Black Grape: A Minor Miracle
…from the “Obscure to most Americans” file…
Way back in 1995 no one, and I mean NO ONE could have imagined that Shaun Ryder, degenerate lyricist/vocalist and key madman for loveable little Madchester hooligans the Happy Mondays, would make a remarkable comeback by forming a new band and in the process create not just one of the best albums of the year, but one of the best albums of the whole decade.
Everyone thought he was done (and by “done” I mean lying in a gutter with a dirty needle between his toes done) after the Mondays spectacularly disintegrated after the sub par and crack cocaine induced swan song “Yes Please”.
But no. Ryder came back from the dead (probably literally, although I have no real proof), formed a new band (Black Grape), and released “It’s Great When You’re Straight…YEAH!” on an unsuspecting public. Everyone was stunned. The record was brilliant for its time, and although some tracks have aged a tad the majority of the album is an absolute blast from start to finish. Some say it’s the best Happy Mondays album never released, although I think it comes in second to Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches myself. I still have the copy of the NME where they gave the album a 10 out of 10 rating, and this was just before they started giving everyone (and I do mean everyone—Menswear, Gay Dad or Kula Shaker, anyone?). In hindsight it probably didn’t rate a “10”, but a solid “8” at the very least.
Black Grape would dissolve, of course. That’s an inevitability with anything Ryder touches. But his legacy is secure in the fact that he has been a part of three landmark releases during his career: two Happy Mondays albums (“Bummed” and the afore mentioned “Pills…”) and this, released just before Britpop exploded it’s guts all over the British countryside.