(Can I Take You Home?)

“Like Bears In A Bosnian Zoo”

It’s true
To you
It must seem sad
I know
It all
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.

Robot Song

(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.

And then there’s Acetone.

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

Watch As I Succumb To Another Web Fad!

I have accounts on Flickr, MySpace, Facebook, last.fm, but, I hear you cry - where is my Twitter presence? Where can you get fabulous updates in blocks of 140 characters?

Right here!

Amazing, isn’t it?

Anyway, off to London tomorrow, for Saturday Looks Good To Me, Lucky Soul, and hopefully, friends! And no being sick. That’s a rule.

currently playing: Rosita – This Is Tonight

And I Just Can't Help Believing…

Stealing from Simon again, I’m afraid, but in case you didn’t see it, Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie have a feature called ‘Pick ‘n’ Mix’ where viewers get to choose a record that will be played everyday the week after. One of this week’s choices is You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve. Go. Vote. Harness the power of the Reverse Midas Touch!

currently playing: Feist – My Moon My Man

Happy Birthday, Helvetica!

Here’s to another fifty years of Swiss Modernism!

currently playing: The Bird & The Bee – I’m A Broken Heart

The Dastardly Squirrel

Posted here, there, and everywhere, I guess…

currently playing: Electrelane – Between The Wolf And The Dog

Quite A Reasonable Price, I Think!

A possible mis-print, perchance? Although, you know, some days, it really feels like it’s worth that much.

This comfortably segues into Simon Sweeping The Nation reporting that Johnny Boy’s eponymous album will be available to buy in shops tomorrow. If you’ve been around me for more than five minutes, then you know what I think about this album. If not, here’s a live review, and here’s a review of the album. Decide which is less over-the-top between yourselves. It has been three years since You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve, but now you can actually go and buy it. Which deserves a cheer or two. And they’re playing with Lucky Soul next week! It’s a concert that wild horses couldn’t stop me from attending, obviously…

currently playing: bis – I Want It All

(You Love Us)

It’s both comforting and a little unsettling that the Manics will be Number One tomorrow, isn’t it?

EDIT: Okay, so I look silly, now, don’t I? But Number Two is a similar story…

The capsule Spider-Man 3 review: there’s both too much and too little going on. However, it’s worth watching for Emo-Parker!

currently playing: Sly & The Family Stone – Keep On Dancin’

What I Love Most About This Is…

The presence of Detective Munch means that Homicide: Life On The Street is in the same universe as Sesame Street. I want to see Elmo on a ride-along with Detective Pembleton!

currently playing: The Clash — This Is England

Ten Years On

We will laugh
The day that Thatcher dies
Even though we know it's not right
We will sing and dance all night

Ten years ago, I was still awake. A few hours of sleep, then up again to watch the Labour Party move into Number 10, the first change of government since I was born. The night before, I began by watching The Election Night Armistice; vandalising the Blue Peter garden, watching the last Old Labour policy fly away into the night, and the climax, a celebration of ‘18 Years of Tory Arse’.

Everybody knew that the Tories were going to lose. Even they had become resigned to it. What we didn’t know was just how bad it was going to be. The race had narrowed slightly in the polls, but as the returns began coming in, it was soon clear that it was a dangerous night to be wearing a blue rosette. The Scottish got their revenge for the Poll Tax by kicking the whole party out of the country, and even the South wash swimming in a tide of red.

And then there was that moment. Was it 3am? 4? The BBC went over to Enfield Southgate for the final icing on the cake. The smug grin finally wiped from Michael Portillo’s face as a safe Conservative seat fell to Labour. After that, I went to bed. Nothing was going to top that.

When did the rot set in, then? Probably from the start, to be honest. It did begin reasonably well, though. Signing up to the Social Chapter, the minimum wage, handing interest rate control over to the Bank of England, and actually doing something about Northern Ireland. Yet, for all the new money pouring into public services, they were still wedded to the Tory ideal of targets, privatisation, league tables, and internal markets.

I began to break with them during the period they were passing the RIP Act (though, in today’s Britain, it seems almost liberal compared to the Prevention of Terrorism Act that we have), but it was the London Mayor debacle that finished my full support of Labour. It was such a waste of energy; given the purpose of the GLA and the new Mayor, there was only one person who was ever going to win that race. Despite their antipathy for him, New Labour should just have let Ken have his day. Instead, they embarked on a campaign that made them look rather stupid.

Then, of course, September 11th 2001 changed everything. Or not. Instead, it just allowed Blair to indulge in his autocratic tendencies, restricting personal freedoms, increasing the reach of the state, and lumbering us with an expensive and pointless ID card system. Oh, and the standing side-by-side with Bush even as it became clear that the neo-conservative vision was a mirage, being complicit in massaging evidence of Iraq’s WMD capability, and the importing of the ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ philosophy that has poisoned American politics. As a result, in 2007, Blair has finally achieved his wish: he is the Labour Party’s Thatcher. And like her, he will shuffle off the stage broken, a liability to the Party at large.

Ten years ago, I was hopeful. Now? Somewhat cynical. A shame, really.

currently playing: Stars – Set Yourself On Fire (Montag Mix)

Still Crazy After All These Years

I notice that Simon left off Tori Amos’s new album from this week’s recommendations. Obviously an oversight. Heh.

I've been a little cool on her last few albums (to be honest, I don't think anything since From The Choirgirl Hotel really worked, especially the horror that was Strange Little Girls), but American Doll Posse shows promising signs. Mainly in that she's gone completely bonkers again. I'm currently on track 11 of 23. Yes, Twenty-three. Her lead single, the 70s-rock epic Big Wheel is apparently not fit for radio because of the refrain "M-I-L-F / don't you forget" towards the end. Oh, and it appears that the album is written from the point of view of five different female characters. Who are credited with vocals in the (hilarious) liner notes.

As I said, bonkers. Oh, it also lurches from Boys For Pele-esque mandolins to full-on electronica at the the drop of a hat. A hat full of frogs and the remains of the chicken on the front cover, obviously (what happened to the original cover? That was an image up there with the infamous pig one).

There's also a DVD, but I think I need to work up to that…

currently playing: Tori Amos – Code Red (Tori)