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This weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Denim. December 6, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.

Ah, Denim. What a band. Or what a joke. Or what a joke played by what a band. It’s one or the other or both. And if we aren’t sure which that’s hardly surprising since Denim was the creation of the formerly fey Lawrence Hayward, mainman in 1980s indie stalwarts Felt. For me Felt were great, at least on their one shining moment on the Cherry Red Pillows and Prayers compilation ‘My Face is On Fire’.

And Felt provided at least some influence on a later wave of indie bands such as the really rather good House of Love amongst others, not least because they indicated that the traditional guitar, bass, drums and vocals approach could still be wrung out to produce remarkable results. And here for you is “Primitive Painters” from early on in their career which indicates the spot they carved out in post-punk… you know listening to it makes me all nostalgic… anyway… ahem…moving on.

So, in a way one might argue that Lawrence was being entirely consistent when he unveiled Denim in 1992 and their “Back in Denim” album. Because this provided an excoriating critique of then contemporary music by adopting some of the glam rock elements of the 1970s allied to profoundly satirical lyrics. And intriguingly the album was released on a subsidiary of Cherry Red. Middle of the Road is a good example of the sound, and the sarcasm.

But I can’t help but feel that there must have been large swathes (or perhaps more accurately, small isolated groups of people, considering their record sales) of Felt fans utterly bemused by his latest project. And not just the music but the coherence of image and lyric.

The logo, based on a patch, the title track – sounding like a rip of Kiss and the Glitter band, the wonderfully mundane song titles allied with disturbingly accurate observations of life in the 1970s for those of us as lived through them… this certainly wasn’t Felt. And the bitterness. Lot’s and lot’s of bitterness.

Middle of the Road includes the following…

I hate Otis and Marvin Gaye, early Dylan, Aretha Hayes,

Spector’s wall, knock it down… Jerry Lee run him out of time… there ain’t a lot I can do about it though…

And concludes…

You will find me, in the middle… in the middle… in the middle of the road…

He doesn’t though, and you won’t.

Somehow either the present or the past was pissing Lawrence off mightily and his chosen method to despatch both was to satirise them unmercifully. Nor was he too enamoured with the 1980s… hence the track “I’m Against the Eighties”. There was some sort of palling around with Pulp, which sort of makes sense – both singers shared a somewhat misanthropic worldview. Nor was it without social – or indeed political – comment… on the string-driven ballad (hey, that’s a phrase I never thought I’d use) “The Osmonds” various 1970s references are made and the chorus goes…”In the 70s there were Osmonds, lots of Osmonds… there were lot’s of little Osmonds everywhere…”

Then the tone darkens.

In the 70s there were lots of bombs…They blew my hometown up…And lots of people were killed on the news…The relatives cried…Everyone knew someone who’d died… they’ll never forget it for their lives…And all around the people say… we hate the IRA…We asked for justice…But it never came in the ‘70s

A partial reading, particularly from this side of the Irish Sea and in the context of the other miscarriages of justice which flowed from the Birmingham bombings, but one clearly located in Birmingham (Lawrence is from there). And then it’s back to…”In the 70s there were Osmonds, lots of Osmonds… there were lot’s of little Osmonds everywhere…”

And it continues, almost

‘In the 70s there was Hughie Green, Lieutenant Pigeon hit the scene… and Paper Lace and Camberwick Green…’

Which sort of pins down what being a kid was like. Darkness and glitz.

I bought this on vinyl in 1992. I’m not entirely sure how or why. Perhaps I heard some of it on the radio, but I have no memory of that. And over the years I dragged it out for a listen. In the last year or so I put my vinyl into storage and so I wasn’t thoroughly upset the other day to discover both it and it’s successor “Denim on Ice” (natch!) have been released as MP3 downloads.

I’ve been listening to them
And needless to say, although I’m saying it, while Denim vanished sometime in the late 1990s, Lawrence returned with another bitter/funny grouping in the shape of Go Kart Mozart around 2005 (I’ve yet to hear them…). One can only applaud his endurance.

Meanwhile I’m a bit worried actually when I note that I like Denim and Half Man Half Biscuit and, yes, Turbonegro too (although the latter’s most recent album Retox wasn’t much cop… but here’s a spooky coincidence, or – okay, not so much spooky as pedestrian. Yeah, that’s it, a pedestrian coincidence. Turbonegro cover “Back in Denim” on that album. Small world). On principle I sort of detest music which attempts to be funny, and yet here I am liking three bands which take just that route. Worrying, yes. That’s the word.


1. Wednesday - December 6, 2008

“And in the 70s, there were Osmonds, there were … lots of Osmonds, there were …. lots of little Osmonds, everywhere …”

I happened to meet Martin Duffy on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica tour. I asked him what’s Lawrence up to these days and he told me about his latest project. He said “He’s got a song called I Love the 70s, it’s about loving the 70s. He’s got another song called I Hate the 80s, it’s about hating the 80s.” I thought he was taking the piss. Obviously he wasn’t.

In fairness, though, I love that album, ridiculous as it is. And the truth is that Felt were always more of a mixed bag, quality-wise, than most of their fans would admit… as utterly gorgeous as a lot of their music was, some of it was really awful too, especially lyrically.

Wonder what he’s up to now?


2. WorldbyStorm - December 6, 2008

Isn’t that a mad crossover, even in the context of Felt/Denim.. Martin Duffy and Primal Scream. i only realised as I was writing this that the two were connected.

I’d completely agree about Felt. Some brilliant moments. Some terrible ones.

I’m afraid to listen to Go Kart Mozart, but he seems to be touring with them.


3. Keir Hardie - January 8, 2009

I’ve heard Go-Kart Mozart’s Tearing Up The Album Chart (2005) and that’s certainly safe enough for a Denim fan – some gorgeous silliness on it, and a similar sound to Denim. Three of the songs (one of which is Delta Echo Echo Beta Alpha Neon Kettle, Felt fans!) were originally on the unreleased 1999 Denim album ‘Denim Take Over’. One of the others is called Listening To Marmalade, which is a very Denim title. But I think my favourite is On A Building Site, it’s very silly indeed.


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