It must seem sad
But I'm not sad believe me
'Cause I choose not to be
It was right there, in the middle of Robot Song, that I fell completely for Kenickie. It was somewhere on the way to Herefordshire, forcing my family to listen over and over to the tape of At The Club that I had just bought that I heard it for the first time, the mixture of Rimmel lipstick, high heels, and Catholic guilt all exploding somewhere inside my head. I had liked them enough before, but after that, I was theirs.
(and then, later on, it was Acetone. Strange, though, that in the two Marie Du Santiago songs, my favourite parts of both are the Lauren bits)
A thought that occurs to me: I got up early on the Friday morning of Glastonbury to see them on The Other Stage, only for their slot to be cancelled (the stage was sinking into the mud, for it was Glastonbury '97: The First Time 'The Dunkirk Spirit' Was Invoked). I was quite bitter.
Looking back at At The Club ten years on, it's reassuring to know that some of my choices during those years weren't suspect (come back in August for a retread through Be Here Now). It's still a wonderful debut album that doesn't deserve its current deleted status.
Kenickie were, of course, the delightful Lauren Laverne, Marie Du Santiago, Emmy-Kate Montrose, and the enigmatic Johnny X (then Pete X, then J Xaverre. Obviously). All pen-names, all awesome, all the time. They were the stuff of legend; discovered by John Peel, their debut EP Catsuit City soon becoming an expensive rarity, they came down to London, charmed the pants off a jaded music press (I'll always remember the glow I felt when I read that their favourite MP was Dennis Skinner…erm, moving on…), and found themselves being courted by the capital's record labels. Another EP, Skillex was released through Fierce Panda (who will write their definitive history? The forgotten underbelly of Britpop!), Creation were knocked back (was it money? Control? I can't remember, and my NMEs are all in the loft), and Kenickie were signed to a major record label, EMIDisc, a vanity label offshoot of EMI run by Bob Stanley (he of Saint Etienne. Please tick him off your Britpop Bingo card).
Despite being regular features in both the NME and Melody Maker (I'm assuming the latter from what I know now, as I didn't read MM…the reasons are for another time), the first couple of singles bounced around outside the Top 40, but at the start of January 1997, a traditionally quiet time for the charts, the group had their first hit, In Your Car. It was dumb and smart, joyous and yet sad already ("I'm in heaven / I'm too young to feel so old"). It reached the giddy heights of Number 24, and of course led to an appearance on Top of The Pops.
(I'm with PopJustice on this one - what can our bands of today look forward to? What's the point of slaving over a guitar in a shed all Saturday afternoon without the dream of one day being introduced on national television by a slightly odd-looking Radio 1 DJ?)
At The Club followed in May 12th 1997, hitting Number 9 on the album chart. It was hailed by the NME as being a better debut than "either the Spice Girls or the Manic Street Preachers". I'm looking at the sleeve notes now, and the credits page is typically Kenickie and typical of the time: shout-outs to Simon Price, The Manics, John Peel, Jo Whiley, and Steve 'Return of' Lamacq, along with Stevens (Shakin). I must also say that Marie didn't really suit the blonde look that she's sporting on the cover.
I should talk more about the album, really. About how Millionaire Sweeper opens with the Ne My Baby drumbeat and includes the line "she's filling up with amino", the self-loathing on How I Was Made, the rallying battle-cry of Nightlife ("We are YOUNG for your desecration / Destroy what you find"), the cheekiest two minutes of pop that is Come Out 2Nite, and the most misunderstood song of the Britpop era, Punka. It was an affectionate mockery of the politics of the lo-fi scene in Sunderland (and in general, I imagine), yet it was the song that the more, how shall I say, Ocean Colour Scene-loving section of The Evening Session took to their hearts, being somewhat oblivious to its irony.
You keep me warm
You keep me cold
And rest your head in my blue bones
And as I spit my dying wish
You're listening to something else
You won't find a bleaker ending on any album released in 1997, and that includes OK Computer and Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space.
There's more to this story. After the rise, the inevitable fall. The second album, seeing them at The Hop & Grape, the jaunt around children's shows, the interview with Chris Moyles that probably forms the root of my hatred of him (as well as all he stands for, obviously), the break-up, the splinter groups, and the 'where are they now?' finale. Oh, and the greatest Number 38 of all time, obviously:
But for now, we'll leave them back in 1997, dressing cheap and tacky, dancing for thrills, before their night gets nasty…
currently playing: Kenickie — Hooray For Everything