B-Movie - The Platinum Collection (Warner Platinum)
Firstly, a brief note of explanation: Warner Music are currently re-releasing music by mildly obscure but fondly-remembered artists of bygone eras in the form of "Platinum Collections". A Platinum Collection, please note, is not the same thing as a best-of; instead, the songs're chosen in the hope of putting together a CD which "best represents" the bands musical thingummy. In the case of B-Movie this appears to include four re-mixes/alternative versions, which means that one song manages to appear three times. Which seems a bit much for a Career Summary CD with only 15 songs in total - it means that almost a third of the whole is fairly redundant as far as discovering new noise goes. Either B-movie didn't commit much to tape during their career or somebody is taking the piss.
But yes. B-movie remind me a tad of New Order - or I suppose, chronologically speaking, New Order remind continuity of B-Movie. They've the same big noise, the same sweeping synthy sound and the same tendency to sacrifice sense, art and logic for the sake of making all the lyrics rhyme, but B-Movie have more of a jones for brass section bits. Which is a terrible idea, because what you don't want to do with your life is write serious-sounding epic whatsits about a queen who melts the ice between your toes with her heart of gold (which actually happens to me on a thrice-daily basis, my toes being made of liquid nitrogen) and then dump 3-second big band brass interludes into it at totally random and infallibly inappropriate points. And if you really, really must do this, you should at least make some effort to ensure that said trumpety interludes don't sound like a flock of ducks. Fleetwood Mac crossed with New Order crossed with a waterfowl migration route. Massive, massive error.
Happy Mondays don't, to me, quite fit into the Platinum Reissues Template. I mean you couldn't really call 'em forgotten, could you now? Well you can if you want to, but it won't make it true. Hell though - if Warner Brothers want to treat well-known artists like prodigal sons, that's their affair. The cover art looks like The Scream might've if the figure in said picture had actually been thinking "What - no more weed?!"
But yeah - it's Happy Mondays. It's a laid back sense of sarcastic menace and disconcern tied to a summery instrumental and a vocal which is just too gleeful to be lazy. It is, in fact, supremely baggy music - slacker music, rave music, doped up and drugged out music. It's all about the general vibe and less about the specific direction. There's a low-key sneer woven through it, but it's too spacey to actual move that up a gear into edge. Its colour is a very practical browny-grey, possibly donned in the form of a loose-fitting shapeless garment.
In short, it's not really me. While there's the rest of my life going on, while there're so many things worth doing, so many records which I love and so many books which I could be reading well, I don't think I'm ever gonna opt for the "stick on the Happy Mondays and feel the time fade past you" option. It just doesn't feel like a sound which is compatible with any sort of momentum or desire, and I can't really make mental room for something so lazily reductive. Buy the best of Pop Will Eat Itself instead, and then dance like you've still got a pulse.
London's Finest 1980s - The Platinum Collection (Warner Music)
Those who know me will be aware that I have something of a weakness for cheesy pop music. Pop can, of course, encompass many a worthy band whose set list would grace the wall of the trendiest of trendies, so for argument's sake I'll clarify that as "the kind of pop which people claim to like in an ironic manner". Or possibly "the kind of pop which really seems to believe that heaven is a place on earth". Or possibly "the kind of pop which has no pretensions to be anything but escapist good-time music". Will that do for clarity? I reckon so.
And the reason I like cheesy pop music is precisely for that sense of escapist feel-good trivia. It's for that sense of someone having openly embraced the pretence that the world isn't actually crappy, and having then devoted themselves whole-heartedly to making a record to try and get everyone else on board the delusion for five minutes - and being so fucking good at doing so that you get caught up in it. Sometimes you just need five minutes of mental breathing space, a lifting of the pressure, and the best pop can provide that. There're variations on the theme - there's surreal and weird, the bewilderingly uplifting melancholy, the "yeah, it's fucked - but fuck it", the threatening or unsettling the common denominators would, I suppose, be a beat to dance to, a hook to sing along to and an ability to pull the listener up by the boot straps to the extent that their feet leave the ground for three minutes.* It can be a trick mastered by an artist's entire output, or by their one fluke perfect single, it doesn't matter: all contributions to the genre are equally valuable.
And the reason I am not impressed by this album is that the bands on it don't manage this at all. Admittedly many of 'em would probably claim to be rock bands or indie bands or new wave bands or something. And most of 'em definitely have a rich future in mining the Irony Demographic. But well, the only emotional value here comes from nostalgia, which isn't really good enough. Blancmange give it their best shot, but marks are mainly for effort. Bananarama and Voice of the Beehive are chiefly whiny. Simon Harris is mildly diverting for as long as it takes you to go "Heh bass limbo going low yeah whatever" - which is about three seconds, unless you're particularly terminally inbred. Shakespeare's Sister sound like Shania Twain with a didgeridoo. Fine Young Cannibals demonstrate that the reason they're chiefly remembered for She Drives Me Crazy is that everything else they did was even bloody worse. In short, this is only worth getting if you have very, very specific and fond memories of the bands on here. Otherwise, you're just gonna find it near-terminally underwhelming.
*please note: this does not work if you associate the song with your traumatic recent break up. Even pop music has its limits.
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