We live double lives. We deal in sex and beautiful women

Kelly's Heroes Single CoverKelly’s Heroes Black Grape Radioactive Released: December 1995 Highest UK Chart Position: #17 Available on: It’s Great When You’re Straight…Yeah!

There are no second acts in American lives.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is Manchester. We do things differently here. This is the second act
— Tony Wilson, 24 Hour Party People

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 heroes
Most of these men sink like subs
Jesus was a black man
No, Jesus was Batman
No. that was Bruce Wayne!
Like 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.

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.

Michel Gondry Is Cool

Click on the video link (the second one down)

currently playing: The Polyphonic Spree — When The Fool Becomes The King

"A Frank Exchange of Views"

To celebrate today’s release of Fahrenheit 911, today’s music is all about protest.

Because those no-down dirty liberals are debasing America's morals.

A slightly re-mixed version of an advert currently showing here:

The PoguesBirmingham Six

A spokesman for the IBA said the song, from the album 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God' , contains "lyrics alleging that some convicted terrorists are not guilty and that Irish people in general are at a disadvantage in British courts of law. "We think these allegations might support, solicit or invite support for an organisation provided by the Home Secretary's notice.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, the British Government imposed a broadcast ban preventing the voices of terrorists or people who might represent them from being broadcast on radio or TV. The media got around this ban by hiring voice artists to lip-sync to interviews (if that sounds ridiculous, well it was. I still don't understand why the Government thought that we'd lend the terrorists support if we could hear their voices), but some songs, like this one, fell afoul of the Ban. Incidentally, the convicted terrorists mentioned above were all found not guilty after it was revealed that police fabricated the evidence that led to their convictions.

Bob DylanMasters of War

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

currently playing: Kelis — Get Along With You

The Fight of The 21st Century!

currently playing: R.E.M. — Be Mine

The Doctor Is VP

And to be fair, it would be a great choice! Pro-gun, in favour of small government, and just who wouldn’t want a mescaline-taking Vice-President?

currently playing: Blink 182 — I Miss You

The Unlikeliest Lads

Any Way You Look Single CoverAny Way You Look Northern Uproar Heavenly Records Released: May 1997 Highest UK Chart Position: #36 Available on: Tomorrow, Today & Yesterday

You, at the back. Yes, you. Stop laughing. This song is brilliant.

After the success of Blur, Oasis, and Pulp in 1994, the record labels scrambled to sign up all the guitar bands in the country, hoping to find the next stars of the scene. By 1995, the charts and radio were full of these bands, bands which would have been lucky to get a hit on the independent charts a few years back. Northern Uproar were one of these; four Manchester teenagers that looked as if they had your eye on your car stereo rather than a band with a long Top 40 career in front of them . After an initially-positive response in the music press, they were vilified, and were portrayed as a symbol of all that was wrong with Britpop. It didn't help that their singles and first album were mediocre and highly derivative, borrowing all the bad parts of Oasis and none of the good. After a few hit singles and a fairly successful first album, they disappeared in 1996, and nobody noticed.

In May 1997, without much fanfare, they released Any Way You Look, the first single from the James Dean Bradfield–produced second album, Tomorrow, Today & Yesterday. And it's fabulous.

While the rest of Britpop's vanguard were off recording six minute epics, Northern Uproar came back with a pop song that just crept over the three minute barrier. It wastes no time in getting started: clipped horns announcing the beginning, and then right into the song. From out of nowhere, a tight guitar starts up, stolen straight from the Funk Brothers themselves. It's almost as if the group spent the latter half of 1996 in Detroit, jacking up Motown grooves and leaving behind the battered remains up on blocks; a Motor City - Moss Side cultural exchange. Leon Maya, the singer, begins a moment after the backing track, and if you were familiar with Northern Uproar's previous work, the difference is astonishing. He still sounds unmistakably Mancunian, but there's a confidence behind his voice that just wasn't there on the previous records. The lyrics are in the Sally Cinnamon/Just My Imagination mould; unrequited love writ large. Nothing spectacular, but the lyrics only exist to feed into the chorus, which, with its stomping horns and soaring vocal, is again lifted from Motown.

But it's at 2 minutes 19 seconds that the song unleashes its final surprise, where it leaps over the line from being good, and becomes a classic. For the final minute, the song just repeats "I've never been this lonely" over and over again, the singer overlapping himself, and the rest of the band supplying Beach Boys-style harmonies. All this from a band that a year ago you wouldn't have trusted to sing Roll With It on a karaoke machine. The love song disappears; it's now about the band itself. Hacked to pieces by the press, the laughing stock of Britpop, this is a heartfelt plea for them to be taken seriously, that this is their last chance for success. The ending is a little obvious, as the backing track and horns stop one after the other, leaving the final few repetitions of "I've never been this lonely" to stand by themselves, but it works very well. And once it's over, you want to return back to the beginning to make sure you didn't imagine it, checking the sleeve just to make sure the shop didn't give you the wrong CD by mistake. But it's not; the four chancers from Manchester have finally come of age.

Any Way You Look failed to make much of an impression on the Top 40, the second album flopped, and their final two singles failed to chart.

Leon Maya is now a hairdresser.

I Miss Links

Get yourself a human torso!

FREE GIF! GIF IS FREE! ITS LONG SENTENCE IS FINALLY UP!

It's looking good for the hippies…

Sssh! Don't tell Bonnie!

currently playing: DJ Premier — In Deep Concentration

If you say something enough times...

I believe the phrase is “put up or shut up, Cheney”…

currently playing: James — She's A Star

CLOUDS OF DOOOM!

It doesn’t look good for Glastonbury, does it?

Only Love Can Break Your Heart In Two Places

Hobart Paving Single CoverHobart Paving / Who Do You Think You Are? Saint Etienne Heavenly Records Released: May 1993 Highest Chart Position: #23 Available on: Smash The System Some of the groups in Select Magazine’s Britpop-defining March 1993 issue, like Pulp and Blur, went on to become the biggest bands in Britain. Saint Etienne, also featured, lurked behind in the shadows, never quite managing to find their place at the top of the charts. Too much in love with pop for the indie crowd, and too arch and knowing for a music-buying general public that turned its back on intellectual pop back in the 1980s. Saint Etienne’s world is one where girls in Mary Quant dresses, scarves and white-rimmed sunglasses drive out into the country in their Ford Capris, ready for a rave in the middle of Hertfordshire. A world where the modern concrete architecture of the 1960s looks the way it does in dreams, instead of the dismal concrete reality of The Tricorn. A world of Paris, of London, of beaches under the pavement, of architecture, of being dropped by your record label for taking the money for a promo video and making a full-length film with it instead. It’s not our world, but it could have been, if only we’d tried harder.

Hobart Paving is a deceptive song. It sounds simple on the first listen; Sarah Cracknell singing over what seems like a sparse backing track, the lyrics regretful and contemplative. But there's more going on. The backing tracks starts off with just a piano, with new instruments gradually coming in, building the backing up layer by layer until, at the end, the song is accompanied by a pocket electronic orchestra of drums, strings, and horns. Is Sarah talking about Elvis Presley's tears, or Elvis Costello's? There's a big difference between the two. It feels like the end of a 1960s kitchen-sink drama film, where the young and successful star returns to her humble beginnings, but finds that she's no longer welcome. She leaves, never to return home again.

Who Do You Think You Are?, the other side of this double-A single, is one of those times where the band were almost too clever for their own good. It’s a cover of a song by Candlewick Green, winners of several Opportunity Knocks programmes (Opportunity Knocks was a long-running (1956-78) British TV talent show; this song comes from the 1970s). This could have just been an ironic exercise of kitsch, but the band drag the track into the 1990s, stopping off in the 1980s to borrow some acid house, mixing together cool and uncool parts of British culture to create something new, exciting, and danceable.