Label: Org Records
Year of Release: 1998
Ah, cruel, fickle finger of fate... it could and should have been very different for Inaura. Featuring Dave Formula out of Magazine as their keyboard player, the band had pedigree to begin with, and then seemed to be riding on what was supposed to become the giant wave of a new musical movement -namely Romo, the New Romantic revivalist scene created by the magazine Melody Maker.
I became aware of them at the time the first single "This Month's Epic" was issued, as their press officer phoned me at home raving about this band who (in his words) "are like a combination of all the best bits of The Verve and Duran Duran". Clearly he'd never read my student magazine column (and fair play to him, nobody else did either) or he'd never have bothered using those two acts as being a benchmark of any kind of superior quality. Nonetheless, with nothing better to do I went along to see them live that night and was blown away. In between hard techno squelches and eighties synth pop leanings were indeed enormous, epic, meandering songs which recalled the majesty of The Walker Brothers. There were unquestionably elements of Duran Duran in the mix - only a fool would claim otherwise - but there was more ambition here, and a lot more aggression and frustration in their sound. They had taken eighties pop and given it a much harder edge.
EMI were supposed to have issued the album "One Million Smiles" themselves in 1996, but following the total underperformance of the singles issued from it they immediately appeared to get cold feet. For two years after that, it apparently remained locked in the vaults where it may have remained for good had Org not stepped in to rescue the project. By the time they issued the album, however, whatever interest anyone had in Inaura had totally disappeared, and it was left to bellyflop on to record store shelves in 1998 two whole years after the last single from it had emerged. The subsequent public disinterest surely surprised nobody. If EMI's marketing muscle hadn't persuaded the world about Inaura's worth, then what was a tiny indie going to achieve years after the band had even last been in the mainstream music press?
Inaura's career was actually a very unfortunate case of multiple mistakes. For starters, they were launched as being part of the ill-fated Romo scene in the mid-nineties. Romo was an eighties pop revivalist movement launched by Melody Maker which was supposed to take over the waning lead Britpop had shown the country. Sadly, despite involving a shedload of interesting eccentrics and pretentious buffoons who would certainly have livened up the rather dour meat-and-potatoes music scene of the time, the majority of them really didn't deliver the goods musically, and the scene was quickly buried after a showcase tour which the public chose to completely ignore. Sadly for Inaura, not only were they left off the showcase (instead being given a nationwide support slot with The Human League) they were also one of the only bands amongst it who were astonishing live and also knew their way around a tune - a case of "the exception which proves the rule".
Their second mistake was to release the eight minute long "This Month's Epic" as the debut single, launching their career on a very overblown, dramatic flourish which subsequently gained absolutely no airplay, and aggravated the earthy, laddish music press of the time. Although I happen to think "This Month's Epic" is actually one of the finest singles issued in the mid-nineties, they perhaps could have waited until they'd slipped into the public's consciousness with something a bit more snappy. After all, they had snappy pop tunes by the bundle - "Soap Opera" and "Desire" on this album prove that conclusively.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, their ideas of mixing alternative guitar rock, eighties synthpop and burbling dance music influences were actually extremely ahead of their time, even if they were accused of being retro in the nineties. Whilst we now think nothing of seeing stylish, electronic, New Order referencing and eighties worshipping bands in the charts, in 1996 it was deemed to be a tiny bit silly (unless you were Garbage, for some reason). So, despite it being a bright, shining piece of pop with a credible production team behind it, the band were ultimately always doomed to fail. Sometimes the first person through the thicket is the one who gets his eyes scratched out, whilst leaving the path clear for other people to follow.
I'm always pleased when I see this album being referenced online as "ahead of its time", and I hope that people will begin to wake up to it more over the coming years. I don't hold out hope for an Inaura reformation, but I certainly hope that their work brings pleasure to a wider audience eventually.
(This blog entry was originally uploaded in June 2008, and I did originally plan to offer it for full download again as the old link had gone dead. Somewhat brilliantly, though, I've discovered that it's since been reissued and you can buy it from Amazon here (and doubtless other places too!) Therefore, this isn't a "proper" Left and to the Back Blog entry but a stopgap weekend one to try and draw your attention to the record).