28 January 2009

Cuban Boys - Oh My God They Killed Kenny!

Cuban Boys - Oh My God They Killed Kenny!

Label: For Us
Year of Release: 1998

I feel as if I'm on something of a roll on the whole topic of novelty tracks, the Internet, mash-ups, sampling, and suchlike. And it's curious how frequently the four things collide as well - there must be more novelty electronic sample city tracks out there than novelty rock records, certainly over the last two decades. I blame the KLF.

The Cuban Boys, however, were in some way deemed so radical that they regularly occupied the loftiest positions on John Peel's Festive Fifty, this despite the fact that to all intents and purposes they were creating populist ditties which probably excited Jonathan King on a daily basis as well. There were a number of factors which caused this situation to emerge - firstly, they were, to the best of my knowledge, one of the very first acts to spread the word about their music over the Internet. Whilst it's true to say that even the worst local bands have MySpace pages and their own sites at present, in 1998 this was considered strangely progressive, and a direct stab in the eyeballs for The Man and his wife.

They also used the Internet for source materials, their sole hit "Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia" sampling the Hamster Dance website - a site, lest we forget, consisting entirely of a bunch of badly animated hamsters grooving along to a yodelling soundtrack, which is clearly what passed for fun at some point in my lifetime, though I don't feel nostalgic about it. Some name this as being the first example of an Internet viral. "Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia" was certainly the first example of a band using an Internet viral as the basis for a song and having a massive hit with it. These days, of course, the makers of the site themselves would probably be sly enough to sell the music in mp3 form through their own domain (as Weebls Stuff have with "Badger Badger Badger" and other such viral classics).

Additionally, they were originally cloaked under a veil of anonymity, and rumours were spread - either by the band or excitable listeners - that they were a side project for any number of unlikely people, Paul Weller included. If the band did indeed make this up and spread it around themselves, I have to hand it to them as a stroke of genius. Who on Earth actually believed that the world's most dour man produced a record sampling the Hamster Dance website? He'd need to have had some kind of mental breakdown before even considering it. Spreading Internet rumours about Paul Weller doing all manner of unlikely, UnWellerish things should be a national pastime, and I would encourage you to all indulge this whim on a daily basis.

"Oh My God They Killed Kenny!" was (logically enough) a record which sampled both South Park and the glam rock band Kenny, a move of which I wholeheartedly approve. Far too fun to ever really grow irritating, and managing to sound messy, chaotic and anarchic rather than scrubbed and polished for provincial dancefloors, it still sounds unique today. The band's approach remains progressive today as well. I originally ripped the vinyl to upload on here, then discovered upon further investigation that the band include the A side and the B side as a free download on the website, so I actually need not have bothered. It's a night away from Sharebee's upload progress bar for me, then, as I just take you straight to their site via the below link.


For those of you who are wondering why the label states "We Salute You Captain Eastwood", it's because the band were often favourably reviewed by Stephen Eastwood on Teletext. It's peculiar to think that a band who used an invention which would lead to the death of Teletext as the foremost electronic information tool were also one who were wholeheartedly endorsed by it. The Cuban Boys are indeed just one big furry paradox.


Paperback Tourist said...

Wonder how you feel V/Vm (label and artistes) fit into all of this?

23 Daves said...

Another subject for another day, I reckon! I own some V/Vm material but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

And that website has forced me to wonder if I should do a Belgian New Beat entry at some point...

Anonymous said...

oddly enough i've just finished a track with The Cuban Boys, i sent them the vocal and they remixed, should be out soon. i think i preferred it when they were Beatbox Saboteurs but both are great.

Good to see something on Rough Trade's For Us label appearing as well!

Christie Malry said...

The 'Captain Eastwood' (for that is I) credit on the label also refers to my having come up with the idea for the track. I jokingly suggested it to one of the band during a drunken online exchange, and a few days later received a CD of said tune in the post. They also named their album after me; a dubious honour indeed! Great blog, btw.

23 Daves said...

Hello Stephen! Thanks for dropping by to comment, and also for the story surrounding your involvement with this record. It's got me wondering how many other bands were influenced by the decisions or suggestions of critics... surprisingly few, I'd guess.

Christie Malry said...

Well, journalists as failed musicians and all that..! Ver Cubans also named the track Flight Of The Sarah Bee after a mutual friend, who at the time was writing for Melody Maker. Oh, and lest we forget St Etienne's Memo To Pricey; a sampled conversation as opposed to a song, but I reckon it counts.

On a side note, your Animals That Swim posts are wonderful. SUCH an underrated band. An anecdote (of sorts): A friend of mine adores ATS, and works at A Famous Theatre School. One day he gets a call from a chap enquiring about sending his son for an audition. My friend asks his name, and the chap replies "Hank Starrs". Said friend almost drops the phone in surprise, and gasps back "Not... THE Hank Starrs??!!". Sweet.

23 Daves said...

It actually bothers me that Animals That Swim are overlooked so much - I'm constantly waiting for an extremely successful band to namecheck them as an influence, or for the cult following they have online to generate enough waves to get a lot of other people interested in their work. It never seems to actually happen.

Hank Starrs is actually on Twitter and I think he does visit this blog occasionally (certainly, he's read the ATS entries). According to one of the last tweets I read, he's presently trying to tidy up some lyrics for more new material, so fingers crossed.