|Been avoiding this for a while. But I need to do something to get my fingers working...|
Elastica were a great pop band. Objectively, better than Kenickie- if more limited, always more Ramones at heart than Wire. Sleeper and Echobelly were always were bland. I actually have a soft spot for the pair of them, but they had this tiny range - both emotionally and musically. And for Louise, vocally.
(That said, if I had to pick, I'd take her drawl over Sonia's choirgirlisms. And where the verse-doubles in length in What Can I Do Now? is absolutely my definition of a Guilty Pleasure.)
Sleeper and Echobelly were - much like most Britpop-B-listers - pretty much solely single bands. Across an album, they're unbearable. Kenickie, despite all the brass and pop-as-religionisms, were primarily an album band. Hell, they were even a proper-full-on B-side band. They were a band for falling into, and listening to everything - and because there were so few troughs, you could do that, and find something rewarding there (i.e. They're a band for when people wanted to live inside a band). They were about writing extensively about a variety of emotions in a variety of styles. They wrote with seriousness about what they knew - and were unashamed about that. They had a good record collection and at least tried to live up to it.
Fundamentally, they were honest. Especially with their lies - automythology, both on the up and the down sides. They wrote intensely about the highs and lows of the teenage condition - I used the phrase Manic-Depressive in Phonogram, I think, but that's them all over. Look at the first real-single, Come Out 2nite backed with How I was made. A tiny-pure exhortation to joy back to back with this absolutely Nirvana-esque ode to catholic self-hatred.
Even with their character songs, they allowed themselves close to their subject - compare Millionaire Sweeper or Robot Song with the usual observational post-Blurisms. They were very humane and very cruel at exactly when they needed to be.
("And That's Why" has one of the cruelest and truest pay-off lines I've ever heard. And Robot Song is just... well, Elastica, Sleeper or Echobelly never did anything like this.)
They had brilliant accents.
They were very funny - Kenickie gigs were this odd half-stand-up/half-gig thing.
(By their embracing of those dualities they embodied the idea that the smart and funny weren't actually antagonistic forces - which is important)
Basically, they were a band as an artform rather than merely producer of singles. People believed in them. Back then, in terms of the zine-scene, there wasn't anyone who wasn't enamoured in them.
I don't know anyone whose inspiration was - for example - Echobelly. But despite Kenickie being these tiny nonentities, I can't escape Kenickie fans. In their own way - to steal a line from David McNamee - they were the Velvet Underground. Their fans went and did shit. They were an *incitement* to go and do shit, by being explicit about *the fact there is nothing special about us*. Which was the thing which made them so special.
And - you may see this one coming - the idea that your own specials count is absolutely at the core of what Phonogram is about. No Kenickie, no Phonogram. It's telling that about the only thing McKelvie and I agree on is Kenickie.
And now I've got to go and do some bloody work.