Saturday, 14 November 2009

gigsplurge 7: hefner, beulah etc, april 2000

Hefner & Murry the Hump, The Point, Oxford, 15 April 2000
Beulah, Butterflies of Love & Pluto Monkey, The Point, Oxford, 21 April 2000

Encouraging thought the launch of ATP was, 2000 was the year of the schmindie credit crunch. Later in the year I was sent not one but two books giving retrospective accounts of Alan McGee's Creation Records. The Creation model--that one Oasis would fund investment in dozens of long-shot indie weirdos, one or two of which might become another cash cow--had become accepted wisdom during the Britpop boom of the late 1990s. The collapse of market confidence triggered by Be Here Now meant that by the turn of the millennium, major labels were foreclosing their indie loser divisions faster than you could say Northern Uproar. Pre-Myspace, the fallout provided an opportunity for old-school, postal-address-on-the-back-of-a-7" indie labels. Tow of them--Oxford's quaint Shifty Disco and London's Too Pure--sent tours GMS' way in April.

Dawn of the Replicants were a notable victim of the crunch: signed to Warners subsidiary East-West on the strength of brilliant Peel-fave 'Cocaine on the Catwalk', they never cracked the top 50 and were dropped within two years. Pluto Monkey were goonish frontman Paul Vickers' response. Displaying signs of incipient mental breakdown, Vickers donned a dress and recorded a set of loopy electronica Shifty Disco. Watching Pluto Monkey was bloody torture, but missing most of Butterflies of Love's quietly underwhelming set to listen to Vickers recount the peaks and troughs of the schmindie apocalypse was at least enlightening.

Headlining the gig were Beulah, Elephant 6's pudgy, well-meaning uncles, who released several UK-only 7" singles through Shifty Disco. The medium dates them, but the music didn't. Beulah's breezy, Neil Young-ish psychedelia would have them blog-buzzed as a squarer Grizzly Bear in 2009.

Uber Peel-faves Hefner never took major label money, though Darren Hayman's knack for a pop hook makes it likely there were offers. 2000 album, We Love the City, tipped its hat towards commercial success, beefing up their sound and channelling their self-loathing / girlfriend-loathing wit outwards on 'The Day Thatcher Died'. The girls in hairgrips and blokes hugging their pints preferred the early records--particularly the peerless Fidelity Wars--as did GMS, although they remained a vital live act until their split in 2002.

Support band Murry the Hump had graduated from Shifty Disco to Too Pure where they were touted, amazingly, as the Welsh Hefner; one of the cheeriest bands I've ever seen, the loveable Hump replaced Hefner's dark wit with aimless pop songs about dope. They split in 2001 to no great fanfare.

1 comment:

matt said...

Thanks for the Murry the Hump gig reference, I'm trying to piece together their gigography