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Kenickie

 
 
Quantum
17:14 / 09.12.09
The lovely genius creators of Phonogram (Jamie and Kieron) generally have great taste from my nineties-britpop-loving point of view, EXCEPT that they have a bizarre obsession with Kenickie, who I have always thought were crap. Here's a couple of clips to help you decide;

Stay in the Sun

People we want

Compare them to Sleeper or Echobelly or Belly etc. then tell me what you think. (I think of them as an unfortunate aberration from a beloved creator, much as GM references Kula flippin' Shaker)
 
 
Tuna Ghost: Pratt knot hero
17:57 / 09.12.09
How you wound me, sir. Granted, Stay in the Sun is pretty shit. But why link to a mediocre live version of People We Want when the album version is so great?

Album version

For a minute ten of pure pop bliss, try Can I Take You To The Cinema.

Keiron provides a nice explanation of Kenickie's attraction in the first Phonogram series (first issue, I believe, which you can find here, but keep in mind he may be exaggerating through the character's lips for the sake of the story.

As for me, I love Kenickie because I've never been able to resist lovely melodies telling me terrible things. I was once young and beautiful and empty and a bad person, goddammit!
 
 
Quantum
18:26 / 09.12.09
That album version *is* better, but they're a bit too... Menswear to hit the spot for me if you know what I mean. If you listen to some of the other Phonogram ouvre (Atomic!) they just sound bland.

I guess what I'm saying is that they fill me with mild and fading ennui rather than excitement and pop. If you were making a 90 minute Britpop cassette for a long car journey* would they honestly make the final cut? Against What do I do now? or sale of the century? Connection or Stutter or Vaseline? Just for similar britpop girlband examples, never mind stuff like the Breeders- for me Kenickie just aren't in the same league, and while they might shine compared to weaker competition, the bar at the time was pretty high.


*or a 90min MP3 playlist homage to the extinct cassette tape genre if you insist on being all 21st century about it
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
20:23 / 09.12.09
Well, Vaseline and Sale of the Century are, with the best will in the world, not very good, although for different reasons. I suppose if you like brunettes better than blondes, Sleeper and Elastica are better than Kenickie. But really, that's the level. "Stutter" and "What do I do Now" are pretty good, but then so is "I'm an Agent" or "Stay in the Sun".
 
 
Tuna Ghost: Pratt knot hero
02:35 / 10.12.09
Well keep in mind I wasn't around for the start of Britpop. I was an ocean away, being driven to school by my older sister whose cd player was more likely to have Eazy-E or Too $hort. Oh, how the suburban white kids ate that stuff with a spoon...anyways, if you're aiming for an essential britpop aesthetic, you're asking the wrong guy.

I do enjoy some of Sleeper's stuff, "What Do I Do Now" and "Atomic" among them, and although I do get a kick out of "Statuesque" I know it's fairly shit.

Going from Catsuit City to At The Club is, to me, like watching them unfold into something with startling depth. There's a review by amazon that has this blurb: "Although everyone was too busy at the time swooning over lead-singer Lauren Laverne's ability to simultaneously have blonde hair and one of the sharpest tongues in music; she was actually showing signs of being able to write songs that would break brittle hearts in two." A little strong and a little vague, maybe. Certainly I don't think "I Never Complain" sounds like Kurt Cobain seeking shelter in the Go-gos, as the review goes on to state. But the songs do remind of times when I was full of drugs that made me feel as if I was stuffed with white light and glitter and razor blades as I did awful things to other people and occasionally myself, and not because they were playing during those moments (they weren't, the music came much later).

Maybe the reason I see depth in Kenickie but not Sleeper or Elastica is because of the glitter and razors and smudged mascera (why is this a returning image for me?), which could explain why Sleeper felt so generic to me...I guess when aiming for atmospheres it may not be blondes v.s. brunettes, but something almost as superficial? I dunno. I gotta go listen to more Sleeper and Elastica before I write them off as too generic.
 
 
Tuna Ghost: Pratt knot hero
02:45 / 10.12.09
Would've just edited my previous comment, but without mods who knows how long it would take to go through. So just let mad that by the time Get In came out, the magic had sort of run out. No pun intended. Which is to say, I'm really not a big fan of Get In.
 
 
Alex's Grandma
22:15 / 16.12.09
Were Kenickie trying to pick up the gauntlet laid down by The Wedding Present, back in the day? In terms of scratchy, soul-destroying, post-punk indie - 'Why should the boys be allowed to get away with it?' you can imagine Lauren thinking 'when Paul from the Housemartins has a career?'

Should anyone from the north east of England be allowed to pursue a career in music? Sting, Mark Knopfler, Jimmy Nail, and so on? I don't think they should.
 
 
KieronGillen
14:19 / 21.12.09
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.

KG
 
  
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