Sunday, September 27, 2015
The Happy Mondays "Step On"
Last night as I was having a little Old Crow and reading some brain candy (a book about the mafia's involvement in Cuba), which is about as wild as my Saturday nights get these days, and decided to put together an impromptu playlist of "Madchester" songs from the late 80s-early 90s. I forgot just how much this stuff had grabbed me when I first heard it at a time when Nirvana was still on Sub-Pop records and REM was pretty much the only band from the American underground to get their songs played on the radio. Back then, when I thought of "alternative" music, I thought of either Madchester or shoegaze bands from across the pond.
Of course, in England the rock mixed with dance sound of Manchester was not something confined to college radio or late night MTV, it was in the mainstream and massively popular. Listening to a song like "Step On" by the Happy Mondays, the emblematic Madchester band, it's easy to hear why. Rock had begun as dance music, but had lost its funk, then defined itself against disco. Disco was the musical antecedent of house and electronic dance music, which bands like the Mondays gladly welded to the rock band format. "Step On" is not a truly great song, mostly because Shaun Ryder's lyrics are typically non-sensical and tossed off. But it's got the two elements that worked best with the style: a great loping dance groove and psychedelic guitar.
In my mind I often wonder what the 90s in American rock music would've been like had the Mondays and Stone Roses been a second British Invasion breaking a new version of music born in America (as house was), then spawning a raft of imitators stateside a year before the release of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I don't know if the music would have been better (I still love Nirvana) but it would've been a lot more fun to dance to.