cracks, and the first Welsh band on “Left and to the Back” are absolutely no exception. Cult status they may have had, but much, much more was deserved.

Jack are particularly difficult to write about, purely because they seemed to arrive fully formed and self-defined. There was a sneaking sense that, rather than the journalists in the inky music press at the time describing them as “moody”, “film noir”, “melodramatic” and “tragic romantic”, they’d actually held a committee meeting at some point around the first demo tape and decided that’s exactly what they were going to be. Every single aspect of their music, their artwork, and even the way they appeared to hold themselves on stage leaved little room for personal interpretation or maneuver. The blurred black and white sleeve images, the doomed, drunken philosophy of lead singer Anthony Reynolds, and the lyrics seemed to be tremendously consistent. Almost all the songs on the debut album “Pioneer Soundtracks” focus on “the end” – The end of the world, the end of relationships, the end of hope, the end of drink-soaked evenings. The music was always heavily string-laden and epic, with Reynold’s vocals somehow managing to sound simultaneously world-weary and impassioned.

Inevitably, the fact that the band were so sharply defined alienated many listeners and critics, and a quick glance across the reviews the band generated at the time shows an almost 50/50 split between nay-sayers and approvers. In one corner, you can find those who believed Jack were “pretentious” and found Anthony Reynolds rather ridiculous. “He’d like to think he’s Serge Gainsbourg, but really he’s just a short Welsh man in a suit”, spat one critic. Others inevitably bracketed them with the Divine Comedy, My Life Story and Tindersticks in a slightly desperate attempt to create an arty scene of boys and girls who seemed rather more obsessed with strings than guitars. A few others managed (in my opinion) to get it spot on, deciding that Jack were something quite unique and unclassifiable – taking influences as disparate as John Cale, Scott Walker, The Stooges, Roxy Music, and the aforementioned Gainsbourg and combining them with eerie samples and observations from a place that sounded distinctly like urban Britain. Reynolds could make something as bland as drunkenly waiting for a night bus in Camden sound like an epic proposition.

Whilst “The Jazz Age” was actually an extremely good follow up album, there’s little doubt that the debut “Pioneer Soundtracks” – which was produced by Chris Walsh, who also handled production duties on Scott Walker’s “Tilt” – is the band’s finest moment. It’s one of those rare albums which works as a cohesive whole without once boring the listener. From the absolutely monstrous, epic, end of the world as we know it opener “…Of Lights” right down to the mournful closer “Hope Is A Liar”, it (once again) describes itself perfectly accurately with its title alone, leaving me slightly redundant in my task in attempting to sum the band up or classify them. The best thing you could probably do is listen to the sample MP3 below, then perhaps pop out to buy the CD. Astonishingly, it is still available in remastered form with an extra disc of rare tracks. More info and audio samples are available at http://www.myspace.com/jackpioneersoundtracksreissue

"Dress You In Mourning": http://www.megaupload.com/?d=F6WJV0IQ

22 March 2008

The Second Hand Store Dip Part 1 - Ronnie Barker and Bernard Manning

What:
Bernard Manning - Everybody's Fool (Decca - 1974)
and
Ronnie Barker - Going Straight (EMI - 1978)

Where:
Wood Street Market, Wood Street, Upper Walthamstow, London

Cost:
One pound each


Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of dips into the budget boxes and bins of second hand record stores and charity shops of this fair isle - neatly alphabeticised collector's items and classic releases need not apply.

Comedians have been releasing records for some considerable time now, with usually dreadful results. As casually dismissed as Vic Reeves' forays into the musical arts seem to be these days, it's worth remembering that most comics usually only manage to make total gimps of themselves when the recording studio red light goes on. Even Ken Dodd, who forged a vinyl career which somehow lasted decades, caused fear and dread to penetrate the hearts of every right-thinking person whenever he appeared on Top of the Pops with his wild hair neatly slicked back. We could also, if we wished, examine Jimmy Tarbuck's limited singing career, or Hale and Pace's "The Stonk", or (worse still) Gary Wilmot's Jungle Book medley, but there are some areas even this blog wishes to stay clear from.

Given the above evidence, any person believing that Bernard Manning's 1974 waxing "Everybody's Fool" could be anything other than dire could surely be forgiven. One of Decca's many flop singles of the period, it's a seldom referenced curio from a man who was better known in his time for cracking bigoted jokes about ethnic minorities than releasing pop records. Anyone expecting a racist calypso record about immigration here is going to be disappointed, however - "Everybody's Fool" is in fact a self-pitying ballad which could possibly give fellow Mancunian Morrissey a run for his money.

Across its play time Bernard frequently wails that he is "crying inside" with a voice which is surprisingly strong and earnest, and would probably bring comfort to many of his detractors. As the man made a living out of singing on the variety circuit way before the comic muse ever struck him, the fact he manages to pull this off without making himself seem too foolish probably shouldn't surprise us much. And sure, there's nothing exceptional about this record, and it sounds rather old school in its arrangements even for 1974, but the fact he comes out of the other side with his dignity intact is alarming. It's certainly not offensive, which is more than could be said for Newman and Baddiel's dreadful "Three Lions", as anybody who has ever witnessed a German being punched repeatedly in the face whilst some English football "fans" scream "Football's coming HOME!!!" and "Thirty years of HURT!!!" will doubtless testify.

Bernard Manning - Everybody's Fool

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=08JCS3B9


Ronnie Barker, on the other hand, doesn't quite cut the mustard during the same decade. "Going Straight" was the follow-up sit-com to "Porridge" which didn't capture the public's imagination in the same way. Perhaps most of them turned off after hearing the theme tune, which was released as a spin-off single. "Going Straight" is an unfunny, never-ending shaggy dog story of a record without a discernable punchline, lyrically consisting almost entirely of comparisons made between bent objects and Fletcher's character. Macaulay and Clements must be given credit for successfully thinking of so many - perhaps the men would also be good at one of those intelligence tests where you have to think of uses for the humble paper clip - but why did they have to bore us with the results of their experiment? At least two minutes too long, "Going Straight" is an unenthusiastic, anaemic, rinky-dink-dink tune which sold next to no copies and frankly deserved to.

So there we have it - in the world of the comedy performer releasing singles, Bernard Manning comes out on tops as the Frank Sinatra of his parish, whereas Ronnie Barker is rather more like the washed up, barely tolerated local pub singer in his. These things are all relative, though, and it should go without saying that this is a review of their musical careers rather than a comparison between their abilities as comedians.

Ronnie Barker - Going Straight

http://www.megaupload.com/?d=P6197RKG

21 March 2008

TISM

Photobucket

"Now, hold steady there, Dave," I can hear certain people muttering to themselves, "you can't include TISM on a blog solely dedicated to obscure, forgotten artists. Why, TISM were a huge band in Australia for a couple of years, weren't they?"

I'm not about to argue with the above. TISM were certainly big enough to sign to a label owned by Rupert Murdoch, play major venues in Melbourne and Sydney, and get regular night-time rotations on specialist music video shows down under too. To say that TISM "fell by the wayside" in Australia would be rather like arguing that Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine never really did a decent trade in the UK. To be quite honest, though, the success of both acts seems somewhat unlikely in retrospect, was fleeting in both cases, and where TISM were concerned did not translate into any major overseas business. Australia had the only audience who really embraced their slightly unusual ways.

Unfortunately, giving the usual expected facts for TISM - the expected Who, What, When, Where, and Whys - is nigh on impossible due to their insistence that all band personnel should remain anonymous. TISM have never revealed their identities in public, preferring to remain hidden beneath balaclavas and rubber masks. Therefore, accurate details about their precise personnel, inter-band bust-ups and drug habits are going to be impossible to uncover. What I can honestly ascertain is that they formed at some point in 1982, releasing their first single “Defecate on my Face” not long after.

“Defecate on My Face” was a face-tingling slap around the chops for the Australian record buying public. Focussing on Hitler’s alleged sexual preferences during his lifetime, it’s a slightly juvenile if incredibly detailed piece of work lyrically, whilst having a very doomy, serious musical undercurrent. The menacing bassline and wailing vocals, to these ears, sound uncannily like Southend’s early nineties hopes Foreheads in a Fishtank (to the extent that originally I imagined that they and TISM might be related) and also recall the heavy handed approach of numerous Australian acts of the period. I don’t think Nick Cave broached the subject of the fecal related sexual perversions of fascist dictators during his early career, but TISM ran into the fray right when everyone was afraid to.




What was also astonishing was the switch in styles that TISM managed throughout their career. From such uncommercial beginnings they eventually switched to slogan orientated pop, arguing that “It’s harder to write a good pop song than sound like the Jesus and Mary Chain”. Tracks like “If You’re Not Famous At Fourteen You’re Finished” are full of bounce and verve, coming worryingly close to Stock Aitken and Waterman territory. You can almost imagine Jason Donovan bopping along (and maybe he did, how would we know?) but the subject matter never quite tallied. The video for this track was also a half-hearted affair which barely promoted the single at all, given that various members of TISM simply spoke over the top of the song less than halfway through, blithely dismissing both themselves and their record company.




“Greg! The Stop Sign!” is another merry ditty, albeit one which revels in a perverse combinations of styles. Beach Boys harmonies combine with pulsing high tempo electronic music, and a cynical “Life’s hard when you try hard” lyric. Referencing instances of successful party-going coke heads and clean strivers who got nowhere in life, it’s hard not to see their point of view.



The last single in 2004 – possibly ever, if rumours are to be believed – was the rather more straightforward “Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me”. This clearly was the big attempted sell-out disc, as a rather-too-cute animated video accompanied it which caused numerous Internet kids to go “awww”. This is hardly a natural or usual reaction to TISM and their work. It remains their only single that was actually released in Europe, but it still didn’t really do the business (except in Germany) perhaps because it sounds more like a monster mid-eighties chart topper than anything remotely relevant or applicable to the music scene in the present day. Still, it’s an anthemic and addictive piece of work which shouldn’t be entirely ignored.



By no means were TISM to everybody's tastes, and that certainly remains the case. For every fan who thought their costumes, subversive lyrics and antics were intelligent examples of Situationism, there were others who felt they were basically the Bloodhound Gang with silly masks on. I can only disagree - the humour on display throughout TISM's career would shame many a dull Chris Morris wannabe in the UK. Whatever you think of their music, it should surely be hard not to love an act who were apparently the only band to play lawnmowers on a live television appearance. Wikipedia also reveals that they "once gave an interview with Mara Smarelli and Adrian Ryan which was conducted on a football field. The members and interviewers were separated by 50 metre lengths of string. Communication was made possible with the use of megaphones and TISM refused to answer anything unless the string was held taut between member and interviewer".

I doubt even the hardiest of fans would put forward a case for TISM ever having released a "classic album", but the innovation, imagination and wit on disply throughout the work is something which seems peculiarly absent from the mainstream music scene in any country right now. Perhaps it's not too late for the UK to latch on to their wilful ways.

Animals That Swim - I Was The King, I Really Was The King

Artist: Animals That Swim
Record: I Was the King, I Really Was The King
Label: Elemental Records
Year: 1996


Animals That Swim

Sometimes it’s only too easy to see how the careers of some bands were doomed from day one – you only need to consider the name choice of Bjork’s first band “Cork the Bitches Arse” to realise that the fame game probably wasn’t high on their list of priorities. Then of course there’s the acts that employ manic time changes, literate lyrics and jarring dischords, then name themselves after a Dublin housing estate – so The Fatima Mansions were ultimately never going to be pick of the pops. The harder things are to “understand” in one sitting, the more there’s a reduced likelihood that a large audience awaits.

With Animals That Swim, it’s not so much their music (which always showed a love of classic, memorable choruses) or their choice of name that pointed towards obscurity, but their somewhat unorthodox approach to their work. Firstly, they had a “singing drummer” in Hank Starrs, which has never generally been an acceptable concept for most live audiences. Secondly, their original line up contained a New Yorker and a Kiwi, until they were deported (in the case of the New Yorker, forcibly and at the hands of immigration). Thirdly, they began their haphazard career by organising gigs where they would book poets and cabaret artists as well as bands, which was neither a credible nor orthodox thing to do on the London circuit at the time. Fourthly, and perhaps finally, they had a “thing” for peppering the brassy guitar pop they produced with awkward lyrics that almost mimicked modern prose poetry. In fact, one of their tracks “Sway With Me” is literally a Charles Bukowski poem twisted into song form, ignoring entirely the fact that Bukowski’s use of rhythm in poetry was never exactly pronounced.

What’s so astonishing, then, is that the whole bizarre cocktail worked. It may have meant that they were always just on the wrong side of commercial acceptability, but it did also mean that what they created was unique and genuinely beautiful. Their first album “Workshy” was a little rough round the edges, but had endless charm. The guitars rattled and jangled whilst Hank Starrs half-sang his pithy observations on modern urban life over the top, and perhaps most notably a trumpet periodically hollered out bold, flourishing poppy riffs behind him. “Roy” explored the idea of meeting Roy Orbison in a bar, and finding him sulking about his reduced status in the Encyclopaedia of Rock. “I could have been bigger than Elvis/ I sung like a bird/ wrote my own words”, he groans, “but missed my chance cos I’m too damn ugly”. The gorgeous “Silent Film” takes in the lives and activities of numerous people in a locality, with a chorus proudly proclaiming “This would best be seen from a great height/ or on silent film”. Then there’s the epic “King Beer”, a celebratory yet almost mournful piece of work about decaying relationships and drunkenness.

The real tour-de-force, however, came with the follow up album “I Was The King, I Really Was The King”. Housed in a sleeve showing a decrepit man in late middle age stripped to the waist and posing proudly, the artwork and title may or may not have been a comment on judging on surface values. Whatever, the first track off the bat, “Faded Glamour”, is the band’s finest moment. An exemplary and anthemic track celebrating small town England, it is in concept somewhere between Morrissey’s “Everyday is Like Sunday” and the Go Betweens “Streets Of Your Town”, except it’s far better than either of those tracks. Yes, really. Whereas both those singles sneered, savaged and sighed at the nowheresvilles of the world, and showed them to be beyond redemption or praise, the Animals That Swim track is about being held by the magnetic force of the history and the very aura of the places. “There’s been markets, garbage riots, maydays and meteors in the street” sings Hank, “But today it’s just a place where we meet”. The chorus soars in with a slightly sneering “This faded glamour is a stupid art school idea”, but by the time the song is halfway through the lyrics and melody shift irrepressibly upwards, and he instead begins celebrating the place. The melody builds and builds until it can take no more, then drops out with a whimper. It’s marvellous, drenched in an almost Celtic melancholy, and like most of the rest of the album, finds lyrical beauty in the unexpected, and things to celebrate in the most mundane and depressing of subject matters. Somewhere along the way, it also manages to be a superb pop song as well. ”East St O Neill” is another such track. Beginning with the slightly doom-laden lines “Someone gone shot dead round here/ People left flowers/ by the Ribena stains on the pavement”, the lyrics eventually take bizarre twists and turns as Hank Starrs tells us of how he stole the flowers, took them home in a wheelbarrow and pressed them all flat in a book. “On wet days the ghost sits in the kitchen leafing through it”, he tells us, “and he’s not grey or wraith-like/ but bright and solid like a new bike”. The very fact that the song ends with Hank Starrs complaining about his unwanted spectral flatmates habits (“plays the radio too loud/ and makes a damn mess of fag butts and tea leaves”) makes it one of the oddest but most ingenious lyrical twists ever – from death by gunshot to complaints about paranormal tidiness issues in under three minutes. On paper it sounds preposterous, but on record it’s a wonderful treat.

Then of course there are the London songs, which are busy, bold and brassy, celebrating the characters and places (“London Bridge”) and the thrift store East End (“Near The Moon”) with an optimism that’s almost unrealistic. When I was in Australia, these songs made me feel homesick. Now I’m back home, the strange thing is they still do. They seem to represent a London that only exists at the height of drunkenness, when night bus strangers actually talk to each other and reveal their grouches and tall tales. It’s a place that doesn’t exist all the time.
In terms of pop suss and melody, the album isn’t lacking either. “The Longest Road” contains a swish, almost eighties melody, complete with a one-note, rhythmic, car horn imitating trumpet parp. Keyboards whoosh and glide in a somnambulant manner around a travel weary lyrical theme.

So why did no sod buy the album then? Well, in keeping with their shambolic ways, the band lost one manager at this point then never seemed to quite get around to getting another. As a result, they were left to flounder through the music industry on their own drunken arses, trying to push the idea of pop songs with subtle and awkward lyrics on to a knees-up Britpop country (as it was then). And this brings us on to perhaps the most crucial point, that being they were never around at quite the right time. At the arse end of grunge they seemed fey, overly arty and ridiculous, and at the height of Britpop far too knowing and awkward (and not especially “pretty”, starry or presentable either). Jolly pop songs about rolling with it and businessmen in Country Houses were one thing, but similarly jolly pop songs about entrapment in scuffed up small towns and being shot dead and haunting someone’s kitchen were quite another. It’s not too shocking that the mainstream public cocked a snook at such behaviour.

Nonetheless, for a very dedicated minority of us Animals That Swim produced some wondrous songs, up there with the finest work of the period. And besides, I’d like to believe that if “Faded Glamour” became the new English national anthem, deep down it wouldn’t just be me that would think it a marvellous idea. Here’s your chance to decide for yourself.

Faded Glamour:
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=26497NNS

East St O'Neill:
http://www.megaupload.com/?d=LU0NM2A8

(This blog entry is a slightly different version of one which originally appeared on my Livejournal "If all the bloggers were killed, would anyone notice?" in 2005).