Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Space Monkeys - It's gonna be a good day for the dreamers

Madchester and the baggy movement was over ............................... or was it?

Not for bands like The Space Monkeys it wasn't. They were even signed to the doomed Factory records and for a while a handful of bands came out of the Britpop movement that were referred to as Post-Madchester.  They digged the Madchester dance scene and loved the acid house movement of the late 80's and this was reflected in the bands overall sound. Drum machines with Fat Baggy beats, synths and distorted guitars made up the general sound of The Space monkeys and that's just fine for me!.

Forming in Manchester in around 1995 they signed to the doomed Factory Records they would go on to release a handful of singles and one official album.  For a short time, the band kept the Madchester torch alight with their baggy, Hip Hop and acid house sounding guitar tunes. 

Debut single Keep On Tripping On is a fantastic post baggy single for 1996.  When other bands were singing about very British things that involved the use of lots of trumpets we find the Space monkeys playing like it was still 1991 and loved up to the max.  This was the only single that was not released on their debut album The Daddy Of Them All and was a cross between Flowered Up, Northside, The Dylan’s and The World Of Twist.  For their next release we find the band releasing the bass heavy Blowing Down The Stylus with its big beats and lead guitar swirling around like a drunk Hammond that fell off the back of an early Charlatans single. Acid House Killed Rock And Roll would be the bands third release with early 90's rave influences.  With its synths and double beats, a plenty, we find the band releasing a very drum and bass heavy single with the guitars turned up to full distortion, many a pill was dropped to this tune I bet ya!  The last single taken from the album is heavily drug referenced Sugar Cane and I still think to this day that if this single was released a few months before it would have been a massive summer smash. Full to the brim with cultural references for the time and a chorus that would have not been out of place at any indie disco of the 90's.

The release of the debut album The Daddy Of Them All had all the early singles apart form Keep Tripping on which would have been out of place in the slightest.  If you were a fan of the bands singles, then the album was what you were hoping for.  Sitting slap bang in the middle of Britpop which was just getting over the Madchester scene a couple of years before we find one of the best bands to come out of Manchester in the late 1990's.  The band would tour with the likes of Smash Mouth, Third Eye Blind and record a follow up album but due to Factory Records going out of business the album was unreleased and the band disbanded in 2000.

The follow up album was called Escape From The 20th Century and would eventually find a release in late 2013 and in 2015 we find the band reforming to play a selection of shows across the UK. 

As of writing this we find the band playing the Shiiine On Weekender in November along with a host of bands from the 1990's which looks like a 90's indie kids ultimate line up.

So if you have never heard of the band before make sure you go and buy both albums from the usual outlets and you will find a long lost hidden jem of a band. The Daddy Of Them All is a blissful look back at a time when British music meant something to be proud of. A band twisting a magical blend of Madchester and the British sounds of the Britpop scene of the 90's and a band that for me will never be forgotten.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Soda - We've had this thought and hunger since were born

For me there were two types of bands to come out of the 90’s. The big hitters -  the bands who were on major labels, in the public eye and were the mainstream bands of the time (Oasis, Pulp, Blur etc.).  Then we have the bands who were on the indie labels and who were making waves in the music press and the young kids alike. Being constantly featured in the small columns of the NME and on the evening session on Radio one (Elastica, Marion, Salad, Shed Seven, Longpigs).  To me these are the bands that mattered, these are the bands that were making me go to Our Price every Saturday to get the latest singles on multi-coloured vinyl.

Some bands were not so lucky but still remain a poignant part in our British music heritage. Today I want to talk about Soda, the band who’s debut album I waited with bated breath for but never surfaced ….. until Now!  I’ve been waiting 20 years for this album to be released and on 20/11/2016 Artificial Flavour will finally be released and it will transport me back to 1996 and make me feel 18 years old all over again.

The self-described sussed pop tarts started playing around Hull’s local music scene in the early 90s when they were called Mind Garden. Around 1994 the band changed their name to Soda with their arrival of their new bass player Liam Maloy.  They gained enough reputation to be supporting Shed Seven at some out of town shows and were spotted by their management team which resulted the band being able to record some early demos. The bands very first release was Slave to the Fashion Page and was a punky NWOTNW (new wave of the new wave!) sounding affair. Think a mix of These Animal Men with The Buzzcocks and you will be in the right direction.  Around this time the band found themselves in a bidding war between record companies and finally signed a multi album deal with Mercury Records turning down the likes of EMI and Capitol. 

The band’s first official single released was The Young Own the Town. A ‘spangly’ crunchy pop song that captured the ideas of the youth of the day and the fact that the 90s were theirs for the taking. And take it they did.  It had everything a classic Britpop single should have. It was fast, it had distortion and it had punk coolness writhing through its veins.  The three track single also had my personal favourite Soda Song Riot Kid which actually never leaves my playlist to this day and in my opinion should have been a single in its own right. Inside was the bands second release and was a pogos paradise with its bouncy pop beats and sing-a-long chorus and was a staple song at my local indie night and many more I’m sure.  The third and final release we find the band mid-tempo effort with Dragging You into My Dreams.  Another sing-a-long beauty from the band that shaped up to be an impressive single that was setting the band up to be a one to watch.

We can’t forget that Britpop was a time in British music history when it felt like an inspiring young band could make it, get signed and maybe just maybe appear on Top of the Pops.  By the time Britpop had taken hold and was in full swing by 1996 so many bands were on the scene. It was a beautiful thing being a British kid with each band having their own distinctive sound but wrapped into the Britpop bubble. We hadn’t seen this kind of a movement since the 60’s and Soda were slap bang right in the middle of it.

With an extensive tour throughout 1996 the band played the Phoenix festival and this is where I managed to catch them play live for the first and last time.  The Phoenix festival to this day remains the best festival that I have been to over my 25 years of being a music listener.  There were a handful of bands that made an impact on this 18-year-old over those four sweltering days at the Long Marston Airfield (The Verve, Weezer, The Charlatans and Sleeper to name a few), but I came away with a feeling that Britpop was going to shine forever after seeing Soda play on the Guardian Stage on 20th July 1996.  Four guys looking cool as fuck smashing out the singles and B-sides and songs that I was hoping for on the debut album.

Unfortunately, just as things were looking towards the mainstream the Britpop balloon was starting to deflate. Some of the most anticipated albums by the bands of the time just didn’t capture the imagination of the music buying public and bands started dropping like flies.  Some of the most talented and up and coming bands started to disappear. Soda unfortunately parted company with Mercury Records and their debut album was sadly shelved and remains unreleased…… Until Now!
20 years later we find ourselves in the midst of a Britpop revival and interest in the band has started to resurface once again. This time we find that the band have managed to get a release of their very long awaited debut album Artificial Flavour.

It’s taken twenty years but the album is finally here and my Britpop collection is nearly complete.  In Soda you will find a band who were at the heart of an important movement in British Pop history. A band who were in the middle of a musical hurricane and were so very close to be a part of the British mainstream like so many other bands before them.Some bands shine bright and fade and other bands like Soda will forever be intertwined in the memories of those who took them into their hearts the very first time they heard them.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Soda’s lead guitarist Mike Milner who sadly passed away in 2014 after a long illness.

20th Nov 1972 - 19th June 2014