Happy Mondays – Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches (1990)
This week, there is a provincial election in Ontario. A time of question dodging.
One of the first question dodges I remember hearing was from when I was in high school. I can’t recall the name of the interviewee; he was invited to CBC radio’s morning program to discuss the dangers of ‘rave’ culture and speak in defense of nightclubs.
Pardon the paraphrasing (I’m not sure if an exact transcript exists) but the argument went something like this:
“People say that raves are all about drugs and violence but I can assure you, in all my time in this scene, I have not witnessed any act of violence. It’s just not true, ravers are not violent people. I repeat, violence is not an issue. I can’t stress this enough, ravers are not interested in violence, capiche?”
A question dodger from the start, perhaps the young man went on to a life in politics!
For maximum enjoyment, Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches is probably a ‘had to be there’ record: at The Haçienda nightclub in Manchester, in 1990, dancing ecstatically under the influence of ecstasy.
At that time, I was eight years old, living in Canada, possibly dancing and probably using considerably less E.
I’ll try to get into the 1990 zeitgeist by reviewing the album using an acrostic poem (talk about fitting in at a rave) with the drug’s compound acronym:
Madchester. Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches is a record credited with defining a time and place. I’d imagine this album is included among the 1001 primarily for its significance in the musical movement, as opposed to its stand-alone excellence.
Danceability factor: is sufficiently high here. The tempo doesn’t shift dramatically throughout, which lends itself nicely to dancing. No dance floor-clearing tracks here either, it’s a pretty consistent 10-song set. Almost to a fault as with the exception of Kinky Afro (and its Lady Marmalade-esque chorus) there aren’t really any standout tracks.
Manchester FTW (and not the other way around)! Even if this record didn’t make food taste better for me, it still bolsters The Greater Manchester Area’s credentials as the world’s finest exporter of music.
Average. In the book, Proofiness, Charles Seife made a good point about the mathematical impossibility of every child being above average. I also appreciate the wisdom from The Incredibles, “when everyone’s super…no one will be.”
Finally, I just saw a funny Louis C.K. clip about the hyperbole in the adjectives we use, such as calling a sandwich awesome. If a sandwich is awesome (meaning the sandwich left you in awe?) what will you say when your child is born? You wasted awesome on a sandwich!
So the timing wasn’t great for Happy Mondays as I chose today of all days to start becoming a bit more judicious with my complimentary adjectives.
Average isn’t bad; it’s a math inevitability so that you can have above and below average records.
I have plenty of gratitude for ‘Madchester’ artists as albums like this one helped set the stage for some of my favourite recordings of the 90s.
In this case, when it comes to scene-defining sounds, I think the (above average) self-titled Stone Roses debut is a more interesting recording.