Pills, Thrills, Ecstasy and Bellyaches
There was a time between 1989-1995 where electronic dance textures and the psychedelic experimentation of the late 1960’s merged to create a glorious new noise. I suppose one could argue that it started before ‘88 with bands such as The Cure, but to me it didn’t really hit it’s stride until the Stone Roses released the massive “Fool’s Gold”, almost 10 minutes of perfect beat driven jam rock infused with trippy elements of the burgeoning rave movement. It was cool personified and sounded the death knell for the mope rock that was so rampant at the time.
“Fool’s Gold” opened the floodgate for hundreds of bands most of which, in hindsight, were pretty god awful. Most of these bands came from England and were touted as “The New Greatest Thing”, as the British music press are wont to do. The Soup Dragons, Carter USM, EMF, Jesus Jones to name but a few. But among the dreck there were a handful of bands that released classic albums that changed the name of the game and were no less influential than Nirvana, albeit in a much different way. The producer was king and had as much to do with this new sound as the bands themselves. Paul Oakenfold and Andrew Weatherall were the most recognized, but there were many more.
In 1989 The Happy Mondays released the Madchester Rave On EP with stunning remixes of “Hallelujah”, “Rave On” and “Wrote For Luck” by the afore mentioned Oakenfold, Weatherall and Terry Farley, which paved the way for former Byrds-meet-Stooges wannabe’s Primal Scream. Pills Thrills And Bellyaches, their next album, came next and it was and still is a wonderfully catchy patchwork of 70’s dance grooves, 60’s guitar explorations, hooligan stream of consciousness lyrics courtesy of Shaun Ryder and modern production techniques that gave the album a unique cohesiveness that stands the test of time. It was ugly and beautiful at the same time.
Again, this paved the way for Primal Scream who released the seminal work Screamadelica in 1991. The albums success wasn’t totally unexpected. The band asked their DJ friend, Andrew Weatherall, to remix their song “I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have”, which turned into the massive left field hit “Come Together” in 1990. With it’s dub influences, heavy dance beats and Stonsian core (it sounds a little like Sympathy For The Devil merged with You Can’t Always Get What You Want with groove) it set the stage for the full album assault on the senses that became Screamadelica, which apparently was sequenced to mimic the experience of taking ecstasy, right down to the track “I’m Coming Down”.
Even former shoe gazers The Boo Radleys were affected, releasing the seminal Giant Steps in 1993. More of a guitar driven band than the Mondays or The Scream, Giant Steps used the Beatles and The Beach Boys as their influence and crafted a sprawling, beautiful album filled with squelching feedback, beautiful harmonies, dub and dance. This album, more than the others, sounds like it hasn’t aged a day due to the fact that their reliance on a producer wasn’t as obvious. It remains one of my “go to” albums to this day. I never bore of it.
There were others, such as Ride, The Charlatans and The Inspiral Carpets, but these three bands make up the holy trinity as far as I’m concerned. Their success would go on to inspire a legion of bands, most notably Oasis, but none could recapture the lightning in a bottle that these three did with those three albums.