published: 22 /
In the latest in our 'Re : View' series, in which our writers re-examine on albums from the past, Jonjo McNeill writes about the impact on him of the Boo Radleys 1996 avant-garde nasterpiece, 'C'mon Kids'
The last thing I expected when I heard the words "New Boo Radleys single" on the radio in 1996 was to hear the outrageous noise of ‘What’s In The Box ? (See Whatcha Got)’. This band had, less than 2 years previously, released FM Radio favourite ‘Wake Up Boo!’ after all. I was taken aback by the raw shouted vocals, seemingly hundreds of guitar tracks and lack of a specific melody. I was also taken aback by how damn good it was. A record best described as 'insane', after several listens it became irresistible.
The album which followed, ‘C’Mon Kids’, was more of the same. What can only be described as an assault on the senses, the album opens with the title track, a call to arms for any disaffected mind – kid or otherwise. “Pretty face – it don’t mean a thing if you look the same as your frown / Fuck the ones who tell you that life is merely a time before dying.” It’s an age old adage, beautifully illustrated. The album explores the psyche and record collection of main protagonist Martin Carr, an under appreciated genius if ever there was one. Whilst the album uses heavy, psychedelic guitars pretty much from start to finish, it is an incredibly eclectic collection. From stories of tape worms eating its victim from the inside out ('Meltin’s Worm') to epic ballads to non-conformity ('Ride The Tiger') via hip hop, dance and the Boo’s good old indie stylings, this is one of Creation Records’ true hidden gems.
There’s no doubt that Carr likes his psychedelic substances – either that or he actually is insane – but this is not a drugs record. Subversive as anything, at first listen most people’s ears prick up and they reach for the volume dial (to turn it down), ‘C’Mon Kids’ is that most rewarding of records. Tunnel beneath the layers of heavy bass, somewhat random sounding drum patterns, massive anti-social guitars and seriously processed vocals and one discovers what is essentially perfect pop music. It’s no surprise it didn’t follow the success of it’s predecessor – I don’t think Carr ever really thought it would when he was writing it – as it is the exact opposite of their earlier work. It could be seen as a reaction to the huge success of ‘Wake Up’ or it could just be seen as a great indie band growing up, but nobody can deny that ‘C’Mon Kids’ is a work of genius. No matter that the Boos’ released classic albums earlier in their career (‘Giant Steps’ is often cited by UK indie bands as a huge influence), this is them at their absolute best.
The album ended with the drone like ‘One Last Hurrah’. It turned out their last hurrah was 1998’s ‘Kingsize’ – where Carr put down the pedals and got out the acoustic (also a truly great album) but I’ll always remember the Boo Radleys for this, and to be honest I imagine any of you out there who’ve heard it will be pretty much the same.