What: That's Nice!
Where: Oxfam, Crouch End, London
Oh Lord, this is a peculiar blog entry to have to write. Minty were a very strange proposition indeed in the nineties, having formed by designer/ artist/ character Leigh Bowery in order to attempt to earn a regular living out of his media profile.
Bowery was a complex figure who cannot easily be explained over the course of a pithy blog entry. Born in the suburbs of Melbourne where he spent his unhappy youth, he relocated to London in the eighties and preceded to reinvent himself like so many new Londoners before him. The difference is, Bowery's presence in London clubland was absurd and bizarre, an enormous human work of art rather than the usual simple, genre-fixated exhibitionism one can find whilst strolling around Camden or Hoxton. At the height of his obsession with taking his personal appearance one stage further, he attempted to slash off one of his ears in a Vincent Van Gogh style. His Wikipedia page is lovingly maintained and incredibly detailed, and his ITV documentary with Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie) is also worth a peek here - if only to see Laurie's worried and uncertain visage throughout.
Whilst Bowery had enjoyed some high-profile art exhibitions and clothes designs - designing stagewear for Boy George at one point in the eighties, and appearing in the video for "Mr Pharmacist" by The Fall - he remained a council flat tenant in London, relying on irregular bouts of cash to get by. Minty the band were therefore allegedly put together as a response to this problem, releasing amongst other singles "Useless Man" ("Boot licking, tit tweaking useless man"). They caught the attention of the national press in the UK - who always do seem to give a simultaneous helping and slapping hand to any eccentric doing something perverse - but this utterly failed to translate into sales, and apparently made Bowery's cashflow problem worse.
It doesn't take a supreme business mind to work out what might have gone wrong. Whoever you may be and however well known you are, forming a band is rarely the answer to your financial difficulties, and this applies even if what you're doing fits present trends and fashions. Minty were odd, confrontational, slightly frightening and ignored most of the rules behind writing pop hits, and thus were unlikely to get anyone involved platinum discs. So it proved.
When Bowery died as a result of complications from AIDS in 1994, the band (including his wife Nicola Bowery) took the unusual decision to carry on releasing records anyway, and "That's Nice!" is one of those. Like a peculiar series of seventies early evening quiz show catchphrases set to synthesisers, it's somehow simultaneously amusing and irritating, like a giant pink day-glo pink foam hand with a raised middle digit. Taunting cries of "God is dead!/ Sunglasses worn on head!" and "Nice to see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!" weave in and out through simplistic, primitive and discordant electronic riffs, and as a listener I'm forced to occasionally wonder if this is supposed to be pissing me off, or someone else entirely, or everyone. Certainly the quantity of remixes available on this disc are overkill and as a result I've only included two, the Add N to (X) one and the Partycrashers mix.
"That's Nice!" enjoyed some late night radio airplay in the UK - especially from Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley on Radio One - but almost inevitably wasn't a hit. Its presence in a North London charity shop was a surprise, though perhaps not entirely inappropriately at the very second I picked it up a very strange senior gentleman who smelt of urine and had a flower in his hair began a long bothering campaign which lasted until I left the store. I'm tempted to chalk it up as being part of the whole experience.