Wednesday Wadio: Black Grape’s ‘Reverend Black Grape’.

by Dave on October 19, 2005

in Wednesday Wadio

We all hated each other, I just started speaking to me brother again. But the rest of the Mondays, they’re just a joke. One of the guitarists is selling encyclopedias door-to-door and another one’s a cook. They’re a bunch of d*cks. I tried me hardest to tell them not to split the band. It was just b*llocks. The rest of them thought they were rock Gods. They just wanted money. They didn’t care about music.” – Shaun Ryder on why he formed Black Grape

I love the Happy Mondays, and I get a lot of subsequent grief from friends and family surrounding that fact. But I simply can’t apologize – Some people like marmite. Some people like anchovies. I love the Mondays and Shaun Ryder. There’s no accounting for taste, as they say. Class, charm and the ability to pick up audible sounds, maybe – but never taste.

After the band imploded in 1993, Ryder and Bez formed Black Grape and had three top ten hits off the first album, It’s Great When You’re Straight, Yeah! The best of which was Reverend Black Grape and you can listen to it now by clicking the Zap button on Radio Pye in the left hand column. Surprisingly to many who wrote Ryder off as a drug-addled maniac (if the shoe fits…), Grape took the charts by storm during 1995 and many reviewers actually preferred them to Ryder’s previous incarnation: “Heavily steeped in the funk, ex-Happy Mondays frontman Shaun Ryder comes off here like a Mancunian George Clinton as he babbles over top of a skilled, polyrhythmic unit that’s far tighter than the slapdash Mondays.” – Amazon

The hodgepodge tune includes a scitar, dancehall chirping courtesy of rapper Kermit, a rousing and uplifting chorus, old-school samples (listen carefully for the Hitler speech), bongos, some sort of snake-charmer flute thing and even a harmonica. The production values are riotus and there’s a damn good reason this record made multiple ‘album of the year’ lists in the UK. Above the din, Ryder’s trademark non-sensical lyrics still serve their purpose. It’s more style than substance – Shaun is truly hooked on his own phonics (no, that’s not a new type of meth-amphetamine), and it works:

“The title of the album partly expressed Ryder’s decision to turn away from hard drug abuse, and this was indeed a comparatively sober effort given the artist’s past reputation. However, his much-publicized “cut-up” lyrics were present, along with his trademark scat coupling of meaningless phrases…” –

Nope – Ryder, Bez and the rest of the two gangs aren’t for everybody. But as I saw for myself when I snuck into the Mondays show here in Boston in 1990 (I was 16 or 17 – in retrospect, maybe it was a wristbanded, all-ages event) it’s more about the party than getting the guitar tuned and hitting all the notes properly. Oh, and a fucking shitload of hard drugs, too.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

graeme October 19, 2005 at 11:03 am

“It’s Great When You’re Straight, Yeah” is one of my all time favorite albums. It blends rock, funk and techno together in a way that Big Audio Dynamite couldn’t achieve in as a cohesive manner. In fact it led me to also really investigate Happy Mondays, which despite the fact that I was always a big Manchester scene fan (mostly The Stone Roses and Charlatans UK) I had passed by Happy Mondays through my pot infused, moving-towards-listening-to-Acid-Jazz university days. I believe Ryder to be one of the best rock frontmen of the late 80s and 90s (when he wasn’t messed up too much on the junk) with a great voice and lyrics. To get a good impression of what an artist and arseshit he could be, rent “24 Hour Party People” – which despite Tony Wilson’s claim that the movie is about the music, it really is all about Tony Wilson. Good Wadio pick Pyeguy!

Sam October 20, 2005 at 12:50 pm

I like marmite. yum yum.

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