Everything Changed 1991-1995
Cherry Red Records CD Box Set
If you are going to do a career encompassing box set, do it thoroughly that’s what I say. Those lovely people at Cherry Red Records certainly know how to do that, with recent excellent collections from the likes of The Primitives and Pop Will Eat Itself. Next in their sights is much underrated early 90s indie group Kingmaker. A band that played a big part in my life, although maybe more socially than musically!
Growing up in London in the 80s and 90s helped give me a wonderful musical upbringing. So many bands to see, so many gigs to go to, at one stage I was averaging four or five gigs a week and I really don’t know when I found the time to sleep. Meeting people at concerts and falling in with new groups of friends tended to open up music that you were unfamiliar with. Kingmaker is a perfect example as I got to know some guys and girls from West Sussex who followed the band around. I have a feeling they sold t-shirts for Kingmaker at some gigs, but my faltering memory may not be 100% about that. It was that social aspect that went hand in hand with the actual music, that camaraderie, that being part of a social group that was ‘in the know’ was sometimes more important than the music itself.
Eat Yourself Whole
What I do remember well is Kingmaker’s first album ‘Eat Yourself Whole’. I am sure some people will lump them in with ‘Britpop’, but this release was a few years ahead of albums such as Parklife. Their sound I think has more in common with bands like The Wonder Stuff and James. The tracks are melodic, heartfelt and like all good indie they were tunes with emotional depth. You can hear strains of their melodies in the later catalogues of bands like Supergrass.
It is hard to choose a favourite track, but one I keep coming back to is the more emotional ‘Hard Times’, which is included here on disc one. You can tell a quality album when every track could have been a single!
Eat Yourself Whole was packed with plenty of strong material and I think that may have been part of Kingmaker’s later problems. A band’s first album will always be the culmination of years of life, dreams and experiences and as we all know it’s that second release that can be trickier. Bass player Myles Howell is very candid in his sleeve notes for this box set and talks about pressure from their label Chrysalis to churn out more and more catchy singles. The band’s first attempt at a second album was shelved by the label and they were sent back to Hull to ‘write some better singles’.
After re-grouping, the second album ‘Sleepwalking’ came together, but there was frustration from the band that many of their best tracks were going to be consigned to be B-sides. Anyone who was buying music at that time will remember the myriad of formats singles came in. That desire to get tracks up the charts created an insatiable appetite for material. Bands like Kingmaker wrote original songs and couldn’t pad out singles with multiple remixes. You can understand their frustration with the corporate music monster.
The Best Possible Taste
As the recording of the third album got underway the indie scene was subtly changing and Blur and Oasis were starting to emerge into the limelight. Myles summed up their feelings, ‘By the time we came to record the batch of songs that would become ‘The Best Possible Taste’ I think we were all sensing that short of a massive hit single or album our days were numbered’. Myles is still proud of that material and it is still a very strong album, but Britpop had left them behind and there was an inevitable split.
For me Kingmaker will represent a part of my life that was pretty carefree, where music, booze and girls were the priority. It was a ball and as I sit here at the age of 51 I am glad I had those opportunities. Life for 20 somethings seems a lot more serious now. Everything Changed features the three albums I mentioned above, Eat Yourself Whole, Sleepwalking and In the Best Possible Taste. Plus you get two CD’s packed with standalone singles and B-sides. As a band they should be proud of their output, it’s not many groups whose quality matches their quantity. The box is out on the 31st July and is available for pre-order at the Cherry Red Records site.
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