1 March 2009
Denim - Novelty Rock
Year of Release: 1997
"We've not been going very long/ we've only written one good song/ here it is, we will play/ it's the best song that we've got it's called/ INTERNET CURTAINS!/ Now we've got ourselves a hit/ 'cos Chris Evans played it/ every day, on his show/ I thank the Lord for a song called/ INTERNET CURTAINS!"
When Lawrence Hayward broke up Felt after ten years and ten albums, all eyes were on him for the next move. Felt had specialised in making a very unique and occasionally genuinely beautiful kind of alternative pop, all of which remains on catalogue to this day (so will never be uploaded to this blog). The twists and turns they took, however, confused even their biggest fans, producing instrumental jazz tinged albums as well as moments of tranquil wonder such as "The World is as Soft as Lace", and Bob Dylan influenced low budget, high treble indie pop like "Ballad of the Band". Not all of it was great, but it was at least never anything less than interesting, and when they hit their peaks, by God, they left you wondering why they were simply a "cult band". Go away and buy "Primitive Painters" now if you're wondering what I'm talking about. All bands should be kept on a long leash if it allows them to achieve similar sparkles in the long run.
When Denim finally emerged in the nineties, Lawrence appeared to have spent some considerable time contemplating how terrible and unkind the eighties had been, and his new band seemed to be suggesting that we'd all be much better off pretending the decade never happened. He hooked up with ex-members of the Glitter Band, produced odd promotional items such as guitar plectrums shaped like the logo for the Bell record label (home to glam rock and bubblegum pop for most of the much-maligned seventies), wrote songs such as "I'm Against The Eighties", and produced a debut album in "Back in Denim" which, whilst imperfect, overflowed with ideas and amidst its kitsch leanings appeared to be making some heartfelt points. Plenty presumed that it was a one-off project and he'd move on to some other idea - however, this was not to be, and further work followed.
As the nineties progressed, Denim appeared to be getting less and less consistent, and whilst their "Denim on Ice" album isn't wholly bad, the straitjacket of the concept did seem to be taking its toll on Lawrence. Felt could be anything and everything they wanted to be - Denim were always in thrall to glitter and glam and novelty pop, and it was hard to see what further points they could make.
Shortly after that album was put out, an album of "odds and sods" was issued, namely "Novelty Rock". Featuring "Mouldy old songs and some new 'uns", "Novelty Rock" doesn't pretend to be anything other than a compilation of B-sides, one-off singles and a few new ideas. Almost all the tracks have a cheap and cheerful novelty shine to them, like two minute Internet virals given their own audio space (in fact, the opening track "We Are The New Potatoes" - one of the most ridiculous and hilarious things ever committed to vinyl - eventually became the soundtrack to one). For a compilation, it has a surprisingly consistent sound of cheap synth noises - I'm sure the Commodore 64 SID chip is in full effect in numerous places here - repetitive catchphrases, and, as detailed in the lyrics quoted above, some fairly sharp satire.
The central problem with the whole idea, and possibly the point too, is that you'll never bother to play it more than a few times before tiring of the jokes and the relatively limited arrangements. It is throwaway, but I doubt it was ever meant to be anything else.
So then - if you're thinking of using this album as a starting point for discovering about Denim, please think again. The debut "Back in Denim" is widely available and much more worthy. If you want a quick cheap thrill and a few chuckles, however, "Novelty Rock" is certainly worth a listen, and I don't think fans of Lawrence should look the other way either.
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1. The New Potatoes
2. On a Chicory Tip
3. Robin's Nest
4. Internet Curtains
5. Snake Bite
6. Ape Hangers
7. The Great Grape Ape Hangers
8. Ankle Tattoos
9. Tampax Advert
10. Supermarket (originally released on Ice Rink records under the name "Supermarket")
11. Running in the City
12. I Will Cry at Christmas
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