What does it sound like?:
This release compiles the first 4 Happy Mondays 12″s and much of the music here has never been reissued since the late 80s. Their first release, the Forty Five EP is pretty standard 1985 jangly Indie guitar fare which sounds not unlike their contemporaries James and The Bodines. It’s hard to hear what Tony Wilson heard in them and there are few clues to what was to come, apart from the Tom Jones quoting ‘Oasis’ which made it’s way (re-recorded) onto their debut album. They hit their stride with ‘Freaky Dancin’ which is here in two versions produced by Bernard Sumner (the band famously scoffed the remains of a Chinese Takeaway which he put in the bin during the session). It’s a ragged, messy attempt at 70s funk but you can audibly hear the band thrillingly falling into line and finding something resembling a groove albeit the groove that only a bunch of absolute weirdos and Postmen from a suburban Salford grotspot could create – there’s the Wah Wah guitar, the bongos and the ‘baggy’ sound and everything that the Stone Roses took all the credit for a few years later. B-Side ‘The Egg’ is a bit of a lost gem too. ‘Tart Tart’ is HM at their menacing, scuzzy best and the band are really flying now with a tangerine munching John Cale at the mixing desk (even though Bez had no idea who he was) – this is like a late 80s Mancunian Blockheads with Shaun with one of his grimmest, darkest lyrics “She said don’t know if I should – cos I’m worried too much about the test on the blood”. B-Side is an alternate version of ‘Little Matchstick Owen’ with a bizarre Beefheart-esque rap vocal by one Mike Bleach who was never heard of again. The set ends with the thunderous 24 Hour Party People and associated B-sides most notable of which is ‘Wah Wah’ which predicts the more laid back sound of their 3rd album ‘Thrills and Spills..’
(*Grammar police – that apostrophe is on the official release data on Discogs and iTunes so who am I to correct it -maybe it’s deliberate) The only physical format of this is a box set of all the 12″s on coloured vinyl, it’s a bit pricey considering the amount of music you get, there’s no CD but you can also get it via the usual digital/streaming places so it’s nice to have this stuff back ‘in print’.
What does it all *mean*?
Happy Mondays are a bunch of dodgy as fuck genuine oddballs who just happened to comprise a singer who had no idea what a good lyricist he was, one of the most underrated Guitarists on the planet, a formidable rhythm section and a keyboard player the band christened ‘Knobhead’ – and if you want to understand his contribution go and watch Happy Mondays now with the session musician who is utterly incapable of replicating what ‘Knobhead’ did. For all their tabloid antics and druggy excess for which they’re best known, they were a really inventive band, and they could really rip it up and get an impressive groove going when they were on form.
Goes well with…
Might suit people who like…
Happy Mondays, ACR, James, Funk, Psychedelia, “Mad” Chester