Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Cool as fuck: the best bands of Madchester

Of all the musical movements to impact on football, the Factory Records driven Madchester can probably claim to be the most important.

Thanks to bands like the Happy Mondays, the Stone Roses and Primal Scream, purveyors of traditional guitar led music began experimenting with dance loops and drum beats.

The super club followed, Acid House took hold and a procession of football lads Bez'd their way from the terraces to the dance floors - with a little chemical inspiration paving the way.

A short summary perhaps, but you get the gist.

But who were the big boys of Baggy? The main men of Madchester? Read on for my top five. Although be warned. They don't all come from Manchester...

Five: Electronic.

The phrase super group is enough to conjure up images of ageing rockers, riffing Status Quo's back catalogue to death, but in 1988 Bernard Sumner (he of Joy Division and New Order fame) joined forces with Johnny Marr (Smiths' super-strummer extraordinaire). Not only that, the pair then hit the studio with Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. The result? A couple of classic, timeless tracks - albeit sandwiched in among long periods of inactivity.
The band's eponymous 1991 release is criminally under apperciated high point of the genre.
Best track: Getting Away With It - if only for the Spanish guitar.

Four: Primal Scream.

For a band forged in Glasgow and formed in London to make it into a Madchester top five speaks volumes for their credibility.
Among those acts at the forefront of the E culture which engulfed the North West (and just about everywhere else in the months that followed), Primal Scream were as baggy as they came.
A key point came when producer Andrew Weatherall slapped a sample from Richard Rush's 1960s hippy flick Pysche-Out onto Scream's I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have.
The hugely reworked track became the band's quintessential record, Loaded, and acid house had an anthem.
Best track: Loaded. Random but cool film reference? Check. Space-out repetitive loop? Check. Good times aplenty...

Three: Inspiral Carpets.

"This is how it feels to be lonely," whined the Inspiral's Tom Hingley. "This is how it feels to be small." The fact that the whole country was hugging in nightclubs only made the impact of the Inspiral's stand-out track all the stronger. Madchester, it seems, could even make misery and abandonment sound beautiful.
The band also opted to keep Noel Gallagher as a roadie rather than a guitarist...blah blah blah. Everyone knows that story. Not everyone knows that the band's 1988 Planecrash album was enthusiastically endorsed by then Oldham supremo Joe Royle.
Best track: Has to be This Is How It Feels.

Two: The Stone Roses.

Just like another Manchester band would later find out, following up one of the best debut albums of all time is a tricky thing to pull off. The Stone Roses, like Oasis, didn't ever manage it.
But the fact the band never again reached the heights of their self-named debut is neither here nor there. In fact, it would probably have been very un-Madchester of them if they had managed it.
What IS important though is the direction that first album hawled British music in. Just as Primal Scream owe a debt to Andrew Weatherall, so the Roses were helped hugely by the production genius of John Leckie. He couldn't polish a musical turd anymore than the next man though, and as well as the tempestuous and oft sparring talents of John Squire and Ian Brown, bass-player Mani spearheaded a rhythm section which would re-write the rule-book.
Best track: So many to choose from. Waterfall will always be a cross-over club classic.

And at number one in the Madchester hit parade?

Who else could it be but the Happy Mondays? (and no, before you say it, Joy Division, New Order and Oasis were NOT Madchester. And James were shit).
Quite simply without Shaun and the Gang, there would be no Madchester. There would be no dance music as we know it. And for many, there would be no point.
A much-maligned and misunderstood genius, Ryder was an everyman icon as adebt at using words to describe his surroundings as any famed romantic poet.
Together with the Mondays, Ryder not only changed the face of music, but the face of Britain. A truly great band who re-invented the rock star in their own image.
Not just the best Madchester band - but the heart of the entire scene.
Best track: Halelujah. Close your eyes, listen to it, and hear music moving from the stage and onto the decks.

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