the ordinary boys - over the counter culture (b unique records)
by tom

its quite hard to describe the feeling you get when you first listen to a record you know needs some kind of immediate judgement, each guitar riff and lyric needs instant justification, a reason for existing when modern music history has no room for just another band. the real measure of such an album is not the music itself, but simply the fact that this band has stuck its balls on track in front of the speeding NME bullet train of musical mediocrity when critical acclaim is just a macho accent and stupid haircut away.

this all comes at a time when there is no sign of a radical change in cultural or musical values, no beat generation 1950s, no rock and roll 1955, no reggae 1972, no punk rock 1977, no hip hop 1980s, no britpop 1990s, just comatose 2000s, and the most disturbing aspect of this is not the lack of talent, nor oppurtunity, but the lack of convinction and belief that yes, three chords / a rhyme / an attitude can change EVERYTHING for EVERYONE.

you may think the problems of a generation (war, apathy, bigotry, to name a few) remain imperious to any cultural phenomena, and therefore however intent say, hippydoms "make love not war" stance was, nothing will directly change, like millions of real great britons marching through london. fair enough, but i believe the opposite. true, maybe the specials' 'free nelson mandela' didn't end apartheid, but a nation singing and dancing along and not buying grapes nor playing them in test matches did, and yes, maybe 'farenheit 9/11' hasn't sentanced george bush for war crimes, but someone somewhere changed, and now reads chomsky, marx and robeson over his cornflakes instead of the young conservative monthly. if modern music, aswell as film and literature, can't do that then what's the point? sure, you could shake yo ass go watch yourself, but you might as well be grooving down to the latest bbc birdsong compilation for all you care.

so maybe this album could mean something, or maybe it could mean nothing. maybe its unfair to hope this much of four white kids with guitars named after a smiths song. who knows. travis bickle can survive hell in vietnam but not on the streets of the us.

chuck d once said something like "there are lots of books out there. go and read them. if you know enough about yourself and your music history you will succeed" and on the first listen, the ordinary boys seem to have followed mistachucks advice. the music all sounds like the jam, the specials and joe's lot. you know, the good years of british popular music. the james brown brass hits on the title track and the "1…2…3…4…" kick in on 'maybe someday' haven't been heard for so long on a pop album you could mistake them for originality, but is there substance behind the stylee?

the perfect lyrics to this kind of music would be full of hundreds of wondrous ideas rendered incompressible by their sheer volume, like dropping an ink pot over a poetic masterpiece, leaving the singer rambling semi-articulately not because he has nothing to say but because what he's saying is so hard to get out he is hardly speaking at all, but this doesn't matter because everybody knows exactly what he's really saying about his life your life everymans life the future. of course, joe strummer managed it, and so did chuck d, bob dylan, holden caulfield, jimmy porter and gil scott heron. and if jack kerouac's or chuck palahniuk's novels were put to music so would they. hell, hendrix could even do it without opening his mouth.

and lo, the best art is always controversial. just ask damien hirst. but, the ordinary boys, don't hold up your tissue paper efforts to the bright lights of modern music and expect to be able to cower in the shadows.

singer preston's lyrics are, in his own words, "for people who recognise the absurdity of modern life", and so maybe the jokes on me, maybe the ordinary boys have nailed popular culture perfectly onto vinyl, but i thought there was not just more to life than complaining about computers and mobile phones and debts and catalogues and the tube to work, but less to life aswell. and maybe 'weekend revolution' could mean as much to someone leading a boring life as 'on the road' or '48 hours' could to someone leading an intresting life, and YES maybe 'talk talk talk' is something more than a example of the phatic communium it's raging against, but the only question the ordinary boys pose with their lyrics is already answered by track two "is there something more? surely there must be", but you get the feeling that this answer is nothing more than another question.

so just like the lamb on their lp front cover, the ordinary boys only deserve a long and fruitful life if they learn to speak for themselves.