Happy Mondays – ‘Kinky Afro’

Kinky
May 9th, 2012
| posted by: Jonno |

So unfortunate are we, children of the late ’80s that the first time we were able to physically comprehend the bloated mad genius of Shaun Ryder was when he was an oversized, leering head plugged into the floor for The Gorillaz’ song ‘DARE’. Indeed, having come out of the shadows with his own band only a few years after Ryder’s own group had peaked, one can imagine Damon Albarn’s colourful chimps owed quite a bit to the madcap insanity of The Happy Mondays. I wouldn’t have the foggiest, because when 98% of Manchester was ingesting ecstasy en masse in ’89, I was two whole years old. And so, like the remnants of other much cooler eras like grunge and post punk no wave, I find myself trawling the history books to try to summon the feeling of being part of something bigger than me, a feeling which I probably only had during the electronic revival of 2007 and the garage rock revivial of 2001, both of which utilise the keyword ‘revival’ and therefore make me feel even more dejected. So then I chuck on ‘Kinky Afro’ and run around the house in my goddamn underwear with a necklace made of shells on.

History has been kinder to The Happy Mondays than perhaps we have been to other bands who took equal amounts of illegal substances and generally fucked everything up within an inch of it’s life. This was noticeable during the highly fictionalised and yet totally amazing 24 Hour Party People which I finally got around to watching last night, in which Ryder and his mates come off like the saviours of music and Ian Curtis of Joy Division like a smarmy little pain in the ass. Of course, that’s why movies are not real, but luckily for someone to be as truly audacious as Ryder and his flash-dancing compatriot Bez, it would have to be pretty close to the truth. Somehow while ingesting everything that looked like the right colour and blowing all their studio money on more of the same, Ryder and company helped kickstart a movement that we’re actually still living in right now. That it managed to do so by interpolating the main hook from ‘Lady Marmalade’ with this 1990 number seems absurd, but for a bunch of apparent useless idiots, they managed to make a pretty enduring piece of house music. It might still sound like a jangly Brit Rock number, but if you listen closely all of the elements of what would become mainstream dance were there; the repeating hooks, the unchanging, earworm riffs and the choruses that any one could get in on. Add a four to the floor bass drum under this and jack up the tempo a bit and you’ll get what a lot of festival DJs still use to warm up crowds. Small wonder; the producer was none other than Paul Oakenfold, who’d go on to make a career out of it.

I love Happy Mondays because they’re one of the few bands I know who employed a full-time dancer. It seems like something out of a Will Ferrell skit rather than reality, but for all intent and purposes, that seems to be what Bez did. Having a writhing, flailing space cadet on stage and in the studio certainly did the job more than yoga or whatever. Also, while they obviously belong to the same Madchester movement that burped out New Order and The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays are just as entertaining to listen to sober. Though Ryder’s ability to stay in tune is obviously not as good as his ability to exterminate pigeons, his band is really freaking great. You’ve got that beefed up guitar chord chime that Oasis would be pulling out a few years later matched with the jangle of The Smiths and the lead lines that bounce off the string sample, bringing together Britain’s past, present and future all at once. But most of all, there’s this incessant groove that comes through from the drums and bass, which lock in to a straight dance pattern that’s kind of swing and kind of isn’t. It’s hard to define but easy once you realise what it makes you want to do. And that’s know you know this is real, authentic and totally bananas dance music.

Happy Mondays – ‘Kinky Afro’

2 Comments:

[...] stage. With a bucking and whining syncopated V-drum line that feels like a hangover from an early Madchester track set under rolling grand piano, Russell and Albarn establish the drama before it even enters the [...]

[...] with an uncompromising urge to make you dance like T-shirts never stopped being baggy. It’s a Happy Monday moment on a Friday afternoon, but it’s so much more than that. The last minutes of the song are as [...]

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