Wednesday 1 September 2021

Ordinary Boys

In the Summer of 2004, I'm wandering the aisles of FOPP looking for something new to listen to.

As is often the way with (memories of) FOPP, I'm laden with back catalogue CDs that are too well priced to ignore.  At between £3 and £5, it's difficult to say "No".  And even more difficult when you get to the counter and they say "Ah, you've spent over £20 - would you like these couple of extra CDs for a couple of quid each?".

As I approach another aisle looking for anything that might be of interest, or filling a gap in the catalogue, a sound comes over the in-store speaker - a recognisable chug-a-lug guitar riff, and then the opening statement: "Radio play just depresses me today".
Do you know, I think you may have a point.  A little later came the lyric "Originality is so passe" - it's a little sub-Morrissey, but I respect your opinion.

So I wandered some more aisles and listened so more: "I'm pretty sure I'll be buying this" thought I.
And then came a cover version of The Specials "Little Bitch" - that made my mind up.

Now 2004 wasn't exactly a fallow year - Green Day 'American Idiot', Franz Ferdinand's debut, The Libertines second (and for a while last), Morrissey 'You Are The Quarry', Graham Coxon 'Happiness In Magazines', U2 'How To Dismantle an Atom Bomb', The Streets 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' - but it wasn't exactly a rare old year.  Not too many albums destined to bother the "All Time Best Of The Best You Must Hear Ever" Lists.
And the one I heard tracks from that day in FOPP probably won't be bothering that list either, but still stands as one of the finest from that year.

'Over The Counter Culture' was The Ordinary Boys debut release was 12 tracks of energy and passion set to music with echoes of The Jam, The Smiths, The Clash, The Specials.  There is also a certain brit-centricness to the lyrics and vocal delivery evoking a Ray Davies-ish influence.

It's a little bit Modern life Is soooooooo Rubbish, mixed with a bit of attempted Social commentary falls slightly short - which has a tendency to veer into cliche.  And OK, some of it is a bit formulaic, and "of it's time".  But there's something there that makes this album a bit sticky and returnable.

Maybe it's the overt way it's influences are presented in each song, a combination of strong melody delivered with youthful exuberance.  Even possibly the odd Terrace Chant Yobbo anthemic quality of some of the choruses.  It just makes you smile and restores the belief that music is about enjoyment

There were other albums available operating in similar territory, delivering similar goods at the time - but The Ordinary Boys seemed to me (not always the best judge) to be leading from (near) the front.
I really did believe they had a future, maybe with a little bit of extra press support and media exposure.

And when their follow-up - 'Brassbound' - arrived in 2005, I remained convinced.  Especially when preceded by the strong ska-heavy-with-a-whiff-of-Madness single "Boys Will Be Boys" arrived.
A second single "Life Will Be the Death of Me" arrived in late Summer, and despite my beliefs, it tanked.
And then came the media exposure that the band needed - lead singer Preston signed up to Celebrity Big Brother in early 2006.  He came fourth, "Boys Will Be Boys" latterly (and possibly deservedly) rose to the higher reaches of the singles chart.

Their third album 'How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted In Ten Easy Steps' arrived in late 2006.  It's not a bad album, but does sound a bit watered down and heavily produced.
How to describe it?
If 'Over The Counter Culture' is 100%, then 'Brassbound' is 75% ("still pretty fine, but missing something").  By that marking, 'How To Get Everything ...' scrapes in at 30% ('a bit better than a contractual obligation, listenable, but not essential).

And then came the moment that defines Preston, and by association The Ordinary Boys - he walks off Never Mind The Buzzcocks in a strop.
Now, be fair Simon Amstell was being a bit of an arse, but the petulant walk-off really didn't help his case or record sales.

'Over The Counter Culture' to my ears sits with those other albums up there as the "go to" listening for 2004.  The band may not have been able to sustain the impact of their debut, but a 1 in 3 hit rate is not bad going.
And on the bright side, Preston can look forward to constant re-runs of his TV moment in those Channel 5 "When TV Doesn't Go Very Well" programmes or an ITV2 special entitled "When Celebrities Walk Off Telly Like A Spoilt Child".
He can also take solace in the fact Piers Morgan was just copying him.

Over The Counter Culture

Little Bitch

Boys Will Be Boys

1 comment:

  1. I probably need to revisit this album.

    We never had a FOPP near us. It sounds magical.