There are no second acts in American lives.
This is Manchester. We do things differently here. This is the second act
After the break-up of the Happy Mondays in the early nineties, most people expected Shaun Ryder to descend deeper into substance addiction. What nobody foresaw was Ryder getting his act together, forming a new band and becoming part of the Britpop movement. Black Grape was formed in 1994, comprising Shaun, Kermit (a rapper from the group Ruthless Rap Assassins, and one of the few non-white faces to be found in this genre), Paul Wagstaff (a former member of Paris Angels), and of course Bez on dancing duties. The first album, It's Great When You're Straight…Yeah!, was released in 1995 to critical acclaim and chart success. It also spawned three Top Twenty singles, of which Kelly's Heroes was the last.
As a song which seems to be about warning about heroes and their feet of clay, it's no surprise that the song opens with a guitar jangle that sounds almost identical to the opening of Blur's Parklife, followed by a guitar effect that recreates the start of Oasis's Supersonic. Having got that subtle dig out of the way, the song gets going, sounding very similar to the Happy Mondays, but with Kermit and Shaun sharing vocal duties. Ryder's lyrical talent was still evident, as shown by this exchange, almost undoubtedly the best opening to any song in 1995:
Don't talk to me about heroesLike many songs of the period, Kelly's Heroes references the past moreso than being concerned with the present. The title comes from the classic 1972 film of the same name, it sounds like a Happy Mondays song, and the "Christ almighty!" sample in the breakdown felt dated then, let alone now. Today, the whole song feels a little tired, as unlike Saint Etienne's Who Do You Think You Are, it doesn't do anything with its influences except were them on its sleeve.
Most of these men sink like subs
Jesus was a black man
No, Jesus was Batman
No. that was Bruce Wayne!
Shaun Ryder is now on his third act. Black Grape went the way of the Happy Mondays with an acrimonious break-up in 1997, but he's reformed the Mondays for a tour starting August 2004.