Monday, 1 December 2008

"Sue" : Frazier Chorus

(SONGS FROM UNDER MY BED – Lost Classics Rediscovered)
by MMT.

#1“Sue” : FRAZIER CHORUS (1989)

Not so long after coming up with the concept for this occasional series, and even less long after extricating my knackered copied tape of this album from the maze of tunnels which lies beneath our bed, I had one of those serendipitous moments: despite never having met anyone else that’s heard this album or having heard it mentioned anywhere in the music press or the world since, it’s been re-released this year for no apparent reason! So if you’re stuck for something to buy me for Christmas, details can be found at the bottom of this articlette. Ta.

Brighton’s Frazier Chorus (to me at least) were one of those indie-poppy bands who you might see on The Chart Show once in a blue moon (again, see below) but existed in a pre-Madchester slough in the late Eighties when quirky independent bands rarely if ever got into The Actual Charts and ‘made it’. (Though actually this, their debut album proper, was on Virgin). Their two ‘hits’ from “Sue” - “Typical” and the more memorable “Dream Kitchen” - reached #53 and #57 respectively. They apparently went a bit “indie-dancey” after this for a further two albums, but by then even their brief blip on my radar was over.

But listening to “Sue” again just shy of twenty years on, there’s still been virtually nothing like it since – it’s a smashing collection of lazily melancholic songs about frustration and boredom. I can’t even think of any other similar-sounding bands for comparison – and impressively, it hasn’t even dated much.

The band’s party piece is to forego much of yer usual guitars and bass in favour of flutes, clarinets, percussive instruments, a poppy orchestral/musak production and vocals recorded so intimately it’s like singer Tim Freeman’s sat on an old chair in your room mumbling, half-whispering the lyrics to you like a friend. Quite a miserable, deadpan friend.

Creating a mood that’s perversely evocative despite containing very little, “Sue” exists in a world of “snoozing”, “tea”, “pottering about”, “rain”, and “reading the papers”. Their songs tell pointless stories about going for a dull drive (“and once you've seen one tree... you've seen them all” - “Little Chef”), having a nap in front of Postman Pat (“Forty Winks”), and dying relationships and, er, Shake-N-Vac (“Living Room”). It’s a sad, sleepy album, but one with a genuine sense of menace at times. Standout track “Storm” is both achingly wistful and skin-crawlingly sinister – not an easy balance to work with. And the reverb-laden "Forgetful" is just creepy!

But by cripes it’s bored, too. An album that feels like a Sunday afternoon, watching the clock hands move slowly through the hours. An album that’s run out of things to say to its wife. An album that knows it can’t articulate itself about the things that really matter and so mutters on about kitchens and dust and lumpy couches and carpets. An album that maybe even enjoys this tired feeling of ennui. And surely we can all dig that. Ever decreasing circles. The minutiae of existence. This stuff is so kind to my hands.

So… if you ever see it in a sale or something, check it out. Or if somebody buys it me for Christmas I’ll do you a copy. It’s, y’know. Okay. (yawns)


* - official site with links to buying the re-issued album from the record label.

* – video for “Dream Kitchen” – a bit quiet but worth a watch, not least cos it’s a version straight off The Chart Show! Respec’! Also on YouTube is the video for “Typical” - – with some weird starsign captions from The Chart Show too!

1 comment:

Afront said...

Definitely a classic, always makes me ha-ha-happy. Frazier Chorus were The Beloved's emo twin.

Great to see "Sue" has been re-released and with extra tracks too: thx for the review!