Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Volume 8 Side 2 - James, A Guy Called Gerald, KLF, Alien Sex Fiend, The Shamen

1. James - Come Home (Rough Trade)

"Strengthened for the future. The nineties might see James pissing on the likes of Stone Roses and The House of Love, freaking out the Happy Mondays and filling the gap left by The Smiths. Don't let the new James pass you by" - Mix Mag, December 1989.

Mix Mag? Mix Mag?! But yes indeed, "Come Home" was James in their most loose-fitting clothes, flirting with piano bashing House riffs, frantic rhythms and angst-ridden lyrics. There was a whiff of desperation about all of this - "If 'Sit Down' can't be a hit", seemed to be the logic, "then we really have to keep up with the times and release a truly current sounding single".

Unlike a good many releases of this ilk, though, "Come Home" sounds fantastic to this day. Whether the band were chancing it or not becomes an irrelevant question next to the sheer force of the track. Tim Booth's vocals kick in immediately with the none-less-party-friendly line "It's that time again when I lose my friends/ go walkabout - I've got the bends from PRESSURE". Once again, for the second release in a row, the group prove themselves to be masterful at producing singles with tremendously conflicting emotions. The strength of the overheated drumming and busy guitarwork on "Come Home" powers through the doubt and angst and creates something fidgety, desperate to shake off its angst through dancefloor activity.

Once again, it was not a "proper" hit, but they'd sod off to a major label very shortly afterwards and return revitalised and actually quite massive. By the time their next LP fell on to the release schedules, Baggy was almost a memory and they had reinvented themselves as an adventurous bunch of stadium rockers. Nothing wrong with that per se, but I still wouldn't have minded hearing what a Rough Trade produced album would have sounded like in early 1990. Like its predecessor "Sit Down", the re-released version of "Come Home" just didn't cut it in quite the same way.

2. A Guy Called Gerald - Hot Lemonade (Rham)

"Rham Records follow up to 'Voodoo Ray'. Hot Lemonade is the title track of Gerald's LP - Remixed by Youth".

"Voodoo Ray" was such an almighty TUNE during this period that any follow-up A Guy Called Gerald released was going to be living in its shadow, and that unfortunately proved to be the case. While his previous release continued to be played in clubs and bought in record shops, "Hot Lemonade" was greeted with a baffled reception and is largely forgotten today.

Of all the follow-up singles to HUGE TUNES I can think of, it is perhaps one of the most confusing. To a series of euphoric dance rhythms, clarion calls and atmospheric, chilled synth twiddling, a man and a woman with Italian accents talk endlessly and deliriously about the delights of a beverage known as Hot Lemonade. "I just love... de bubbles... and the shhhhhhhhhhhhh!" they explain, imitating the fizzing sound of a drink being poured. "I..... I neeed Hot Lemon-aaade!" Of course, many people pointed out that "Hot Lemonade" is also slang for urine, and the sexual undercurrent behind the track may be about water sports.

Where you stand on this depends entirely on your general temperament for absurd monologues occurring over the top of club tunes. Personally, it's one of those tracks I've never quite bored of. There's an unreal, almost disturbing atmosphere throughout the whole thing, and if you heard this at your local warehouse party while ripped to your very tits on a pill, it might cause you to doubt your sanity. At home, however, it's a delightful and fascinating mix of ideas which shows more daft adventure than "Voodoo Ray" ever did. And at the very least, the spirit of Derek and Clive could be said to be running between the two very comfortably.

3. The KLF - Kylie Said To Jason (KLF Communications)

"We wore our Pet Shop Boys infatuations brazenly on our sleeves while we recorded this track and we are proud of it. As for Kylie & Jason, the lyrics are not some attempt at a clever critique on our current soap idols".

"Kylie Said To Jason" was the KLF's follow-up single to "Doctorin' The Tardis", a track the pair would claim was carefully crafted to be a number one shortly after it reached the top in the UK (although this sounds a piece of fanciful retrospective thinking). It too was supposed to follow the single into the charts and provide them with some more money to finish their long-awaited film "The White Room" and rescue them from 'the jaws of bankruptcy', but in the end it failed to even get into the Top 100. 

Shortly after its failure, however, a series of limited edition Trance records cut by the pair began to pick up play at clubs and at numerous free parties and 'raves' around the country. After capitalising on this credibility by remixing and reproducing some of the tracks with the aim of getting them to chart, their careers skyrocketed into the major league, and platinum discs, Brit Awards and critical acclaim followed. Unfortunately for the poor, maligned "Kylie Said To Jason", however, it was a mere piece of Pet Shop Boys aping pop which would have been poorly received by the underground groovers and shakers at the time, and as a net result it never appeared on "The White Room" album (despite having a place in the early rough tracklistings) and was never re-issued anywhere officially. 

This is all rather sad, as "Kylie Said To Jason" probably is one of the finest records the KLF shoved out. It is as sarcastic in its tones as it is surreal, reeling off lists of Antipodean stereotypes whilst keeping a bouncing Europop beat running behind. That it didn't catch on and ride the zeitgeist of all things "Neighbours" that dominated at the time may have been due to the fact that the whole affair didn't make much sense to anybody apart from KLF fans. There are no repetitive catchphrases to be had, no obvious jokes, and no use of whacky samples. It's even subtly catchy rather than poleaxing listeners with its reference points, and has a sudden diversion during the outro which is both thoughtful and pleasing. It breaks more or less every single rule for novelty success, then, where "Doctorin' The Tardis" could not be seen to fail.

Despite - or more likely because of - the above, it's been one of the KLF singles I've returned to most frequently. The Pet Shop Boys would have killed to have turned out something like this, and while it  may stand out like a sore thumb in the middle of the rest of their catalogue, it's sodding great, and really should be heard by everyone, not just fans of the KLF.

As for the "White Room" film, it was never properly finished, though rushes exist online of the "exterior" elements of the script. In places, it feels like a truly beautiful long-form music video, so we're not necessarily worse off than we might have been.

4. Alien Sex Fiend - Haunted House (Anagram)

"A classic fiendish dance thrash especially remixed by Youth from Brilliant and scratched over by DJ Cesare from Gee Street Records".

Goth Dance? Whatever next? In fairness, there was always a dance element to Alien Sex Fiend's Gothic rock, with them happily indulging in dub remixes, samples and uptempo and camp doom and gloom. Therefore, a remix by Youth wasn't such a ridiculous step into the unknown.

"Haunted House" was a slightly hollow and dated sounding track for 1989, though, sounding like a bedroom-produced Art of Noise rip-off. There's nothing here worthy of greater praise or analysis than that.

Alien Sex Fiend, of course, enjoyed a long history on both the Goth scene, the National Top 100 and the indie charts, being a cult band with a seriously dedicated following. In a reduced state with only a couple of the original members left, they remain a going concern.

5. The Shamen - Omega Amigo (One Little Indian)

"This single became a club classic from The Shamen. Their musical style has progressed from psychedelic high energy guitar rock to an edgy pop with far more rhythmic feel inspired by the House, Hip Hop and EDM sounds they have absorbed since moving down south a year ago. They continue to move Phorward".

And really, this is the point the band truly arrived. "Omega Amigo" wasn't a proper hit single, but is an almost impossibly blissed piece of electronic dance music, like finding an oasis of calm amidst a seething mass of frantic activity. The central chorus, if it could be called that, is really just a continually stretching, reaching and watery keyboard riff, while Colin Angus assures the listener "Omega Amigo for you, I will always have time". A pulsing, plucking, gentle and busy riff dominates the rest of the track.

Like "Pacific State" by 808 State from around the same period, "Omega Amigo" is a gently stroking hand on the brow amidst a sea of hedonism, an oasis of calm amidst the delirium. I still think it's one of the finest singles the band ever released.

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