Rialto could never be described as a mainstream act, with just three Top 40 hits (hey, it’s three more than I’ve managed). But they were still a great Nineties band. For this song alone, they deserve their place on any list of great Nineties bands. It’s got it all: a great tune, a story to tell – that all-too familiar anxiety that the girl you love is off with Someone Else, and having more fun than with you – and a steady, determined rhythm. That rhythm is possibly because they had two drummers, for reasons I still haven’t worked out, 20 years on.
Here’s the problem, though. Two drummers is pretty much all I know about Rialto (that and some of them used to be in Kinky Machine), and even a wordsmith as accomplished as myself would struggle to put that through the mangle enough times to produce an acceptable-length blog post. This week’s musings, then, are about the bands who scuttled about the edges of the Britpop hype.
One-hit wonders would be unfair, and in many cases inaccurate. Describing them as small, or in any way inferior, is likely to invoke the ire of their fans or those who like to pick fights online. So let’s describe them as Britpop’s support cast, the bands who may not have reached the absolute pinnacle, but still contributed significantly to making that decade what it was: the Jellicle Cats to Blur’s Bustopher Jones.
Here are six of the best – OK, five of the best and one of the worst – acts that nobly padded out the Shine albums and provided your (very) early afternoon entertainment at the Reading festival. Let’s raise a Two Dogs to them all.
If You Really Wanna Know, Ether
Welsh. The singer, a doppelganger for Dawson of Dawson’s Creek fame, had an oddly nasal voice. I don’t remember them having a second single, but this one’s a corker. My friend Gordon swears they were good, but he’s half Welsh and has a tendency to favour all things from that side of the Offa’s Dyke. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, though.
Breathe (A Little Deeper), Blameless
I bought this as a single from Record Collector, and played it on repeat for quite a long time. I was convinced they were going to be huge, and I would have the early single to prove that I’d known of their genius all along. I have never met anyone else who remembers them. Bah. Still, it’s a great song. They should have been huge, dammit. How come Menswe@r were huge and Blameless weren’t? Fame can be a cruel, twisted bastard at times.
Lava, Silver Sun
I saw Silver Sun at the Leadmill. I remember this song in particular, because it is exceptionally catchy, even though it appears to be about worm pies and painting little pigs. Not sure what was going on there. Their brief little spurt of fame didn’t extend much further, although it seems they’re still a going concern. And they made enough of an impression to make it into my novel, and a pivotal scene no less. I’m sure they’re absolutely thrilled/delighted/honoured/humbled etc etc.
I suspect Geneva might be ill-placed on this list, and were much bigger than I realised. If so, I apologise. This is a truly beautiful song, a compelling vocal performance set against a wonderful opening riff. ‘Into The Blue’ is equally good. How come Menswe@r were huge and Geneva weren’t? Life can be cruel etc etc.
The Flamingoes, Scenester
Confession time: I didn’t know about The Flamingoes until recently. Certainly not in the Nineties. Shame, as they were great. Yet another to file under the ‘How did Menswe@r…’ file. I learnt about them after learning about singer James Cook’s excellent book, Memory Songs, which is more than worth buying. Once you’ve bought my book, obviously.
Bennet, Mum’s Gone To Iceland
This song is diabolical. I’m only including it because my little sister knew someone in the band and she’ll be annoyed if I don’t include them. It’s a dull tune with crap lyrics, and it’s not even very on message. Mum’s Gone To Iceland? Why can’t Dad go to Iceland? Or a non-gender-defined parental guardian? They wouldn’t get away with this sort of caper now. Honestly, the Nineties were so behind the times.
But seriously, this one is shit. Don’t click on the link.