Something along the lines of praising a band called theaudience. All one word, lower case obligatory. “Ah, you mean like a guilty pleasure?” And no, I very much don’t mean that. More of a grubby little secret, perhaps. A frank admission as the drink flows, sentences flapping and squawking about our ears as this band and that LP are discussed, verbally dissected, weighed like entrants in some provincial slimming competition, or the annual prize giving of the Kentish Town Vegetable Grower’s Society.
And then it slips out. That of this silly, irrelevant little band: “I fell for them in such a big way.” And then you snigger, for you are at the vanguard of the cooler-than-thou (every music obsessive has something of that to them… don’t try to kid otherwise… I’m as complicit as you are).
One album, four singles, a headline tour and a series of support slots before imploding away in the corner. And despite this meagre output there’s so much that flags theaudience as well worthy of the cringe. Apocryphal or no, they allegedly came about as a result of a wager: then Melody Maker agent provocateur Everett True betting 100 of the Queen’s Pounds that Fire Records press boy Billy Reeves couldn’t form a band and get signed to a major. And whatever the truth behind that story (words of advice: never trust a musician; never, ever trust a music journalist, and never, ever, ever trust Everett True), Reeves did indeed assemble a solid session musician backdrop against which a distinctive female singer – a sophisticatedly-dressed, pouting teenager called Sophie Ellis-Bextor, for argument’s sake – could be elevated to bedroom wall material for a hoard of young indie boys to sigh towards; alluring femmes being quite a hit with both indie boys and their pocket money, apparently. Enter Mercury Records, and Reeves had won his bet.
Beyond any inauspicious origin, the band’s sound, too, was problematic. Not commercial, exactly – Reeves was a Northern Soul fanatic not too interested in plastering his songs entirely over the airwaves – but still formulaic, melodic indie-by-numbers, as if a specific niche had been identified to profit from. It was all a little too forced and contrived to fool people for any amount of time, what with the over-stylized press shots and single covers, the over-produced début album, the detectable air of knowing to everything they ever did. After making ripples in the music press and the lower reaches of the chart in later 1997 and early 1998, they disbanded amid the embers of a disappointing (and unreleased) second album and vague allusions to solo careers…
And me? I bloody love them. Always have, despite every word I’ve written above. It’s in the overall effect, a sum greater than its parts. A deliciousness of lyric, sassy inflections that when performed in Ellis-Bextor’s refined lilt emphasise a playful raising of an eyebrow. It’s how the composition isn’t as formulaic as it first appears, embedded traces of early Roxy Music, early Pretenders, something suggestive of the blokes in the background possessing a significant musical schooling. And above all…well, judge for yourself (and let the tittering at Lazer Guided Melody’s gone-wrong music taste begin in the comments)…
Example 1: theaudience / You Get What You Deserve