Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Menswe@r - You can't move the smile from my mouth

So it’s just a little over three years since I started this blog with my first post about a band who sparked my interest into Britpop way back in 1994. Now many bands come and go which you will all know about if you read my blog on a regular basis but the band I’m talking about today are a band who have just recently morphed and have come back to life.  

I would like to introduce Menswe@r

To say this band has had a profound importance on my life is not even scratching the surface. I was 16 years old and just discovering music and seen the band on the front cover of Melody Maker unbeknown to me that they hadn’t even released a single yet. As a kid I was brought up on bands like The Kinks, The Who and The Small Faces so I had a good music upbringing and knew about the music and fashion styles of the mod movement and was excited to see a band wearing these colours again.  I remember going into my local Our Price record shop and asking for the single by the band called Menswe@r only to be told that had never heard of them. Just as I was leaving a store assistant tapped me on the shoulder and said he overheard me at the counter and he’d heard of them as well and knew that they hadn’t released a single yet but were due to perform on Top Of The Pops.  I sat with bated breath and tuned in to BBC1 just to see the band perform I’ll Manage Somehow a whole week before the single was released. The hype for the band was going through the roof with Record companies fighting for the band to be on their label and soon enough they would be signed to London Records. The band would release the single Day Dreamer as their second single and this is where my musical journey would begin as this is when I first saw the band live and to be honest is was the first time I’d been to a live gig.

I remember it was a blazing hot day when we caught the train to see the band perform at the Exeter Cavern Club and got to the venue a few hours early. Sitting outside the club we got the chance to listen to the band do a couple of sound checks and I almost exploded when the opening bass riff to Daydreamer was played!  I seem to recall the band was supported by Powder and the very fantastic Thurman who warmed the crowd up very nicely.  Darkness ….. silence …… then the band walked on and the place went crazy, Then the lead singer Jonny Dean walked on and the whole venue erupted just as the band kicked into the opening on 125 West 3rd Street.  It was my first gig and I found myself in the middle of the crowd being pushed left, right and centre so I did what everyone else did, I stuck my elbows out and just started to jump to the music (Hence pogo to Britpop). Right there on that dance floor in 1994 I lost my heart to a new following called Britpop and if it wasn’t for Menswe@r I don’t think I would be here today sitting down writing this blog.

The band were a mix of Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish with the styling’s of Mod and the curled lip of the punk movement of the 1970’s but with very British story telling strewn through their lyrics.  Throughout 1994 and 1995 you couldn’t read a music magazine without reading something about Jonny Dean and his merry men.  Then came the summer of 1995 and I had just got my hands on two tickets to the fabulous Glastonbury Festival and looking back at the line-up it looks like the who’s who of Britpop and Menswe@r were top of the bill for me. With the band releasing their debut Album Nuisance around this time the festival would we a great way to gain more exposure even in reality they didn’t need it. After a storming performance at Glasto the band would go on to release three more singles from the album and having one go top ten with the release of Being Brave in early 1996.  A standalone single was released in the summer of 1996 entitled We Love you and listening back now I think it’s a farewell to the Britpop movement that would start dyeing out shortly after the singles release.

So yes it’s the dreaded year of 1997 and we find the band leaving London Records just after they released their second album Hay Tiempo!. The release didn’t get a release anywhere in the world apart from Japan and would only be available via import at stupid prices but at this point the Britpop Bubble burst and British music as we know it would end (Slight execration I know but I can’t get excited by British bands nowadays).  So there we have it just add another band of forgotten heroes of the British music scene to never be heard of again……………. Oh! Wait!

2013 we find Johnny Dean playing a gig to raise money for the National Autistic Society performing under the guise of the The Nuis@nce Band to a sell-out audience. A new formed Menswe@r performed their first show in 15 years on the 26th March 2014 at London’s Bush Hall and was also a sell-out. They performed their new single Crash which was a reworking of an earlier B-side to the We Love You single in 1996 and went on to release the single via Nuisance recordings on May 26th.

So looking back at the two albums that the band released we find two very different albums but at the same time very distinctive.  In their debut album Nuisance we find a band at the forefront of a new music scene that was filled with 60’s references, poppy rhythms and a very British Fashion style. From start to finish I can hear my teenage years flow through every song and listening to it as I’m writing this review I feel the same sense of excitement and wonder that I had back in the day not knowing what life lay ahead of me. From the opening track 125 West 3rd Street to the Stardust reprise that closes the album you will find the definitive Britpop album. Of course the standout songs were actually released as singles including I’ll Manage Somehow, Sleeping In and the era defining Daydreamer through to Being Brave and Stardust it starts to sound like the soundtrack to my teenage years. The standout song for me will always be the track titled Hollywood Girl as I remember drunkenly making my way home from seeing the band play at my first gig in Exeter. I remember making my way back to the train station and singing the chorus at the top of my lungs over and over till I caught my train at 6am the following morning.

In their second album Hay Tiempo! We find a slight change in sound with a more Shoe gaze feel mixed with Teenage Fan club and 60’s sunshine pop. That’s quite a range to have but with songs like Wait For The Sun, Silver Tongue and the space rock sounding Shine we find a band evolving into something more than a child of Britpop. I never got a chance to listen to the album upon its release as already covered earlier as it was only released in Japan but I secured a copy via import a few years ago (but now residing somewhere in London due to missing box when I moved).

So there you go to a band I thought was lost in time like many other bands of the era only to be resurrected and start touring again and release a single.  There are many bands that evoke the spirit and true nature of Britpop but in Menswe@r you will find the true greatness of a British band who was at the start of one of Britain’s golden music eras. The band have had the bad reviews and the low points that comes along with being in the music press but if you were there you will remember a band who meant the world to many a teenager. Like I’ve said in many posts before I don’t write about bands that I don’t like as my music tastes maybe different than someone else’s but everyone has an opinion of the bands that mean the world to them. Menswe@r meant the world to me then and will always mean something very special to me as they introduced to the live music scene and the thought that one day I might be able to pick up a guitar and start a band of my very own. My dabble in music may never have turned into what I wanted it to be but you have to give credit to all the bands who do make it in whatever shape or form.
Menswe@r are a part of a bunch of bands who for a very short time put Britain on the music map in the 1990’s when it was awash with the American Grunge scene and British music was starting to lose its identity. Bands like Menswe@r made music fashionable again and opened a lot of doors for newer bands to be picked up by the record company’s and for small indie record labels to start forming all over the country.

I was planning about saving this write up for last ever post on this blog as it would be fitting to finish the blog as I started it with the Birth of Britpop and my First gig featuring the band. But finding that the band is alive and well in whatever shape or form it’s spurned me on to keep the Pogo2Britpop doors open and continue to post until I run out of bands.

Thank you Mr Johnny Dean and to your band of Merry men (And women!)

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