[This post is dedicated to Adam, author of the now-deleted blog Pretending Life Is Like A Song, whose contributions of wise and wonderful words will truly be missed. If you're reading this, mate, I wish you well.-SIG]
It makes a change today to be writing of a band who are still touring and releasing material, and yet survived the mid 90s fallout from the Britpop boom, when scores of bands who had ridden the wave of mod revival popularity suddenly fell from favour. I lament this turn of events, since it was a refreshing counterblast to the endless dull thud of the dancefloor or the emetic sugariness of the sickly ballad. It was a real pleasure to listen to the outpourings of Cast, Blur, Pulp, Oasis and the like crashing knowingly and tunefully into the charts: one wonders whether a movement of this calibre will ever reappear.
The Bluetones made a jangly (overused word) impact with the two songs featured here today. Mark Morriss’ languid yet unexpectedly spiky vocals and Adam Devlin’s seamless guitar work (reminiscent of Johnny Marr) united to gain a top 40 hit in the summer of 1995 with Are You Blind Or Are You Blind. Yet their debut single and most instantly recognisable track, Slight Return (FF 1995 #21), made no impact at all initially, only rising to number 2 in 1996 on the back of a re-release. Even on an initial hearing, this song hooks itself into the subconscious, and then its true genius and message of hope can be appreciated: ‘from the first moment you heard that, you felt as if you’d known it all your life’, as JP commented.
Another try with Bluetonic (FF 1995 #15) fared much better, scraping into the UK Top Twenty. This is more typical of the Britpop formula, a rollicking beat and cheeky lyrics making a less blatant counterpart to Blur’s Parklife. From the album Expecting To Fly, which entered the LP charts at number one, it seemed like roses all the way…until the aforementioned collapse of the Britpop phenomenon, which led the band to sign a new deal with Cooking Vinyl.
It would be a shame if the band’s achievements were left to rot in posterity, so listen to the tracks below (including a sample from their five Peel sessions), the perfect companion to a summer’s afternoon, and invest in one of their lyrically and musically rich and rewarding albums.