Reviews


BACK IN DENIM

OR how an eighties Neo-Puritan birthed the best glitter album since 1973.

Poor old Lawrence. Nothing he could do would make the hip kids love him it seemed. Not Nancy & Lee-ing it with Liz Fraser, not revealing the contents of his cleaning cupboard to the readers of the NME, not even a brief stint on Alan McGee’s hip, underachieving Creation label - Nothing helped - no one was buying it.

One brief “blip” on the alterna-radar was all Lawrence managed in over a decade’s worth of recording, his constant reverential worship at the altars of Verlaine, Reed and Richman had apparently been for naught. By the dawn of the 1990’s, Lawrence’s former band, Felt, a revolving group of Daguerreotypes who obviously considered the unsmiling Mapplethorpe sleeve of Marquee Moon just as important as the grooves contained within, un-acrimoniously retired, true to their leader’s vision of ten albums in ten years. Given to lengthy, pretentious album titles, bitter troubadourian lyrics and a stylistic orthodoxy which bordered on fundamentalism (Lawrence supposedly sacked a drummer for having curly hair) and trading in ringing, Telecaster anthems of brooding avoidance and opaque hopelessness, Felt proved a baffling anomaly to consumers and connoisseurs alike; don’t let Stuart Murdoch tell you any different. The best of what Felt offered its listeners, however, was a quiet, self-absorbed reaction to the staid Golgotha that was the eighties pop music scene. Unfortunately, Felt’s listeners must have been of a less-than apostolic number as Lawrence’s brand of Puritan pop inexplicably failed to outsell Def Leppard‘s Pyromania. “Maybe I succeeded too well,” reflected the head Felt-er in 2003, “In the end, nobody was that bothered….”

Nobody that is, except for Lawrence.

Quickly back in the saddle and on a major label, Lawrence in 1992 took new aim at the household gods of the music industry. Lawrence’s outlook had not changed. The watershed year for indie and Brit-pop meant nothing - it was the same group of under-achievers from the previous decade only now made more ubiquitous and annoying. There had to be a counter-blow and it had to be loud. Thankfully, Lawrence’s perverse tastes were up to the task.

If Felt had been a wonderful pop anachronism, Lawrence’s new project, cheekily called Denim, represented a complete aberration; and like his former band, the name would be telling. Similar to the Flamin’ Groovies in 1975, Lawrence chose to revive a style and sound that was for all intents a dead letter, a molding-yellow back-page most “serious” musicians would love to see expunged. Creating music, Khmer Rouge style, Denim was to be a full-on, Marshall-stack assault back to the days of FAB 208, Lift-Off and bovver-booted Super Yobs. With the aid of half the members of Pulp, Lawrence wrapped withering slabs of vitriol within towers of dumb glitter-rock drums and Chicory Tip-style synths. Pure junk-shop pop for step-toe children. By the time Back In Denim was completed Lawrence had utterly reinvented himself as the Noddy Holder-stroke-Vivian Stanshall of the 1990’s. Even though the album sold little, sailing over the heads of humorless morons listening to Slowdive, Back In Denim remains Lawrence’s definitive statement. Back In Denim is two fists tattooed, one with LOVE, the other with HATE - at once a celebration of tackiness and nostalgia, the record is also a scathing indictment of pop’s low aspirations.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

American Rock - Every Lou Reed cliché imaginable, exaggerated and under one roof. A tragic love song. Still, even after killing some chick’s boyfriend who got in the way, Lawrence admits that he’ll never fall in love. Bacharach would be proud.

The Osmonds - Lawrence plays K-Tel Ray Davies, enumerating all the “sins” of the Seventies and why he loves them. Jaytex shirts, Bell records, Mungo Jerry - this is Village Green compressed into one long song and played by the Glitter Band. Glad Barry Blue receives acknowledgement at last.

I’m Against The Eighties - Like an updated version of Malcolm’s “Which Side of the Bed” T-shirt. Sarcy, snide and genuinely seething. If I could get one tattoo, this would be it. Great to hear Lawrence cut loose with some serious Chuck Berry riffing. I AM sick of winkle-picker kids. Sick to death.

posted on Monday, February 21st, 2005 at 1:53 at Orbis Quintus