Assorted scribblings of a dog-eared music journalist

Soho News | Live | 2 November 1988

The Astoria, London

Happy Mondays decline, somewhat impolitely, every offer to abide by the sort of rules that others choose to follow with agonising concern. They've never been interested in
styling themselves into anything approaching a discernible image. Not even an anti-fashion fashion.

The last time I had the pleasure of witnessing one of Happy Mondays' live performances, they refused to leave the stage, almost to the point of threatening behaviour. Tonight, they amble on, play half a dozen songs and, well, amble off again.

Throughout their short set, the rhythms are largely light-hearted, loping affairs, skipping back and forth in playful abandon, but once in a while they suddenly rumble a more sinister intent and skulk off to rummage in every available pocket. The gently stroked guitar gnaws, the keyboards bore deep holes, and the grand, delinquent gobbledegook that passes, more than admirably, for lyrics, engineers the most damage.

If Happy Mondays are the most perfect imperfect band, then James have always seemed to be edging close to the opposite. I'd like to hold vocalist Tim Booth wholly, personally responsible. He tries a tad too hard and, in doing so, gives the impression of being nothing but a buffoon.

Despite that, two new songs, neither of which have been refined and consequently defiled, are reasonably impressive. "Gregory's Town", with its gut itching slide guitar, and "I Feel I've Been Burned", which begins with soft vocals and a piano accompaniment, and builds into a rugged pop poke, prove James are still facing in roughly the right direction. If only they could move a little faster and take a few more chances along the way.

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