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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Black Grape April 9, 2011

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

I’m almost hesitant to put this up, given how well known it is, but this is a great great album. An albums that transcends the car-crash that the Happy Monday’s became towards the end of their career [and never was a word more appropriate given its multiple meanings] and manages to effortlessly reference so much that is great in 1990s dance inflected music. That’s not entirely surprising. The bands line up, and this was a wondrous and often changing thing, included a guitarist who’d been in Madchester outfit Paris Angels, Kermit from Ruthless Rap Assassins, a producer, Danny Saber, who was an LA bassist and producer who has worked with a dizzying number of artists including when he worked with Black Grape, Madonna and a certain O. Ozbourne (albeit he’s credited with “Tubular Bells” on the track). All that and Bez too.

This shouldn’t have worked. But… listen to the melodic power of the title track, “In The Name of the Father” or “Kelly’s Heroes”. Or the softer quality to “A Big Day in the North” (which for some weird reason always reminds me of Freez). it’s funky, it’s loose, it’s fun. Bringing guitars into dance has always been a fraught enterprise, and yet this largely works – perhaps because they’re only used to lend speed and edge without sacrificing beats.

Lyrically it’s inspired including the best couplet Shaun Ryder ever produced, bar none… “Don’t talk to me about heroes – most of these men sing like serfs.” which according to wiki wasn’t actually the original wording but to my mind works a lot better. And Kermit’s rapping/vocals are just about perfect.

There’s an odd sense to this album too. It was released in 1995 just when Ryder, et all remained at the peak of their game, and you can hear that in the tracks. This sounds like a release from the straightjacket that Happy Monday’s had become, but also a sleeker sort of beast. Almost more knowing but not giving a toss about it either. Hence the album title with that great iconic image of Carlos the Jackal.

There’s one other quality of this album which is worth mentioning, and that is just how much it coheres. I’ve never been tempted when bringing it over to iPod to just pull in a few of the tracks. It demands listening to as a whole rather than just the ‘good’ [sic] bits.

In a way, and this isn’t that much of a stretch I hope, it reminds me of a review I once read of Sabbath, which argued that despite the seeming simplicity of their music it was actually the product of a much greater degree of care and attention than some would credit them with. Shaun Ryder might well be a man whose finger almost permanently hovers a micron above the self-destruct button, but here one feels much the same was true of him and Black Grape.

Reverend Black Grape

In the Name of the Father

Kelly’s Heroes

Tramazi Party

A Big Day in the North


1. Shay Guevara - April 9, 2011

In the middle of Manchester circa 1996 I was handing out leaflets in support of a council strike when who came along but Shaun Ryder? He took a leaflet off me, scanned the headline, raised the leaflet in his hand, looked at me and nodded – a bit like in the video for Step On.

It was A Big Day In The North. I like to think that leaflet influenced his later output profoundly, particularly I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.


2. WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2011

Great story SG.

I was there in 87, was going out with someone who was living in Hulme. Even got to the hacienda, but this was just before rave so not quite as enticing a prospect as it might sound in retrospect.


3. Captain Rock - April 9, 2011

‘Jesus was a blackman, no, Jesus was Batman, no, no, no, that was Bruce Wayne…who’s got the biggest, who’s got the biggest brain?’

‘Old pope he helped the Nazis to get out of their messes, they gave him gold and money, he gave them new addresses.’



WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2011

+1. 🙂


4. Chet Carter - April 9, 2011

I was never into Madchester, getting the Fools Gold twelve inch was as far as it went. The Funky Drummer back beat mixed well into Sleep Talk by Alyson Williams. But these lyrics are class, so I will have to investigate.


WorldbyStorm - April 9, 2011

Madchester, I kind of loved it from the good stuff to the not so good, but the thing that converted me was how vital it all sounded, and something I’d never got up to 1990, beats.

Check it out… It’s often crap but fun. 🙂


5. Chet Carter - April 9, 2011

Anything that involved Anthony H Wilson, one of my favourite situationists has to be good. I know he was always raving about Ryders lyrics.


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