“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.”
Keep it real.
Mean it man.
The thing is this, very often when people hail the authenticity, the sincerity and the “realness” of a band or musician the band or musician are, in fact, dull.
Go and listen to a “real” musician like Paul Weller…”Heavy Soul” say or “Heliocentric” or any one of the dozens of other albums he has continued to release for the sort of men who think his hair is great and who are trying to learn how to play “Town Called Malice” through a YouTube tutorial…I’ll wait.
How was it?
Strum, strum, thump, thump, thud, thud…so worthy and earnest.
It’s not just Weller of course.
There are loads of those sorts of artists…people capable of moments of genuine brilliance (go and listen to “Woo Se Mama” from Weller’s “A Kind Revolution” and thrill at its funky, soulful, groovy wonder) but who are afforded a level of adoration that borders on the sort given to David Koresh. Radiohead? Arctic Monkeys? You could make your own list.
Hey, calm down!
I own records by all of those artists and the others you have put on the list.
We are the same.
I’m just being honest about things.
These people and their stubborn commitment to things like playing well, broadening their musical horizons and writing songs that sound like other worthy artists can, occasionally (maybe more than that) be a bit boring.
You know I’m right.
Interestingly this really only applies to people in the realm of guitar music. While disciples of “real” music bend the knee and kiss the Papal ring of someone like Thom Yorke the people who understand that “Chemistry” by Girls Aloud is the closest thing to perfection that pop music has come are shaking their ass to the beat and having a bloody marvellous time.
Chin stroking is the sole physical pleasure derived from “real” music.
The pleasures offered by pop in all its inauthentic glory are myriad.
All of which brings us to Menswe@r.
Oft derided by people who own all of Led Zeppelin’s albums and who think that “Murder Most Foul” by Bob Dylan is worth giving nearly seventeen minutes of your life to. Just imagine that. Imagine giving SEVENTEEN minutes of your life to “Murder Most Foul” by Bob Dylan. Just think what you could do with those minutes. Loads of things. I could probably make love at least seventeen and a half times for starters. And have eight minutes left over for other things.
They had guitars.
They wrote their own songs (as if that matters).
They were on the front of the Melody Maker and not Smash Hits.
A “real” band.
And yet…the real music boys would not, will not, have it.
Large chunks of the music press had it in for them before they even began. Partly this was because they were seen as chancers, blaggers in the area, Good Mixer kids who had been handed a record deal on account of their shoes and haircuts and cheekbones. As if that is something to deride. Bowie had great shoes, wonderful haircuts and magnificent cheekbones…nobody would have paid any attention otherwise. Pop music isn’t about music. It’s about everything. The songs are only part of it…and even then not the most important part of it.
I’m not interested in your long, painfully drawn out, carefully researched, dissertation on why The Beatles are better than Shampoo. They’re not.
The curious thing about Menswe@r was that they did have the songs. Their debut album “Nuisance” was loaded with five singles, four of which broke the top thirty, which was no mean feat in 1995/96. There was no Spotify or download chart at this point. If you liked a record you had to get up off of the sofa, put on your best Adidas, jump on the number 17 bus into town, walk to a record shop, pick the record of choice off of the shelf, take it to the surly bloke in a Fugazi t-shirt behind the counter, hand over your money, wait for him to stop laughing at your selection, walk back to the bus stop, wait fifteen minutes for the number 17, go home, put the record on the turntable…people went through that five times for Menswe@r. I’m prepared to bet that this is more effort than you made for your significant others last birthday.
The first single to be released from “Nuisance” was “I’ll Manage Somehow” which generated a level of anticipation that can only accurately be described as feverish. People were losing their minds weeks before they could own it. It was going to be limited to just a few copies and would, I seem to remember being assured by Record Collector, be worth about seven thousand pounds from the moment I left the shop with it. I bought two copies. One to keep for posterity and one to sell on ebay when it was invented.
It was fabulous.
About as close to perfection as any single released by a British band in the nineties got. It had lines like “Trying jolly hard to see if we could catch him ’round the bend”, it had Johnny Dean yelping “OH NOOOO” a few times, guitars chugged and thundered, every effect pedal they could find was used and it was all over in two and a half minutes…like all the best things in life are. I was going to make another “joke” about my failings in the old sex department then but I’ve thought better of it. Why not add your own here…
There are voices, as I have suggested, who seem to believe that there was something a bit lightweight, a bit contrived or a bit lacking in substance about Menswe@r but the truth, as ever, is very different. “Nuisance” revealed a gang of young men with verve, vim, guts, guile and a raw talent that manifested itself in some bloody marvellous moments of pop wonder. This is the sound of youth. It doesn’t always “land”…”Little Miss Pinpoint Eyes” is, at best, not all that great but there are moments where it soars and where you find your whole day is made better by its presence.
There are little slices of maudlin majesty here like “Piece of Me” which drifts around like that carrier bag in “American Beauty”…beauty found in the ordinary, or is wabi sabi in pop music form; perfection found in imperfection. “Sex is a secondary thing…do you know where to draw the line…sometimes I try too hard…sometimes I go too far…” It’s a piece of me. It is also all the evidence the chin strokers should need to persuade them that this wasn’t simply all surface with no feeling.
“Daydreamer” is worthy of a place on any “best of…” list when it comes to mid-90’s British music. Lots of people get all dewy eyed about the likes of “Parklife” by blur…actually, change that, lots of people get all dewy eyed about “Parklife” by blur. I don’t mean the album, just the single, they hold it up as a classic of the time. I’m going to tell you a secret, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else, alright? “Parklife” (the single) is utterly awful. Please don’t get angry about that…remember, the truth will set you free. “Daydreamer” though is a fabulous record. It’s got a bass line that Peter Hook would cut off his thumbs for. It’s got a vocal that sounds like a young Robert Smith on ecstasy. It’s ripping off Wire and Elastic who were themselves ripping off Wire. Best of all it’s got “Breathe deeper…(pause)…daydreamer” and all delivered with a level of camp that has rarely been bested in British pop.
(Daydreamers – The Rise and Fall of Menswe@r, The Mild Mannered Army)
You could make similarly bold statements about nearly everything else on “Nuisance”. Maybe you like your music to firmly fall into the rock ‘n’ roll camp…curiously a place that is often bereft of actual camp…and maybe you are more interested in how much the new thing you are listening to sounds like the old thing you listen to (I’m specifically talking about The Beatles here of course) and that’s fine but it’s not for me. Menswe@r didn’t actually sound like they were trying to be anyone other than Menswe@r…they certainly didn’t seem to be bending the knee and praying in the direction of the Liver building each morning. Instead they seemed like the perfect embodiment of a nineties band; young, energetic, enthusiastic, here for a good time and happy to be in the pop camp…with all the camp that brings.
“All Around the World” by Oasis is nearly ten minutes long. It’s great fun and all but…it’s ten minutes long. It’s also a bit dull and swampy before it gets going. Nothing wrong with that. Hey, I like Oasis. But in the same amount of time that “All Around the World” takes to listen to I could listen to “Stardust”, “Daydreamer” and “I’ll Manage Somehow”…that’s a lot of bang for your buck. I’m not saying that something that lasts a really long time can’t be fun, I’m just suggesting that three short bursts of really energetic, giddy like a puppy, innocent stuff can be even better. Once again you can insert your own joke…
I would think it unlikely that “Nuisance” would find its way onto any “Greatest Albums of All Time” list assembled by the boys at “Q” or “Rolling Stone” but I am delighted, thrilled even, to be able to loudly proclaim that it comfortably makes its way onto my list and that its presence means certain other things will have to be jettisoned, ejected, expelled. Those things are much adored by “real” music fans, “serious” people, “genuine” journalists…but they mean nothing to me. “Nuisance” means something all of the time and everything some of the time.