6 February 2010

Fluffy - Hypersonic (b/w "Crossdresser")


Label: Parkway
Year of Release: 1995

Let's "cut to the chase", as I believe they say in pretentious sales circles, and be honest here. It's been a particularly silly few months for vinyl shopping. I have in my "to upload" pile at present a Eurodisco single from the 1970s for Manchester City fans, a perky soul number about murdering the man your wife is having an affair with using a broken bottle, and a track performed by some speedway stars from the seventies. All prime L&TB material, really, but if I uploaded these little curios one after the other, I suspect people would lose patience. It's always better to spread the oddities out a little.

When confronted with such a situation - and don't you feel privileged to have me break down the third wall here and explain how this blog works? - I generally tend to upload something I think is "quite good" rather than exemplary, but try to make it material which received savage critical maulings at the time. So then - Fluffy... Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy... where do we begin?

Fluffy were a prime example of a mid-nineties band who (rather like Menswear, in fact) people knew about before they'd seen the band live or heard a note of their music. Unlike Menswear, who were noted for their sartorial in-crowd cool, Fluffy received coverage in both the NME and the Daily Mail for having members who were from rather privileged backgrounds. Pandora Ormsby-Gore, we were reliably informed, was distantly related to royalty, probably a first for a punk band. This wasn't the most auspicious of starts.

Ormsby-Gore left the band before this debut single was released (whether she jumped or was pushed remains unclear) but the accusations of false punkness and general inauthenticity clung to the band from that point on, and they were doomed before the intro of the first recorded work even began. Pointing out the double-standards of the music press at this point isn't particularly hard work, since they were prone to contradicting themselves on a weekly basis, but it's worth noting that Justine Frischmann wasn't exactly from impoverished stock either, yet was still fawned over as if this didn't matter much.

Viewing past the smokescreen of critical sneers, and the hype their record label surrounded them with, a band who were actually pretty good lay in wait for those prepared to keep an open mind. "Hypersonic" sounds uncannily like a product of the early nineties rather than the mid-nineties, and could be placed on a mixtape alongside The Voodoo Queens without any noticeable flinches from listeners. It has an energy and fierce white noise which propels the whole thing along with gusto, and is a long way away from being the worst this period in alternative music had to offer. Had they been writing about being from the streets or being the rough types from town we might all have had purpose to laugh up our sleeves (although we didn't when Joe Strummer tried), but in reality Fluffy were just some women making a loud racket. You don't have to be common to do that, as anyone who has visited a bar near Sloane Square will tell you.

Lead singer Amanda Rootes always insisted she was from an ordinary background, but I do know for a fact that at least one other member went to an extremely good public school, so the circles the band moved on certainly weren't working class. However, much the same could be said of the writers, directors and producers at the BBC, well over half of all the artists in the Top 40 this week, 75% of the publishing industry, and probably most of the journalists who had the band in their sights. The media is posh, and a quite-good punk band from London perhaps weren't the most inspiring or relevant individuals to be guillotined for that particular crime. Perhaps they reminded people a bit too much of the shortcomings of their immediate work environment.

Towards the end, the band said that all they had wanted to do was be like The New York Dolls. They almost certainly won't receive the same kind of serious reappraisal since there are no lost classics 'in the can' (that I know of, at least) but I hope a few people are willing to give "Hypersonic" a listen and wonder what on Earth the critical brickbats were all about.

They were certainly subversive in one sense, though - I'm sadly unable to show you the original sleeve for "Hypersonic", since it features a vibrator which a lot of photo upload sites are refusing to accept, and I'd rather stay out of Blogger-related trouble too. You've got to wonder.

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