9 March 2011
These Animal Men - Speed King
Year of Release: 1994
Many years after the event, it feels odd to be talking about These Animal Men. Odd in a "Did that really happen?" way. The band smelled suspicious to many right from the very off, launching their career with a series of slogans such as "Never trust a crustie" and "Don't be ashamed of your adolescence", and subsequently ended up seeming like an exercise in hype and branding rather than a proper band. The sleeve of "Speed King" followed this sensationalism neatly, including an amphetamine wrap (although Pulp would do something similar on "Sorted for Es and Whizz" a couple of years later to much greater effect).
With the benefit of distance, the whole phenomenon does seem a tiny bit silly and dated now (especially the references to speed - honestly, who on earth has seen such a thing recently?) but the band weren't incapable of sounding urgent when they wanted to, which gives everyone an inkling of how the music press hooked on to them. "Speed King" isn't without charm, and rollicks its way along in such an urgent and aggressive way that you can almost believe the band were under the influence when they recorded it. The NME tagged the act with the label "New Wave of New Wave" alongside S*M*A*S*H and Echobelly, but only the latter managed to get reassessed as a Britpop act as soon as the phenomenon died its predictable death nine months later, with dire consequences for the other contenders. Most of their follow-up material was ignored, and is now widely available on iTunes for further investigation if anyone seems tempted by the idea.
Hitless until the end despite a Top of the Pops appearance, and seldom (if ever) referenced in the music press today, These Animal Men are a strange example of how hype can sometimes create a bright and powerful spark without causing the kindle to burn enough to create the flames of an entire career.
Ex-members later went on to form Mo Solid Gold with soul singer KA Hepburn, creating a new and rather more interesting sound. Despite major label backing, this failed to go much further as well (and may prove another topic for another day).
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