I Like That, Turn It Up

We’ve been courteous
I like that, turn it up
I like that, turn it up

Solid head.  You’re leaning heavily against the wall, so hard that you suddenly fear that you may be the only thing holding it up and without your heft the wall, the whole club even, might go spiralling off into the inky blackness of night.  Your bloodstream is full of galloping rabbits – in a less ‘feloniously caffeinated’ moment you may have had the nous to wonder if rabbits did/could/would/should ever gallop; this is not such a moment.  The lights are very peripheral, you’ve learned not to trust the sense of sight recently, the rabbits don’t like it.  You can’t hear the music, you just feel it thudding into, through and of you – some beats textured harsh, some beats textured fruity nice; churning relentless and yearning all the while.

It would be nice not to be here, to be the sort of person that at a time like this would never be having a time like this, someone without the rabbits calling the shots.  But that’s just galloping crazy talk, you don’t have a healthy lifestyle.  It would be nice to have a little dance but your wall would miss you.  It would be nice to meet and mate with a person with the appropriate access slots, but that stopped being an open possibility right around the point where you pissed on your own trainers a few hours ago.  This isn’t the sort of wrecked that you laugh about with friends later, you’re going all the way down tonight, all hands lost on board.  Churning, relentless and yearning all the while, the rabbits demand it.  Wednesday all the way.

Give me give me give me, give me give me give me, a break
Give me give me give me, give me give me give me, a break

That’s what ‘Mad Cyril’ feels like, tracko numero trio on Happy Mondays Bummed, the Mancunian’s sophomore effort from 1988.  Think Dante’s Inferno mixed by Martin Hannett.  It captures a time and place perfectly.  The Mondays weren’t quite the all-conquering dancey muthas they would be very shortly afterwards but in a lot of ways they were sonically far more interesting and murky just before they went over the top.

Kicking off with a jaunty track called ‘Country Song’* where the protagonist sings about ‘smoking wild-grown merry-joo-wanna keeps that smile on my face’, we’re straight into the land of the unhealthy.  These men do not do daylight, press-ups, vitamins or taxes.  Hey, it even has a mutant thuggishly fuggy country vibe to it as well.  You try finding reference points here, you can’t.  The Happy Mondays are like a particularly virulent strain of infection that was developed in isolation somewhere, they just bear so little relation to anything else.

The first of Bummed‘s relentlessly murky groovers is ‘Moving In With’, Shaun Ryder spews his half-sage/half-cretinous lyrical soup over the top of a persistent groove, to great effect.  It’s not-unpleasantly disorientating stuff, all the better for meshing with the none-more-wasted ‘Mad Cyril’.  The best thing about the track ‘Fat Lady Wrestlers’ is the title, which is pretty dang good it has to be said.  I’m more of a fan of the restrained, slinky ‘Performance’ which shows off Cow’s guitaring to great effect amidst lyrics about dribbling down your front.  They sound like a council estate reared Talking Heads.

The next two tracks on Bummed show exactly where the band’s future lay, ‘Brain Dead’ and ‘Wrote For Luck’.  A clever nod to the film Gimme Shelter at the start of the former (‘you’re rendering that scaffolding dangerous!’) shows just how suss the band were,  this loping groover is sooo close to the sounds that Paul Oakenfeld would tease out of them in a year or two**.  ‘Wrote For Luck’ was still a staple of any decently eclectic dance night a few years later when I stumbled across it at university, the tumbling churning rhythm is just perfect*^, a perfect exemplar of what the music press soon christened ‘baggy’.  You just have to love drummer Gary Whelan and bassist Paul Ryder’s chops here, like a supermarket own-brand Funk Brothers.  It’s not often that a big dancey tune has such cutting lyrics too.

Which is where it ends for me really I hate the simpleton naffness of ‘Lazyitis’^* and the rest don’t even bring a bottle to the party.

There hasn’t been much like Bummed either before, or since.  A street level, honky funk druggy phantasmagoria – sonically sculpted by Martin Hannett, with all his trademark bleakness and metallic palette.  I love it for all its’ originality and verve, teamed with an utter disregard for commercial considerations – from the garish cover^, right down to the inner sleeve^^, although listening to it too often would lead to terminal numbness; just ask the rabbits.

Although our music and our drugs stayed the same
Although our music and our interests are the same
We’ve been together, fuckers from the well
We smoked in heaven and we still got hell

779 Down.

PS:  Warning, do not look into the eyes of any of these people – they’re all on drugs and it may be catching.

*original/proper title ‘Some Cunt From Preston’.

**toning down the lyrics a bit helped too, ‘Glass-eyed / Slash-eyed / Brain dead fucker’ being the opening lines of this one.

*^so much so that were a certain acid-fried band from L.A listening?  ignore the tune, the rhythm is identical.

^*although I did once think it was called ‘Lazytits’, which would have improved it 100%.

^although they gain 1537 bonus points for hiding the band name and LP title in raised script on the cover.  Good old Factory Records.

^^Warning: Contains Nudity – the rumours were that she was the Ryder brothers’ mum (unsurprisingly, not true).  I kind of applaud the lack of glamour here and the numb-nutted lack of fucks given.  It just looks like two pages found in a torn and discarded 1960’s bongo mag.  They should have had a nude dude on one side though.

25 thoughts on “I Like That, Turn It Up

  1. I was a jaded Midwesterner metal guy in the late 80s and early 90s, and not all that much British, so Happy Mondays never really connected with me. What does connect with me is naked boobs and mildly sensuous postering, and this line that Aaron pointed out, “They sound like a council estate reared Talking Heads.”

    So maybe I should dig out my Union Jack bong and see what happens?

  2. “The Happy Mondays are like a particularly virulent strain of infection that was developed in isolation somewhere, they just bear so little relation to anything else.” THIS.

    Also this: “They sound like a council estate reared Talking Heads.”


    Excellent write-up, Dude.

  3. Awesome. Your description of that particular time and place in paragraphs one and two are just awesome. It reminded me of a certain Spiritualized concert. But that’s another story. The Mondays were a band that I understood but didn’t always like. There’s a couple tracks here that float my boat but the only album of theirs I own on vinyl is Pills, thrills and bellyaches and that was probably nostalgia on my part. I don’t listen to it often.

    1. That’s really kind, thank you. I just had to really use my imagination …

      I find them a difficult band, but they just made some brilliant, brilliant music. Ryder never gets credit for just how clever he was, just how out of it he was.

  4. Really enjoyed this one, fella. Some really great writing, even if I’m too young to have gotten, or ever be interested in, this whole Happy Monday shenanigans.

  5. Council estate reared Talking Heads, that’s a new one. I have this desire to listen to “Fat Lady Wrestlers” just to satisfy my curiosity as to whether the song is about them. Perhaps it was dedicated to Klondyke Kate?

      1. I was supposed to see her in a match in Bristol in 1999 but because her opponent’s leg was in plaster, they scrapped the women’s match. I wasn’t pleased.

  6. Despite not knowing either music or ‘scene’ at all really, I enjoyed this immensely Joe. Those first two paras are quite brilliant.

    Is that true about a covert embossed band/title name on the cover? Very clever. I love that stuff.

    1. Thank you so much Bruce, that means a lot. I only happened on this stuff a few years after the event, hipped to it by friends from Manchester.

    2. Yup, the embossed name is a great little touch. I love Factory Records style, even if a lot of the music is a bit on the flat side for me.

  7. hahahaha….Lego mano on female lego!
    Ok so this sauntered out in 1988?!
    Too bad this album didn’t wedge itself between Hysteria and Whitesnake 87 on the charts!
    Pretty hardcore stuff for 88 as well……

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