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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Flowered Up February 11, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to..., Uncategorized.
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London based, formed in 1989 and positioned right in the heart of the burgeoning baggy movement, Flowered Up were one of the more interesting, if less well known exponents of the form. I have to admit to a terrible weakness for all things baggy – well, okay, not quite all things. The Farm [or was it Northside? Nah, they were on Factory, that can’t be right 😉 ] were a tad cheesy, even for my tastes which is saying something. But as with groups like The High, Intastella [not strictly speaking in baggy but of it], the Charlatans first album, the Happy Mondays and so on I’ve always loved the marriage of dance beats, guitars, bass, piano/keyboards and sheer exuberance. It always struck me as a sort of vastly sceptical working class take on hippy/psychedelia refracted through punk and with added extra beats.

Flowered Up shone briefly but brightly for a few years. Led by vocalist, Liam Maher, keyboardist Tim Dorney, guitarist Joe Maher, Andy Jackson on bass and drummer John Tovey . But let’s not forget their answer – of sorts – to Bez , the remarkable Barry Mooncult whose job description included taking to the stage with a giant plastic flower round his neck. This was, in some quarters, not entirely unfairly dismissed as gimmicky.

But gimmicky or not it saw them achieve successive top 40 singles in the shape of the popular, but only okay to my ears, It’s On and the intriguing Phobia during 1990.

Their one and only album, “A Life with Brian” was arguably released too late, appearing in 1991 when baggy was beginning to already collapse under its own weight and the sounds had lost some of their initial freshness. But despite being neither a commercial nor critical success it has always struck me as one of the finest and most coherent artefacts from that period.

The sound? Maher’s style was more spoken than sung and an unpredictable and truculent presence. Sarcastic while simultaneously world weary and buzzed up. Curiously one J. Strummer was involved in some lyrics for the band. Overall the music rested on strong beats, typical Madchester piano motifs [Take It has the almost platonic absolute in that regard, Crackerjack – a lovely cascading chord progression, Phobia rests upon an equally fine structure] and sometimes unexpectedly muscular guitar work from the other Maher brother – which in places tipped into near metallic territory. Add in washes of keyboards and some nicely understated touches of electronica – as with the excellent minor classic Egg Rush, a less prominent bass than many of their peers, and in its totality it works near perfectly.

Which isn’t to say that “A Life with Brian” is flawless. It could have done with some pruning and sags a little in the middle. Nor is Maher’s voice an unequivocally good thing across the length of an entire album – on Egg Rush it comes as something of a relief to hear him playing off a female vocal. But those quibbles aside it works remarkably well.

Their swansong, the 13 minute Weekender which took a cynical look at rave’s mainstreaming, is a remarkable piece of work. If “Screamadelica” is all bright colours Weekender by contrast is edgy and contingent shades of grey. The message seems to be that while this may be fun it’s not necessarily going to end well particularly for those dipping in and out of the scene. ‘We’re going to have a good time… Weekender’ isn’t so much a statement as a query.

So, could they have taken it further? Hard to say. Perhaps not with baggy as such. But given the inventiveness [and competence] on display here it’s not difficult to sketch out alternative paths for them.

I only once caught them live, it must have been 1990 or perhaps early 1991, playing in the middle of the HMV or Virgin on Oxford Street. There was something inspired and at the same time near-lunatic about Barry Mooncult dancing back and forth beside them. But it was undeniably compelling.

Liam Maher tragically died of an heroin overdose some years back. Dorney went on to achieve a real measure of success with Republica and nowt more was heard of the others.

Yet even if their output rested on an handful of singles and an album and even if only of their time they were in their own way, gimmicks and all, an oddly great band.

Take it

Phobia

Egg Rush

Weekender [full version, music only]

Weekender [part 1 of video]

Weekender [part 2 of video]

Crackerjack

Comments»

1. EamonnCork - February 12, 2012

Had a bit of a weakness for these lads too. I always think of them and the Manchester band Paris Angels together for some reason. Paris Angels’ Perfume was one of the great singles of the era, says the man who previously revealed his magnificent musical taste in the NWOBHM thread.

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WorldbyStorm - February 12, 2012

Paris Angels … Perfume. Absolutely classic. Their album was genius, a band who should have had a much higher profile.

Tell you what if you ever want to do a joint Manchester Madcheseter post to redeem ourselves after the NWOBHM debacle ( 🙂 ) I’m up for it.

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EamonnCork - February 13, 2012

The Left’s failure to appreciate the NWOBHM shows just how out of touch they are with the concerns of ordinary Satanists.

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WorldbyStorm - February 13, 2012

And it’s that sectarianism which denies the left the sort of broad based support that is essential to take the next steps towards a genuine mass based party.

First they came for the devotees of the dark arts…

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2. This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Paris Angels « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - March 3, 2012

[…] it was Flowered Up a few weeks ago. And perhaps two groups from the Madchester/baggy stable in such a short space of […]

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