Urrgghhh … new British Soul – a music that truly makes me ill. Fucken awful. I literally have to stop myself from pulling the record from the turntable and smashing it against the table corner … a act I find very therapeutic. If there ever was a music that, on a whole, doesn't excite neither the loins nor the brain it would have to be this.
Very few American whites who grew up with Afro-American blacks have "soul" so I am not sure how a bunch of knob ends, black or white, from England are going to have it.
Get a life.
If things weren't pretentious enough the music is sometimes called "sophisti-pop". As described by wikipedia:
Sophisti-pop is a music genre used to describe a certain kind of smooth radio-friendly pop music with a jazz or soul tinge. First appearing in the mid-1980s, its usual reliance on synthesizers was typical for the decade. All in all, sophisti-pop can be considered to share notable elements with smooth jazz, blue-eyed soul and New Wave.
The name says it all … wankers.
OK ... enough with the polemical vitriol. What displeases me about this music?
Despite its obvious ancestral roots, which is black American soul, its all very, very English. And it encompasses the worst aspect of English music, namely its neither here nor there. It's also slightly indie, slightly twee, slightly political, but it is also all pretentious, pompous and mainly unlistenable. Worse still that awful 80s mainstream pop production runs through the entire album … funky bass lines, reverbed gated snare drum sound, sexy saxes, a touch of mellow keyboard.
It sounds like fisher price music.
Acts like Sade, Dream Academy, It's Immaterial, Simply Red, The Colourfield, Prefab Sprout, Swing Out Sister, Communards, Fine Young Cannibals, Blow Monkeys, The Blue Nile flooded the air waves. (It's not surprising that the Top 40 air waves in the 80s were dire … if there ever was a decade whose great music was defined by what was underground and not in the charts it was the 80s … and that's across the English speaking world).
Who is responsible for this?
Partly Sting and Paul Young in the mainstream, but the "indie", hip, credible and political soul aspects have to be attributed to Paul Weller. This ugly creation of his would be unforgivable, if not for the fact he wrote some magnificent songs whilst in The Jam (his solo stuff sucks big time). But why single out Weller? I blame him because The Jam were so popular in England that when he switched to smooth soul with The Style Council he made popular this sub genre of English soul. At the very least, if he didn't make it popular, then he made it "hip".
What's worse a number of "mods" followed him. "Mod" music – never the most experimental of musics – was a mix of powerpop and white R&B and was not without some good tracks. But like lemmings the Mods followed the "Modfather" Weller when he folded The Jam, and it's powerpop beauties, and formed the ultra pretentious Style Council and it's continental soul … right into the land of coffee, berets, Raybans, gitannes and Camus.
Pack of fuckwits.
For example: The Yachts folded and lead singer Priestman joined The Christians , Graduate collapsed and became Tears for Fears, and in Brisbane the moddish Downtown 5 turned into the Style Council–ish One Big Union. Confront any of these bands and they will all claim that the move from mod/pwerpop to soul was a natural progression as if some independent global epiphany descended on the Modsters … methinks not … the "Cappuccino Kid" wielded a lot of cultural capital.
And that is perhaps part of the problem … ultimately Weller and the Style Council were the peak of that movement and a good number of tracks are listenable because Weller is (was) a good songwriter. His followers were mainly unlistenable.
The Christians as I have said where joined by Henry Priestman who had been in Liverpool's The Yachts (a good power pop combo) before fronting It's Immaterial and then joining this band. He wrote or co-wrote every song so the bands direction must be largely attributable to him. The music is very hard on the ear because it is so slickly sweet and the political messages (there are some apparently) are buried under so much syrup that they wouldn't offend the most intolerant of conservatives. I don't think Margaret Thatcher was shaking in her boots when she found out this album was about to be released.
This music was for secretaries in the 80s or for people who like to see "original bands" at the Travelodge Hotel whilst sipping cocktails. Now it's for middle aged losers thinking about secretaries they would have liked to have fucked when they were losers in their 20s.
Surprisingly there is one half decent song (only half though) – the keyboards let loose and lose their "cool" briefly and there is enough propulsion in the song to keep it half interesting. I don't know if this was an accident or not.
Save a Soul in Every Town
I'll be selling this … derrrrr
Of course I could be wrong with my opinions as this was popular, but then again so was Thatcher.
"Forgotten Town" – UK #22
"Hooverville (And They Promised us the World)" UK #21, IRL #18
"When the Fingers Point" UK #34
"Ideal World" #14, IRL #11
The album went to #2 in the UK.
In the US:
When the Fingers Point Hot Dance Music/Club Play #29
The album stalled at #158
When the fingers Point
Save a Soul in Every Town (live at the time)
Sad Songs – live 2008
But here is the most relevant portion:
'Beginning as an a cappella trio, the British soul group the Christians originally comprised brothers Garry, Russell, and Roger Christian; Liverpool natives who in 1986 were joined by former Yachts and It's Immaterial frontman Henry Priestman. After recording a handful of singles, Roger Christian left the group to mount a solo career; the remaining three members continued on without him, and after a bumpy start scored a minor hit with the 1987 single "Forgotten Town."
(Originally posted: 07/11/2009)