Wednesday, 25 June 2008

KING OF THE SLUMS: Bear With Me


Before Alex Turner, there was Charley Keigher, and there was King Of The Slums, the group Madchester forgot. Certainly the immediate impression on rehearing "Bear With Me" a soberer generation later is one of a sly Arctic Monkey's uncle as Keigher does his worst and sends up the Roses and the dying embers of Madchester (already!) with his "wiv a lot of material" and "la la la la la la got loads" refrain of stirred concrete (and it also serves to send up Oasis before they even existed) before going on to laugh down the labyrinths of 'avin' it ("Oh I've done nuffin wrong/Just ain't quite cum on," and he doesn't sing that "cum" as though it's a misprint). The music is slightly stiff and tense, Sarah Curtis' electric violin poised to pounce, Stuart Owen shuffling mock-timidly on his broken beat drums, as Keigher sneers "But I don't care...And I don't care..." before screaming "BUT YOU DO!," whereupon the music shifts up to a higher and more dangerous gear. Like the dying old lady at the climax of Johnson's House Mother Normal, Keigher is driven to late lucidity ("The impertinent swagger," "The Herculean stance of a self-made man"), before dipping back into moribund character ("Sounds like I might have to work/And that gets on me nerves") and so we get more "got loads" and "My best is yet to cum," and the music continues to shift upwards, pitch by pitch, Curtis grimly grinding away like a missed mixed doubles partnership of Scarlet Rivera and John Cale, even creating her own feedback, the band peaking greyly, and then scattering away, for one further, more expensive and less impressive album, and thence to the workaday dust of their Mancunian ways.