For a certain sort of Manics fan (ie, the book-reading, kohl-wearing, Simon Price/Taylor Parkes-worshipping contingent) upset at their increasingly lumpen records, the salvation wasn't in another kind of misery rock, but in Kenickie
, who are now more or less in the dustbin of history (and you won't catch me
listening to Xfm, no sir). Spurred on by a recent Voyou post
, and by the Lauren Laverne interview
recently linked to at I like, I dug out my somewhat mouldering old copy of Get In
, the difficult second album. Now while I'd love to be revsionist about this and claim that the rest of the time I was listening to 2step (I did like 'Gumnan' by 187 Lockdown on TOTP though) in 1998-9 this is what I was actually
listening to. Rather a lot. This album was where, after the needle-sharp excoriation of indie pieties in 'Punka' they were supposedly meant to carry out the second part of their mission, ie, making actual pop music. But the feeling that something was not quite right here is evoked by the packaging: on the cover we have a blank, alpine cabin with the design in the style of a 60s crime novel; on the back, raining fish from a medieval manuscript; and some decidedly oblique sleevenotes ('we used to sit in the empty car park all day and sun ourselves').
Naturally it failed completely, but it's nice to find that unlike most other things I was listening to at the time it stands up very well indeed, in places. Sometimes it errs towards the mawkish, the existential pain of the 20 year old getting their first hangovers: the Nick Drakeisms of 'And That's Why' for instance are slightly cloying, though even here there's unnerving imagery, imploring someone to 'stretch my skin til it comes open' (see also the distinctly creepy masochism of 'I Would Fix You') When it works, and the conjunction of aspirations to chart-conquering pop, cranky, home-studio electronics and the transcendent melancholia of Stevie Nicks circa Sara
all fall into place, its quite wonderful.
Take '60s Bitch'
, a tragicomic tale of jealousy and devotion ('you don't want her...she's known in New Look, she's got a card there') with an outrageously romantic 'Last Exit'-like chorus, or 'Magnatron', a ridiculous electro-disco fantasia, all 'kissing tigers' and popping champagne corks; or 'Run me Over', a jolly tale of paranoia, dizzily produced with all manner of synth micro-riffs and haunting reversed harmonies. The main attempt to get out of indie was the single 'Stay in the Sun', a Motiv 8
-esque Hi-NRG thing that immediately lost them half their audience. Much of Get In
anticipates what Motiv 8 did next, i.e morph into Xenomania
: a tempting pop counterfactual would have had them working together, actually adding some wit and personality to the sometimes distinctly uninteresting extra-musical elements of new New Pop...