poison to the mind


the incompleat… #3

Okay, so the Happy Mondays haven't had any kind of comprehensive reissue program (yet). But their catalogue has been so badly handled that they deserve consideration. Apart from introducing E to Manchester, inventing indie-dance, being Martin Hannett's last hurrah, giving Paul Oakenfold a career (well, he was good then), creating an archetypal nomenclature for all Blokes In The Band What Do Nothing before and after, and generally being moron-savant accidental geniuses, the Mondays did two things that are hallmarks of a classic pop band: 1) they stayed in the papers providing endless entertainment completely aside from their musical output or performance, and 2) they belted out a regular stream of singles and EPs completely divorced from the album-promotion process.

And for a group that have had four best-ofs to date (matching their tally of studio LPs!), these have been really poorly represented. Hopefully Shaun Ryder's imminent return to the charts with Gorillaz - only doing backing vocals, but credited as "featuring" and with his enormous cybernetic head the main focus of the video - will prompt a thorough album-and-bonus-disc program, maybe even restoring all the album tracks that got yanked for jacking Northern Songs. Cross your Kit-Kat fingers.

The last cash-in, so dodgy they didn't even commission cover art, is actually a pretty good sampler for the novice listener. But it loses points for including only the puny 7" edit (and more for not admitting it!) of "Judge Fudge". This and the b-side, "Stayin' Alive", were the last tracks produced by Oakenfold and Osborne, with the band at the height of their powers - before the disastrous spiral-and-fizzle of the last album and tour. "Judge Fudge" is a sinister howl, an exhalation from Ryder's then-blackening depths that gains much of it's power from the way the groove is allowed to build, Mark Day's guitar cutting in over the top to presage the dirty grandeur that will eventually erupt. And "Stayin' Alive" is a great re-invention of the Gibbs' classic, funked up in the Mondays shambolic style - but again, much of the fun comes from how almost a minute is spent on a completely extraneous intro (nuff respect to yer actual disco stylee) before the original riff bursts out. Go on, play it to someone and see how long they take to pick it.

Happy Mondays - Judge Fudge (full version)
Happy Mondays - Stayin' Alive (full version)

The Greatest Hits really is a good place to start. If you're going to buy one album while waiting for remasters, make it a second-hand copy of Bummed on vinyl. Or you can probably get Pills, Thrills & Bellyaches for ten bucks from a remainder shop.

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