Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy Mondays - Pills n Thrills and Bellyaches

Happy Mondays, "Kinky Afro" (YSI link)

Happy Mondays, "Step On"
(YSI link)

Ahh, here's one of Tony Wilson's most important and impressive discoveries, Happy Mondays. The Mondays are one of the pivotal bands that brigdged the gap between dance and indie music, a group that would define the Madchester sound and influence an entire generation of bands. The story goes that Wilson heard the group play in a battle of the bands in Manchester and signed them at the end of that contest. The fact that they had not placed was clearly not a concern to Wilson. Not sure if the story is true, but who cares? It's a cool story, never let the facts get in the way.

Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches is the band's third LP on Factory Records (FAC 230), and is often considered their finest work. My favorite fact about the album is that it was produced by DJ superstar Paul Oakenfold, along with Steve Osborne, at Eden Studios in London. I'm not actually why I think that's so cool, but I do. Despite the presence of tranceman Oakenfold and the pivotal role the Mondays played in rave culture, this is not what most of us would think of as dance music. It doesn't have the relentless beats, wicked basslines or frenetic pace that many of us associate with that label. However, I think after a few listens, you will start to hear why people liked to dance to the funky bass, jangly guitars and unrushed drums. It's a really nice corrective for this blog's tendency to only consider house, techno, electro and its variants as dance music proper. Anyway, here are two of the biggest singles from the album, great examples of this indie rock meets Northern Soul meets house. What really grabs me with repeated listens is the dark lyrics of lead singer Shaun Ryder, not what you'd expect from the smiley face ravers. But like the Grateful Dead during the acid era, the Mondays captured the inevitable flipside to drug culture, the dark, sometimes violent, ugly side that will always win out.

This one's highly recommended, a really great way to get into the whole Madchester of the late 80s, early 90s, to hear how varied the rave culture of that period was, to realize how diverse Factory Records were and to encounter one of Tony Wilson's great bands. Buy your copy here, we'll def return to these guys down the road and put some more stuff.

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