Real Surreal Man

These Animal Men were an English band who achieved minor fame in the 1990s as part of the New Wave of New Wave before splitting up after releasing two albums, in 1998.  

Smash (often typeset as S*M*A*S*H) are a punk rock trio who enjoyed brief notoriety in the early 1990s in the UK. Smash was formed by Ed Borrie (vocals, guitar), Salvatore Alessi (credited as Salv) (bass), and Rob Hague (drums) in Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire, England.




Thanks Wikipedia.  Three sentences to sum up two of the most exciting, dynamic, energetic, sussed and, probably, flawed bands that burst out of and onto Britain in the 1990’s.  These are bands that history barely remembers but whose members would, in a world more perfect, have platinum discs hanging from the walls of their gold and diamond encrusted bedrooms.  That they don’t says more about timing and the timid nature of the music business than it does about the bands and their records.




Before “Select” magazine decided to give birth to Britpop with that cover back in 1993 a merry band of British bands were already beginning to envisage a world free from plaid shirts and the rest of the grunge gunge and were, instead, focusing on life in faded British towns and the perils of youth.  Bands who embraced the punk ideal of doing it for yourself but who were better dressed.

In 1994 Fierce Panda released an EP entitled “Shagging in the Streets” which featured contributions from Blessed Ethel, Done Lying Down and Action Painting! (exclamation point included).  All three were a bit poppy, punkie, indie, modie…but none of them really made you think that you wanted to listen again.  The other three tracks were an entirely different kettle of pop fish (but not like Fish from Marillion…because they were not shit and they didn’t support Hibs, who are also shit) no, these were tracks that made you lift the needle and listen again, then again and then once more just to be sure.

“Sad” by Mantaray was one of these glistening gems but I’ve touched on their brilliance in another post.  The other two tracks were a demo of a song called “Bang Bang Bang” (which banged, banged and banged) and another called “This is the Sound of Youth”.  S*M*A*S*H and These Animal Men were the bands responsible and if all they had done in their lives was to commit these two songs to vinyl it would still amount to something of more worth than the entire recorded output of some miserable poseurs like…you can add your own most hated band here.  The right answer is Coldplay though.

Pop history is littered with bands who coulda and maybe woulda but bands who genuinely shoulda are much harder to find.  What elevates S*M*A*S*H and T.A.M from contenders to victims of the vagaries of popular culture is the fact that unlike many of the more successful bands who are remembered so fondly by pop historians  they never changed who they were.  They were, at the risk of being a clichè, true to themselves and true to you.

I can remember the days I bought “Speeed King” by These Animal Men and “Lady Love Your Cunt” by S*M*A*S*H.  Both singles came loaded with language and imagery (drugs! Rude words! Drug paraphernalia! Feminism!) and both sounded completely different to the over-produced, mockneyed, coked off its tits likes of, well, any number of Britpoppers..  They were raw and pure in the way that all the best bands and records are.

Sadly there was no way that a scene that had elevated Menswe@r to the position of band with deal and marketing budget instead of relegating them to the status of national laughing stock was ever going to find a place for bands who gave you Germaine Greer essays with their records, who supplied their tour dates in a speed wrap and who sang about murdering government ministers.  It just wasn’t going to happen.

Instead smart kids like me got a clutch of singles, a couple of albums, some great haircuts, some even better outfits and the memories.  It’s not a sad story though because the members of the bands must know that dotted across this little island are people who would rather hear any of their records for the first time again than have the royalties for “Wonderwall” or “Country House”.  That’s what great bands do to you…they make you care, they make you want to sing and they make you glad to know you know.


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